Computer Science students use lego structures and precise instructions to learn about the principles of algorithms in computer coding.

Students in Lincoln Academy’s Exploring Computer Science class recently grappled with writing algorithms using Lego bricks. An algorithm is a set of well-defined instructions that a computer follows to execute a task.

Junior Julian Hupp writes instructions for the Lego structure he build with Jack Lee.

Junior Julian Hupp writes instructions for the Lego structure he build with Jack Lee.

In the Lego activity, students created a structure from 7 Lego bricks, and wrote instructions for how to precisely re-create the structure using the same bricks. They then disassembled their structure and swapped bricks and instructions between different groups. The new groups attempted to follow the algorithm to build an identical Lego structure.

“In their instructions students identify bricks by color, size, shape, and they realized pretty quickly that agreeing on how to identify the different parts and pieces makes it much easier to follow the algorithm,” said instructor Stephanie Cheney. “It is a great lesson in naming conventions and how to clarify orientation in order to build the structure accurately. Hands-on activities like this make it easier for students to transition into coding activities on the computer.”

Identifying lego bricks by color and dimensions is a critical part of making the exercise a success.

Identifying lego bricks by color and dimensions is a critical part of making the exercise a success.

Ninth grader Will Clark said the exercise was “good for building skills in precision and methodology,” a skill set that is critical to writing computer code.

Junior Erica Johnson said, “The activity helped us learn how much information you need to give to the computers for them to understand what you want as the result.”