KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Lego blocks are becoming more popular with teachers as a way to educate students about engineering concepts.
Although Lego building competitions have been around for years, the tiny snap-together pieces are now being used to create high-tech objects like computerized robots that can roll around, pick things up and kick balls.
The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/VQq5w1) reports the popularity of making Lego creations in the classrooms and taking them to competitions seems to be growing.
The newspaper reports the Tennessee Valley Fair Lego Competition had 100 entries this year, compared to just 25 last year. And the website of FIRST Lego League says Tennessee had 89 competition teams this fall compared to 51 last year. Teams work from a Lego kit series called Mindstorms and use gears, levers, pulleys and computerized building bricks to construct robots.
"It's Legos on steroids," said fourth-grade teacher Lisa Buckner, who mentors a Lego team called the Ningineers at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge. The team recently won a state competition and will go in April to the world festival.
"It's not like the bag of Legos I had leftover in my garage from my childhood," said Buckner. "These can be used to teach engineering concepts to children."
Robin Marsh, a local Lego educator who teaches the Mindstorms series at homeschool cooperatives, says she intends to expand classes she offers beginning next year.
"The Lego classes have become so popular, we have outgrown all our venues," said Marsh, who has 10 years of experience teaching with Legos. "There's just so much interest and talent in Legos, but a lot of times kids don't know what to do with it."
Marsh said the Lego projects are especially good for those who don't do well in a traditional classroom.
"They might not excel in school, but you put them in a room with Legos, and the light goes on," she said.
In addition, she said they can inspire children toward careers in science and technology.
"Just like a great painting inspires an artist, a great Lego build will spark and add to a builder's creativity," said Marsh. "My goal is to encourage Lego talent and funnel those students onto energy and science."
Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com