In summary

  • Senior Lecturer in STEM Education, Dr Emily Cook, creates LEGO stop-motion animation videos to help teach maths to education students
  • Using her Adobe Innovation Grant, awarded through Swinburne’s Adobe Creative Campus status, Dr Cook is able to make her videos look more professional
  • Dr Cook encourages anyone interested in maths to pursue a career in STEM

Swinburne’s Dr Emily Cook, Senior Lecturer in STEM Education, is creating LEGO stop-motion animation videos to help students solve math problems.

The animations address short problems that are difficult to teach online, as well as long-form questions that require physical models to demonstrate. All of Dr Cook’s fun creations feature a LEGO version of herself completing pun-filled calculations, a variety of maths topics and even animals, such as Adding Vectors (with a duck) and Linear Transformations (with a sheep).

From at-home hobby to professional production

Dr Cook was inspired during her “extreme boredom” in Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown last year. While using LEGO to pass the time, she noticed that the matrices she was preparing lectures about looked like LEGO baseplates. From there, the idea struck her to create some new learning resources.

As an Adobe Creative Campus, Swinburne’s Adobe Innovation Grant enabled Dr Cook to purchase filmmaking technology and more LEGO, helping to develop her ideas and give her homemade videos a professional edge.

Despite enjoying the process of making the animations, she admits it is still “painstakingly slow”. Dr Cook storyboards the animation, writes the script, builds the models, performs the animation and edits the videos using Adobe Rush.

She says the animations take an “embarrassingly long time”, with the first two-minute video taking many hours to create.

“It was probably a bit ambitious to start with a problem about a duck swimming across a river. Making the river look good and flow properly without owning enough blue bricks and trying to use the new equipment for the first time was hard!”

Adding Vectors (with a duck)

Adding Vectors (with a duck)

Maths makes a good impression

The animations have received positive feedback from her friends, family and, most importantly, students. Dr Cook hopes they will be useful to other teachers in the future who find them on YouTube.

Dr Cook began her career in physics, but through tutoring high school maths she found a love for teaching it. Her favourite part of her job at Swinburne is teaching first-year maths units and helping students transition from Year 12 into their university degree.

“Hopefully LEGO makes the compulsory first-year maths unit I teach a little more approachable. The terrible puns have always been part of my teaching style,” she says.

Velocity Vectors (with a turtle)

Velocity Vectors (with a turtle)

Inspiring the next generation of women in STEM

As a woman in STEM, Dr Cook says it can be “uncomfortable” being the only woman in the room sometimes and says there are times that she feels like she needs to prove herself.

However, it also gives her the opportunity to inspire other women interested in a career in STEM. For Dr Cook, “Being in a position to be a role model and show young women … that it is possible for women to succeed in STEM and still be themselves," is a real highlight.

She encourages anyone looking to pursue a career in STEM, especially women, to “just go for it”.

“Maths is important as it is used every day, whether or not people realise they are consciously using it. It underpins so many academic courses and careers from science and engineering, to business and design.

“Do what you enjoy and believe in yourself.”

Related articles

    • Technology
    • Social Affairs

    Using data and technology to keep young drivers safer

    Dr Sharon Chen and Professor Denny Meyer will be conducting a study to better understand the driving behaviour of young drivers using telematics technology.

    Tuesday 13 July 2021
    • Technology
    • Business
    • University

    The IT business full of Swinburne graduates

    Fenwick Software has been taking Swinburne placement students, and then hiring them, for more than 20 years. Hear what it’s been like for Chief Operations Officer Brad Foot and recent graduate Evan Boutsiavaras.

    Monday 05 July 2021
    • Technology
    • Health
    • Student News

    Swinburne’s Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science kicks off careers

    Swinburne’s Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science has received official accreditation from Exercise and Sports Science Australia, allowing graduates to practice as Accredited Exercise Scientists, as well as benefit from the industry experience built into the course.

    Tuesday 13 July 2021
    • Design

    Students use technology to make banking more inclusive

    Four Swinburne students have designed an inclusive financial literacy and banking app to address the challenges faced by neurodiverse people.

    Tuesday 20 July 2021
    • Astronomy
    • Technology
    • Science

    Billionaires’ space race could help our planet

    The trip of a lifetime for the world’s billionaires could change their perspective, and then the world.

    Monday 19 July 2021