First Day Activities: Robotics

For our orientation activities this year, we are focusing on getting to know each other, and discussing/interacting/performing skits around digital citizenship and our school’s computer use policy. To make sure we have enough time for these activities, but find problems with the schedule, we are going through each day of the block schedule with abbreviated classes. This means that each class gets around twenty minutes to meet.

I love the limited time for the sole reason that I’m not even tempted to talk about policies. It’s a chance to do something interesting with the students and whet their appetites for what the class is going to be about. I’m going to share what I did as an opportunity to record what I did on the first day for the future (which I always plan to do, but rarely do) but also to give others ideas.


The students came in to find three full Ziploc bags of LEGO pieces – the last of my collection from back home that was previously in storage. I asked them to build a tower as tall as they could build it using the pieces from the bags. I asked that they keep track of the number of bricks they used in their design.

They quickly got to work – I was impressed with how quickly they jumped into team-oriented roles. Some created a base for the tower. Others started stacking bricks. Another occasionally pantomimed a general shape they should try to follow.

After around eight minutes had passed, we measured the tower. I then said they needed to build a tower that reached at least the same height, but used half the number of bricks they used in the first one. Again, they quickly got to work. They scrapped the nice base they had built and did some interesting sideways building vertically to make up for the pieces they knew they had to remove. Eventually the height reached more than twice the height of their original tower – I was impressed.

We then had three minutes left – just enough to ask students to compare this task to building and designing something in the real world. I mentioned the word constraints to describe what they came up with, but they got the idea. They also mentioned that it would have helped if they knew what all of the constraints and requirements were at the beginning. I agreed, with a smirk.

Then it was off to the next class.

It’s good to be back! Expect more posts as I can fit them in.

1 thought on “First Day Activities: Robotics

  1. I am stealing this for my first day with my science students. I only hope my students jump into a team-oriented process. I am really concerned with having that type of environment this year. I think I’ve neglected the need for team-building exercises in the past. Would love to hear more about how it goes for you.

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