4 Things to Avoid with the Robotic Hand Challenge

So much Fun!  My students were a little skeptical when I started talking about this challenge.

Turns out- they loved it! (I think their skepticism was in not understanding what we were building!)

And then they learned so much. That's a win-win for me (and for them). So, as always, let me share a few things- especially four things to absolutely avoid when you try this.

Need a real-life STEM engineering task? How about creating a model of a robotic hand? Have a quick discussion about how the hand works and then design a model. This challenge features choosing from several different materials for the hand and then creating fingers that lift and lower. The resource includes lab sheets, a scoring rubric, and photos and tips to make this successful for your students! #STEM #elementary


I am almost always guilty of trying things and I have no idea what's going to happen. Now, I don't mean things like jumping out of an airplane (although I have done that)- just the small things in the STEM Lab. I invent the challenges and we try them.

Sometimes this works great and other times I learn what not to do. So, let me help you! (That is, after all, what this blog is for!) Let's get going with these four tips:

  • Pre-teach. Pre-teach. Pre-teach.
  • Stuff the plastic hands first.
  • Tying knots is hard.
  • Allow enough time!

Pre-Teach!

My students were rightfully confused about this Robotic Hand challenge. Here's how I solved that!

I gave them these instructions:

  • Hold your hand out in front of you with your palm facing outward. 
  • Use the other hand and lightly place a fingertip on the first tendon- below your pointer finger.
  • Now, curl your pointer finger. (They should be able to feel and see the movement of the tendon.)
  • Now, keep your hand in front of you and place your fingertips on the muscle in your forearm.
  • Curl all of your fingers into a fist. (They should be able to feel the muscle movement and see the tendons move in their hand.)
We had a major AHA moment over this simple demonstration.

Then we looked at a few images of robotic hands.

Need a real-life STEM engineering task? How about creating a model of a robotic hand? Have a quick discussion about how the hand works and then design a model. This challenge features choosing from several different materials for the hand and then creating fingers that lift and lower. The resource includes lab sheets, a scoring rubric, and photos and tips to make this successful for your students! #STEM #elementary
In the photo above look at the hand that is all blue. On the fingers of that hand, the straws represent the finger areas and the tendons that lead from the hand to the bones of those fingers.

The lower straws represent the tendons of the hand - the tendons students could see moving when they curled their fingers.

By pulling the strings the fingers lift.

AVOID just introducing this and expecting students to jump right in. Pre-teach by a demonstration and some online photos. (I found mine by just googling robotic hands.)

Stuff the Hands First

We used two different methods for creating our hands. Students could choose a plastic glove or make a hand from cardboard.

We learned the hard way that adding the stuffing to the plastic hand after taping on the straws was the wrong way to do this!

Need a real-life STEM engineering task? How about creating a model of a robotic hand? Have a quick discussion about how the hand works and then design a model. This challenge features choosing from several different materials for the hand and then creating fingers that lift and lower. The resource includes lab sheets, a scoring rubric, and photos and tips to make this successful for your students! #STEM #elementary
In the photo above there are two things to avoid!

First, the team taped the straws in place and then later tried to get the stuffing inside. We found that the straws came loose a lot as the stuffing was added and just meant a lot of repairs. 

Secondly, in that photo, you might notice that the straws are whole. The team wanted to use the bendy part of the straw as the joint movement in the fingers. All other teams cut straws into pieces to represent the sections of each finger.

So, did this technique work? Yes, the fingers actually did lift! However, they did not go back down when the string was released. The team had to move the fingers back into place. It was a great learning experience.

AVOID stuffing last and it really does work better to cut the straws into pieces.

Tying Knots is Hard

Oh, boy, I knew this already, but had forgotten it!

Kids know how to tie their shoes, but when you tell them to tie a knot they often do not know what you mean.

What I mean is double tie the string so it forms a hard knot that won't come loose.

Let me explain. We needed to tie the string to the ends of each finger.

Need a real-life STEM engineering task? How about creating a model of a robotic hand? Have a quick discussion about how the hand works and then design a model. This challenge features choosing from several different materials for the hand and then creating fingers that lift and lower. The resource includes lab sheets, a scoring rubric, and photos and tips to make this successful for your students! #STEM #elementary
You can see this more easily on the cardboard hands. We punched a hole in the ends of the fingers with a hole punch. To attach the string- thread the string through the hole and then tie it back to the string around the end of the finger. Tie it again and you have a knot that will not come undone. 

But, students skipped the step of wrapping the string over the top of the finger. They wanted to tie a big knot on the back side of the hole and hoped it would not pop through the hole. Except it did.

AVOID tying knots. Just have them tape the end of the string.

Allow Enough Time

This one is a valuable lesson. To really go over the way the hand works and look at images and then complete the model of the hand will take more than 45 minutes. None of my classes completely finished this in our 45-minute class session. A couple of classes stored the partially finished hands until the following week and some stored finished hands to be shared the following week.

Need a real-life STEM engineering task? How about creating a model of a robotic hand? Have a quick discussion about how the hand works and then design a model. This challenge features choosing from several different materials for the hand and then creating fingers that lift and lower. The resource includes lab sheets, a scoring rubric, and photos and tips to make this successful for your students! #STEM #elementary
Count on this taking at least an hour! In the end, you will have fabulous robotic hand models and the students will have learned a handful of new things!

AVOID trying this unless you have time to complete it or know that you will have to store the models and finish on another day!


This challenge is in my Quick Challenge line- not because it can be completed quickly. It's because of the small number of materials. Try it! Your students will love it!

You can find this resource in two places:


Need a real-life STEM engineering task? How about creating a model of a robotic hand? Have a quick discussion about how the hand works and then design a model. This challenge features choosing from several different materials for the hand and then creating fingers that lift and lower. The resource includes lab sheets, a scoring rubric, and photos and tips to make this successful for your students! #STEM #elementary






2 comments

  1. Hi, thank you for your share, it's very helpful. I have a question: can you tell me how old the student can do this activity?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have tried this challenge with 4th and 5th graders. Third graders might be okay with it, too- especially late in the year. Thanks for the inquiry!

      Delete

Back to Top