It’s all about the build


By Phil Liebson, Director, Camp and School-Age Programs

Do you remember when Legos were bricks and only bricks? For almost a year now the DCJCC and Play Well-Teknologies have been running both a Lego camp and an after-school engineering enrichment class. Working with these classes has taught me two things:

  1. You are never too old to play with Legos.
  2. The Legos of 2012 are much more than simple bricks for building.

As I watch the children working with Legos, I am always amazed at what they come up with during their free building time. I have seen elaborate scenes where the children use the classic “mini figures” to reenact movie scenes, complete with motorized escapes or a small pile of gears that is easily turned into a self-propelled walking android.

As remarkable as their free build can be, the most interesting part of all is the ongoing conversation between the students while they are building. The classes are appropriately named “Lego Engineering” because that is exactly what they are doing! Through the use of Legos, these students have been taught about structure, torque, speed, lift, and other complex physics principals that I only wish I had learned at such a young age.

I once made the mistake of asking a six year old student how the “rubber band” helped the car to move. With a straight face and a look well beyond his years, the student looked up at me and said, “It is not a rubber band. That is a belt, and it is linking the pulleys in my car. The front pulley is attached to the motor which drives the back pulley attached to the axel. A rubber band is an office supply!” I knew then and there that my houses and castle designs were no longer the extent of what children could do with Legos.

I have heard second graders debate over the way that a car should be geared: “Mesh the smaller gear first so it can be geared for torque.” “No,” another student replied, “we are racing. You need to use the large gear first so you can be geared for speed!”

Just yesterday I walked into class and the kids were in the midst of a team build. They split into different teams and were all responsible for creating a different component of what was to become a boomed crane like we see around the city lifting heavy loads to create buildings. As groups, the students discussed overlapping for structure and gearing to reduce the weight load being lifted.

Over the last year I have come to understand the brilliance of what these small plastic bricks have become. It has spawned birthday parties, cult like followings for the rarest of sets, and theme parks, but above all, it is a creative catalyst and one of the greatest educational tools ever made. Children are able to learn basic physics principles and have a wonderful time while doing so.

On Sunday May 20th the DCJCC will be hosting Camp-A-Palooza. At this event campers will get a chance to meet counselors and experience “a day of camp.” Play Well-Teknologies will be on hand that day and, with the aid of the kids, they will attempt to make a structure that is 30 feet tall!

You might see a plastic brick. They see unlimited potential!

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One Response

  1. I wish I could reply with the video of my five year old son telling me how meshing gears work, and how the gears move the pulleys and the pulleys move the axles and the axle transfers the power to the wheels – all learned in fun at the JCC after school Lego class.

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