STEM@Home: LEGO Lesson Love

Explore the world of simple machines with LEGO challenges from Frugal Fun 4 Boys and Girls!

Photo attribution: woodleywonderworks

Sure, your LEGO blocks have been VIP of the toy room for years now. Your minifigs could populate a small city. You’re got LEGO Hogwarts, the LEGO Death Star, and the Eiffel Tower (in LEGO) in places of honor in your room. But did you ever think…. did you ever believe… that you could master entire science concepts using only LEGO? Believe it, my friend – that day is here.

The LEGO-loving family behind Frugal Fun 4 Boys and Girls have put together all sorts of amazing LEGO demos, including LEGO explorations of the six simple machines used in engineering. Challenges range in difficulty from preschool to high school, so every learner can get their brick on!

Challenge 1: LEGO Bridge

Whether you’re just jumping into the concept of building with LEGO, or have a totally self-designed LEGO city in your basement, constructing bridges offers challenges for all builders. Start with a 6″ span and work up from there. The first challenge is getting the bridge to stay up… then there are so many ways to push its limits.

Bridges explore classical building concepts like arches, columns, tiling, etc. They introduce the concepts of extension (where the bridge pulls apart) and compression (where the weight is being concentrated). Each of these forces require different solutions to provide the strength and balance of a bridge.

  • Might is right: Check how strong your bridge is – stacking on lots of identical objects is a great way to compare strength between bridges. Consider soup cans, board books, or matchbox cars.
  • Go the distance: Once you master six inches, expand, expand, expand! Do the same techniques work on a bridge with an eighteen inch span?
  • So inspirational: Google “famous bridges” and find some new techniques. How do designs change as materials change?


Challenge 2: LEGO Pulley

Pulleys are one of the six simple machines that show up in countless ways throughout our modern world. How do cranes lift heavy loads to build sky scrapers? Pulleys. How do Boy Scouts quickly run flags up poles? Pulleys. How do elevators lift, rock climbers safely ascend, and red velvet curtains swish across the stage? Pulleys!

Using just LEGO wheels, bricks, and string, you can build simple and compound pulleys to explore how they use force redirection and mechanical advantage to make lifting heavy loads easier.

  • Big spender: How many pennies can you lift with a simple (one-wheel) pulley?
  • Compound interest: Can you use compound pulleys to lift more pennies than the simple pulley?
  • It wheel-y matters: Build a simple pulley with two different wheels styles. Does the choice of wheel make a difference in how the pulley operates?


Challenge 3: LEGO Waterwheel

Sunny days are on their way and this LEGO build will let science class take place outdoors. Using an inclined plane (another simple machine!) and LEGO, explore fluid dynamics, waterwheels, and hydraulic engineering!

  • Ramp it up: Does your watercourse behave differently at different ramp angles? What about with a trickle of water vs. a deluge?
  • Divide and conquer: Can you design a way to divert 25% of the water away from the main watercourse? How can you measure your results, beyond eyeballing it?
  • Minimalism is so trendy: What are the fewest bricks you need to divert water successfully?

WHISTLE WETTED? Info, tips and more HERE.

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