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Build Your Own Robot Arm

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Lesson Focus 
Develop a robot arm using common materials. Students will explore design, construction, teamwork, and materials selection and use.
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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.

Age Levels:

  • Learn design concepts.
  • Learn teamwork.
  • Learn problem solving techniques.
  • Learn about simple machines.
Anticipated Learner Outcomes 
  • 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.

  • 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

Download an adaptable PowerPoint presentation for use with lesson. (PPT, 3.29 MB)

To see portions of Build Your Own Robot Arm in action, view the following IEEE.tv video:

Alignment to Curriculum Frameworks

Curriculum alignment sheet is included in PDF.

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