Scuola di Robotica

Scuola di Robotica

10/04/2018 - Classes for Students

Useless machines: a very useful laboratory!

Useless machines: a very useful laboratory!
Reading time Reading time: 1.5 minutes

Today we tell you about the work done with the group of boys and girls who are following our robotics course at the I.C. Albaro in Genoa.

Today we tell you about the work done with the group of boys and girls who are following our robotics course at the I.C. Albaro in Genoa.


Given the heterogeneity of the class, composed of first, second and third middle school students, we thought of dedicating three lessons to the use of Lego Mindstorm EV3, but before closing the beloved boxes of WeDo, we greeted them worthily focusing an entire meeting to the construction of a series of useless machines, revealed, as always, very useful!


The boys, divided into mixed age groups, were responsible for designing and building a machine.


Only two clauses:

1. Use only pieces contained in a Lego Wedo box

2. Making their invention move


As always, the most complicated aspect was to make the class understand the importance of design, not so much for what concerns the sharing of ideas (that happened without problems!) as for the reluctance to design the project.

The mistake, without a doubt, was mine: trusting in the age of the boys and delivering the Lego boxes immediately along with the sheets for the drawings was a mistake. I took it for granted that design was a pleasant, even instinctive step, when in this case it wasn't like that and having the kits available has irremediably distracted the groups.


Nothing serious, the sketches eventually arrived anyway, but, given the care with which the useless machines were built and the beauty of the results, it's really a shame not to have more detailed project sheets!

After an hour and a half of trials, attempts, modifications, difficulties and successes, four inventions were born worthy of a Munari book.


Here they are: 

  • Bionic Hand of Lorenzo, Francis and Peter: a skeletal hand that goes up and down
  • Truck Conveyor of Clare, Edward and Matthew: a truck that turns and lets a motorcycle enter its interior
  • Radio wave receiver by Gabriele, Ugo, Marco and Davide: a crane-machine with mobile antenna
  • Rover to Mars by Matthias, Emmanuel and Luke: a rover that goes back and forth while simultaneously turning the antenna and wave detector


At first, given the names of the four machines built, I was puzzled, I feared that the boys had not understood that useless machines, as the name suggests, do not necessarily have to have a purpose. Once I had been placed on the test bench, however, I thought again.

The bionic hand, perfect in detail and precise in movements, for example, had no objective, except to raise and lower the palm using the rotation of the wrist.

The Mars rover, on the other hand, was designed and built only with the intention of programming as many movements as possible simultaneously... a mission successfully accomplished!

The greatest results of this workshop were, without a doubt, the complicity and collaboration born, from the beginning, between the members of the group: having an hour and a half to invent and let go of your imagination, pursuing a common goal and measuring yourself against a kit that they knew very well (including programming software), was the ideal situation to work well from all points of view.


Dissemination, Tell me about robots, Robot@scuola