Lego and Robotics Academy May 2012

It would be an understatement to say the Lego and Robotics Academy club is fun. 
It totally ROCKS!

Uh, hum, did I say that?   Well yes, I DID!  These kids are so awesome!  I think I have the funnest job in the world, being their teacher!

We are learning about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in our club. Learning together with these kids has never been so much fun!  We have been using various Lego products including Lego MBA, Lego WeDo, Lego NXT, and various Lego bricks and parts.

We met today, and held a building and racing challenge using Lego Racers, a show and tell using our Lego MBA kits and various Lego pieces, and a time of fellowship and refreshments.  The meeting lasted about two and a half hours.  This post is about the building and racing challenge.  Look for a second story about the show and tell and fellowship from today’s meeting.  You can also read about our other great learning programs we have done at Lego and Robotics Academy.

Our kids are designed for learning in a fun way.
The goal is simple. Find ways to have fun while learning. Or another way to look at it is to learn while having fun. I think we accomplished this goal today!

I always pray before working on a learning plan for the club.  I am giving credit where credit is due.  Don’t think this stuff is all my idea. No way. I have to give credit to my creator, God, who inspires me.  Yes, thats right, God answers prayer, gives courage, and inspires people. 

        “When I asked for your help, you answered my prayer and gave me courage.” Psalm 138:3

My heavenly father, the creator of the universe, is the greatest engineer there ever has been.  He knows it all.  I believe he enjoys it when we take time to ask for his help, and when we apply ourselves to learn about Him, and learn about science and engineering and how he engineered the universe to work.

While preparing the program and lesson for today, I felt inspired to help the kids learn and practice math skills, geography skills, and engineering skills while working together in teams. Teams are great because working together in teams teaches cooperation, negotiation, conflict resolution, and sharing responsibilities to reach a specific goal. 

Today we were off to the races with a fun building competition. If you have ever seen the Disney movies Cars and Cars 2, then you have a kid’s idea of racing cars, and animated racing fun in different countries.

In Cars 1, its all about racing in the USA, and in Cars 2, Lightning McQueen and his friends travel around the world for international competitions.  In Cars 2 they race in the United Kingdom, Japan, and Italy.  While the race is going on, one of McQueens’ friends, Matter, gets accidentally caught up in a spy operation to take down a gang that wants to rule the world by controlling the fuel.  It is a great movie with lots of thrills and suspense, and my kids love watching it again and again.  A few months ago, we hosted a movie party in our home and watched this movie.  You can read more about it by clicking the link here.

Here is a short video clip from the Cars 2 movie.

I thought it would be a lot of fun to work with an idea from a story about something relevant in our culture that most kids today have seen and love, like the racing in these movies.  My plan was to spend some time racing with Lego cars and learn a little about the countries that hosted the races in these movies. 


Small efficient teams and engineering were at the heart of the learning experience for today.  In the Cars 2 movie, Mater becomes part of an International Spy team.  His team has to help re-design his truck to out run and out wit the bad guys.   In both movies, Lightning McQueen also has a team of mechanics and supporters / friends that help him keep his car in perfect condition to race fast and finish the race.  So working in teams was also important in completing our race challenges today.

We divided into four teams.  Each team was small and had only three members / race car drivers.   This was key in being able to work quickly to build their cars, and complete three important race segments and find their average distance traveled.  The youngest person on the team is racer 1, the next older person is racer 2, and oldest person on the team is racer 3.   The job of the race car driver was to line up the car on the stomper and stomp to make the car race across the floor.  Each team also had an adult helper.

The teams learned about:

  • the flag of the country they represented,
  • located their country on a globe,
  • learned about flags that are used in actual races, flags send signals to drivers on a race track,
  • followed directions / blueprints to build a race car
  • took turns and shared responsibilities
  • air pressure / air power
  • how to measure distance
  • how to find the average of three distances
  • raced to find out what car had the best design for reaching the farthest distance
  • how to make / engineer modifications to change the desired outcome

Each team was randomly given a race car kit, assigned a country, and given the flag coloring page for that country.  Each person was also given a racing flag coloring sheet too.   We used the Lego Racers building kits. These kits contain a set of blueprints to build the car, various Lego bricks and wheels to build the car, and an air pressure stomp to be assembled.

Each of the 4 teams were given the same instructions and completed three large challenges today.  Everyone went through the same exact steps in each challenge, though each team had a different car to build in challenge one.
   Everything was completed and raced in stages.   The pictures I’ve shared with you through out this story are random from all four teams during different stages of our challenges today.

Building Race Cars

Using the Lego Racer kits provided, follow the building plans in the kit and build a race car for your team and country.   


Team   Italy   Lego Racers  DRAGON DUELER


Team  USA    Lego Racers HERO


Team  Japan Lego Racers VICIOUS VIPER


Team  United Kingdom Lego Racers STING STRIKER


RACE, Measure, Record, Color, Locate, Calculate, and Learn.

Race Car Driver 1: Race your car.  Connect the car to the air pressure stomp.  Stomp it and watch it race across the floor to the other side of the room.  
Team: Measure the distance and record it.  Using a rope and the tape measure, stretch them between the stomper and the location the car ended.  How many inches did the car travel?  Write your answer down on your country’s flag page each time you race. We will use these numbers at the end of the three races.


Team: Find your country on the globe and show it to your team’s adult helper.


Each racer on the team: Color your country’s flag.

Race Car Driver 2: Race your car again.

Team: Measure the 2nd distance and record it.

Team:  Each race car driver on the team must color the racing flags page and learn what each flag used in a race stands for.  Share the information with your team’s adult helper.

Race Car Driver 3: Race your car again.


Team: Measure the 3rd distance and record it.


Team: Find the average distance your car raced.  Using the numbers you recorded on your country’s flag page, add all three distances together and divide by 3.  This is the average distance your race car traveled. 


What team’s car went the farthest?
#1 USA  #2 United Kingdom  #3 Italy #4 Japan

What powered the car to travel in the race?
Air power.  Air pressure was generated by stomping on the stomper.  Air pressure was sent to the car through a connector tube. The blast of air caused the car to shoot forward with momentum.

Why did the car travel across the room?
The momentum of the car caused the car to continue to move forward.  It continued to move forward because the force pulled the car forward.  The car rolled on 4 wheels.  Two wheels in front were connected by an axel.  Two wheels in back were connected by an axel.  The two sets of wheels in front and back moved freely but in unison allowing the force from the blast of air pressure to propel the car straight forward.

Does the car have brakes?

How could we give these race cars brakes?
Place a parachute on the back of the car to capture air and slow it to a stop. 
Place sandpaper infront of the tires to cause more friction to slow the tires to a stop.
Place an incline in front of the car, causing gravity to pull the car backwards as it tries to go up the incline and reducing the forward force of momentum.

If the car does not have brakes, why did the car come to a stop?
Eventually the force pushing the car forward was less than the force of friction and gravity.  Enough friction occurred and slowed the car to a stop.  The aerodynamic shape of the car helped to minimize friction.  The ability of the wheels to turn with minimal ground contact allows the car to minimize friction.  The reduction in friction allowed the car to continue movement for a long distance.  Eventually friction and the pull of gravity were greater, and the force from the air blast disappeared causing the car to stop.

How could we make the car continue going a longer distance?
Provide another or larger air blast, or an engine with power, or a source of power to cause momentum with the car or momentum with the axel and wheels.  You could also have the car travel down hill and use the force of gravity to help it go farther.  You could also set up a sail and provide wind behind the car to move it forward like a sail boat.

What things about the car’s design might have allowed some cars to go further than others?

  • Friction slows the car down.  Cars that have less friction go farther.  Areas the car experienced friction include wheels, air, and the force of gravity.
  •  Variations in the person pushing the stomper for air pressure to send the car forward. Some pushed the stomper harder than others.
  • Variations in the stomper and connection to the car.  Wind power was generated by air under pressure from the stomper.  Some connections moved and separated smoothly and some were tight causing additional friction and loss of power.
  • Variations in the friction of air moving against the vehicle.  Some vehicle shapes are more aerodynamic than others.  As more of the front of the car hits the air, it captures it as it tries to travel through, and the air slows it down.  Shape is very important.  If less of the shape in front of the car captures air, the car will not be slowed down by the air. 
  • Weight ratio compared to the size of the car can give it more momentum or less momentum. 
  • The more decorative extra pieces on a car, such as fancy bumper, extra hight, etc. might slow the car down if it is too heavy or if its grabs the wind.  Either situation can cause more friction and more pull from gravity.

What signals or message do the different color flags used during a race tell or communicate to the race car drivers and their team?
GREEN:  “GO”.  The green flag starts the race.
YELLOW:  “Caution”, there is a problem, slow down and keep your position.
RED: “STOP!”  To be safe you must stop quickly and safely.
BLACK: “Come In”.  Drive your car into the pits.
WHITE: “Last Lap”.  You have one final lap until the finish line, do your best.
CHECKERED: “You WON!”  The checkered flag is waved as the winner crosses the finish line.

Re-Engineer and Race

Trouble shoot and re-engineer modifications to the cars if needed, then race your team’s car again and see if you can make it go farther.

ALL TEAMS:  Race, and modify three more times to see if you can improve your distance.

What team’s car traveled the farthest out of the last three races?
#1 USA  #2 United Kingdom  #3 Italy  #4 Japan

What car has the best design, needed the least modifications, for going the longest distance today?
Hero, Sting Striker, and Dragon Dueler all performed similar and seem to be the best built for the application we did.

Though some teams made modifications, the end results were similar in challenge 3 to the results in challenge 2.  Team USA, Team United Kingdom, and Team Italy were nearly the same in their outcomes through out all the races. 

In my opinion, the Hero,  Sting Striker, and the Dragon Dueler cars are the better made products for doing this activity.   We only tested out four cars and there are other cars in the Lego Racer series.  I would like to repeat this activity and use the other cars and see if our results were different.

We had a lot of trouble with the Vicious Viper car for several reasons.   The wheels on the Vicious Viper were too tight causing more friction, it had knobbed tires instead of smooth tires, so the tires grabbed the floor differently than the smooth tires, and the vehicle was taller than the other vehicles causing more air friction, and it also did not want to slide off the connector tube on the stomper.

So this vehicle more than any others required a lot of trial and error as the kids and their adult helper continually tested it out and made modifications after each race.  Some of the changes they had to make were to remove some of the decorative pieces lowering the height of the car, loosen the wheels, and lubricate the connector tube.  It was a good experience for them to learn what design flaws were causing the issues and re-engineer ways to improve the vehicle so they could complete the race. 

Unfortunately, in the final set of races, several cars got “stuck” on their stomper mechanisms and it took a little longer for their cars to go.  But we were not competing with race times today, we were competing with race distances, so it did not matter if they weren’t first in racing the car.  But at times, the stuck stomper issue was a little frustrating for the kids as they were so excited for the stomp, and then let down if the car didn’t go on the first attempt.

I made some videos of the final races and combined them with pictures into one video.  I forgot to make videos earlier in the meeting of the earlier races which were awesome to see, but I took lots of pictures.  In this video, you will also see how some cars got stuck on the stomper and see one team trying to re-engineer their vehicle to go the distance.

We learned and practiced lots of vocabulary words today.
Average distance
Air power
Traveling on a Plane vs. an Incline

Flag Coloring Pages for these countries:

Racing Flags Coloring Page for flags used to signal during a race.

Bible Verse:
“I have fought well. I have finished the race, and I have been faithful.”   2 Timothy 4:7

Looking Ahead:

For our next meeting we are planning to build an inclined race track, and use the force of gravity to pull the car down the ramp, and friction to stop the car.  Each kid will build their own Lego race car, and race as individuals (no teams).  Each car will be racing for speed, not for distance next time.  I don’t know if I can pull it off, but I would love to have a robotic sensor that measures the speed at the finish line.  This may be a bigger challenge than I can muster just yet.  Our “judge of time” may be just a stop watch and a parent helper calling out the times, and the robot sensor may come at a future race.  It’s a desired goal anyway.  I know our next race is going to be even more awesome as we see the creativity, design, and engineering skills in action from these kids. 
Stay tuned……………. 

It takes a lot of resources to do these activities and teach these concepts with kids.   In addition to learning together in our meetings, our goal is to progress into a First Lego League Team.   If you would like to donate funds, gift cards, or building kits to help these kids learn more about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) please send me an email at  weiser academy at aol dot com.

Feel free to leave us a comment about this learning activity in the comment section below. Thank you.

This post will link up with 
No Time For Flash Cards
Science Sunday
Raising Homemakers
Sharing Time


Please share.
This entry was posted in 4H Clubs & 4H Activities & 4H Fairs, 4H Lego and Robotics Acad..., Lego, Lego and Robotics Academy 4H Club, Lego Racers on by .

About Melinda Weiser

I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am on a journey and offer to share my story with the hope that it will bless you. My one desire is to bring glory to my creator. I am a wife and the mother of 6 children, plus two in heaven. I enjoy homeschooling, research, teaching, homesteading, natural gardening, grass based farming, cooking, fresh raw milk, herbs, children, midwifery, and music. I am a writer, biblical mentor, and also work part time in the healthy foods and vitamin business I have a BSW degree from Kansas State University, and trained professionally as a medical social worker, biblical counselor, tutor, and vocal performer. Thank you for stopping by to read about our homeschool and family life adventures. Be blessed!

3 thoughts on “Lego and Robotics Academy May 2012

  1. Weiser Academy

    Thanks for asking Amy,

    I love all of my kids very much.   Many things I have gotten involved in doing were because my kids had a desire to pursue something and it opened my eyes to it.  This led me to began teaching two programs in our community last year. 

    One program is an outdoor learning program.  My kids love going to the park.  They also love seeing their friends.  I love showing my kids something new and exciting about life.  So we put all of this together in a regular program.  I just set up a day during the week to meet at the park and let other families know when.  I teach about science, life skills, nutrition, sports, community helpers, PE, and other subjects.  We also meet to play and socialize too.  This has been a big investment of my time and energy and it has all been worth it.  We have had 24 to 130 kids show up to these weekly programs.  You can read about some of these meetings here.

    The other program is this Lego and Robotics Academy.  Each year for birthdays and Christmas, my oldest son asks for a robot or a building set to learn with.   He had a special request for his 11th birthday, he came to me and said” Mom, I want to learn to build and engineer things.  I always learn alot with Lego’s and with robots.  Lego has a new program called Lego MBA.  Do you think you could get it for my birthday?  I promise, its not just a toy, I can really learn amazing things with this.  Would you look at the program and see if you and dad would get it for me?  Please?” 

    We looked into Lego MBA and it was a 10 month learning program.  It was as great as he described and we bought it for his birthday.  My other boys wanted to do the program too.   So we purchased it for them too.  I was teaching it in our home for a couple months and researching ways to teach engineering to them.

    After doing lots of research in teaching this to my own kids, and finding no resources in our local area that we could be involved in, I decided to teach an engineering class for our community, using Lego MBA and other Lego and robotic products.  I put the word out to other families if they wanted to join us.  I looked around for a building to use.  We met in the park for the first 4 meetings until I could secure a building.  And the rest is history, and you can read about our group meetings under the heading Lego and Robotics Academy.

     I am a homeschooling momma and it seems my day of teaching this nest of mine is never ending.  I enjoy it.  The challenge is always to make it fun, make it not feel like school, never overbearing or boring, look for and find new adventures, and to cherish our time together as a family.   We love the fellowship we share when we can invite friends on the learning adventure too.

     It has been a terrific year of learning fun.  I have had just as much fun as the kids!!!




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