BUILDING A BOT by Jason Moeller, Outreach & Homeschool Educator


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Adventure Science Center Blog

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BUILDING A BOT by Jason Moeller, Outreach & Homeschool Educator

Adam Savage, the former co-host of the Discovery Channel show MythBusters, eloquently answered the question “What is a Maker?” in this way: “Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals; we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once.”

As an educator at Adventure Science Center, I do both of those things every day as I work to create memorable science experiences for the students I teach. I get to make and showcase A LOT of cool things at the science center, but one of my favorite projects was a robotic arm that I built for our Outreach program.

Robotic arms are among the most common manufacturing robots, used to do a wide range of tasks. They can do simple jobs like screwing on the lids for peanut butter jars or they can be programmed for complex tasks such as constructing the cars we drive and the rockets we launch! A normal robotic arm is made up of seven segments, joined by six joints. This robotic arm closely resembles that of a human with its own version of a shoulder, an elbow and a wrist. These joints allow the robot six degrees of freedom, meaning it can pivot in six different directions when it performs a task. Humans, by contrast, can pivot in seven directions, as we can rotate our wrists in ways that robots can’t.

Enough about the robot itself - let's get building! This particular robot was created out of a kit from Banana Robotics. This website is a great resource for at-home kits, robotic parts and handy robot-building tools. You can purchase the exact robot we have at the science center here!

While kits often conjure up the idea of things being simple, that is often not the case! While this one was doable by an individual with some technical experience (me), I wouldn't call this a simple project. Robots tend to have a lot of parts and this arm was no exception. Counting the screws and wires, this nine-inch long, fifteen-inch high robotic arm has around 200 individual pieces, some of which I had to place into position with a fair amount of precision. 

To aid in the construction, the kit came with a 33 page manual with detailed step-by-step instructions. Each piece was labeled using a standard letter and number system to correspond with the manual. Despite those helpful steps and the recommended build time of one hour, the project took me about four hours to build. Which just goes to show that, more often than not, projects can be more of a time investment than you planned. The results, however, nearly always make it well worth the work!

Curious about how other robots help us get the job done?

Explore even more...

- Jason Moeller, Outreach & Homeschool Educator

Posted by Anna Leigh Goolsby at 11:20 AM
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