LEGO Engineering: Students driving their own learning from kindergarten through college

For NYU Community

12/2 (Monday)    Noon – 1:00 pm     LC400

LEGO Engineering: Students driving their own learning from kindergarten through college

Dr. Chris Rogers
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Co-Director, Center for Engineering Education and Outreach
Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155

Over the past 15 years, Tufts and LEGO Education have been working together to develop toolsets that allow students to drive their own learning.  This has been a combined effort of researching how the student learns (education doctoral students), developing new technologies that leverage this knowledge (engineering graduate work), and collaborating with teachers around the world to test these ideas in classrooms (outreach work).  I will show some examples of what students have made (from very young to very old) and where we want to go in the future with the work.


Chris got all three of his degrees at Stanford Univ., where he worked with John Eaton on his thesis looking at particle motion in a boundary layer flow. From Stanford, he went to Tufts as a faculty member, where he has been for the last million years, with a few exceptions. His first sabbatical was spent at Harvard and a local kindergarten looking at methods of teaching engineering. He spent half a year in New Zealand on a Fulbright Scholarship looking at 3D reconstruction of flame fronts to estimate heat fluxes. In 2002-3 he was at Princeton as the Kenan Professor of Distinguished Teaching where he played with underwater robots, wind tunnels, and LEGO bricks. In 2006-7, he spent the year at ETH in Zurich playing with very very small robots and measuring the lift force on a fruit fly. He received the 2003 NSF Director’s Distinguished Teaching Scholar Award for excellence in both teaching and research. Chris is involved in several different research areas: particle-laden flows (a continuation of his thesis), telerobotics and controls, slurry flows in chemical-mechanical planarization, the engineering of musical instruments, measuring flame shapes of couch fires, measuring fruit-fly locomotion, and in elementary school engineering education. His work has been funded by numerous government organizations and corporations, including the NSF, NASA, Intel, Boeing, Cabot, Steinway, Selmer, National Instruments, Raytheon, Fulbright, and the LEGO Corporation. His work in particle-laden flows led to the opportunity to fly aboard the NASA 0g experimental aircraft. He has flown over 700 parabolas without getting sick. 

Chris also has a strong commitment to teaching, and at Tufts has started a number of new directions, including learning robotics with LEGO bricks and learning manufacturing by building musical instruments. He was awarded the Carnegie Professor of the Year in Massachusetts in 1998 and is currently the co-director of the Center for Engineering Education Outreach ( His teaching work extends to the elementary school, where he talks with over 1000 teachers around the world every year on ways of bringing engineering into the younger grades. He has worked with LEGO to develop ROBOLAB, a robotic approach to learning science and math. 

Most importantly, he has three kids - all brilliant - who are responsible for most of his research interests and efforts.