LEGO STEAM workshop: fostering critical thinking through fun

Publication date: April 9, 2024

A LEGO STEAM workshop was held at the Vukovar City Library on 22 March 2024, bringing together participants of all ages to explore various concepts of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics through play with LEGO bricks. 

LEGO bricks are a timeless inspiration for children worldwide. Their simplicity and modularity enable limitless creativity, making them an irresistible source of play and entertainment for children of all ages. Besides providing hours of fun, LEGO bricks are a useful learning tool that allows children to develop various skills, including spatial perception, logical thinking, problem-solving, programming, algorithmic thinking, teamwork, and collaboration. Integrating LEGO bricks into the educational process enables learning through practical experience and fosters a spirit of inquiry and critical thinking.  

Learning basic programming

As part of the workshop, participants tackled three tasks. In the first task, participants worked with a maze built from LEGO bricks and a series of commands written on small pieces of paper. Thee participants received a sequence of commands (start, end, turn left, turn right, go forward, if, then, else, for…) that they needed to arrange in the correct order to guide a selected figurine out of the maze.

Through this task, participants learned basic programming constructs such as sequencing actions, branching, and looping. They learned to organise steps (commands) properly to navigate the figurine out of the maze, explored different paths through the maze, and developed strategies for problem-solving. They practiced interpreting written instructions and applying them in a concrete context, which is important for the development of logical thinking and analytical skills.

In the second task, participants received a series of commands written on pieces of paper, which served as a foundation for building their own maze. To successfully construct the maze according to the given commands, they had to carefully follow branching, sequencing, and looping.

Therefore, they explored conditions such as “if there is a wall on the left side, then go forward for n steps, otherwise turn right,” and so on. Testing conditions like these encourages the development of logical thinking and planning within the spatial constraints of the maze.

Crucial steps

In the third task of the workshop, participants created their own vehicle designs . After constructing their vehicles, the crucial step followed – launching them with balloons. The pressure inside the balloon was created by inflation, and by releasing air from the balloon, a force was generated that pushed the vehicles forward. Through this process, they explored how changes in the amount of air inflated into the balloon affected the distance the vehicle would travel.

Altogether, they realized that a larger amount of inflated air resulted in greater force and a longer displacement of the vehicle, while a smaller amount of air resulted in less force and a shorter displacement. They also investigated how different characteristics of the vehicles themselves, such as weight or shape, affected the speed and distance the vehicle would travel. This simple experiment with LEGO vehicles allowed participants to practically experience the basic principles of Newton’s laws of motion, exploring how forces and motion manifest in the real world.

Ideas driven by imagination

After successfully completing the tasks, the phase of creative freedom followed. Participants were given complete autonomy to create functional LEGO creations. Without any imposed constraints or specific instructions, imagination became the driving force behind diverse ideas. From simple vehicles to complex structures, each object was a unique expression of creativity and innovation.

Through this phase, participants developed skills in manipulating LEGO pieces as well as confidence in their own abilities to create and solve problems. This activity provided an opportunity for unlimited exploration and the discovery of individual interests in the STEAM field.