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Human Machine    Mystery 1

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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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Activity Prep

Step 1: Get supplies and print handouts.

Each student will need:

  • a Robot Finger template — print it here
  • scissors
  • a ruler
  • a notebook or pile of paper — Students use this as a soft surface that lets them make indented lines that make accurate folding easy.
  • scissors
  • a 3x5 card
  • 1 sticker measuring about ½” by ½”. (We use round sticky dots. You can use tape instead of stickers, but we find it easier to hand out stickers than small strips of tape.)
  • 18” of string
  • 2 paperclips (small or medium-sized; not jumbo)

Step 2: Decide if your class will make robot hands.

In Extras, we include instructions for assembling robot fingers to make a robot hand. If you have time, this is a fun extension of the activity. We recommend having each group of four students assemble a hand, using the fingers they made.

To make a robot hand, each group of four students will need:

  • 4 completed Robot Fingers
  • a Robot Hand template — print it here
  • a sheet of cardboard that’s at least 6” by 8” (Cardboard from a cereal box is the right stiffness. If you need to buy some, look for “light chipboard” at a craft store or Amazon.)
  • a glue stick (for sticking paper to cardboard)
  • scissors

Check our "Extras" for further instructions.

Beginning Activity: Robot Finger
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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, you need the supplies listed in Step 2 of activity prep.

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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Three 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.

  • Dissect a chicken wing and learn more about joints with this advanced activity from Arizona Science Center. (Only for students capable of safely using sharp dissection tools)

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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
white android by Hairygael , used under CC BY-SA
sandwich by Seph Swain , used under CC BY-SA
brain by Sanandros , used under CC BY-SA
Strip Steak by , used under CC BY-SA
Activity
rock em sock em by DJ , used under CC BY-SA
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