DIY Lego Accessories - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

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Fab Foundation
Fab Foundation
Our mission is to provide access to the tools, the knowledge and the financial means to educate, innovate and invent using technology and digital fabrication to allow anyone to make (almost) anything, and thereby creating opportunities to improve lives and… Read More


The goal of this lesson is to use the design process to create accessories compatible with LEGO minifigures. The advantage of this lesson is that the objects can be modeled and printed quickly. At the end of the lesson, students will have their 3D printed accessory. Given the small size of the modeled objects, it is quite possible to do several iterations during the allotted class time.

What You'll Need

Materials List

  • 3D Printing Filament
  • Rulers/Calipers
  • Design journals

Digital Fabrication Tools

3D Printer


The Instructions

Step One: Introduction and presentation of 3D printing – 15 mins

TEACHER NOTE: The teacher will run through the entire 3D modeling process to demonstrate the software TinkerCAD. Students watch while the teacher describes what they are doing. The teacher asks participants to follow along, up until the 3D printing step. After launching the 3D print of the demo model, students create their own 3D model.

In whole class, Introduce 3D printing with a video and presentation of your local equipment.

Recommended by Techno Culture Club: PBS Off the Book:

Future Engineers: Coursera – 3D printing at Fab Lab Champaign Urbana IL (start at 4:22): un-at-the-fab-lab

Step 2: Overview of the activity – 5 min

Briefly explain the flow of steps for the day’s activity. What will the participants do? : Create an accessory for a LEGO minifigure. Explain the Design Process:

  • Think about the problem
  • Generate Ideas
  • Identify possible solutions
  • Develop ideas into a prototype
  • Create the solution using 3D printing

Step Three: Log in each participant to the software TinkerCAD – 5 min

Log in each participant to the software TinkerCAD. Use a single account per class or teacher or school.

Ask each participant to log into the software TinkerCAD. Provide the username and password.

Step Four: Introduction to TinkerCAD – 15 min

 TEACHER NOTE: In whole class exercise provide definitions and review of TinkerCAD key concepts to show students

  • The workplane
  • Zoom in/out (scroll)
  • Rotation of the viewpoint (right-click and move mouse)
  • Reset the viewpoint (“Home view” button)
  • Pan view (hold shift + right-click, and move mouse)
  • Sidebar with various parts and how to place them on the workplane
  • The geometric primitives (“Basic Shapes” tab) available in the sidebar
  • The solid vs hole state of a shape Selecting an object (left-click)
  • Selecting multiple objects (hold shift + left-click)
  • Using a selection box (hold left-click and move mouse, release left-click)
  • Group/ungroup multiple objects (adding/subtracting)
  • Handles for scaling and translating objects

Place students into small groups of 3-4. Using “Put Your Two Cents In” strategy, each student take turns explaining a concept by putting one cent in the center of the table and sharing a definition. Once everyone has had a turn, students put one more cent in and respond to what other students in group have shared.

Step Five: Document Your Prototype

 Have students draw and finalize their LEGO accessory design. Students record the results of their prototyping process in their journals. Remind students that the prototype is not their final design.

In small groups, students share their LEGO accessory prototypes with other students. The teacher moves around the room to assist and re-explain concepts as necessary. Review common questions or repeat challenging concepts to all students.

Formative Assessment: Students record their prototyping process in their journals.

Make sure students include:

  • Features added following student group
  • Sketches of their
  • Notes from student feedback
  • How feedback resulted in updates to LEGO accessory prototype

Extension: Have students hack an existing LEGO minifig, adding accessories or traits of famous engineers, scientists or other personal heros. For example, Fabbers from MIT Media Lab created this mini fig persona of Seymour Papert!

“Logo Turtle with Seymour Papert Lego MiniFig” kindness of Christopher Sweeney – Susan Klimczak FabLearn Fellow Blog


Step Six: Students convert a base model into personal designs

  1. Open Thingiverse: library of 3D models
  2. Open: in a new browser tab and choose an object to use as a starting point.
  3. Search and navigate the site – On the object’s page, navigate to the tab “Thing files” and find the model of interest with the extension “.STL”. Click on the STL file to download
  4. Import the object in TinkerCAD– Return to TinkerCAD and find the “Import” button at the top right (on the second menu bar). Select the STL file downloaded previously or drag-and-drop it into the import window. Adjust the scale percent or dimensions as necessary and click on “Import”.
  5. Remove the unnecessary parts – Remove the parts of the model which may interfere with the LEGO handle.
  6. Create the handle – To create the handle, add a 3mm diameter cylinder.
  7. Position the handle – Position the 3mm cylinder in the right At this step, also make sure that the imported object and the handle are sitting on the workplane.

Step Seven: Saving the STL file

 Ask participants to rename their files

  • Click on the nonsense name in the top menu bar, type in a name, and press “enter”

Log-in to the common user account and download the STL files

  • Export : Everything in Model, STL

Step Eight: Import the files into Slicer software

  1. Open the preferred slicer software, such as Tinkerine or Cura.
  2. Import the STL file
  3. Adjust the print settings (fill, wall thickness, speed, height, …)
  4. Save the file (.Gcode) to the SD card

More resources: EduTech Wiki, Tinkerine U or Ultimaker Cura Help.

Step Nine: 3D Printing – 30–45 min

  1. Insert the SD card in the 3D printer
  2. Select the previously saved file (.Gcode)
  3. Start the print!

Step Ten: Feedback – 5 min

Ask the participants to provide feedback on the workshop while the models are being printed.

Review what was learned. Ask students to provide feedback on the lesson while the models are being printed.

Have students clean-up work area.


Have students clean-up work area.

  • 3–5-ETS1-1. Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
  • 3–5-ETS1-2. Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • 3–5-ETS1-3. Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.

Common Core English Language Arts

Grade Band 3-5 (Reading Informational Text Standards)

  • RI.3.1.a–d Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
  • RI.3.7 Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
  • RI.5.1 Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • RI.5.7 Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
  • RI.5.9 Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Grade Band 3-5 (Writing Standards)

  • W3.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • W3.8 Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.
  • W5.7 Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • W5.8 Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; summarize or paraphrase information in notes and finished work, and provide a list of sources.

Grade Band 3-5 Speaking and Listening Standards

  • SL.3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
  • SL.3.5 Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

Digital Fabrication Competencies: I Can Statements

  • (S.2) Safety: I can operate equipment in a Fab Lab following safety protocols.
  • (DP.2) Design Process: I can design something in a Fab Lab using a specific process under close instructor guidance.
  • (CAD.3) Computer Aided Design: I can draw a basic design using any 3D CAD software.
  • (MO.2) Machine Operation: I can safely operate a digital fabrication machine under close observation of an instructor.

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