Many students enter the College of Engineering with previous engineering experience from Project Lead the Way courses or FIRST Robotics experience in high school. In my ENG 100 section of almost 60 students, about a third of those enrolled have had these experiences. My objective was to try to find a way to keep these students engaged and challenged during our design-build-test class project, while not discouraging those with less experience or exposure to engineering.
Two teams were able to modify their open-ended design project for ENG 100 to use the Lego Mindstorm kit. Using the kit allowed them to be able to build a physical prototype more quickly than other groups and focus more attention on programming and sensors, which had been the groups' primary interest from the start, with all of the students being interested in autonomous vehicles and all leaning towards CS as major. The objective was to help blend groups of students with prior experience with those without, and in this way, the project worked. It appeared that all students were starting at the same point in using the Lego programming language, and some of the previous experience wasn't necessary or useful for this particular project.
Using the kit helped two teams move further on their project than other teams that were limited by fabrication tools/ resources. Legos are quick to build with and students didn’t need to source and purchase sensors/ motors/etc.
It helped to keep a team engaged that would have been otherwise less interested in the class, having decided that they all want to go CS. Having books available with beginning to advanced projects also seemed to help the entire team stay engaged. The teams were seen often using the books as part of their problem-solving.
This project would only continue if an entire section had access to Lego Mindstorms kits. Two teams struggled to share the single kit, and other project teams mentioned that they would have re-thought their proposed project had they know they might have access to a Lego Mindstorm kit.
The kit was given to teams that had a CS interest and with some having previous experiences and with a project idea that aligned with the kit. Others would have chosen a project more in line with the kit given the option, but were already down a physical prototype path.