LEGO Marble Maze
Students will collaborate to create a LEGO marble maze that meets specific design criteria.
- Tell students that you will be presenting them with a design engineering challenge. They will be given a task to complete that will require them to design and build a project that meets certain requirements or criteria.
- Ask students what they already know about engineering. What do engineers do? Facilitate the discussion to draw attention to the creativity and problem-solving elements of design engineering.
- Announce that the design engineering challenge is to create a marble maze out of LEGOs.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(5 minutes)
- Show students the video about a high school class that created a marble maze out of cardboard and other materials.
- Ask students, "What did you find most interesting in the mazes?"
- Draw students' attention to the way the young engineers in the video had certain criteria or requirements that they had to follow. For example, they were instructed to create a design that would keep the marble moving for as long as possible.
- Explain that they will be working on a similar challenge using different materials and different criteria.
Guided Practice(5 minutes)
- Post the following criteria for students:
- You must work with a partner and create a marble maze that is based on both of your ideas.
- You must make a sketch or drawing of your maze before you begin building.
- You must design a maze that will provide a path for the marble to travel from one side of the base board to the other.
- Using an empty board, demonstrate how one partner will hold a finished maze in their hands and move the board gently to make the marble move through the maze.
- If you feel students need to see an example of a marble maze, here is a video of younger students and their LEGO DUPLO mazes. However, you may find that students will be more creative and inventive in their designs if they do not have a model to follow.
Independent working time(30 minutes)
- Divide students into pairs and pass out graph paper.
- Invite students to work together to draw an initial sketch of their design before they begin building. They will likely adapt that original design once they begin building, but the process of sketching their initial ideas will help them focus and collaborate on the design elements and strategies.
- You may want to require students to show you their design before they begin building. You may also want to require that students build their structure before you give them a marble to test it.
- Encourage students to adjust and revise their design after testing. Tell them that evaluating and improving a design is called troubleshooting.
- Students who need an additional challenge can create a maze with a second level, or create a maze with multiple paths for multiple marbles.
- For students who are struggling with this task, encourage them to first create a simple zigzag path for the marble, then add other elements to that base design.
- Circulate around the room and observe how well students are working together.
- Measure student success by whether they are able to successfully create a maze that allows a marble to travel from one side of the board to the other.
Review and closing(5 minutes)
- Invite pairs of students to present their marble mazes to the class.
- If time allows, provide a free play period where students can try out each others' mazes.
- Optional: Discuss how this design engineering experience is similar to the process used to create computer programs. Show students an example of a maze created with computer animation, such as The Maze by Rory Martin. Ask students, "How is creating a LEGO maze similar to creating a computer-animated maze? How is it different?"
Ann Gadzikowski is an author and educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. Her recent book Robotics for Young Children won the 2018 Midwest Book Award for best educational book. Ann developed her expertise in robotics, computer science, and engineering through her work as early childhood coordinator for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. She has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and director of early childhood programs, and currently serves as the Executive Director of Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-Emilia inspired school in Madison, Wisconsin.