What if you could build your own
David Brear knows how to do it.
For 20 years, Brear has been showing his students how to construct simple machines, including drills. But the lessons come with an important message: "I tease them and say, 'Well, all it's good for is drilling through Jell-O,'" explains Brear.
That's because the drill is made of Lego pieces.
A retired teacher, Brear uses educational Lego kits to teach kids how to build simple machines with gears, pulleys, wheels and axles; moving cars with motors; construction cranes; elevators and even greenhouses.
The special kits include software so the various finished builds can interface with computers and be controlled by students.
It all started for Brear when he was a teacher with the Vancouver School Board. After accompanying a student to a special education technology event, he was introduced to a Lego building kit that was using Hypercard to program the models to make them move.
Brear says he was amazed that the Lego could interface with computers and move the model.
After receiving a grant to purchase a couple of kits, Brear developed a summer school program that year. Unfortunately, the interface boxes he needed, which were coming from Boston, arrived in August, and his summer school was in July. Despite the rocky start, Brear went on to host a regular schedule of successful camps during the school year, as well as Spring Break and summer camps.
"I was fascinated with it," says Brear of the Lego-computer combination.
He lists some of the unique models built over the years, which include robots; a dryer with a push-button start/ stop; a car that had headlights students could program; and a tractor that went back and forth, and right and left, using motors controlled by a computer.
Brear explains that the projects are connected to the science curriculum, and he is happy to discuss specifics with parents if they ask. He also notes the finished models are meant to relate to familiar items, "So there's a correlation between what they build and real life," says Brear.
A particularly memorable project one group of students worked on involved an experiment. Students built two greenhouses, and added a bit of dirt and a seed in a dish to
each one. Each of the seeds was watered regularly, but one greenhouse had a roof controlled by a computer program to raise and lower depending on the room temperature. The seed that didn't get regular oxygen died off, but the greenhouse with the moving roof grew a "lovely green plant."
"It's lots of fun," says Brear, who was first introduced to Lego when his own kids played with it. He later developed a keen interest in computers, so the combination of the two has been a good fit.
This summer Brear will once again be leading summer Lego camps at West Vancouver Recreation Centre and through the West Vancouver school district. The week-long camps are for kids ages five-12. Sibling groups may be accommodated in one session. For more information email Brear directly at email@example.com;check out the summer camps guide at www.westvancouver.ca;or visit the school district website at www.sd45.bc.ca.