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Friday Night LEGO Club:
April 27, 2007
Writing Documentation

Teaching Kids How Hard it Is to Write Repeatable Instructions.

Please read the introduction below and browse the photos and projects in the navigation to the right. The documentation (included in each product page) is fascinating. Enjoy...

[Click here to see the 2008 results]

Main Page
Introduction and Overview Examples and Illustrations
The Photos
Building & Writing Trying to Follow Instructions Revealing the Results  
The Projects (includes scans of their documentation)
Team 1
Tower of  Doom
Team 2
Red Brick Boat
Team 3
Race Car
Team 4
Red Baron
Key Documents
Documentation Worksheet
TechBrick PPT
Excellent Technical Overview of Writing Documentation
Key Videos
This zip file contains two videos we used to illustrate repetitive precision in design.  Right click on the links and choose "Save File/Target as..."
Questions / Comments? Contact [email protected]

The Exercise

We wanted to teach our club kids how hard and important it is to write instructions that can be followed.  To do so we devised a simple exercise to illustrate how hard it is to write  good documentation.

These are the production and assembly models the teams built. See the photos and project details in links above.

Lessons Learned

  • Everyone (parents included) realized that writing clear instructions is very hard work.
  • Kids that generally watched during the production session were totally engaged in the build session.
  • Using some robot video and examples from English and computer code each child understood a bit more about the how hard it is to write clear instructions.
  • This is a great exercise that can be used at any age with any of the FIRST robotics systems.
  • We were amazed at how well they did.  See the project overview sections for details.


Project Steps/Instructions

0. We introduced the topic with some simple illustrations and a cool video. Click here for some of the introductory materials.
1. We divided the attendees into groups of 4-6 with one adult per group assisting. We called them "Product Groups." You can see the signage in the photos.

Note that we made sure the groups had a full age distribution buy sorting by age then assigning them to a group.

We have found this arrangement produces the best results because it normalizes the activity and all groups will generate similar work.


Joshua 5 1
Kent 5 2
Nicholas 6 3
Ryan 6 4
Nathan 7 1
Quinn 7 2
Stephen 7 3
Aaron 8 4
Jonathan C 8 1
Jordan 8 2
Kaitlyn 8 3
Alie 9 4
Andrei 9 1
Emily 9 2
Nate 9 3
Alexander 10 4
Timmy 10 1
Davis 11 2
Dalvin 13 3
Jonathan S 13 4
KC 13 1
2 Each group was given two bags of identical parts (shape, colors, etc.)

We considered making it more realistic by creating at least one asynchronous set that was missing a few parts but opted not to.

NOTE: You don't need 4, 6, 8 identical bags, just sets of 2 identical bags. That is, each matched set should not be like the other sets to provide variety in the finished products.

3 Each group was given a worksheet pack of blank work sheets with numbered steps and spaces for instructions and illustrations. You can see their work on the Project Pages in the navigation at the top of the page.

Note that they were only allowed to use a pencil. No color or other indicators.

You can download a word version of the worksheet here.
4 Each team was given 45-60 minutes to build a model and document it. Note: If a team finished early we invited them to open the other bag and try to build their own model.
5 The production models were labeled and placed in shopping bags.  
6 The teams then traded their instructions and second bag of parts with another team and they proceeded to attempt to build what the first team had documented.  
7 When the teams were done building we compared the models.  

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