Creating an After School Lego Program

Hello Everyone,

I am currently working with a nearby rec department to create an after school robotics program. I wanted some help with the curriculum with the program, so I came to this forum. We will be using the Lego EV3 kits. We were thinking maybe 1 1/2 to maybe 2 1/2 hour long sessions for six weeks, on Mondays.One of our main problems is what would we do? That is The my question for all of you that have ran one of these programs before. The program won’t start until school starts, so I have some time to get these ideas. I’m also wondering if I should introduce CAD through the Lego Digital Designer? or would that be too much time to do?
The age group we’ll be working with will be 4th-6th grade

Damien Key has written some pretty cool stuff for the VEXIQ platform, there is also a version for Lego EV3. This EV3 Classroom Activities Book would be a good starting place. He has some other materials that may also help you out.

I have run such a program at my son’s school. A couple pieces of advice. The younger the kids, the shorter the sessions. With any group of kids you will reach a tipping point in their attention spans. If the sessions need to be longer from a schedule standpoint, build in a free play break in the middle.

As for what to do, I had pretty good success using tasks from old FLL challenges. It was easy to get the pieces for one or two tasks from a given challenge, and then the kids could spend anywhere from one session to three sessions working toward solving that challenge. I always started with simple tasks to get them used to driving, programming, sensing and manipulating. Things like navigating a rectangle, dropping a ball in a bin, touching a wall and coming back to a starting position. Then built up to more complicated tasks. We also had mini competitions such as drag races, pushing competitions or “how far can you throw the ball” competitions.

We ended almost every session with all of the groups demonstrating what they had done and discussing. I had them write down in a notebook what they were going to work on first the next time.

I second all of this. We did a summer program of approximately this same length twice now, and the biggest challenge was session length. The organizers (school) wanted to do a long 5 or 6 hour session for four days. We did 3 hours for five days, and for some kids it was fine - but for others they got off task and started goofing. Shorter session length and more sessions would be much better. One thing I would definitely do is to have the first day just work with plain legos…have them first build something of their own, then perhaps make something that incorporates some movement. From there introduce the mechanical components of the robot parts, and some programming.

We’ve had a class that used that book, and they liked it.

Also, be sure to check out, which is a site run by an FLL team, Not the Droids You’re Looking For. It’s got a lot of good information.

Our team recently wrote the curriculum for our two LEGO Mindstorms summer classes using both the NXT and EV3 kits. The curriculum is available here on our website under ‘LEGO Mindstorms Robotics.’ If you have any questions, please ask.

Thank you to everyone that has replied to me so far. I definitely have time to think about all the options. Saying it will be for about two hours, I will add in a break time somewhere.

I and my FRC team have been a running after school and summer Lego activities for over ten years now. We frequently change it up but the central precepts remain the same:

  1. It must be self-paced. Kids come into these things with wildly different experience and appitudes. If you try to be a “sage on the stage” and lecture you’ll bore half of them and loose others. Our video tutorials at are key to making this work. Students have to watch (with headphones) and do the the exercises under “essentials” before they can do anything else.

  2. There must be a “magnetic field” to which they can align. In other words there needs to be a reason why they want to get more and more done. For FLL, that’s provided by FIRST. For other times we might pay them in RoboBucks for things they do and have an auction at the end, we might have an “Invention Convention” at the end where they show off what they did to parents, maybe it’s just candy bars. Sometimes we’ll build a giant Rube Goldberg machine with Lego robots, sometimes they are Bluetooth controlled capture the flag robots, sometimes we encourage everyone to make different projects. Competitions of one type or another help provide that organizing field.

  3. Don’t exceed two students per robot/computer. We have a 1:1 ratio now. Otherwise there will always be someone with nothing to do. You don’t want them finding things to do!

  4. We don’t go younger than those entering fifth grade. Younger kids typically aren’t developmentally ready to work as independently and abstractly as we need to them to. If you have a lot of adult or high school help you might be able to extend down to fourth grade. The important thing is that students are successful. If they get it in their head they “aren’t good at programming or building” that perception could last for years when it was really just that they weren’t developmentally ready.

  5. It needs to be fun! If it becomes work or another class then we’ve done something wrong.

Let me know of you have questions.

I have a related question. What is the recommended hardware platform for an after school course? Is it the EV3 from Lego or are there other/better/different platforms? Anyone have an opinion on that?

Thanks a bunch!

This thread here has some good discussion comparing the LEGO EV3 and VEX IQ platforms. Feel free to post or PM if you have any specific questions as I utilize both platforms in after school classes, day camps, and competition environments.