Make a System That Communicates

Design, build and program a robotic system that follows a path and communicates its position at least twice along the way.

90-120 min.
Grades 6-8


(30 minutes)


Use this video to:

  • Connect students to real-life robotic systems
  • Consider how robotic systems are made up of smaller subsystems
  • Inspire students to create their own robotic systems

Make a System Discussion

  1. Robotic systems are built from smaller, related subsystems. Look at the automobile system shown in the video. What subsystems can you see?
    Answers can vary but may include describing the automobile manufacturing system with one subsystem for moving the car into position and multiple robotic subsystems welding components on different parts of the car.
  1. What other systems and subsystems do you see in the video?
    Answers may vary but may include describing the box-sorting conveyor system that separates boxes of different sizes. This system has two conveyor lines: one for larger boxes and one for smaller boxes. There is also a more complex sorting system that manages a larger volume of boxes and many more possible locations using multiple sorting arms and conveyors.

Design Brief
Design, build and program a robotic system that follows a path and communicates its position at least twice along the way.

Encourage an active brainstorming process so that students develop their conceptual understanding. For example, encourage them to:

  • Review the Robots In Action videos showing robots for inspiration
  • Investigate Key Concepts Systems and Subsystems
  • Build some of the examples from Building Ideas and explore how they work
  • Personalize their robot or describe a context in which a robot follows a path (e.g., the iRobot Scooba pool-cleaning robot in the Robots In Action Personal video and the Make a System Video)

Building Ideas:

Select the Best Solution
Describe the solution that you have agreed to build and program.

Think about examples from your brainstorming discussion. Then explain why you chose this solution for the design brief. Encourage students to describe why they have chosen this solution. That way, when students are reviewing and revising, they will have specific information to use to evaluate their solution and decide whether or not it was effective.


(30 minutes)

Build and Program
Start building and programming your solution!

As you work on your solution, make sure students keep track of:

  1. Describe one part of your design that worked especially well.
  2. Describe one design change that you had to make.
  3. What will you try next?

Students can use images, video, text, sound, or weblinks to document their work.


(30 minutes)

Test and Analyze
How well does your solution satisfy the design brief?
Use a table to record data. Name the columns and rows, such as Trial Number, Expected Behavior, Actual Behavior and Changes?

Review and Revise
Take a moment to reflect on your robot solution.

  • Can the robot movement be made more accurate?
  • What are some ways that others have solved the problem?

Encourage students to look back at the design brief and at their own brainstorming notes and test data. Encourage a peer-review process so that each group is responsible for evaluating their own and others’ projects. This review process can help students develop skills in giving constructive feedback as well as sharpening analysis skills and the use of objective data to support an argument.

You may wish to provide students with the specific precision level to aim for (e.g., within 0.5 cm).


(30 minutes)

Here are some ideas to suggest to students:

  • Create a video of your project, especially your final presentation and your robot’s performance.
  • Explain some important features of your software program.
  • Produce a building guide for your model by taking a series of photographs as you deconstruct it.
  • Include an image of your program with comments.
  • Add a team photograph

Evaluate Design and NGSS Goals
You can use the included rubrics to evaluate skills progression of Design Engineering Projects.

  • Students can review their design goals as well as their use of some NGSS practices using the provided rubric. Students can rate their level of work by adding a mark below the Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum column.
  • You may also choose to use the rubric to rate each team or student yourself.

Evaluate Creativity and Collaboration
Students can review their creative and collaboration processes using the provided rubric.

You may also choose to use the rubric to rate each team or student yourself.

Sample Solution Overview

The Track Rover Solution is one example of many possible solutions for the Make a System That Communicates project.


Sample Solution Building Ideas
The Track Rover combines these Building Ideas: EV3 Frames, Tracks, Color Sensor 2.

Two copies of the Tracks are built: one for the right side and a mirror image for the left side.


Sample Solution Program

This program:

  • If the Color Sensor sees Black
  • Motor B turns on and Motor C turns off
  • If the Color Sensor sees No Color
  • Motor C turns on and Motor B turns off
  • Loops 3 times
  • Motors B and C turn off
  • If the Color Sensor sees Green, the Green sound plays
  • If the Color Sensor sees Red, the Red sound plays
  • Waits 1 second
  • Turns on Motors B and C so they move in reverse
  • Waits until the Color Sensor sees No color or White
  • Loops Unlimited

Teacher Support

Students will:
• Understand that larger systems can be made from smaller systems or subsystems
• Understand that sensor feedback can be used to control systems
• Understand that robots that navigate a path represent transportation technology
• Understand that robots that communicate their position represent communication technology

LEGO® MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Core Set
LEGO® MINDSTORMS Education EV3 Lab or EV3 Programming

Students should know how to create and download a program, and how to program a motor. Students should also know how to use sensors for feedback.

Common Core Science
1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.6, 1.8
Cross-cutting Concepts
Core Ideas: Engineering, Technology and Application of Science

Common Core Mathematics
1.1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6

ITEEA Standards for Technological Literacy
8, 9, 10
Abilities for a Technological World
11, 13
The Designed World

ISTE National Education Technology Standards
1a, 1b, 1c, 2b, 2d, 3a, 3d, 4a, 4b, 4c, 6a, 6c, 6d

Student Material

Student Worksheet

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