Play-Well at the Rocky Mountain Youth Development Conference

Last week members of our Colorado crew presented a new workshop to 34 youth development staff (mostly Boys & Girls club staff) at the Rocky Mountain Youth Development Conference. The program was called: Celebrate failure when you reach for the sky: Hands-on STEM learning to build resilience.- Play-Well TEKnologies 
The program lead participants through a playful building process using LEGO that highlighted the critical role of failing in science, engineering and life. Using a classroom-tested exercises they explored how to intentionally guarantee failure in a non-threatening way to allow youth to develop a positive relationship with failure. They used their building activity to demonstrate how to weave life metaphors and broader lessons into STEM lessons and STEM play.

GO (Girls Only) Engineering Day at Northglen High School

 On February 12th, Play-Well partnered with Northglen High School for their GO (Girls Only) Engineering Day. The goal of the day is to introduce high school girls to engineering positions and real world applications.  Throughout the day all female students partake in career panels, workshops and hear from guest speakers.  Play-Well ran a Engineering Challenge Bridge Challenge with a group of girls to teach about different types of bridges and how their structures differ. Girls worked in teams to build either corbeled arch bridges or truss bridges to span a 2.5ft distance between desks and be weight bearing.  The girls learned about compression and tension of trusses and how they are efficient in real bridges.  With collaboration and creativity all groups designed different bridges!

Thanks for having us Northglen! #GirlPower

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Teaching at Colorado Center of The Blind

The Colorado Center of the Blind is “a renowned training center that has provided innovative teaching techniques and philosophy on the lives of blind people, taking them to new heights of independence”. They reached out to us in early May to see if we would be interested in bringing STEM based programs to their summer program held yearly for blind children at their center.

In our meeting to plan for our STEM workshop, we wanted to see and try out our program with their summer program leadership team. This was in order to help our instructors feel comfortable in adapting our teaching styles to be able to teach the blind. We provided a workshop for their summer program counselors on Tuesday June 4th.

What a truly eye opening experience! When teaching our program, we really were unprepared with just how high functioning our blind students were. Not only were they focused on our directions, but we were blown away at their spatial awareness. We told them where to find the LEGO bricks around them and after some brief directions, they were on their way!


Our students did their build at a table with LEGO 2×4 bricks spread out in front of them. Jen Schubert, did a wonderful job introducing what the pieces we were going to use, describing the type of bricks we would use and the orientation of each brick, as they were expected to build two piers of our corbelled arch bridge.


LEGOs are tactile, their studs are not only beneficial for building with, but working with our blind friends, we were able to clearly describe how each brick fit for each layer of our bridge. We also had 2 sample piers prepared as well, and our students used the example to see our project: counting the layers of each “staircase,” the cracks of each stack, and the cracks between bricks to make sure their piers were built correctly.


Some builders were done within the first five minutes of the build! We added the deck plates and our early finishers got started by adding 1x bricks to the outside studs for railings. We had prepared 32×32 sheets with pieces to create a gravity car chassis if we had time. And did we ever! We had two gravity car chassis that were being shared by the group as they felt the holes of each beam to make sure they placed their axles correctly. They found their bushings and 4x plates after first orienting themselves with the pieces by touch. The gravity car was a little more difficult for some builders, but with persistence and guidance by Nick Spencer and Rob Angcay every single student not only created a gravity car chassis, but used decoration pieces also found on the table to create race cars, trucks, tractors, and one even had a propeller to fly!

We transferred their bridge from the table to a bench about 3 feet away from where they built it. Our students then were able to finally see out long their bridge became by walking over and orienting themselves to the end of the bridge solely by following the directions of Rob Angcay’s voice. Then, they walked the length of the bridge one by one. “Whoa, we made it this long?” were some words of excitement from our students.


They then made their way back to the table to begin clean up. Our students were able to take their gravity car apart and create build piles, where they returned their pieces to their specific bins as Jen and Nick walked around the table with specific piece bins, letting them know which pieces belonged to their bin.

What a success! Our instructors felt rewarded, and most importantly we have started a wonderful relationship with an amazing program. We plan to return to offer a weekend workshop in July where we will teach another program with the kids of their summer program.

Giving Away LEGO on April 1st!

While doing inventory, we realized that our instructor kits have too much LEGO. So, we need to get rid of thousands of LEGO pieces. If you’d like some, just comment below. One last important piece of information: APRIL FOOLS!


Our Play-Well JEDI Engineering w/LEGO Program

We recently had so much fun running our new JEDI Engineering w/LEGO program.  Our instructors that are Star Wars nerds are really into teaching these programs, getting kids excited about the world of Star Wars, and answering what role engineers played in creating this world.

We ask our students, “who do you think built the X-Wing, Tie Fighter, Millenium Falcon, Death Star, Imperial Cruiser, Clone Troopers, and even the Jedi Academy?  Engineers.”  Then as engineers, we begin to reconstruct the world and story lines of Star Wars through our LEGO building.

Check out some pictures from a JEDI Engineering camp we recently held in Ventura County, CA.

Our staff member, Jared, with a group of mini Jedi Engineering builders.

Our staff member, Jared, with a group of mini Jedi Engineering builders.

A LEGO battle droid model and a X-Wing prototype welcomed these Jedi Engineers to the camp.

A LEGO battle droid model and a X-Wing prototype welcomed these Jedi Engineers to the camp.

If you’d like more information about our JEDI Engineering programs, click HERE.  We will be offering JEDI Engineering camps in various parts of the country this summer.  If you’d like to know if we are offering these camps in your area, simply click here and search for camps near you:


Designing A LEGO Model of Boulder JCC

On Sunday, October 14th, 2012, we collaborated with the Boulder JCC in Colorado for their Kids Capital Campaign “Day of Building.”  Our Play-Well Design Team created a LEGO model of Boulder JCC, which was revealed to 250 of Boulder JCC’s members.  Here is a picture of the LEGO Model of Boulder JCC:

The model was initially designed in SF by our Design Team and then shipped to Colorado. Here is it right before it got packed away for its trip.

With all their members, we had ice cream, built more LEGO structures, and celebrated the unveiling of the LEGO Boulder JCC.  Here are pictures of the event.

The unveiling of the Boulder JCC LEGO Model.

On the right is Alex Shullman, the main architect of the Boulder JCC LEGO Model. Alex is also the VP of Curriculum at Play-Well.

The best part of the day was seeing budding architects inspired to build cool structures on this Kids Capital Campaign  Day of Building.

If you would like us to  design a LEGO Model for your organization or would like us to be a part of one of your events, feel free to email us

Play-Well Engineering w/LEGO Party & Swoop Bag Giveaway

We are collaborating with Swoop Bags to give away a 
Play-Well Engineering w/LEGO Birthday Party (Value: $300.00) and two Swoop Bags (Value: $96.00).

Details: Enter to win a Play-Well Engineering w/LEGO® Birthday Party (Value $300) PLUS two Swoop bags (Value $96). Expires 8/12/12

Who is Play-Well TEKnologies?
Play-Well TEKnologies provides project-based programs designed to teach the principles and methods of engineering to children, ages 5 – 14, using LEGO®. Play-Well has been growing future engineers since 1997.

What’s a Swoop Bag?
Swoop bags are the ultimate modern TOY STORAGE BAG + PLAYMAT in one. 


Meet Our Play-Well Instructor, Briana!

Here at Play-Well, we are lucky to have a lot of super cool, smart, creative instructors! Briana is one of those instructors, teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area. She fits in great at Play-Well because of her passion for engineering, teaching, and challenging her students. As a woman engineer and instructor, she is especially interested in the roles women play in engineering and how to support and inspire our female students. Recently, we chatted with Briana about what inspired her to be an engineer and her thoughts on women in engineering.



I really like understanding how things work. For some people understanding how things work may take the magic out of it but for me, that’s what makes things magical. I love to understand how things work, how to change them and how the universe is.


Women naturally work together, are very creative. They are able to think about things in a different way, which can lead to exciting and creative collaboration, creation, and engineering. Sometimes engineers bring preconceived notions of how things work and how they think things should be. They follow in the footsteps of other great engineers  which can prevent them from being as innovative as they could be. Many female engineers break this mold and innovate by thinking outside of the box.


The girls in my class are very inquisitive and they are strong problem solvers. They approach problems in creative and flexible ways. They excel at teamwork, of course, and that’s what solves real world engineering problems after all. They are often excited to see that their teacher is a woman and I try to inspire them and recognize their efforts and victories so that they know how awesome they are and so they don’t slide back into their comfort zones.

We and Briana are both determined to create a fun and open environment where all of our students feel that they can learn and build together with the support and direction of our instructors. We encourage our instructors to engage all of our students while inspiring them to think and work creatively within an environment where they feel safe and comfortable. So we hope that you will send your boys and girls to learn, grow, and innovate with us!

For more information about our Play-Well camps this summer, visit:

Young Engineer’s Vision Becomes Reality…Join Our Project Challenge!

...Young Engineer Project Challenge Listed Below This Story…

Some of the most inspiring moments in our classes are when our engineering students are able to make their vision become a reality.  Here is an example of a 8-year-old engineering student of ours in Connecticut.  We asked him to come up with an idea for a brand new contraption and then actualize his idea.  Here are the steps we asked him and his class to do:

1. Create an engineering drawing of his design idea.

2. Identify the pieces he would need to complete the project and determine if he had enough materials to build it.

3. Determine the length of time it would take for him to complete it, as certain time constraints existed in class.

4. Make adjustments during the build process based on the materials he had, the time allotted, and any functionality issues that he discovered.

Whenever our students run into problems with their projects, a building motto (coined from Founder of Ideo, David Kelley) we teach them is: Fail Faster, Succeed Sooner.

In the end, this is what this 8-year-old engineering student came up with.

Engineer Drawing Of His Idea

Actualizing His Idea

Vertical Conveyor Belt Addition


If your child has created a really cool LEGO project at home, post it on our Play-Well Facebook Page, for other young engineers to inspired by.  At the end of May, we will gather them all together to share.  Here are the details to post:

1. Have your young engineer take a picture of his/her project.  If they’d like to create a drawing of it first to help them through the idea process, even better.

2. Upload the pictures on our Play-Well Facebook Page.

3. In the description of the picture, have them explain what they love most about their project and what they learned building it.

4. Celebrate their accomplishment!