Designing, Building, Programming, and Bot-Battles

In Robotics, students use the Lego Robotics System to learn the basics of robotic programming, and are challenged to make increasingly complex and sophisticated creations. Computer software and cell phone apps are used to program and control the robots, many of which are designed and built from scratch, or modified from designs available on the web. Problem solving is a big part of the process. Through trial and error and perseverance, students make design and programming changes as needed. Building robots is never a straight forward, follow-the-instruction-book process. Of course, bot-battles are always fun, and students are continually looking for new ways to make their bots the fiercest! Building a robot that can climb stairs is a challenge many students have tackled with varied success. Recently, Ben tested a stair climbing robot and discovered that while it could climb up, the robot wasn't registering when it got to the edge of the step. With some troubleshooting of the programming and a few adjustments to a specific mechanism, it worked!  

Architecture and artistry are the themes in 3D Art. Students use Lego bricks to create interesting art projects using both design books and their own ideas. In the ‘Odd Piece Challenge’, students are given a large pile of the same odd-shaped Lego piece and tasked with building an original design, which leads to some amazing creations!  

For the Architecture unit, students build miniature scaled designs–either a building or an art sculpture. They begin by building an official LEGO Architecture set then they are challenged to build their own creation. The more skilled students are given the opportunity to build large models like Hogwarts, with multiple intricate buildings, many towers, and even Harry Potter characters made out of Lego bricks. The LEGO Hogwarts set took about two months for Anna and Linda to complete. Manuals for official Lego sets such as Hogwarts are often over 600 pages long, so these projects require a high degree of focus, patience, and perseverance. Other original and official lego set designs have included bird replicas, mosaics, iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal, and even a sudoku puzzle.

Faculty member Dennis White, a long-time Lego enthusiast, was a finalist to be a Lego Master Builder at Legoland, California in 2006. We are extremely fortunate that Dennis brought his knowledge and passion for building, exploring, and creating to Marvelwood!  He first offered the Robotics class in 2008, and added 3D Art in 2016. Using Lego, students develop 21st Century skills, key components for careers in the Information Age, which include critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communications, technology literacy, flexibility, leadership, initiative, and productivity.

Taylor Nappi ‘13 is among Dennis’s most memorable students:  

As a student in the class during his senior year, Taylor was fascinated with the mechanics behind vehicle chassis, having spent hours working with his father, who was an expert in the field of mechanics. I would help him as much as I could, but quickly began to see that I was becoming the student more each day, as Taylor’s work became more detailed and sophisticated. It was remarkable and exciting to see someone bring such energy, excitement, and focus to his projects. By the winter term, Taylor began to show far greater talent than I could ever have imagined. He had begun to make, without instructions, his own very complicated, detailed, functional LEGO sets. Based on inspiration from the internet and his own desire to figure out the best way to accomplish his goals, he ultimately built a model over 18 inches long that had full independent suspension, gear differential, complex steering, and several motors. Taylor was making a scale model of a car we may very well see on the road someday.

Dennis still has the model on display in his classroom. After Marvelwood, Taylor earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Roger Williams University and was recently hired by the Portsmouth Navy Shipyard to work in the Deep Submergent Program.