Eduardo Suescunl, Ph.D. (2nd. year), Civil Engineering
Summary: Students identify different bridge designs and construction materials used in modern day engineering. They work in construction teams to create paper bridges and spaghetti bridges based on existing bridge designs. Students progressively realize the importance of the structural elements in each bridge. They also measure vertical displacements under the center of the spaghetti bridge span when a load is applied. Vertical deflection is measured using a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT intelligent brick and ultrasonic sensor. As they work, students experience tension and compression forces acting on structural elements of the two bridge prototypes. In conclusion, students discuss the material properties of paper and spaghetti and compare bridge designs with performance outcomes.
Carlo Yuvienco, Ph.D. (1st year) Biomedical Engineering
Summary: Working in teams of three, students perform quantitative observational experiments on the motion of LEGO vehicles that are powered by the stored potential energy of a rubber band. The students will have the opportunity to experiment with different vehicle modifications (e.g. wheel type, payload, and lubrication) and monitor the effects on vehicle performance. The main point of the lesson, however, is to communicate to the students that through the manipulation of mechanics, a rubber band can be used in a rather non-traditional configuration to power a vehicle. In addition, this lesson reinforces the idea that elastic energy can be stored as potential energy.
Nicole Abaid, Ph.D. (2nd. year) Mechanical Engineering
Summary: Students will work in groups to design and construct a building from LEGOs, based on design principles which aim at creating a stable structure. The students will learn basic LEGO building principles, like make a wide and heavy base and stable connections between pieces, and will use this knowledge to design a building. Students will plan extensively, and after constructing the building, assess the motivation for making changes from or adhering to their original design.
Violet Mwaffo, Ph.D (1st. year), Mechanical Engineering
Summary: Students learn about the Foucault pendulum—an engineering tool used to demonstrate and measure the Earth's rotation. Student groups create small experimental versions, each comprised of a pendulum and a video camera mounted on a rotating platform actuated by a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT motor. When the platform is fixed, the pendulum motion forms a line, as observed in the recorded video. When the rotating, the pendulum's motion is observed as a set of spirals with a common center. Observing the patterns that the pendulum bob makes when the platform is rotating provides insight as to how a full-size Foucault pendulum operates. It helps students understand some of the physical phenomena induced by the Earth's rotation, as well as the tricky concept of how the perception of movement varies, depending on one's frame of reference.
Keeshan Williams, Ph.D. (2nd. year) Chemical and Biological Engineering
Summary: Students build a simple sensor for detecting ultra violet (UV) light. Students use specialized beads that are sensitive to UV light and various materials that facilitate the immobilization of the sensor to different objects, including themselves. Students show that although UV light cannot be seen by the human eye, it is still present in sunlight, and can be detected using this sensor. Students also test the effectiveness of various materials at blocking UV light, such as sunscreen and glass.
Rezwana Uddin, MS (2nd. year) Computer Science
Summary: Students investigate the materials properties—such as acoustical absorptivity, light reflectivity, thermal conductivity, hardness, and water resistance—of various materials. They use sound, light and temperature sensors to collect data on various materials. They practice making design decisions about what materials would be best to use for specific purposes and projects, such as designing houses in certain environments to meet client requirements. After testing, they use the provided/tested materials to design and build model houses to meet client specifications.
Peter James Baker, Ph.D. (5th. year) Biomedical Engineering
Summary: The goal of this activity is to teach elementary school students how differential gears work and how they can be constructed using a LEGO NXT ® kit. The students will construct two different chassis; one with a gear differential and one without. They will then experiment with turning and discuss different styles of gears and how they can be used for different functions.
Joseph Frezzo, Ph.D. (3rd. year) Chemical and Biological Engineering
Summary: After a brief history of plastics, students look more closely as some examples from the abundant types of plastics found in our day-to-day lives. They are introduced to the mechanical properties of plastics, including their stress-strain relationships, which determine their suitability for different industrial and product applications. These physical properties enable plastics to be fabricated into a wide range of products. Students learn about the different roles that plastics play in our lives, Young's modulus, and the effects that plastics have on our environment. Then students act as industrial engineers, conducting tests to compare different plastics and performing a cost-benefit analysis to determine which are the most cost-effective for a given application, based on their costs and measured physical properties.
Raymond Le Grand, MS (1st. year) Mechanical Engineering
Summary: Students learn about the concept of pushing, as well as the relationship between force and mass. Students practice measurement skills using pan scales and rulers to make predictions about mass and distance. A LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robot is used to test their hypotheses. By the end of the activity, students have a better understanding of robotics, mass and friction and the concept of predicting.
Ursula Koniges, Ph.D. (3rd. year) Chemical & Biological Engineering
Summary: Students develop an understanding of the concepts of "push" and "pull" as they "save" stuffed animals from danger using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT robots. After learning more about the concepts through a robot demonstration, students explore the concepts themselves in the context of saving stuffed animala from the table edges. They choose to either push or pull the animal to safety, depending on the orientation of the robot and toy. They see the consequences of their choices, learning the importance of understanding these force concepts and the differences between them.