LEGO Ev3 Robotics – The Teacher Corner


LEGO Ev3 Robotics – The Teacher Corner

Are you interested in LEGO Mindstorms robotics, engineering, and computational thinking? Come along and learn how you could engage your students in the international FIRST LEGO League robotics competition, which involves over 228,000 students (aged 8-16) from nearly 80 countries!


FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international STEM robotics competition  which involves over 228,000 students (aged 8-16) from nearly 80 countries. During the FLL season (Sept-Nov), students have just 8-10 weeks to research and design an innovative solution to a real world problem; program LEGO Mindstorm robots to complete robot game missions; and compete at a FLL tournament. They also uphold the FLL Core Values of coopertition and gracious professionalism. The challenge theme changes each year, and past themes have included finding solutions to problems faced by senior citizens, responding to natural disasters, and caring for animals.

Through participation in a FLL season or adapting it to your classroom needs, students and teachers/coaches will

  • Learn about pedagogical approaches & teaching resources available to support new LEGO robotics teachers, including resources created by FLL coaches and participating students.
  • Explore the STEM learning opportunities afforded by the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition, including students’ high-level research into a real world problem, public speaking opportunities, teamwork, and development of computational thinking.
  • Explore recommended approaches to coaching a FLL season, including advice on mission strategy, project management, the engineering design process, and core values activities.
  • Have the opportunity to learn how to program a LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robot.



ISTE Standards for Students


Knowledge Constructor

During the FLL competition, students are challenged to research and develop an innovative solution to a real world problem relating to the challenge theme (e.g. the interaction between humans and animals, caring for senior citizens, dealing with natural disasters). Students use digital tools to construct knowledge, sharing their solution with judges through a creative artifact and presentation.

Innovative Designer

Students use the engineering design process to build and program a competition robot, which must autonomously navigate the game field and complete missions based on real world problems. As part of this process, students must develop, test, and refine prototype programming and engineering solutions.

Computational Thinker

Students use computational thinking to break FLL challenges down into their component parts, using algorithmic thinking and problem solving strategies to find solutions to the robot game missions.

Getting Started

I have shared absolutely everything that we created for our 5 day/15 hour LEGO EV3 camp from this past summer. If you are looking for a progression of learning with multiple avenues of learning and opportunities to succeed, then this is for you. The site contains the flow for each day, rubrics, tutorials, example code, and more.

You can read about the philosophy behind the work here on the LEGO Engineering website.

Check it out and let me know if you have questions or better ideas


Perhaps you are looking to get started in FIRST LEGO League. I have also created a website to help you navigate the season. This site breaks the season down into what I believe are four parts to a season. I have included examples of our past work as the Robodogs. We have been fortunate enough to have great success in the past and I believe it is not because we have amazing kids, but because we have an approach that works.


If you need help with getting started with programming LEGO EV3, then I have a tutorial section here

I started a new series that will have new content coming to the blog soon, but here are a few more to help you start in EV3

LEGO EV3 Programming Tip: The Power of the Comment Block 

LEGO EV3 Programming Tip: Using Spaces 

LEGO EV3: Bluetooth Project – Windy City 

Google Hangout about LEGO EV3 and First LEGO League 

At ISTE 2017, I was able to interview all types of professionals and teachers on behalf of LEGO Education to discuss how LEGO EV3 has impacted the learning for students in the classroom and beyond. These people share some amazing insights.


Hack the Classroom

Class Hack 4: LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 with Aaron Maurer

In an exciting and ever-changing world, students need to develop the skills, the courage to innovate, and the freedom to create! Teachers looking to empower students, turning their natural curiosity into creative exploration, one of our partners, LEGO® Education has worked to develop their solutions as an instant engagement tool. Watch how Aaron Maurer, STEM Lead for the Mississippi Bend A.E.A., shares his teacher hack to inspire his students

LEGO EV3 Courses Microsoft Education website

Become a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 expert with our series of three courses

LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 – Getting Started

LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 – In the Classroom


Supporting Research

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LEGO EV3 Tutorial 9: Data Wires

Are you ready to learn more about programming in the LEGO Ev3 software? Have you come to understand how to program motors and sensors, but want to move things to the next level?

In this episode we explore data wires and how you can begin to program your robot to to use data wires to create more precise programming.

A data wire is used to send information between programming blocks. In this tutorial we will be sending information from an output plug to an input plug by having a robot slow down as it moves closer to a wall.

For previous tutorials and more that will come each week during FLL season please subscribe to my YouTube Channel. You can also check things out here as well

  1. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 page
  2. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 Tutorial page
  3. OneNote Resource Guide
  4. LEGO EV3 Youtube Playlist
  5. Symbaloo

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here on on YouTube and if you have a question let me know and I will address it in upcoming videos.

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First Lego League: Where Do I Start?

Are you new to First Lego League? Are you looking to make sense of all that you have to do as a coach to have a team prepared to run a robot in a 2:30 timed mat run, present a 5 minute innovative research presentation, get judged on core values, and prove you know what your robot can actually do?

Last night I hosted an online session for people wanting to learn more about the season and how we operate our three Robodog teams. This is one method and style and not THE answer, but the hope is that it helps out those looking for suggestions and advice.

In this session I talk about how to manage months September through December, resources, how to apply computational thinking, and more.

I would love it if you have experience and have suggestions, tips, and/or ideas. Please leave a comment so others can benefit.


Here are the resources from the session

  1. Symbaloo

  1. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 page
  2. Coffee For The Brain: LEGO EV3 Tutorial page
  3. OneNote Resource Guide
  4. LEGO EV3 Youtube Playlist

My goal is to provide at least two tutorials a week for the next few months. If there is something you would like to learn please let me know. I won’t showcase how to solve specific missions, but will help cover programming in general.

I am willing to do another session on programming so if interested please let me know by choosing yes on this form. If form below is not working you can access it here.

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Robodogs season is underway! Lego EV3 and Learning

I have been meaning to get everyone updated on another great season of First Lego League. Our team has made some major changes to this season creating a massive learning curve for both students and us coaches. Here is a quick breakdown of the changes.

  • We have moved to the new robot EV3. This is creating a new learning curve to our programming and building. We have our experienced members learning the material new as well as trying to help the young members who are brand new to robotics. Our whole mentorship approach to our team is not as smooth yet as everyone is still in learning and experimental mode.
  • We have a new room. I will share pictures in a bit, but after several years of working in tight spaces and rooms of other teachers we finally have our own place. It just needs to be finished so we can decorate it a bit.
  • We have moved to two teams. We have twice as many kids this year. We are sorting through the handling of two teams, how to properly divide, as well as coming up with two robots and two projects.
These are big changes. The great thing is that we are being challenged in all aspects so regardless of the outcomes we are all learning invaluable lessons in design, teamwork, and application.
This is what our room looks like


We have since divided the boards up to separate parts of the room because we just were not getting enough done with all kids together in one spot.

Before any student could place a robot on the board and begin to strategize they had to solve these four tests first using the new software


We had some close calls to the minifig



We also had several ways to go in a 360 turn

I will add all the test boards we created using duct tape on our robot website soon.

We need to update our site for this season. Please check it out later this week with all updates.

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First Lego League: RoboDawgs Head To State: Reflection of Learning, Growth, Soft Skills, Education

This past Saturday my First Lego League Robotics team competed at the regional competition against 34 other teams at the Putnam Museum. Since starting out in September we have had a long journey getting ready up to this point. Along the way we have learned many things and we were lucky enough to pull everything together Saturday and earn a spot to compete at state on January 19th.

First Lego League Regionals @PutnamThe day started early as always and the team was ready to go. With so many teams I really felt like this regional was operated amazingly! It was smooth, stress free, and well managed. We started off bright and early with our first robot run. Our robot did okay earning about 260 points. However, our leader of our robotics did not take the extra step to ensure that everything was marked on the judges form and we only earned 240 points. This was a very valuable lesson. The team met with the judges with gracious professional to discuss the matter after only seeing 225 points pop up on the screen. This was very important life lesson. First, taking time to always double check your work to ensure no mistakes were made. Even more important when leading a team you want to make sure you are doing all the small things correctly. We have stressed this all season and it finally caught up to us. Secondly, learning how to deal with a source of conflict. Anger and getting frustrated never solves the problem. But, by speaking responsibly and professionally things can be remedied. We did not earn all of our points, but we made the mistake.

Next we moved on to the Core Values portion. I don’t know what was all done and accomplished. The team said the challenge was easy and they did a great job. I take their word for it. It was amazing to watch our older students take charge. Before the session they rallied the team and created a mock challenge in the museum to practice. It was amazing to watch them come together. Leadership was one thing that myself and the other coach both felt was lacking all season and it was great to finally see glimmers of leadership taking shape.

We had our second robot run after Core Values and during this run we scored the highest run of the day with 292 points. We felt good about this, but we were not satisfied. Our robot is capable of much more and we also know by looking around at other states and regionals that we have some serious work to do if we want to be competitive with the robot. Our max is 400 points and our new goal will be to hit 500 over the next few weeks. This year it was unique that they did not hand out a trophy for the best robot performance.I am not sure why this is as this is how it has always been done. We took honorable mention with the highest robot run because they combined robot design presentation and the robot performance. This was a little frustrating because for once we actually had a great robot and did not get the recognition we felt we deserved. This just makes us hungrier and ready to get better.

First Lego League Regionals @Putnam

Right before lunch we had out Research presentation. If you asked any of us if we were ready for this we would have shuddered. During our dress rehearsal Monday it was a mess. We were just not syncing and will doing to do the little things necessary to be effective. However, the team put their ego aside as recommended and nailed it. They delivered a fantastic presentation. I was very proud of them to be able to actually apply all things they have been taught. We ended up winning our state entry with our project presentation.

Our last robot run went solid as well. This was first year having a consistent robot. We had some issues that we need to address to make things work better as we smashed the ball contraption, but we know what we need to do.

Finally, we had the robot design performance where had to talk about our robot. We did the best any of our teams have ever done. The robot ran well and the students did well. One student was nailed at the end as he was caught not paying attention. We talked in our practice about how to behave and conduct yourself during presentations and this student went against the grain and like we told the team the judges will get you and they did! It did not hurt us, but it was another great learning opportunity that we will talk about as a team when we meet again.

There is so much learning that takes place by participating in the First Lego League. The robot board generates the interest, but what really makes this program shine is all the soft skills and 21st century skills that these students need to use to operate and problem solve.

It was a great weekend. We are now back to basics to figure out our areas of weakness and what we need to do to be ready for state. The whole challenge just took on a whole new meaning. We don’t scrap everything, but we view and operate with a critical eye looking at what needs to be done collectively as a team and as individuals.

In all my years of teaching I have yet to find anything close to FLL that compares to preparing students for the real world through speaking effectively and clearly, working with others, problem solving, and being able to step out of your comfort zone for the sake of a team.

I recently wrote a letter about First Lego League that discusses some of the key elements to this program and I would like to share it here

Currently, I am in my third year coaching a FLL robotics team. At our school we host a two-week summer camp free of charge where any student in grades 5-8 can attend. During this camp we teach them how to build and program. Each year myself and another coach/teacher create obstacles for them to complete. During the two-week period students also have to conduct research much like the FLL process. We invited parents and the community to attend the final two days so the students can show off their hard work and accomplishments. From the camp we select a team that includes all grade levels and boys and girls to coach for the FLL competition. We have had much success over the years. As a gifted education teacher and seeing how education is changing I firmly believe that this whole operation from the robot to the research is one of the most valuable teaching tools available.

I believe in this program so much that I have been working very hard to make robotics a class for all students in our buildings. With the emergence of Common Core and 21st century skills this program completes it all. I won’t even go into how it all fits as it is obvious with STEM and so forth.

From both a teacher/parent/coach what I find most valuable with this product and program is that we are able to watch students grow and mature. Our older students act as leaders and mentors and teach the younger students. Everyone has to contribute and everyone has to have a part in every aspect. With the various grade levels and maturity levels that this brings it can be quite difficult. With proper mentoring and coaching on our end, we have created a system where our 7th and 8th grade students take the lead and prepare the younger students to take over when their time comes. The whole teamwork, collaboration, problem-solving aspect is what is truly important through use of the Mindstorm kits and programming.

What makes this program work is that for many of our students it provides them for the first time with that sense of being part of something bigger than themselves. They have finally found their niche and a team they can relate too. Additionally, the subtle competition aspect gives them the motivation to want to do well. For many of our students, this is the first time they have been in this type of mindset.

I have had the luxury of watching a few of our students start off as 5th graders scared, timid, shy, and lacking confidence and progressing to 8th graders beaming with confidence, avid leaders, teaching, and maturing in ways that I firmly believe they would not have done without this program and product.

As I think on a larger scale I envision exposing more students in our district to this program. What this will allow us to do is continue to bring these elements in to all grades. I would love to bring in the early elementary students into the world of Lego by exposing them to all the models and kits that are now available. This would be a huge building block preparing them for the robotics aspect. Once they leave the middle school, then they would be ready for the high school robotics and thinking.

I think that by helping students find an interest and passion in the late elementary/middle school grades is vital. If you don’t help them connect by this stage in life it can be too late for them. They have so much talent and with a bit of guidance it is amazing what these students can accomplish. The goal is to reach out o more students to see how far reaching we can make this and give more students opportunities. By far this is the most rewarding coaching job I have and I coach several teams and sports throughout the year. 

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