Nov 3, 2006

Set 9632 review

For the past 10 years, I've been teaching LEGO classes based on the Dacta 1030 simple machines set.

With the advent of the LEGO NXT, I was hoping that LEGO would release a simple machines set that incorporated studless beams and other elements from the NXT set. It's my contention that these elements are not as familiar to most students who have built with LEGO retail sets, and thus there is a big jump from ordinary LEGO play to building with the NXT.

The Science and Technology Set 9632 is a new set from LEGO Education aimed at elementary students ages 9 and up. The curriculum guide points out that it was designed to be used by non-specialist teachers. It's low-tech, and the curriclum guide seems very user-friendly.

I've been previewing a set for a couple of weeks. It's been fun to build the models. They are sturdier than similar models with studded beams. Last weekend, I was able to watch a group of kids play with the set for the first time. They had a blast. Most of them built one model from the booklets and then went on to free play -- mostly making cars that rolled down a ramp and across the room.

The set comes with 25 booklets. The first provides a general overview of building techniques and simple machines. The other booklets provide directions for 12 different models. Wait a second, you say. There are 24 booklets for 12 models? That's right. Each model has two booklets.

The projects are set up so that students can work in pairs, with each building part of the model. LEGO calls this "Buddy Building." Booklet 1A is the chassis for the street sweeper (it looks a little more like a lawn mower) and booklet 1B is the sweeping mechanism. Once each part is built, the two sections are joined together.

The best part is that each model comes with some great ideas for modifications that will extend the activity and lead to further inquiry. What happens, for instance, if the gears that drive the sweeper are switched? What happens if the sweeper has more arms? What happens when the gear drive is replaced with a belt drive?

One of the model cars has a flywheel mechanism. It was funny to watch the kids put that on the ramp and wonder why it rolled down so slowly. The extensions for that model include directions for replacing the flywheel with wheels of various sizes, along with directions for an off-center flywheel.

By building the models and doing the related activities, students will cover gears, pulleys, levers, cams, friction, kinetic and stored energy, magnetism, and more. Measuring is a key skill for science, and the activities lend themselves to developing this skill. The extension activities lead to a lot of "what happens if . . ." questions.

Overall, I'm impressed.


Jim Kelly said...

When I was in high school, I had a physics instructor who made it a point to have a visual representation for every theoretical concept we covered. It stuck with me throughout college and I realize now that the best teachers are those who are able to take a concept (such as gravity) and demonstrate it in an effective and easy-to-understand way.

I remember learning about gravity, and this teacher had this contraption he built himself. On the left side of the room was a metal pole with a magnet on top. A tin can with a piece of paper covering the open end was secured with a rubber band. The can was empty and about 6-7 feet above the floor with the covered opening facing the right side of the room.

On the right side, the teacher had small airgun that fired a ball bearing across the room. When the gun was fired in the direction of the can, the magnet would release the tin can and it would fall to the ground.

Using mathematics, he was able to demonstrate how knowing the launch speed of the ball bearing and the pull of gravity on the "bullet", we could determine the proper distance between the gun and the tin can so that the ball bearing would break the paper covering and a loud "BANG" would be heard with the ball bearing hitting the inside of the can.

I've never forgotten that demonstration. And he had TONS of them... light wave, sound, electricity, etc.

Science kits like the one you write about are what gives me hope that kids will still find science and math interesting as possible career pursuits.


Will George said...

Not sure how old this post is.. But..

Does it 'really' make a difference what the parts are if the child (or OLD adult like me) loves to TRY it!

Even if it didden't work and held together.. IT WAS great!

I still remember my first Erector Set.. I got the BIG one. Huggers MOM.. I do not think I could read anything yet. In my mind (as I remember now) I'm not sure how it turned out. BUT in my mind I see this really tall Parachute tower and it did not topple over and hurt anybody. I remember cuts from the metal parts and I remember my Mom yelling 'Do NOT use you teeth'..

By the way, I was a EXCELLENT Tank Mechanic in the Army. Gee, I even got Pro Pay then.. Army at the time gave hardly anybody EXTRA money! (No electronics then)

Jim Kelly said...

I absolutely LOVED my Erector Set... it came in a bright yellow carrying case (very rugged) and a set of blueprints to build about 20-30 vehicles and devices... I would love to have those blueprints today to frame and hang in my office... but by the time I got done with the kit, they were worn out, torn, faded... sign of a good "toy"

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