Laser Cut Mechanisms

A mechanism enables you to transform the rotation of a motor into another type of motion. In this series of lessons, you will use laser cut parts to explore mechanisms involving cranks, cams, and cables. PDF files are provided for each lesson. You will need to cut these files from cardboard using a laser cutter. The lessons will guide you through assembling these parts to make sturdy, modular mechanisms.


A mechanism enables you to transform the rotation of a motor into another type of motion. In this series of lessons, you will use LEGO® Technic parts to explore mechanisms involving cranks, gears, and cables. Paper templates are provided to guide you in cutting and folding cardboard boxes and accessories to make sturdy, modular mechanisms.

Amusement Park Physics

Informal learning spaces can provide students with in-depth experiences that are difficult to facilitate within the constraints of a traditional classroom. Michael Weidinger, Rebecca Dieffenbach, and Will Bennett facilitate the STEM club at Queens Lake Middle School to enable students to explore robotics via long-term projects. The STEM club meets once a week for one hour during most of the school year.

Angles with Hummingbird

Teacher Note: This is a short introductory activity designed to introduce students to the servo motor. Students construct a large protractor and investigate how to write a program that moves the servo motor to different angles. To save time, you could do this activity as a demonstration or have students use a photocopied image of a protractor. However, having students create the protractor reinforces Common Core math standards for measuring and constructing angles (4.MD.C and 4.G.A).

Scissor Linkages

Movement with a Scissor Linkage

The easiest motion to create with the Hummingbird kit is rotation. The gear motors rotate, and the servo motors move in arcs. As students become more experienced, they often want to create other types of motion as well. Linkages can be used to create many different types of motion using the gear and servo motors. For example, students can be challenged to use a linkage to move an object back and  forth.

Measuring the Hypotenuse

Robots can use distance sensors to determine where objects or people are in the environment. A stationary distance sensor can only measure the distance to an object right in front of it. On the other hand, a moving distance sensor can measure the distance to a number of objects in the environment. It can even compute the distance between these objects.

Exponent Game

This project was developed to show how the Hummingbird can be used to create games that reinforce math concepts. In this case, the game is based around the rules for integer exponents.

The game starts when the user presses the spacebar. The game generates three random numbers: two exponents and a base.

Measuring Motor Speed

The command to the Hummingbird gear motor sets the speed of the motor using a number from 0 to 100. We developed this project to demonstrate how this number controls the voltage supplied to the motor as well as how the rotations per minute of the motor.

Genetics Simulation

This activity was inspired by two of the disciplinary core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards: LS3.A (Inheritance of Traits) and LS3.B (Variation of Traits). Our goal was to use Scratch with the Hummingbird to create a genetics simulation. First, we will describe the simplest version of this simulation, and then we will explain how it can be expanded for more advanced students.

Drawing Angles with the Hummingbird

An understanding of angles is essential to using servo motors with the Hummingbird. Students will naturally need to measure and use angles as they construct projects using the kit. However, students can also use the Hummingbird with Scratch or Snap! to explicitly demonstrate their knowledge of acute or obtuse angles. An effective way to do this would be to challenge students to design an interactive way to present obtuse and acute angles. One of many possible solutions to this challenge is shown in the video below.