Do you have a child who is into robots like mine? If so, I’ve got a great engineering and technology experiment for you to try out today!
Building a simple robotic hand using straws and yarn is an exciting project that combines art, engineering, and science. This hands-on activity will not only provide hours of entertainment but also introduce your child to the fascinating world of robotics and basic engineering principles.
Let’s “Do the Robot Dance” (one of our favorite songs)!
How to make the Robot Hands engineering and technology experiment
Supplies you will need
For this experiment, you will need the following:
- 5 straws
- String or yarn
- Cardboard (large enough to cover your hand)
- Optional: colored paper
Before you start
Watch your child around the scissors and in case there are any sharp corners left in your straw pieces.
Here is how to do this experiment with your child:
Step 1: Make cuts in all of your straws
We are going to make angled cuts along each straw to mimic the joints in our fingers. Hold a straw up to your finger and mark where your joints are, then cut an angled cut at each joint.
Step 2: Cut and thread the string or yarn
Thread the string or yarn through each straw and tape the string to the end of the straw so it stays put.
Then, leave several inches of string or yarn below the straw so you can pull it.
Step 3: Prep the cardboard backing
You can go one of two ways here: you can either trace your hand on a piece of cardboard and cut it out, then tape the straw “fingers” to it, or you can place a colored piece of paper on a piece of cardboard to make your straw “fingers” pop.
I chose to use colored paper on a rectangular piece of cardboard for simplicity. I taped down a piece of colored paper to the cardboard.
Then, tape the base of the robotic fingers to the cardboard so the rest of the fingers are free to move.
Step 4: Make your robotic hand move!
To make your robotic hand move, simply tug on the string or yarn to make the fingers move!
See how many different movements you can make with the hand (like a peace sign, rock ‘n roll), or if your robotic hand is strong enough to pick something up!
The lesson behind the Robot Hands engineering and technology experiment
This experiment teaches:
- Basic anatomy and biomechanics
- Engineering principles
- Creativity and innovation
How it works
This experiment involves creating a robotic hand using straws, yarn or string, and tape.
The straws represent the bones of the hand, the cuts in the straws represent the finger’s joints, and the yarn acts as the muscles and tendons, connecting the straws to the wrist.
By pulling the yarn at the wrist, the hand’s fingers move, demonstrating basic principles of biomechanics and showing how muscles and joints work together to produce motion.
Basic anatomy and biomechanics
Building a robot hand gives kids an analogy to how our own hands move (plus, most kids love robots!).
By explaining that the straws are like the bones in our hands and the yarn/string acts like the tendons and muscles, kids can start to understand the basic anatomy of our hands. Plus, they can learn more about the biomechanics behind bending and straightening our hands.
Building a robotic hand introduces kids to engineering concepts as they figure out the design and structure of how to build it.
So many variables go into the construction of a robotic hand, like how to make the hand move smoothly and efficiently, how much yarn to use to ensure it covers all of the fingers, and problem-solving when yarn gets caught or the fingers do not move properly.
Creativity and innovation
To add an extra element, kids can get creative with their robotic hands and draw fingernails, color the fingers, and customize their robotic hand.
They can also experiment with different designs to see how small adjustments can impact the functionality of their robotic hand. What if we didn’t add as many knuckles into our hand? How does that affect how the fingers bend?
More engineering experiments to try out with your child
- Build a Straw Structure: Put your engineering skills to the test to see how much weight your structure can hold!
- DIY Stethoscope: Make a stethoscope and teach about how we can use this doctor’s tool
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