Make Way for Ducklings

The classic children’s book Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey provided inspiration for a workshop at the LEGO Learning Symposium 2016.

Led by the EDGErs, the workshop was intended to provide participants with an opportunity to explore some intermediate to advanced tools and techniques relating to the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 platform, including:

  • Bluetooth communication between EV3 bricks
  • Proportional controls
  • Light-based communication
  • RCX legacy cables and lamps
  • Compass sensors
  • Infrared beacons and sensors

In the book, Mrs Mallard leads her ducklings across Boston, helped at one point by a police officer who stops traffic for them.

Our initial idea was to use a group of robots to model the behaviour of Mrs Mallard and her ducklings in some way. For example, we thought it would be interesting to have a robot representing the mother duck, with the duckling robots following the mother, and not always reliably.

Other robots could model other features of the story, such as the police officer, cheering onlookers, and traffic.

We proposed these challenges ideas:

  • Traffic flow
    • Line following / safe following distance (proportional controls)
    • Traffic lights (using RCX/NXT lamps with EV3)
    • Traffic control / boom gate
  • Mrs Mallard and ducklings
    • Bluetooth communication
    • Compass sensor
    • Infrared sensor and beacon
  • Cheering bystanders

If you have a suggestion for another challenge related to this theme, please let us know in the comments below.

Here are some of the results of our workshop:


  • Download the handouts (*.zip file) from the session, including:
    • Establishing a bluetooth connection between two EV3 bricks
    • Simple bluetooth programming
    • Line following and proportional controls
    • Working with the IR beacon
    • Working with the compass sensor
    • Cheer-bot handout
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Rob Torok

I'm a teacher in Tasmania, Australia, and have been using LEGO MINDSTORMS with my students since 2001. I'm the editor in chief for LEGO Engineering (this site) as well as the content editor for LEGO Education Australia (

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