Ready, Set, LEGO!

ready, set, lego

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce students to variables through the process of building a littleBit-powered LEGO car.

Background Information:

Students have already been introduced to littleBits in the previous lesson, where they constructed a simple littleBit circuit through a series of challenges. As such, students have also been introduced to the different types of littleBits – power, input, wire, and output – and the general order in which these littleBits should be connected in order to construct a working circuit.

Driving Questions:

1. How can you use littleBits to run your car?

2. What affects the speed of your car?

3. What affects the strength of your car?


By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

1. Make predictions that can be evaluated.

2. Evaluate their predictions by changing variables and collecting experimental data.

Assessment Strategies:

There are reflection questions at the end of the lesson that can be used to assess and evaluate students’ understanding as they evaluate their predictions and examine the impact of variables on their experimental data. These end-of-lesson reflection questions can also be utilized as exit tickets. In addition there is also a “Making Connections” section and the end of the lesson that can be used to broaden students’ understanding of how experimental data can be linked to real-world applications.

Next Generation Science Practices:

1. Asking questions to determine relationships between independent and dependent variables and relationships in models.
2. Collect data about the performance of a proposed object, tool, process or system under a range of conditions.
3. Communicate scientific and / or technical information (e.g. about a proposed object, tool, process, system) in writing and / or through oral presentation.

Key Vocabulary:
motor, speed, strength, variable

Tips and Tricks:

This lesson builds upon a previous introductory lesson on littleBits that can be found using the following link:

The wheels used in the Car Building Guide consist of one LEGO wheel and 2 Pololu Wheels. The Pololu wheels must have a 3mm D output shaft in order to fit onto the littleBit DC Motor Module.
Module cards can be used as scaffolding for students during this lesson. The module cards are included in the littleBits Workshop Set or can be downloaded from the following link:

Duration: Duration: 135 minutes (minimum) [lesson might require two or more sessions]

Credits: iUSE Lab [Innovation in Urban Science Education Lab – Boston College (MA)]

Middle School (ages 11-13)


littleBits Basics

power (1)
battery + cable (1)
Brick Adapter (4)
wire (1)
DC motor (tethered) (2)

lego blocks 1
paper tape 1
meter stick 1
Stopwatch or Mobile Phone 1
Weights 4
Small Whiteboard 1
Whiteboard Marker 1
Lab Notebook or Ready, Set, LEGO Worksheet 1




This lesson can be done individually or in small groups (2-3 students).

Before the lesson begins ensure that:

● Every student group has a whiteboard and a marker.

● A start and finish line is clearly marked in the classroom.

● There are littleBit modules on every student’s (or student group’s) desk for the introduction activity. These modules should consist of littleBit components that students are familiar with (from a previous lesson) and new littleBit components that are new to them.

● The littleBit-LEGO car kit boxes are assembled, one per student group, where each box contains:

o All the littleBit modules that students would need to build the car (see Materials Needed).

o All the LEGO parts that students would need to build the car (see Car Building Guide).

o A printed copy of the Car Building Guide (attached).

Materials Needed (2-3 students):

o LEGO Blocks [see Car Building Guide for specific parts]

o Paper Tape

o Meter Stick

o Stopwatch [actual stopwatch or phone can be used here]

o Weights (x4) [multiples of same value or four different weight values]

o Small Whiteboard

o Marker

o Lab Notebooks *

o littleBit Workshop Set

*NOTE: The Ready, Set, LEGO! Notebook worksheet (attached) can be used for students who require more scaffolding, instead of the lab notebook.

STEP 2 : INTRODUCE (5 – 10 minutes)

Guiding Question: What littleBits do you need to build a car?

Procedure: Using the littleBit modules that are on students’ desks, have them explore the new littleBits by constructing new circuits for the first part of this section. This will effectively ensure that students build upon their knowledge of littleBit modules by applying their knowledge of littleBit color codes from the previous lesson. Following this, have students work in their groups to come up with a list of essential littleBit modules that they would need to build a working car. They should write this list down on the whiteboard provided to their group.

NOTE: Students should justify their choices of littleBits that they have selected. For example: Q. Why would do you need the littleBit DC Motor? [A. We will need the motor to turn the wheels in our car]

Reflection: Once students have completed this task, have them share their answers with the group next to them and discuss the similarities and differences between the lists. Students should also justify their choices to the group that they are sharing their lists with.

Wrap-Up: Using student created lists, lead an in-class discussion to come up with a common list of core littleBit modules required to construct a littleBit-powered LEGO car. Since the core littleBit modules required to construct the car are listed in the Car Building Guide (attached), the discussion can be steered in a manner that leads to these core modules being a part of the list.

Helpful Hint: This list can be used as visual scaffolding for all students, later in the lesson, if it is written on the classroom whiteboard.

STEP 3 : BUILDING THE CAR (20 – 30 minutes)

Guiding Question: How can you build a littleBit-powered LEGO car?

Procedure: Distribute one littleBit-LEGO car kit, containing the Car Building Guide, to each student group. Have students follow the written and visual directions to construct the basic littleBit-powered LEGO car. While students are constructing their basic littleBit-LEGO car, walk around the classroom to assist students with building the car and troubleshoot any construction issues that may arise [example: missing or broken parts]. Following the successful construction of their basic car, students should check-in with the instructor(s) to ensure that they have built the car correctly.

NOTE: It is essential that students do not modify their car for this section – they must build it as per the guide – as they will be making modifications later in the lesson.

Wrap Up: After students have constructed their car, they should bring it to the start line that has been marked by the instructor.

STEP 4 : DATA COLLECTION (15 – 20 minutes)

Guiding Question: How can you collect data for your littleBit-powered LEGO car?

Procedure: Instructors should decide how many student groups race at a time and announce the results of each race. In addition, have students discuss how they can quantitatively measure their cars speed [i.e. find the time the car takes to cross the finish line]. Students should record the time it takes for their car to cross the finish line, either in their lab notebooks or in the Ready, Set, LEGO! Notebook worksheet (attached). Before students begin collecting data, also emphasize (or lead a discussion around the idea) that students need to take data more than once to account for errors.

Helpful Hint: It might be useful to have some sort of random number system for student groups, so only a few groups race at a given time. This would make it easier for the instructor(s) to track the cars for accurate race results.

Additional Scaffolding: Instructors can have sample lab notebooks, or a completed version of the Ready, Set, LEGO! Notebook worksheet (attached), at hand to show students how they can collect data.

Wrap-Up: Once students have completed racing their cars, have them put all their cars in one location as they will not be requiring them for the next section.


ready, set, lego1
Step 5: Data Table

Guiding Question: What are three things that you can change about your littleBit-LEGO car?

Procedure: Give students 5 minutes to work in their groups to list three things they can change about their littleBit-LEGO car and how these changes will affect the speed of their car. Students should either make the following table (see attached image) in their lab notebooks or complete this table in the Ready, Set, LEGO! Notebook worksheet (attached).

Once all groups have completed this activity, have groups share their answers with the class and the instructors can use this to narrow down the list of variables that can be changed.

Variables that only affect the speed of the car:

o Weight of car

o Location of DC Motors

o Location of the front wheel

o Which direction the front of the car is facing [since DC motors can be rotated in either direction]

Helpful Hint: This list can be used as visual scaffolding for all students, later in the lesson, if it is written on the classroom whiteboard.

If Time Permits: this can also be a good opportunity to discuss misconceptions that may arise later when students build their own cars (in latter lessons). For example: Q. Does adding another power source to drive the second motor increase the speed of the car? [A. It doesn’t since motors are running at full speed with just one battery so this ends up slowing the car down!]

Reflection: Once the common list of variables has been compiled, instructors can then lead a discussion around variables:

o What is a variable?

o What is an independent variable? [those that are changed by the students (see list above)]

o What is a dependent variable? [what is affected by the independent variable (speed of the littleBit-LEGO car)]

Wrap-Up: Have student groups collect their littleBit-LEGO cars and ensure that each group has a meter stick as well as some paper tape.

STEP 6 : CHANGING VARIABLES (20 – 30 minutes)

ready, set, lego2
STEP 6: Data Table

Objective: Change one independent variable and measure its impact on the speed of your littleBit-LEGO car.

Procedure: At the start of this activity, have all student groups measure a start and finish line for data collection that is 180 centimeters apart. While student groups are marking these lines, walk around and ensure that all start and finish lines have the same length so student-collected data can be compared later. Inform students that they will have between 15 and 20 minutes to work in their groups to change only one independent variable (from the common list discussed in the previous section) and record their data in the following table (see attached image) in their lab notebooks or complete this table in the Ready, Set, LEGO! Notebook worksheet (attached).

Helpful Hint: Instructors can assign independent variables to ensure that the impacts of all variables are explored [for example: adding and removing weight] either single or multiple times, depending on the size of the class.

While students are recording data, walk around and observe groups to assist with data collection or troubleshoot when necessary.

Reflection: Once students have completed this activity, each group can then share their data and observations with the entire class.

Helpful Hint: It might be useful to record this data on a community data table – either on a large whiteboard or a large post it note – as this can then be used as a scaffolding document for all students to use when they design their own car (in latter lessons).


Procedure: Instructors can lead a discussion, based on student results, as to how different variables affected the littleBit-LEGO car’s speed. This discussion can also include connections to real-world applications:

o Changing the weight of the car:

• If motors already have to carry the weight of the whole car, does adding weight make that much of a difference?

• Building upon the previous question, how much impact does adding weight have on the speed of a truck (when compared to adding the same weight to a sports car)?

o Placement of DC Motors:

• Did changing the direction of the DC motors – i.e. having a front-wheel or rear-wheel drive – significantly impact the speed of the car?

• Building upon the previous question, do you think having a separate motor for each wheel will impact the speed of the car (i.e. having an all-wheel drive)?

If Time Permits: Allow students to start thinking about how they can build a fast or strong car. Students can write down their ideas but they have to be backed by evidence from the community data table. One additional question that students can also discuss is whether they can build a car that can carry a lot of weight and also has a lot of speed.

STEP 8 : REFLECTION (5 – 10 minutes)

The following questions can be discussed as a class, within each student group, or be used as exit ticket questions for individual students to reflect upon the lesson:

● What were three of the tools that you used today? (For example: littleBits)

● In two sentences, explain what you did today.

● What are two mistakes you made today and what did you learn from them?

● What were three things that you learnt today?

STEP 9 : CLOSE (5 minutes)

Following the reflection questions (discussion or exit tickets), student groups should clean up their workspace by handing back all unused littleBit components, LEGO blocks, weights, markers, measuring sticks, and tape. Depending on whether students will continue to experiment with their littleBit-LEGO cars in future lessons, the cars constructed by student groups can either be saved or dismantled. If exit tickets were utilized, students should also hand these in to the instructor.