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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How to Make Personalized LEGO Nametag

One of the activities that I will be using in my 212 STEAM Labs to help the STEAMsters get to know one another since they are coming from different schools and grades is to make a personalize LEGO Nametag.

As you will see in the video this allows students to be creative and speak about themselves in an indirect way.

Let me know what you think and below are links to purchase all the parts in case you don’t have them.


Here are links to items that I have bought to make these nametags in case you don’t have them at home.

10 Name Badge Magnets

DYMO LabelManager 160 Handheld Label Maker

LEGO Parts and Pieces: White 1×8 Tile x10 by LEGO

LEGO Parts and Pieces: Dark Gray 4×8 Tile

12 Random Lego Minifigures

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LEGO EV3 Programming Tip: The Power of the Comment Block

Don’t overlook the use of LEGO EV3 Comment blocks for your programming. Over time we have learned the value in using these blocks to help organize, sort, and label our coding. In the long run it will save you time as you work to develop, adapt, and modify your code for complex tasks.

I believe this is one of the most underutilized blocks that can make life so much easier for anyone coding.

Check out the video

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Rub Your Eyes, This is Real! FIRST World Championships

The sparkle in the eye.


The one that causes you to stop blinking or perhaps blink a bit faster than normal.


That moment when you or a kid or a pack of them are walking at that kid pace and strut doing their thing. You know what I am talking about. When they are mindless of everything around them until now.

When one stops. Points. Walks a bit slower to the destination.


And then they stop. Facial expressions freeze. Movement ceases. Talk is nil.


The ultimate mannequin challenge created by disbelief of what their eyes are perceiving. The fact registers that what they think is impossible is possible.


That moment when the light bulb not only turns on, but shatters. New barriers have been created and formed.


The smile forms and the questions start flooding the brain. Pictures and video are taken to capture and prove what they are witnessing.


This is what I have been fortunate enough to experience time and time again while being with LEGO Education during the FIRST World Championships in Houston, Texas. Hundreds of teams from all over the world are here to compete and do their best job with the robots and research they have been working on for months on end.


Their ideas are crazy and amazing. They are more than what we often give kids credit for in a regular day. These kids are driven with a passion for learning. I was reignited in my belief in the spirit of a child. A child that ranges all the way to the teenage years. These kids are driven. They want to learn. They want to prove the world wrong by showcasing how powerful they can be when they work together as a team to make a vision a reality.


It is easy to knock the systems of education. It is easy to bash education. It is simple to find test scores and point fingers. It is easy for educators to blame kids and say they don’t care.


These are negatives and stereotypes that don’t fit. I know this because I just hung out with 20,000 kids that are the complete opposite. FIRST World Championship is full of excitement for learning and engagement in STEM. It is the mecca for showcasing how amazing kids are when you provide them an opportunity to pursue something they love.


The same moment kids have when they see the work of Master Lee Magpili dragon and eagle is the same moment I am having when I see the robots and the work of the kids in their pits and in the arenas.

FIRST not only inspires youth, but has inspired me to see what is possible. The journey has only started. It is time to bend reality for the kids I work with on a daily basis and it is all because of this opportunity.


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The Powerful Learning in Making a LEGO Duck

One of the activities I have used time and time again is building a LEGO duck to showcase the power of hands on learning, thinking with parameters, and to revisit the power of being a kid again. This simple activity is a quick and yet powerful way to engage the brain into thinking and learning. I have used it to serve several purposes that I would like to share with you in hopes that it inspires you to give it a try.

Teaching Moment #1: Makerspace Workshop


When I run a makerspace workshop I always start with a making challenge right away. Before I even introduce myself or anything else I toss out whatever the materials are needed for the day and we build. The goal is to model the way and not just talk about making. I want to break the traditional PD/session routine. So we build. We build quick. Here is how it works.


I used to have hundreds of these small duck kits of six pieces. If you can find these kits go for it. However, they are not required at all. I also know that is not practical so just give everyone the same pieces from the LEGO pieces you own. Pull random ones. Take the image above and try to find these type of pieces. Less is more to challenge the brain. If not, then grab some of the same pieces and don’t worry about the color.

If you don’t have LEGO pieces sitting around, then you have a few options

  1. Send out an email blast to parents. It is amazing how many middle school and high school parents will donate LEGO bins as they just sit and collect dust in their homes.
  2. Buy some. I recommend
    1. LEGO Classic Creative Supplement 10693 by LEGO 
    2. 500 Random Lego Pieces Washed Sanitized and… by LEGO
    3. Check Ebay, Craigslist, or Facebook Community Swaps

How It Works

We are jumping in right away. You will be thinking with your hands. Are you ready because here we go. No time to ease into things. We are getting after it right now. Put on your thinking caps boys and girls because this maker train is about to take off.

Here is your challenge: 

You will be given 60 seconds to make the best duck you can. Are you ready to do some thinking with your hands?

Get the timer ready. Put on your thinking hat and…….


It is amazing what they will come up with. Here are some examples of ducks created by students and my own kids when I was piloting and testing out the idea to make sure it was successful.

Post Duck Reflection

It is always good to reflect so I pose these questions for conversation with the whole group.


What did you make? Go ahead and snap a picture and email it to so I can add it to our collection page.

  1. What skills are used to make a LEGO duck?
  2. Are any ducks the same?
  3. What lessons did you learn?
  4. What would you try next time?
  5. How else could we document this process?

Wrap Up

I go on to show them how my daughter who was 4 at the time did the same challenge. My son even jumps in towards the end. I show this video because it is a good reminder how quickly the adult brain puts in parameters and sometimes limits creativity. She is not timed as she was only 4, but watching the process is pretty cool and a magical moment of being a kid. I apologize for her crazy hair.

LEGO Duck Challenge Part 2: Group Collaboration

Once we do this quick 3 minute activity you will witness the audience(adults, students, whoever) continue to build. Their eyes are down. They are tinkering with the pieces. What if I do this….. Or what if I change this piece…….What if I start all over…….

It is awesome. Instead of moving into the ho hum lecture style teaching and presenting we move quickly into another challenge. They have a bit of confidence. They have smiles. They are laughing.

So we go again


I remind them of the following essential elements to making

  • Just start building. Trust your hands.
  • Let them pick the bricks they want.
  • If you are not sure where to start, then just let your hands do the work. The brain will catch up.

The Challenge

They will now be working as a team. No longer can they just think alone. They have to communicate, collaborate, and process how to make it work. Pay close attention to how the groups work. There are so many methods it is amazing and a great conversational piece.


Post Team Duck Reflection


Next Steps

By now they are good. They are content and ready to move on into substance. They have their fix. Theirs brains have been primed and juiced, but now they are ready for more. They want content. Connections. Proof of application.

You have them hooked. I quickly jump into a short discussion about play with the following ideas.

Play Allows Us To…..

  • Team build
  • Unleash creative thinking for accelerated innovation
  • Work out a solution to a shared problem
  • Create a shared mindset about something
  • Constructive discussions where everybody is heard
  • Build a shared vision
  • Leadership development
  • One-on-one coaching and team coaching
  • Use with your children, family, school, …


At this point you can move into your next activity. If you are in the classroom, then where would you go? If you are teaching teachers, then where would you go? I am interested in your next steps.

What do you think? I will be sharing part 2 next week with some other school wide building challenges, but for now I would love to know how you can incorporate this idea into your classroom and school?



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LEGO EV3 Tutorial 8 UPDATE: Data and Loop Line Follow Program

This is an update to a previous video I created a few weeks back. I have been pushing out a wide variety of line following programs. The video  I shared previously covered how to use data blocks, data wires, and a loop block to line follow. One of the great questions that came from the video was how to move the robot back to being straight when it kicks out of the loop interrupt. At the end of the run there is a perpendicular black line that kicks the robot out of the line follow program. However, originally the robot would swivel at the end which would not be ideal if you are doing FLL or other programs outside of the line follow program.

This update includes one way to solve this problem. Thanks to those who have left comments. It has been great to share my learning and then learn more from the questions and ideas left behind.

Finally, I have a new line follow program coming out next week that has become my favorite of all the programs so far. Stay tuned!



For previous tutorials and more that will come each week during FLL season please subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

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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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Make Writing with LEGO Instead of Writing Old School

If you really stop to think about writing and the process it sure looks an awful like the process we use in Makerspaces.

You have an idea, you draft, you revise, you tweak, you try new things, and keep working through the process until you end up with a finished product that you feel good about.

Last week I worked with an 8th grade language arts teacher to revamp the writing process. Students in this class have been hard at work on a new writing project. At the point of this activity students already had a main character in mind and minor characters. Their goal with this writing project is to pick a well known character and turn the personality so it’s different than what everyone thinks. As a baseline students have been reading Dorothy Must Die and looking at how she is portrayed so differently than in the original Wizard of Oz.

Before the students entered my room for the writing challenge they had already discussed characterization and they had a basic plot outline in mind for their story. The goal of my activity was to help them visualize and really see the story come to life.
For days I struggled. I had all sorts of ideas for brainstorming writing ideas, but these students were coming mildly prepared. I had to go a different route. I also knew that just a wide open free build would lead to disaster with 8th graders. Students need parameters and goals in order to build something of value. However, I did not want it to feel like school.
In the end I came up with an activity I simply called Make Writing that is based on book I recently read called Make Writing by Angela Stockman(yes, very clever title to my lesson :))
Here is what I used:
LEGO Build To Express four question framework
Keep in mind you can do all of this without these specific materials. Base plates are nice to keep things within a specified space. LEGO pieces can be pulled from anywhere so you don’t need StoryStarter. You can create your sets easily and for cheap. Ask for donations or pick up bins of LEGO from online or garage sales.
Time: 40 minutes
# of Students: 12-15 at a time as we split kids during the block.
Step 1: Students entered the room and I had them sit at a table. The max number of students were 5. At each table there were baseplates for each student and one StoryStarter kit for all the kids to use and share collectively at their table.
Step 2: I opened up the lesson by telling the students that we were going to create their stories by NOT writing. We were going to MAKE their writing. I challenged them to draw out their inner child of when they were 4-5 years old when we built things without consequence, without worrying about judgment, and just built for ourselves.
Step 3: Here is what I shared for structure
1. Don’t think like you do in school. Think like a kid who is playing.
2. Your builds only have to make sense to you.
3. There are any right or wrong answers. Build for you.
4. Don’t worry if you don’t finish in the timeframe as all the builds build upon one another.
5. Less talk from the bald ugly guy so lets build!
Step 4: Build #1: Foundation and Warm Up Build
Students were asked to build models of their main character and any other key characters to their story they have crafted in their mind. They were given 4 minutes to open the kit, examine the pieces, and start building.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds.
Step 5: Build #2: Abstract Thought
Students were now asked to think about the characters they just built. What are their character traits/personality traits? They were asked to build models of these traits. Students were given five minutes as this was tough for them. How do you bring simple words like evil, funny, sweet, etc. into tangible builds? During this build pieces start to slowly become limited so students now have to learn how to work together, share pieces, and rethink how they want to build. I observed so many moments of students sharing and helping one another. This was not a goal of the activity, but was an inspirational byproduct.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds.
Step 6: Build #3: Story Development
Students were given another five minutes to build the obstacles and challenges their main character would be facing in the story. Not only did they have to build the obstacles, but they also had to build a model showcasing how their main character would undergo change due to the obstacles. All great stories have main characters that change in the story.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds
Step 7: Build #4: Story Bits
This final build was more of a conclusion build. Students were given four minutes to build more of their story to complete the whole story on their baseplate. They could work through a part of their story they were struggling to conceive or just clean up any final builds.
After the build they had 2 minutes to go around the table and explain their builds
1. I had zero behavior or off tasks behaviors. Each student was fully engaged and participated the entire time. I did not even have a student ask to go the restroom.
2. I had students asking and begging to make this a class and to do this more.
3. I witnessed students embarassed by their builds and they had to work through embracing their creative sides.
4. I observed builds that did not look like much, but when the students explained their builds I was blown away.
Take this for an example. The build of a black section with the one red piece does not look like much, but it represents a character from Beauty and the Beast remixed where the black represents the evil the character shows on the outside, but the red showcases that the character has a soft part inside beneath the layers. This red will eventually take over all black through the storyline.
5. There were students who I know hate writing and would not embrace rough drafts, but through this activity their stories came alive.
6. By asking them to build and to physically build models of their stories they become so engrained in their story. When you have to think about pieces and how you want to showcase your story you fully understand the content.
7. I was given hope that my message of bringing the makerspace mindset and culture into all classrooms is not only needed, but can actually be done.
This was a wonderful day of learning. I was so inspired by these students and it gives me great hope for the future.
Coming soon will be a video of a class that I recorded.
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