24 August 2012

Building a Lego Bridge... without the Legos

So I wanted to post some pictures from my first assignment in my Emerging Tech class.

Lego – Building a Bridge Debriefing
When tasked with building a Lego bridge, the first problem I encountered was my lack of access to Legos. In search for an acceptable alternative, I found a local church had children’s building blocks that I could use for this assignment. I altered the pricing based on the size of the blocks I had in the following manner:

-          Small square blocks = $150
-          Large square blocks = $250
-          Rectangular prism blocks = $350
-          Large flat blocks = $450

The entire process of planning and building the bridge the first time took me approximately 10 minutes. The end result was a 6 in. tall, 14 in. long bridge, which held a heavy textbook. I used 2 flat blocks ($900), 4 small blocks ($600), 8 large blocks ($2000) and 2 rectangular blocks ($700). My total expenses added up to $4200 for the project. I did not use any resources (except my brain) in the planning of the bridge. Mostly, I focused on using at least one of each block type and making the measurements conform to the requirements provided.

Phase 1 Bridge

For my second bridge, I spent about 10 minutes looking at some of the sites suggested, but I didn’t find the Lego sites very helpful, as they referred to a different building material. I used the Ohio Department of Transportation site (http://www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/Communications/BridgingtheGap/Pages/ BridgeTermDefinitions.aspx) to learn a little more about the terms and structures of bridges in general. I then searched sites about building bridges with blocks. I found a website in which some very young bridge builders had built a block bridge strong enough to hold their combined weight (http://earlylearningcentral.ca/?p=511). Looking at their photos, I noticed that in some cases they used multiple blocks as abutments to hold up the deck of the bridge, while other times they used single blocks. This made me rethink my design in a way that made it more cost effective. My second bridge consisted of 2 flat blocks ($900), 4 small blocks ($600), 4 large blocks ($1000) and 4 rectangular blocks ($1400). While the change in the building was not significant, the cost saved was (a total of $3000 for the second project, saved me $1200).

Phase 2 Bridge - with room for a boat or any vehicle that wants to pass under it

Planning Diagram for Phase 2
(sorry this last one is sideways - I can't for the life of me figure out why it won't turn)

I found the second phase much easier, because rather than trying to merely fulfill the requirements, I looked at what other collaborators have done, combined their ideas with my own and applied them to the materials I had. I found searching on the internet to learn the technical terms much easier than trying to find a book in a library (none of which I had access to). I think for the time-constrained learning opportunities that we have in classrooms today, the second phase, in which technology is available for research, to be more appropriate.

While I understand the purpose of this assignment, I felt I had the skills I needed to complete the activity – with or without the technology backing me up. On the other hand, it would have taken me longer than 20 minutes in the second phase if I had not had the technological resources available to me. I think the skills that students will need to learn in order to participate in activities like this are flexibility in brainstorming, critical thinking, knowing how to use the resources available to them and understanding how the creative process works. These skills are exceedingly relevant to the workforce and to problem-solving in life more generally and are 21st century skills. 

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