Weston Middle School

Technology/EngineeringCourse Materials

Weston, Massachusetts
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Lego EV3 Roboticst-Syllabusi

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Additional Info

Middle School, Room 142

1 . Textbooks/References: There are no formal textbooks used in this course. However, a number of online references may be useful:

Instructors: Margaret Burns/ Jonathan Dietz

2. Software: All required software exists on the school desktop computers. However, students may wish to also download software for home use and review from the following sources:

3. Course Objectives-Lego EV3 Robotics:

On the superficial level, this course aims to guide students in learning the basics of mechanical engineering, design, and computer programming, with an understanding of such concepts as:

  • sturdy construction
  • gear ratios
  • spur, worm, and bevel gears
  • motors, lamps, and sensors
  • center of gravity
  • levers
  • algorithms and data manipulation
  • programming structures- loops, forks, subroutines

More importantly, the course aims for students to learn to think like engineers- to learn to break down complex problems into simpler, solvable blocks; to model and describe what they want something to do; to see failure as an essential opportunity to learn rather than as a judgement upon their ability.

The Lego Robotics system offers an opportunity for students to express themselves through a mixture of science, engineering,story-telling, and art, the type of integrative skill that will be essential in the 21st century.

Goals also include research, and writing skills; and greater confidence in presentation and public speaking.

Above all, students should enjoy themselves and take real delight in all that they do; should see learning not as a chore for others but as play and exploration for its own sake. In education, curiosity and passion is paramount.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, On Finding Out What You Love

4. Supplies:

  • Parts Lists
  • Students are encouraged NOT to bring in Lego parts from home, unless they are willing to to contribute them to the common Lego pool.

5. Organizing and Storing Parts

  • Each student pair will be issued a storage bin containing a mini-kit consisting of the NxT or EV3 brick, motors, wheels, sensors, wires, and an organizer.
  • Student projects will be stored in a cabinet which permits charging of the batteries when not in use.
  • Large bins of common parts will contain similar types of components, such as:
    • Technics beams
    • Technics specialty connectors
    • Technics pins
    • Axles
    • Gears
    • Plates
    • Wheels
    • Bricks
    • Studded beams
    • Connectors
    • Large Base Plates
  • Small bins on carts will contain specialty plastic and electronic parts.

6. Setting Up Groups-

Students will work with a partner on all assignments. For final project, two groups may work in coodination if two robots are produced which interact, using Bluetooth communication or other means.

7. Class format/Classwork

Direct Instruction/Discussion: In the first few minutes, there often be a 10 minute period of formalized instruction and/or discussion- the introduction of a new challenge activity; a short demonstration; a video clip, or a discussion. Students are expected to gather at the carpeted area in the front of the room for this instructional period.

Work Period: Most classes will have a 20-30 minute work period, when students will work on their programming and building projects. Students are encouraged to ask each other for assistance.

Clean-Up: Students are expected to clean-up independently. Clean-up means picking all pieces off the floor; returning unused parts to the bins, placing the projects back in the storage cabinet for charging.

Last Thought and Dismissal: When parts are cleaned up and students have returned to their tables and are quiet, there will often be a brief reflection, then students will be dismissed from their seats.

8. Course Requirements/Expectations:

Attend Class. If you are absent, it is your responsibility to find out from your partner what was missed.

Work cooperatively and safely with your partner on project work, and exchange responsibilities , clean up, and complete assignments.

There are no formal paper-and-pencil tests or required homework in this course. There will, however, be frequent short written exercises and programs, construction activities, as well as open-ended design challenges.

A reflective journal will be kept of major projects, either using traditional methods or video journaling using I-Movie.

Learning to work and contribute as part of a team, both within one's own group and as part of the larger classroom community is a major objective of this course. Helping other students will earn extra points; disrupting the work of others will cause a loss of points.

Major projects may include a city/transportation system model, miniature golf range, and or amusement park, all of which will emphasize system design.

 9. Rules for Classroom Behavior:

In the Lego Robotics laboratory, we work to maintain a positive, respectful work environment. This includes respect for the dignity of others, respect for their creations, respect for materials, and most importantly, perhaps, respect for their right to take intellectual risks.

This culture of respect means that we comply with safety/behavior rules; keep hands, feet, and objects to ourselves. and help each other to clean up. Students are dismissed when their projects have been put away and all pieces have been picked up off the floor.

Students who repeatedly disrupt the learning of others, or behave in an unsafe manner, may need to be removed from class. It will be your responsibility to arrange to make up, within five school-days, any work missed as a result. Missed work that is not made up will receive a grade of zero.

10. Grading:

Grades are based upon completion of design challenges (which include planning, building, programming, and presentation components), effort, and attitude. A well-researched, well-explained 'failure' is worth more than a poorly understood, poorly explained 'success'.

The purpose of grading in this class is not to rank students but rather formative- to inform instruction and study- to indicate what assignments have been completed, what may have to be re-taught, and which require additional work. Work which is not of adequate quality will be marked as 'incomplete'.

For students with extensive prior experience in programming, there are optional 'challenge' assignments to help you stretch.

Parents: If your have any concern that you wish to discuss, or have any requests or suggestions towards improving your child’s learning, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

E-mail: dietzj@weston.org; burnsm@weston.org
Telephone Messages: (781) 786-5695( Mr. Dietz); (781) 786-( Mrs. Burns)

Office Hours: After School, 3 PM-4 PM. Please confirm appointment during class or by e-mail.


“…In the era of standardized testing, I think we are losing sight of the main goal of education in my mind—to teach students how to learn on their own. We need to teach students how to be curious and ask a question, how to frame the question, how to research the question, how to validate their answer to the question, and how to communicate that answer to others. This has little to do with the content and a lot to do with the approach. ... There is nothing more rewarding than having a group of middle school students come back to the classroom during recess so that they can further investigate the complexities of torque or energy transfer (a common occurrence in Barbara’s class). That is when you know things are going right. Students (of all ages) should be excited to go to school and learn—…”

-Chris Rogers, Tufts Center for Engineering Education Outreach, in Introduction to Physics by Design by Barbara Bratzel

“Especially at the elementary school level, children’s curiosity needs to be kept alive. That’s always my biggest goal….”

-Bernie Zubrowski, EDC

"...With video games, kids will go back and do it a hundred times. They'll fail until they win...Failure in an acdemic environment is depressing. Failure in a video game is completely aspirational..."

-New York Times 9/19/10,"Video Games Win a Beachhead in the Classroom"

As students face challenges, failure is not only an ongoing event, it is neccessary. When you start from scratch, never having experienced working with robots, you learn by doing. There is no one 'Right Way'- there is only finding your way to a solution that hopefully works. If not- can you describe the specific problem and suggest some kind of possible solution? This is the working model of how we teach. Playing with ideas without dread of failure opens up the way. And so, when failure is necessary, and not to be taken personally, something wonderful happens. Kids start to have fun.

As described in the Times article, one student said that to be good, the fun had to be "hard fun". In other words, not too easy, not too hard.

At times, classes in Robotics may seem somewhat disorderly. Students are seen running about, building different versions of projects, customizing their programs to control their robots in different ways, even arguing over their designs. Yet this very disorder, within limits, is essential if students are to take ownership of their work.

As Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, on human motivation ,writes, "...the secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world...."

This is our job as teachers: to support your children's natural sense of curiosity and the basic human drive for competency...


Middle School Engineering-Learning through Failure (PowerPoint Presentation)

The Aha Moment

From Tufts CEEO:

Creating a Healthy Classroom Culture for Engineering(PPT)

Getting Started in the Classroom (PPT)

Think Different:

Eleanor Duckworth

Seymour Papert

Alfie Kohn

Phil Sadler

David Kelley/IDEO


Revised August 2015 by Jonathan Dietz, dietzj@weston.org