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If THEY Build It, THEY Will Learn: Great Ball Contraptions and Innovation

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Thursday, December 3, 1:30–2:30 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)

JD Ferries-Rowe  
The Lego Great Ball Contraption Experience is a student-based challenge focused on innovation and design using Legos, motors, and marbles. Bring your own building blocks to this virtual ISTE session and we will simulate design challenges and the iterative process! Great for classes, clubs, and makerspaces!

Audience: Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: No apps are necessary. G-Suite drive folder will be referenced for materials that are available for use or reference.
Topic: Project-, problem- & challenge-based learning
Grade level: 6-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Computer science
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Attendees of this poster session will view and observe the creation of the innovative design unit "Great Ball Contraptions" - part of an ISTE Standards based #Digcit course (required Freshman). JD will be available to answer questions live and in the chat.

Attendees will understand and use an innovative design and iteration process to construct user-designed prototypes that follow a standard and accomplish a specific goal.

Attendees will work in teams to plan, design, revise, and problem-solve structural challenges in creating an automatic, motorized lego structure that moves marbles from one location to another

Attendees will be able to describe and design a Great Ball Contraption challenge event that could be used in a classroom, makerspace, or STEM club.

Supporting research

Nathan Sawaya was interviewed and gave input into the design of the overall project with specific input on the "quick success" strategy of introduction.

Iterative Design:

GBC Resources

More [+]



JD FERRIES-ROWE is CIO (Head Geek) at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. He’s served a number of roles including Religion Teacher, Debate Coach, Academic Assistant Principal and the ambiguous Coordinator for Special Projects. He implemented of one of the first school-wide 1:X BYOT programs, helped design and renovate student centered technology classrooms, and developed student curriculum for digital citizenship, robotics, and effective use of social media. JD has been National Coordinator for Technology Specialists for the Jesuit School Network and was an Indiana Computer Educators "Technology Advocate of the Year". He likes legos and comics.

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