Don’t Touch That!

Looks like miles of conveyor belt tracks.

Looks like miles of conveyor belt tracks.

So this post is about the stuff I take from the students’ kits before the semester begins.  It’s not that there’s not legitimate reason for the kids to have this stuff, it’s just some of it lends a hand towards mischief and the other stuff gets misused or hoarded.

In the pic above you see all the red and blue plastic balls that come with the old Education Resource set (#9965).  These get bounced or thrown all the time when I let the students use them.  And don’t think it’s just kids!  When I train adults, they love to bounce these around or make noise with them.

The big spiral are the conveyor belt tracks that come with the new EV3 kits.  These are really cool and there’s a lot of stuff that can be done with them; I’m thinking Great Ball Contraption and similar projects.  But what I found when I handed the EV3s out is every group took them and put them together in a loop and twirled them around their arm.  So I took them.  You can see how large a class set of these is in the photos above and below.

IMG_3628Here’s how they look all stretched out.

Bang! Bang!

Bang! Bang!

Yes, the Education Resource set used to include LEGO guns.  Now there’s a lot of cool things you can do with these and I’m not making a commentary pro or con on guns, but when you put these in the hands of a 7th grader…. watch out.  I mean remember how you were at that age.  If you were anything like me, you would have been shooting those at the back of your friend’s heads like me.  I don’t blame them, I just take ’em.

Claws, wings, and toes!

Claws, wings, and toes!

The NXT Education Resource set includes the claws and orange spikes you see above.  The white ones are from the new EV3 kit along with the wing pieces.  Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong here, but boy can these lead to distraction.  Whenever I do my Robotic Zoo unit, the spikes and claws disappear.  Student want as many of these possible and will scrounge around an hoard as many as they can.  The wing are new, but are distracting in just the same way.

How do you deal with stuff like this?  Leave it to the students?  Put it out of reach?  Hide them until they’re older?  Let me know….


8 thoughts on “Don’t Touch That!

  1. Red and Blue balls yes. I also remove the old motor connection cables (because I don’t have a use for them) I leave the claws and the orange toes because these are used a lot with sumo bots. One rule change I came up with is that during a sumo bot round, if any part falls off you automatically lose. I find that students tend to put random parts on just for the heck of it. It then becomes more work to inventory the sets. I bought 10 resource sets and 2 came with guns and hooks and the others did not. So somewhere along the way Lego removed the gun from the set.

    • Wow, you just brought me back a bit! I started this fun post because I had the conveyor belt tracks just laying on a table waiting for someone to come along and take a picture.
      You reminded me I also have a big box of RCX-NXT converter cables I forgot about. The claws and orange “toes” I do let them use, but I usually try to oversee their distribution because these can become hoarded by one group. 🙂 (I have lots of extra parts in my class, not just one kit per pair.)
      When they squished my program down to a trimester, something had to go and I lost Sumobot from my introductory course. The kids love Sumobot, but for the time invested, I found it didn’t have enough educational value. I really like your rule about loose parts though, very insightful!

  2. Ian, I feel your pain. The first day we had two kits open for FLL, I found the tracks put into a long loop on top of a cabinet. The boys confessed they were trying to make a slingshot, but it didn’t work.I have since removed those and the silver metal roller balls so that they don’t get lost. I keep the plastic balls in a tub in the cabinet, but I find that even with those put away, students find something else. Rubber wheels turned inside out is a favorite as are any of the bionicle-type plates/weapons/blades. I put the motors in a cabinet and check them out because those become gear grinders unless there is a purpose for them. Also, I agree that adults are just as bad. When teachers come visit they fidget with things and leave all kinds of technics contraptions laying about. I wish I had a great solution. I just tend to put the annoying items in separate bins/cabinets and the students then ask me for them when they have an idea that requires them. Then I wonder if by not having some pieces out, am I limiting their imagination of a process or invention simply because the middle schoolers are behaving like middle schoolers. I have tried to eliminate sumobot for my beginning students because I think there are other challenges that utilize light sensors and design that would teach more about robotics, but I keep giving in because it is one activity where the kids are focused enough on the building that they don’t digress into random weapon and projectile throwing design. I have done marshmallow and LEGO catapults, but after completing what I thought was a well moderated activity, I continued to find marshmallows in bizarre locations in the room through the next semester and year. I would love to know an answer for this. I have a feeling that if we script and direct it all, we would have it easier, but I just don’t ultimately enjoy that as much. If anyone has found a solution beyond putting things out of sight, let me know as well!

    • Hi Caroline,
      You’ve hit on a lot of great points regarding Robotics. The freedom to experiment/choose/play versus the need of a teacher to control and stop chaos. Each teacher will strike their own balance with this of course. I lean towards more freedom, which means I have other teachers placing LEGO “butterfly knives” in my mailbox that they’ve confiscated from my students. 🙂 In most normal classes it would be difficult to allow full freedom to play/experiment and not expect some problems with kids misbehaving. As you point out adults do it too.
      Inside out tires, glad I’m not the only one!
      Of course class size plays a big part in this. Ideally a class would be 16-24 students in my opinion, not the 30-32 they give me now. This just increases the problems and difficulty.
      I recently found an axle with a connector on the end of it stuck in the hole of a gate latch in my shop. It locked the latch and was so small and blended right in that you couldn’t even tell it was there at first glance. As annoyed as I was, I was also quite impressed by the ingenuity of the kid(s) who did it!

  3. I remove all of the above mentioned items as well but the main one is the rubber bands. I have some kids every year that will find some of those and build bows and arrows or crossbows and then try to shoot them. It is one of those things that you don’t want them to do yet some of the designs are quite good. I had a group just yesterday that got all quiet for a while and when I looked in on them they had built a bow and arrow set complete with a quiver to hold the arrows. At the point we did test it out and they were getting quite a bit of distance.

    • You’re the second one to mention the pulleys (rubber bands). I forgot to include those because rather than a secret stash I somewhere have hidden, they have all disappeared! I think if we pointed them out as pulleys and used them as such in a demonstration/lesson, we’d still have issues with bows and arrows!

  4. I too remove the blue and red balls, and all rubber bands from the kits. I don’t have a lot of extra parts, so each team competes with the parts in their kit to make all projects/competitions fair. My FLL team did enjoy putting the trax together in the EV3 kits… and the gun… When I get EV3 kits for all my classes, those will probably go as well.

    • I think if I have time my next project will be to have some kids use all of these pieces (the guns, balls, claws, pulleys, tracks etc. to build some big mega something!

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