Students Build Working Robotic Arms

By Julie Weakley Mar 21, 2017

As the third quarter came to a close, the seventh-grade Robotics I students designed and built their own working robotic arms from household materials. How did students who had little to no experience with robotics complete the task? They began by learning about Unimate, the very first robot to be used industrially. Unimate was created by American inventor George Devol and later utilized by GM in the early 1960s on automotive assembly lines. The use of a robot to replace human workers revolutionized the manufacturing industry. Since Unimate's implementation, many other robotic arms have been created and used for a variety of industrial purposes including pick and place, palletizing, stacking, etc. Furthermore, in today's day and age, robotic arms are used for other purposes as well - medically in surgeries, on the International Space Station, and even for search and rescue operations.

After studying the history of robotic arms, the students had a chance to put their newly gained knowledge to the test. Most did not believe it would be possible to create a working robotic arm from materials like cardboard, string, straws, paper towel rolls, etc., but the students accepted the challenge and took the project to a whole new level. They conducted extensive research and learned how to use simple machines and hydraulics to operate their robotic arms. The products of their efforts were incredible!

Many valuable lessons were learned throughout the unit: operating a model robotic arm was extremely challenging, and problem-solving was a natural byproduct of the creative process. Most importantly, these seventh graders experienced how enormously satisfying it was when they saw their robotic arms start as ideas and gradually take shape through persistent hard work and effort. Hats off to the Robotics I class for such exceptional work!

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