Learn to code with STEM projects

Project based learning is an engaging way to teach students how to code while incorporating relevant STEM content for deeper learning. For example, which planet should NASA explore next and how?

Using Lego EV3 robotics provides teachers with many opportunities to combine content from multiple curriculum areas while providing students the tools to develop 21st century skills such as coding.

The intuitive Lego Education software guides teachers and students through the programming functions and enables many students to complete the programming tasks without any teacher involvement,  freeing teachers to concentrate on other key learning areas.

The Space Challenge module guides you through the analysis, design, build and test phases of the project:

  • add in key learning concepts from other STEM subjects at opportune times for students to learn in an engaging, collaborative environment for deeper learning.
  • use the supplied designs and instructions to build your robot or use your imagination to create your own design.
  • run the supplied computer programs to complete defined tasks, adjust if necessary, or program your own from scratch.
  • debug the program with a simple step-by-step process which helps students learn the basics of programming, make adjustments and monitor the effects.


Here are some concepts students can explore.

How many wheel rotations are needed to move a robot 36cm with a wheel diameter 5.6cm? How would you work it out? What is pi and when do you use it?

Calculate the number of axle rotations required to move 1cm then program the robot to move 36cm by incorporating a simple maths function into the program sequence. What other ways could we program the robot to move 36cm?

What angle does the robot need to turn to line up in the direction of the Launchpad in the video above? What tools can be used to measure angles? What is angular velocity and how can it be used to measure angles? If we move 36 degrees per second for 10 seconds, how many degrees have we moved? Use the EV3 gyroscope to move 90 degrees. How would we move 90 degrees without the gyroscope?

What are gyroscopes? Why are they so important for flying aircraft? How are they used on the International Space Station? What other uses are there for gyroscopes?

Design and 3D print your own gyroscope. Here is a design from Thingiverse with a Sphero SPRK+ as the rotor.


Connect a sensor to the EV3 robot brick and open oscilloscope mode in the software to capture data in real time. Analyse and interpret the data while moving the sensor to really understand how it works and exactly what it is doing. Click a button on the oscilloscope to add thresholds. Add a couple of programming blocks to make sounds based on data reaching those thresholds. Discovering by Doing. Export the resulting dataset to Excel to create a series of charts to represent the data visually.

How do gears work? Use the supplied design instructions to build a neat little gear educator model which displays cause and effect of gearing ratios. How do gears work and how could we apply more force to the launcher mechanism in the above video? How are gear ratios worked out? What are the benefits of a high or low gear ratio? What is the best design for the launcher?

Add the colour sensor to the robot, read in the lowest light reflection reading and the highest light reflection reading to create a light range from 0 to 100. Use the sensor data to determine what to do and when to do it based on the runtime data reading. Make precise turns at precise moments. What are ratios and when to use them? Why not just hard code in the lowest light (black) and highest light (white) values?

Follow the software guide to introduce students to key programming concepts with the simple drag and drop visual interface. Practice various manoeuvres and incorporate them into a sequence of instructions to complete the space mission. Further develop the program after each attempt and watch the students learn by their mistakes in a non judgemental environment where trial and error is the key to success.

Discovering by Doing.

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