Hands-on Activity: Design Weather Instruments Using LEGO Sensors

Contributed by: Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

A pile of colorful LEGO blocks.
Students create LEGO structures
copyright
Copyright © Wikimedia Commons http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Lego_Color_Bricks.jpg

Summary

Student teams design and create LEGO® structures to house and protect temperature sensors. They leave their structures in undisturbed locations for a week, and regularly check and chart the temperatures. This activity engages students in the design and analysis aspects of engineering.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

The roles that engineers play in the field of weather detection range from the design and manufacturing of instruments such as thermometers and water gauges, to analyzing data obtained from them to create predictive models, to designing structures that minimize the affects of hazardous weather. They also design all kinds of sensors to gather data.

Learning Objectives

  • Temperature changes over time, and is not always constant.
  • Graphing techniques.
  • Data collection method.
  • Design techniques.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation. (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Tools, materials, and skills are used to make things and carry out tasks. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • The engineering design process involves defining a problem, generating ideas, selecting a solution, testing the solution(s), making the item, evaluating it, and presenting the results. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • When designing an object, it is important to be creative and consider all ideas. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Compare, contrast, and classify collected information in order to identify patterns. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Explain how air temperature, moisture, wind speed and direction, and precipitation make up the weather in a particular place and time. (Grades 3 - 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

  • LEGO building blocks and other LEGO components
  • temperature sensor, such as those included in LEGO robot kits
  • graph paper or graphing worksheet
  • Data Collection Worksheets 1 and 2
  • paper
  • pencils

Introduction/Motivation

How many of you have used thermometers? Why? What is the use of thermostats in your home? A temperature sensor is the part of the thermostat that measures the temperature of the room. Do you think the temperature of the room remains the same during the day?

In today's activity, you are going to build a LEGO structure and place a temperature sensor in it so that we can chart the temperature within the classroom throughout the week.

Procedure

Background

A temperature sensor measures the temperature of the surrounding air. The Fahrenheit and Celsius scales are ways to measure how hot or how cold something is.

Charts are a good way to record data during a scientific experiment. A line graph is a way to see and understand the change in temperature over time.

Recommended Resource: Information on temperature sensors: http://www.temperatures.com/sensors.html

Preparation

  • Gather materials, including LEGO components and temperature sensors.
  • Make copies of the two Data Collection Worksheets for students to record and graph data.

With the Students

  1. Set up a table with assorted LEGO components for students to use.
  2. Introduce students to the temperature sensor. Show them an example of the sensor and explain what it does.
  3. Tell students that their task is to build a structure with a temperature sensor attached to it. Their structures will serve as instruments to measure the temperature in locations in our classroom during the next week, and students will check it regularly.
  4. Divide the class into teams of three or four students each.
  5. Have students brainstorm ideas for what they wish to build. Have them draw sketches of their structures.
  6. Direct students to go to the LEGO table and take the pieces that they need to build their structures, including temperature sensors. Remind them that they must include the temperature sensor somewhere in their designs.
  7. After students have built the structures, have different groups show the class their structures. Make sure that they show and discuss where they put their temperature sensor and why.
  8. After groups have completed their structures and shown them to the class, have groups place their structures somewhere around the classroom. Suggest that they pick locations where the structures will be undisturbed and safe from classroom activities. Encourage a range of locations, such as by a sunny window, next to a heater, in a dark corner, in a place where part of the day it is sunny and part of the day it is dark, etc.
  9. Discuss data collection and graphing with the class. Have students use the data collection worksheet (or graph paper) to to record temperature readings taken from their structures, noting the date and time of each reading. Have teams start by recording the initial temperatures.
  10. For the next week, have students check their structures two or three times a day, for example, morning, lunch time, and before school ends.
  11. At the end of the week, have students visually represent the collected data. Have groups compare and discuss their results. Looking at their graphs, do they see any patterns in the temperatures they recorded?
  12. After students have had time to discuss their results in groups, have each group present its results to the class. Make sure that each group describes the location of its structure.
  13. On the classroom board, write each group's findings and the structure locations.
  14. Once each group has shared its results, ask students to look at the whole class's results and discuss in their groups any conclusions they can make from seeing all the groups' results. Give students five minutes for discussion.

Attachments

Investigating Questions

  • Do you see any patterns to the temperature results?
  • Was the temperature constant throughout the week? A day? Why?
  • What can alter temperature?
  • How does the amount of sunlight affect the temperature? When was the temperature the highest? The lowest?
  • Where in the room was the temperature the warmest? The coldest? Why?
  • Why might it be important to think carefully about where you place the (heating/air conditioning) thermostat in your house?

Assessment

Rubric for Performance Assessment (doc)

Rubric for Performance Assessment (pdf)

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Supporting Program

Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

Last modified: August 10, 2017

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