Teaching Kids STEM Skills With LEGO

LEGO is an incredibly educational toy. It's raised generations of future engineers and "techies", who found their interest in building and creating while playing with the plastic bricks. LEGO Mindstorms in special is a great choice to teach children the rudiments of robotics. Let's see how.

Teaching Kids STEM Skills With LEGO

LEGO are ultimately toys. While we do have lots of art, engineering and other such feats made with LEGO, the heart of it is still play. Thankfully, playing is one of the best ways to teach children. That's where LEGO shines in education, in special, STEM education.

We won't delve into the details of how to conduct a classroom with these items, but rather showcase what possibilities are out there, and what can be done to accomplish these goals, both in the classroom and at home.

What can we learn with LEGO?

LEGO is the sort of toy that helps children learn all sorts of things. There are sets for all age groups (including adults) and different levels of skills, which provide learning opportunities.

While building with bricks already has some benefits on its own (including improving imagination, coordination and analytical thinking), LEGO has special sets for educational purposes. These are good to stimulate specific abilities, such as mechanics, even in very young children.

image from www.flickr.com

STEM education is a very important factor in today's world, where technological skills become more and more important. As such, it's equally important to introduce children to these skills. It's also important to nurture and, if desired, grow them, as young as possible. The environment of play makes skill-gain quicker and engaging, creating positive memories and associations in the child's mind.

Growing STEM Skills with LEGO

There are sets dedicated to very young children. These include Math Train, and prototypes of mechanical builds which include things such as levers and screws, which will teach them the basics of how machines fit together. These are interesting assets to education, especially for toddlers. You can build pinwheels, gangplanks, pulleys and much more. The Math Train encourages basic simple math, counting, and familiarity with numbers.

WeDo 2.0 even brings the very beginnings of robotics, including things such as software (which runs on tablets) and power sources. These are specific for the very young, and a great asset to encourage them to think logically. WeDo is for children around Grade 1 to 5 and builds simple machines.

More interestingly, WeDo also introduces the rudiments of coding. These become more prevalent in higher levels, where we begin true robotics.

What can be done?

LEGO itself has several lesson plans with different projects which can be done with their stuff. They are as diverse as civics, science and coding, as well as robotics.

They have dedicated sets for robotics as well. As mentioned above, these include the WeDo sets and the Mindstorms EV3 sets.

The Mindstorms EV3 is more advanced and thus, for older children and adults. There are several projects that can be done with it, from vending machines to puzzle-solving robots, but the true objective of these sets, for education, is learning and exploration.

LEGO sets will provide the basic pieces one might need, as well as a programming environment (age appropriate when it comes to Mindstorms vs. WeDo), where one can learn both the basics and do more advanced and complex stuff. The flexibility inherent to LEGO is enough to open a world of possibilities.

Surprisingly, this is also useful for engineering education as well. Many accredited colleges and universities use LEGO exploration to both teach and execute LEGO-based engineering and robotics projects. It isn't just a game -- but it can be as entertaining as one.

LEGO for adults

Adults can learn robotics and even coding with LEGO as well. As it happens, the LEGO is more fit for feats of engineering than actual programming -- the main goal is to build things in plastic bricks and shapes, after all. There is a whole theme (Technic) dedicated to such engineering feats, with specialized pieces which work for analog mechanical feats. These include levers, pulleys, and all sorts of analog feats such as turning a carousel or moving pieces in and out of place.

image from www.flickr.com

But when analog is too simple (even for more complex sets, which have over 1000 pieces), we have Mindstorms. Yes, they can be used by children and teens -- but that doesn't mean they're bad for adults, either. Unlike sets such as Arduino, LEGO is intuitive. Moreover, these can also interact with Arduino pieces, making more complex, larger builds which more autonomically, perform calculations, have sensors, and much more.

People who know nothing about robotics can learn the ropes by following some of LEGO's own plans and suggestions. People who do have a new set of interlocking pieces (easily expandable with regular and Technic LEGO bricks) which offer a great range of possibilities and combinations.

image from www.flickr.com


We can see, then, that there's a lot to be said about LEGO beyond just a toy or a hobby. LEGO provides a solid, well-supported and well-researched way to make your projects come true and to educate yourself and the younger generation. Whether we are dealing with simple, young-child level Math Train, or creating advanced robots with Mindstorms EV3, there's room for everything and everyone, only limited by imagination.

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