Why do your biceps bulge?
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DISCUSS:

What do you think is going on inside your hands when you’re moving your fingers? Any ideas?

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DISCUSS:

Take a few moments to move the different parts of your body, and see if you can find all your joints.

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DISCUSS:

What do you think would actually be pulling on the strings?

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DISCUSS:

Describe how you might go about creating a robot hand that works just like yours.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration you just completed.
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Make a Robot Hand

To make a robot hand, get your thin cardboard and Robot Hand Template.

Glue the template to cardboard and cut on the dotted lines. Then watch the video on the next slide to see how to put it all together.

After students experiment with the robot hand, we suggest a class discussion.

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Discussion & Video

The robot hand can't do everything your hand can do.

Ask your student to experiment and figure out what their fingers and hands can do that the robot fingers and hands can't. Ask them: If you wanted to make the robot hand more like your hand, what would you need to add to the robot hand?

Discuss this question as a class. After your discussion, watch this video to hear some of the differences the Mystery Science team noticed.

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Additional Activities

  • Find out how your thumb is different from other fingers and why that’s very useful in this activity from NSTA.

  • Make a model of an arm and explore how bones and muscles work together in The Power of Togetherness from National Space Biomedical Research Institute.

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Readings:

These Common-Core-aligned readings are free with registration on ReadWorks. All readings include comprehension questions.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
futuristic Android by Humanrobo , used under CC BY-SA
orange robot by Alexander Kozusev , used under CC BY
roomba stuck in chair by Geekzine Mexico , used under CC BY-SA
Atlas complex futuristic robot by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
DARPA falling over by blue hippo films
Atlas robot by Boston Dynamics
firefighter and rescued child by SanchaiRat
girl lunging by axelle b
baby steps by Berenice Garcia , used under CC BY-SA
man running up hill by Alisha Vargas , used under CC BY-SA
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Ricky Romero by Keith Allison , used under CC BY-SA
Portola Palace Stairs by Bernt Rostad , used under CC BY-SA
child riding a bike by Jerry , used under CC BY-SA
Sydney Gonzalez Gymnast by Ruben Gonzales
white android by Hairygael , used under CC BY-SA
duracell batteries by Anton Fomkin , used under CC BY-SA
sandwich by Seph Swain , used under CC BY-SA
Integrated Circuit by Tomasz Mikołajczyk
brain by Sanandros , used under CC BY-SA
brain and nerves by KRITRIM VAULT , used under CC BY
human hand by Johnny Magnusson
robot hand by Peter Ohlmus
human hand bones by OpenStax College
human skeleton by Scott Anselmo , used under CC BY-SA
seattle building by Seattle Municipal Archives
building skeleton by Les Chatfield , used under CC BY-SA
hand x-ray by Noah Weiss
arduino hand robot by Peter Ohlmus
fried chicken by Evan-Amos
white hen by Agricultural Research Service
white king salmon fillet by Isaac Wedin , used under CC BY-SA
Strip Steak by Ɱ , used under CC BY-SA
Activity
rock em sock em by DJ , used under CC BY-SA
Other
Unit: Bicep by daniel64
Overview
Grade 4th
Topic Human Body, Senses, & The Brain
Focus Muscles & Skeleton
Print
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, students discover the mechanism by which their muscles control their bones to move their bodies. In the activity, Robot Finger, students construct a model of a human finger and observe how pulling on a string (a model for tendons) causes it to bend at the joints.

Preview activity

Number of students:
Glue Sticks
8 glue sticks
Rulers
30 rulers
Scissors
30 pairs
Stack of Paper
Used as a soft surface so that students can make indented lines for easier folding. A notebook will also work.
Details
30 stacks
Dot Stickers
We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom. Tape also works.
Details
30 stickers
Index Cards (3x5)
30 cards
Paper Clips
Small or medium, but not jumbo sized paper clips.
Details
60 clips
Thin Cardboard (6x8")
A recycled cereal box works well.
Details
3 square feet
Thin String
45 feet
Robot Finger Template printout Print 30 copies
Robot Hand Template printout Print 8 copies
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work on their own, but may need a partner to help with a few steps.

Prepare String

Cut enough string so that each student will have one piece of string that is 18 inches long.

Extend this Activity and Create Robot Hands

In the Extras section, we have a fun engineering extension activity where students combine four robot fingers to create a robot hand. We recommend having each group of four students assemble a hand using the robot fingers they each made.

Check our "Extras" for further instructions.

Overview
Grade 4th
Topic Human Body, Senses, & The Brain
Focus Muscles & Skeleton
Download this Mystery to your device so you can play it offline: