Assembly Line Games & Activities

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Are your students learning about Henry Ford, the American Industrial Revolution, or the assembly line? This lesson contains a few ideas for fun and stimulating games and activities that will help students understand assembly lines and their benefits.

The Assembly Line: A Huge Innovation in Manufacturing

The assembly line, popularized by Henry Ford's automobile manufacturing plants in Michigan, was undoubtedly one of the most important innovations in manufacturing at the turn of the 20th century. The idea behind the assembly line was to reduce the time it took to manufacture items while maximizing worker output. Industries all over the world began to realize that using the same basic principles - having workers specialize during the manufacturing process and standardizing parts - increased the productivity of just about every output imaginable. What's more, the standardization of parts made it easier for manufacturers to distribute replacement parts to customers in the event of breakage or wear and tear. It is often difficult for students to understand just how beneficial the assembly line has been to worldwide manufacturing, which is why games and activities can be a great way to drive these ideas home. Be sure to take these ideas and modify them to fit your students' needs.

Lego Assembly Line

When teaching about manufacturing, there are few better materials to hand on hand than a whole mess of Legos. To help students understand the benefits of the assembly line, it works best to first start with building Lego projects individually, then transitioning to an assembly line approach. Have students build a small Lego object; it doesn't matter what it is, just be sure that every student has enough pieces to build several replications of the object. You will have the most success if you model building the object to the students beforehand. Have students time themselves building several replications of the object, then divide their time by the number they built. Use this number to calculate a class average, then divide students into groups and ask them to devise a plan in which they specialize in one or two actions of the building process. Time the groups building several replications of the object in the assembly line style, take the average, then calculate the class average. Compared to the individual class average, this number is sure to be smaller (and probably significantly so). Students will have a blast playing with Legos while learning about the benefits of the assembly line.

Origami Assembly Line

Similar to the activity above, you can accomplish the same goals using only standard sheets of paper. Teach your students how to make a simple origami figure, then have them fold several replications on their own (and calculate averages). Then, they should divide into groups, devise an assembly line to fold the figures, and fold several replications (again, calculating averages). As in the Lego activity, the assembly line average time is certain to be shorter than the individual average time. This is a great activity for those of us who don't have hundreds of Legos lying around.

Playing Card Replacements

For this activity, you will need several decks of playing cards. Most of the decks should be of one common type (all red on the back, for example) and a few decks should be distinctly different (a few decks of different back colors works well). Divide the class into two or three groups. Each group will receive an incomplete deck of playing cards, which they are tasked with finding replacement cards for. Each group will also receive a bin of extra cards to sort through in order to find the replacements.

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