How Lego is stopping physics students from dropping out
Teachers at Flinders University in Australia are using Lego cars to help introductory physics students understand concepts like measurement error and variability, as well as improving their lab reporting skills and confidence.
The method has been detailed in the American Journal of Physics, and it’s helped reduced dropout rates in the course year-on-year since it was introduced in 2014.
“Many undergraduate students come to our introductory physics course without basic science skills or any prior exposure to physics or mathematics at high school level,” Maria Parappilly, lead researcher of the Lego teaching approach, said in a statement.
“This can make lab work exceptionally challenging, and is a major factor in the high early drop-out rate we witness for this topic.”
As part of the program, students are asked to measure the time it takes for Lego cars to travel a set distance. Then a ramp is introduced, either with a high or low-friction surface, where they repeat the experiment.
They then trial Lego cars with different wheels, weights and heights, and experiment with the car again.
“Students were able to grasp fundamental concepts such as the formulae for speed, velocity and acceleration, potential and kinetic energy, and how to calculate track angles,” Parappilly added.
It’s a non-confrontational way to introduce students to the process of scientific inquiry, especially when STEM education is experiencing a steady decline.
The approach which was led at Flinders University will now be rolled out to other universities and high schools in South Australia.