LEGO and science are a natural pair. Many LEGO sets over the years have incorporated science and STEM, from this NASA Mars Rover set, to the LEGO Mindstorms robotics series, to the upcoming female scientist sets, which celebrate women in science and aim to encourage young girls’ interest in STEM fields.
But there are many other great ways to use LEGO to explore a variety of scientific topics, including biology, physics, engineering, and more. Here are ten of our favorite LEGO science activities.
1. Science through LEGO engineering
The LEGO Mindstorms series of building sets are a great way to introduce kids to robotics and programming. A project of Tufts University, LEGO Education, and others, LEGO Engineering offers detailed lesson plans for learning about science with Mindstorms. This page includes links to download free lesson plans for studying the science of sound, animals, properties of materials, and simple machines.
via LEGO Engineering
2. Build a rocket car
Build a LEGO car that’s powered with a chemical reaction. This simple LEGO science activity uses just LEGO bricks, a film canister, and Alka Seltzer tablets. The link includes building directions, as well as discussion questions to ask, and data to gather and analyze.
3. Engineer a skyscraper
Have you ever wondered why tall skyscrapers don’t fall during earthquakes? Engineers test their designs carefully to be sure they can withstand forces, including the shaking caused by an earthquake. One way to do this is with a shake table, which mimics an earthquake’s shaking. With a few common materials, students can build their own shake tables and use it to test a LEGO tower’s stability. Challenge students to see how high a tower they can build that will pass the shake test.
via Science Buddies
4. Discover how soil affects the stability of buildings
Like the activity above, this experiment also uses a shake table to simulate an earthquake. However, while the previous experiment focused on a building’s height, this project explores how building on different types of surfaces—clay, gravel, sand, soil—will affect a structure’s stability.
5. Build an air-powered LEGO car
Build a car powered by a balloon and experience Newton’s second law of motion in this activity. The link provides detailed directions and information about the science behind the lesson. Kids can experiment with different car shapes and designs and race to see who’s car works best. You could even try a race between your balloon-powered car and the chemical reaction car above. Which is faster?
6. Learn how archaeologists work to uncover fossils
This would be a fun activity for a hot summer day. Freeze a LEGO man, then have kids pretend to be an archaeologist. What’s the best way to excavate the LEGO man? Kids can try different methods, like digging with a toothpick, adding salt to make the ice melt, or using water. Encourage them to think like a scientist as they work to solve the problem.
7. LEGOs make great cargo for this DIY hydrofoil experiment
Using only a sheet of tinfoil, have kids experiment with creating a hydrofoil that can hold a large amount of weight (in this case, a big pile of LEGO bricks!) What shape will float the longest with the most weight? Young kids will have fun exploring the concepts of sinking and floating in this activity.
8. Build a LEGO plant cell
This creative student was assigned to build a model of a plant cell, and chose to complete the project with LEGOs. He even created a key using a LEGO modeling program, similar to CAD (Computer Aided Design) software that engineers use.
9. Use LEGO Digital Designer to learn about the engineering design process
LEGO Digital Designer is a free LEGO modeling program, similar to CAD (Computer Aided Design) software that engineers use. While CAD is often offered as an elective for high school students, there are benefits for younger kids in exploring design as well. You can use LEGO Digital Designer to introduce students to Computer Aided Design, discuss why engineers use it, and the benefits of CAD over hand drawing. Kids can design their own creations, then build them in real life, or use CAD to solve a hypothetical (or real) problem. Challenge kids to think like an engineer and work through the engineering design process.
10. Engineer a LEGO bridge
Can you build a bridge that will support the weight of a book? How about a stack of books? Read up on how bridges work, then challenge students to build a bridge and test it under objects of different weights to see how strong it is. Try different designs to see what works best. This class created a 20 ft bridge that was strong enough for their principal to walk on!
How do you use LEGOs to learn? Leave a comment with your ideas below!