How We Use Lego Robots in Our Homeschool
My boys have always loved Legos and model building with Legos. Middle school came along and they were ready for a challenge, building ever increasingly complex models with motors from Lego. We were introduced to the Lego NXT Robot in a homeschooling group and they started to soar in their abilities to make all sorts of things with the Lego Mindstorms kit.
This lens will gather lots of our resources and experiences for you to read more about and possibly get started in your own robot building adventure. Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part. My best advice is to purchase the kit, one of the recommended books, and then take it one step at at time. There is a lot of online support for the NXT 2.0 robots and plenty of project ideas. If your child is interested in this sort of project building, they will start to self-teach and answer their own questions.
Honestly, I don't know all that much about robot building but I can research and find information for my boys to use to be on their own LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 adventure. I hope that you will find some ideas for getting started and for making your child's dream of building their very own robot come true.
Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0
This is the set my boys work with each week as part of their high school robotics course. We have used this set since it was released and it has been enough pieces and resources to build every robot so far that has been covered in the books below. It needs 8 AA batteries to run the Mindstorm brick and they last fairly long except if you are running motors a lot for the operation of your robot.
Why Robotics for High School?
First I wanted something that would spark their interest and that would be something they could do at home, on their own to start with. Both boys had participated in a Lego Mindstorms class through a local homeschooling group a few years ago and it was a big success. We were able to borrow from the teacher a Lego Mindstorms set to use at home over the summer. They enjoyed every minute of it.
Secondly, I wanted to see how the boys would handle a course that would basically be self-taught and handled on their own. One of our goals in our homeschooling is to encourage the boys to be motivated on their own to dig deeper and to go farther than what I could plan for them. Robotics is the course that will totally test that quality.
Nuts and Bolts of Our Robotics Course
They are assigned a portion in the book to read and then to follow the instructions to build a specific model. We started off with the Unofficial LEGO Mindstorms NXT Guide, working our way chapter by chapter. This book gives you every step and the programs to use so your child will get some experience with the pieces and the software.
After they build the model they get on the computer and write the programming using the step by step instructions in the book. This is where the child will either decide he likes this sort of project or not. It is fun to build the models but it takes a certain tenacity to work through the bugs in the programs, testing and fixing things as problems arise.
There is still quite a bit of room for creativity within the instructions so it is interesting to see how each son completes the task in his own way. We always started off with the models from the book and then after accomplishing the task I would ask the boys if they could come up with a way to improve the model. They usually had an idea or two and they would be off to see if they could improve the design or the programming.
After they have programmed the robot, they give a demonstration of what the robot does and we take a photograph.
Sometimes they get it right on the first try but sometimes they have to go back to the computer and figure out what they did wrong. I love the skills and qualities that this complete process brings out and then hones in my boys. They have learned a lot of great things besides model building and programming while using the NXT robots.
Lego Mindstorms Robot Dragster
Links to Projects for the Year
I usually post on my blog about our robotics projects with videos. Here are a few for you!
- Self Parking Car-Scroll Down to See the Video
NXT project from One Kit Wonder book
- Robotic Hand-Scroll Down to See the Video!
NXT project from One Kit Wonder book
- Card Reader - Scroll Down to See the Video
Project from One Kit Wonders
- Robot on a String - Scroll Down for the Video
Project from Mayan Adventure Book
Books We Used to Get Started
Since we live in an area that does not have a Lego First robotics team, we were on our own as far as getting going with the Lego NXT Mindstorms robot. My two boys have always worked well together so we decided we could build a homeschooling course around their interests and at their own speed using their own kit and some books from Amazon.com.
Helpful Links - For Fun and Inspiration
- No Starch Press
This publisher has a whole line of books that you can use with your NXT robots. Great resources.
- Link to One of Our Current Books
You can read about the One Kit Wonder book here and see a video of how it works.
- Projects for NXT 1.0
My boys like to tinker around with the plans on this website. They are designed for the 1.0 but you can adapt with some extra pieces to the 2.0 Kit.
- NXT Step- Lego Mindstorms NXT Blog
Always a source of great information and videos!
- MAKE online magazine
Not just NXT but lots of inspiring ideas for your LEGO engineer.
- LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Bonus Models
Building instructions for bonus models for the 2.0.
- NXT Free Plans
More plans for your NXT.
- More Advanced NXT
There is sure to be something you can learn from this site.
More Links to Help You Get Started - Lego Education has lots of great links.
- My Son's Favorite "Go To" Link on Lego Education
See how others are solving their problems....
Lego Storage Ideas
My Son's Lego Lenses Here on Squidoo
Want to see more on Legos? Try these lenses out!
Lego NXT on Ebay
Try your luck with finding a kit on Ebay!
I love to hear your comments!
anonymous on June 12, 2012:
Thanks! I'm not sure I'm up for coaching a 3rd year of Rookies, with Jon and Nate having 2 years under their belts. We now have possession of one kit plus the Educational addition. I am wondering about hosting the High School Robotics class 2 times a month in Newport. But I like the idea of doing it at home, with just the boys, with what they have learned from FLL. Our library has the NXT books, and we have found many sites online with challenges. . . . Thinking, Thinking, Thinking.
Barb McCoy (author) on June 12, 2012:
We kept the boxes but the boys also sorted pieces into bins. Here is a glimpse:
My boys didn't have time for FLL and neither are very competitive. We enjoyed our more relaxed approach and with the two of them they still got to bounce things back and forth. I sometimes would assign a "group" project and sometimes they each made their own. (We have two kits - remember the economic stimulus money...that is where ours went.)
anonymous on June 12, 2012:
Debating FLL or Self Directed course for 9th grade. Do you have a photo of the storage area for your kit? Do you keep it in the boxes they came in?
KayeSI on May 15, 2012:
Ooooh - I'm bookmarking this site, that's for SURE. With LEGO loving grandkids, who are doing some of the basic LEGO robotics projects with some of their homeschool friends, this is great! Thanks so much!
anonymous on January 13, 2012:
these are fantastic, enjoy seeing children learn right in front of me, great lens here indeed, thank you for the write up.
prabhurams on July 08, 2011:
i like your picture..good lens
Linda Pogue from Missouri on July 04, 2011:
Love the photos of your projects!
OrganicMom247 on April 01, 2011:
Wow, I wish I would have learned stuff like this when I was a kid, I would have loved it.
anonymous on February 21, 2011:
Gret lens (and blog). I just love robots :D
anonymous on February 19, 2011:
Thank you SO much for the very helpful reply. Can I just tell you how glad I am to have accidentally stumbled upon you again? I had really enjoyed your website previously but forgot to bookmark it. What a pleasant surprise to find your helpful words again.
Barb McCoy (author) on February 18, 2011:
I am not exactly sure what I will call it on the transcript yet but what I plan to do is to work into a high school course perhaps called "Technology Lab" or "Technology Applications". I am keeping all his course work in robotics, computer graphics and web designing, as well as his videography in on portfolio. We regularly have him write about his projects, keep photos and images, and then keep track of all of his time. By the end of his high school career I will shape it all into one course to put onto his transcript.
As far as the robotics part, he reads two NXT blogs, keeps a portfolio with all his projects, writes about robotics topics, looks for robotics current events, and I use a grading rubric for each model he builds. Since he has been working on this 1-2 hours per week (at least) over the course of the last three years, this will eventually add up to a complete course. I don't worry too much about the transcript as we go along since this is an on-going interest to him.
anonymous on February 18, 2011:
I am very excited about this, having a 15 year old daughter who has always loved Legos. Most girls her age are not into this at all, the closest robotic team is very far from us. I am wondering what you called the class on the transcript and how you made it into a complete class. Please share? Thanks! Christa
JanieceTobey on January 14, 2011:
I found out about Lego Mindstorms a month or so before Christmas this year. My homeschooled son and I are hoping to get a set. They look fantastic! Favorited, blessed, and added to my Angel Blessings lens! I look forward to reading more of what you've written!!
JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on January 12, 2011:
My boys would absolutely droll over these!!
Karen from U.S. on January 12, 2011:
My husband led a Lego Robotics team at the previous high school where he taught -- it was a great activity for the students who were interested! My boys always loved Legos as kids -- but didn't get as far as working with the robotics kits.
Fun lens to read :-)
Kay on December 27, 2010:
My son has been in Lego Robotics classes for two-years now. He had a blast with it and will likely join the official 'team' for our area some time soon. Great page!
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on November 10, 2010:
On a much more elementary level, there is a lego unit study here -- http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/?p=714285.
This is a topic that I am positive many young men would love! The persistence it takes to complete such a project is a very worthwhile objective.