Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Robot jaws and robot hands

We learned about the various components that make up a robot (we did this over several days because there was SO much to learn!). Things like: 
  • Types of motors: electric (servo, DC, geared, stepper), hydraulic, pneumatic
  • Muscle wire for push/pull motion
  • Power: Batteries, circuit boards
  • Actuators, effectors, controllers 
  • Sensors (input, output, photoresistor, UV, sonar, radar, lidar, infrared, etc.)
This "can a robot tie your shoes?" activity is a good way to demonstrate some of the limitations that robots have when trying to do everyday human tasks.

There were a couple other activities we particularly liked. The first one was building this "robot hand." It is constructed very simply out of cardboard, strings, and drinking straws. 

This is basically what we did, although these instructions make it seem rather complicated, and it really isn't. You can just look at the picture above to see how it all goes together: sections of straw on small squares of cardboard, with tape connecting them to the main hand. And then straws threaded through it all. It moves with surprising agility for such a simple thing! We loved it.

This version, slightly different, looks pretty cool too!

The other hugely successful activity was making these robots arms, or "robot jaws" as we called them. They are a pretty good example of a common type of effector used in robots. We found our instructions here (where they are called "monster jaws"). They are really easy and fun to make!
I think the coolest thing about these is how the criss-cross construction makes them able to extend and contract so drastically! They look short and tiny and then suddenly…HOMP!
They provided everyone with many hours of chomp-y entertainment :)

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