Build a Robot Arm - 9-12 Tech Ed

Grade Level: 
High School
Subject: 
STEM, Technology Education
Provided by TryEngineering - www.tryengineering.org 
 
Lesson Focus 
Develop a robot arm using common materials.  Students will explore design, construction, teamwork, and materials selection and use.  Note: This lesson plan is designed for classroom use only, with supervision by a teacher familiar with electrical and electronic concepts. 
 
Lesson Synopsis  
Participating teams of three or four students are provided with a bag including the materials listed below.  Each team must use the materials to design and build a working robot arm. The robot arm must be at least 18 inches in length and be able to pick up an empty Styrofoam cup. Teams of students must agree on a design for the robot arm and identify what materials will be used. Students will draw a sketch of their agreed upon design prior to construction. Resulting robot arms are then tested and checked for range of motion and satisfaction of the given criteria. 
 
Objectives  
 
Learn design concepts. 
Learn teamwork. 
Learn problem solving techniques.   
Learn about simple machines. 
 
Anticipated Learner Outcomes 
As a result of this activity, students should develop an understanding of:  
 
design concepts 
teamwork needed in the design process 
impact of technology in manufacturing 
 
 
Lesson Activities  
 
Students design and build a working robotic arm from a set of everyday items with a goal of having the arm be able to pick up a Styrofoam cup.  Working in teams of three or four students, the students explore effective teamwork skills while learning simple robot mechanics.   
 
Resources/Materials 
 
3" wide and approx. 22" long strips of cardboard-- 5 or so 
Binder clips (different sizes)-- 8 or more 
Brads-- @10 
Clothespins-- 6 
Craft sticks--10-15  
Fishing line-- 3-4 feet 
Hangers-- 1 or 2 
Paper clips (diff. Sizes)-- 10-15 
Pencils-- 3-4 
Rubber bands (different sizes)--15  
Tape-- clear and masking (partial rolls should be fine) 
Twine-- 3-4 feet 
Various size scraps of cardboard--10 assorted 
 
Internet Connections 
 
TryEngineering (www.tryengineering.org
Design Your Own Robot (www.mos.org/robot/robot.html
FIRST Robotics Competition (www.usfirst.org
ITEA Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (www.iteaconnect.org/TAA
NSTA National Science Education Standards (www.nsta.org/publications/nses.aspx
NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (http://standards.nctm.org
Robot Books (www.robotbooks.com
 
Recommended Reading 
 
Artificial Intelligence: Robotics and Machine Evolution by David Jefferis (ISBN: 0778700461) 
Robotics, Mechatronics, and Artificial Intelligence: Experimental Circuit Blocks for Designers by Newton C. Braga (ISBN: 0750673893
Robot Builder's Sourcebook : Over 2,500 Sources for Robot Parts by Gordon McComb (ISBN: 0071406859
Robots (Fast Forward) by Mark Bergin (ISBN: 0531146162
 
Optional Writing Activity  
 
Write an essay (or paragraph depending on age) about how the invention of robots and robotics has impacted manufacturing. 
 
References 
 
Ralph D. Painter and other volunteers - Florida West Coast USA Section of IEEE URL: http://ewh.ieee.org/r3/floridawc/cms 
                                                            
Developed by IEEE as part of TryEngineering www.tryengineering.org 
 
Teacher Resources 
 
Divide your class into teams of three or four students, and provide student handout (below).  Students are then instructed to examine the materials provided (see list at start of lesson) and to work as a team to design and build a robot arm out of the materials.  The robot arm must be at least 18 inches in length and be able to pick up an empty Styrofoam cup.  Teams of students must agree on a design for the robot arm and identify what materials will be used.  Students should draw a sketch of their agreed upon design prior to construction. 
 
Explain that teamwork, trial, and error are part of the design process.  There is no "right" answer to the problem - each team's creativity will likely generate an arm that is unique from the others designed in your class. 
 
Extension Ideas 
 
"Humans and Robots," a NASA educational brief, describes the robotics features on the International 
Space Station. The brief's classroom activity is about making and using an ISS grapple fixture known as an end effector.  The 
 
Student Worksheet: 
 
How To Build Your Own Robot Arm 
 
You are a member of a team of three or four students, all working together to design and build a robot arm out of the following materials which are provided to you.  The robot arm must be at least 18 inches in length and be able to pick up an empty Styrofoam cup. Your team must agree on a design for the robot arm and identify what materials will be used. 
Your team should draw a sketch of their agreed upon design prior to construction. 
 
Part of the teamwork process is sharing ideas and determining which design your team will go with.  Trial and error are part of the design process.  There is no "right" answer to the problem - your team's creativity will likely generate an arm that is unique from the others designed in your class. 
 
Resources/Materials 
 
3" wide and approx. 22" long strips of cardboard-- 5 or so 
Binder clips (different sizes)-- 8 or more 
Brads-- @10 
Clothespins-- 6 
Craft sticks--10-15  
Fishing line-- 3-4 feet 
Hangers-- 1 or 2 
Paper clips (diff. Sizes)-- 10-15 
Pencils-- 3-4 
Rubber bands (different sizes)--15  
Tape-- clear and masking (partial rolls should be fine) 
Twine-- 3-4 feet 
Various size scraps of cardboard--10 assorted 
 
 
Student Worksheet: 
Robot Arm Exercise Questions 
 
 
Did you use all the materials provided to you?  Why, or why not? 
 
Which item was most critical to your robot arm design? 
 
How did working as a team help in the design process? 
 
Were there any drawbacks to designing as a team? 
 
What did you learn from the designs developed by other teams? 
 
Name three industries that make use of robots in manufacturing: 
 
Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks 
 
National Science Education Standards Grades 9-12 (ages 14 - 18) 
CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science  
As a result of their activities, all students should develop understanding of 
Motions and forces  
Interactions of energy and matter  
CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology 
As a result of activities, all students should develop 
Abilities of technological design  
Understandings about science and technology  
Standards for Technological Literacy - All Ages 
The Nature of Technology 
Standard 3: Students will develop an understanding of the relationships among technologies and the connections between technology and other fields of study. 
Technology and Society 
Standard 7: Students will develop an understanding of the influence of technology on history. 
Design 
Standard 9: Students will develop an understanding of engineering design. 
Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving. 
Abilities for a Technological World 
Standard 11: Students will develop abilities to apply the design process. 
The Designed World 
Standard 19: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use manufacturing technologies.