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STEM and Careers Class Builds Robotic Arms

Students build Robotic Arms using hydraulics.

 For the past few weeks, Mrs. Owens' 8th grade Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and Careers classes have been building robotic arms to learn more about how hydraulics can be used to move a machine. My fellow students and I each worked with a partner to build a robotic arm that moved using hydraulic systems.

To construct our robots, we were given kits with instructions and were required to use a variety of tools and techniques to assemble the robots. These tools ranged from hardware equipment (such as screwdrivers and hammers) to wire cutters and reamers (which are used to widen holes). Through this project, we learned how to use the tools correctly and safely.


We also had to assemble at least four hydraulic systems to make our robot move. These systems were created by connecting two syringes (with plungers and pistons to push the liquid through) together with a tube, filling them with water in a precise way that would allow the whole system to move together. The hydraulic systems were then used to move the robot’s joints, allowing it to bend, turn, and move light objects.
The project also required us to make connections to how hydraulics are used in the real world. In the second part of the project, each group had to come up with a realistic function for their robot. They would then construct an object out of building blocks called Fischer Techniques, which are fairly similar to Legos, and move it with their robot. Groups also had to demonstrate this for the teacher, and explain why they were moving that object. For example, if students were moving a car, they had to explain why they were moving it (perhaps because it was broken down, or stuck in a ditch, etc.).


For this part of the project, students were encouraged to be creative and invent plausible situations that relate to everyday life. Among the objects my peers moved were; stalled cars, heavy statues, crates in a shipyard, and a fallen tree that was blocking the road. My partner, Katie May, and I used our hydraulic arm to lift a paraplegic out of their wheelchair and into a swimming pool, simulating the moving chairs at some swimming pools that perform the same function. A link to a video of our project can be found here.

This project served as a great learning opportunity for me and my fellow students. We were taught how a basic hydraulic system works, and were able to use syringes and tubes to create our systems. We were also taught how hydraulics can be used to move different parts of a machine, and how they do so in real life situations. We also learned about the basic relationship between force, area, and pressure, three of the key concepts that are involved in hydraulic systems.

Overall, the hydraulic robots project provided my classmates and me with a great, hands-on learning experience. It gave us a chance to experiment with hydraulics, a concept that few science classes ever teach. The project also promoted creativity and gave us insight into how the things we learn in class apply to the real world. I thoroughly enjoyed the project and thought that it was a fun and interesting way to learn about the basics of hydraulics.

My classmates had this to say about the experience; Oliva Chu said, “Robots can be helpful, but have limitations.”, Chris Toggweiler said, “This is fun!” Rory Keefe stated, “I learned how to use hydraulics, what they are and how to create a hydraulic piston.” and Selena Diaz said, “It’s hard to build a robot so you should read instructions and pay attention.”

Written by: Alyssa Schoff and Katie May
Posted: Dec 19, 2014 by Judy Davis

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