Using LEGO® Mindstorms and MATLAB in curriculum design of active learning activities for a first-year engineering computing course

  • Olivia Tronchin MacEwan University


The goal of this research project was to investigate the feasibility of implementing a programmable robot (LEGO Mindstorm) combined with a computer program (MATLAB) into MacEwan's Engineering Computer Programming (ENCP 100) curriculum as a hands-on active learning tool.

With a more hands-on/practical approach to the course, students may find themselves immersed in the material and motivated to understand and apply the abstract concepts learned in class to real-world applications. Previous studies found in the conducted literature review showed that LEGO® Mindstorms can be used to enhance active learning for students, particularly when used to demonstrate computer programming concepts.

The LEGO Mindstorms kits come with several programmable motors and sensors suitable to the first-year curriculum (including touch, colour, rotation, and a text display). Not only is it a tool applicable to ENCP, but it can be used to bring multiple concepts from various engineering courses together. Students can look at displacements, velocities, accelerations, work, energy, equilibrium, and more. The capabilities of the sensors were found to be more than adequate to cover the first-year computing curriculum.

Through the assessment of the various sensors, learning activities were designed to develop both fundamental programming skills and hands on problem-solving skills.

Results of this research have shown that LEGO ® Mindstorms is a viable teaching tool for a first-year engineering computing course to develop fundamental programming skills and hands-on problem-solving skills.


Faculty Mentor: Shelley Lorimer

Department: Biomedical Mechanical Engineering

Biomedical Mechanical Engineering