The DIY Robot Hand is a simple and inventive engineering activity that will give your kids the opportunity to dabble in the world of robotics! With just three household items—straws, paper, and string—students can create a moving, bendable hand. This activity encourages exploration of robotics, engineering, and creative thinking, making it an awesome activity for young STEAM learners.
- Standard drinking straws
- Thick (smoothie) type straws
- White card stock
- Yarn or String (various colors if possible)
First, place the white card stock down on a solid surface. Use the pencil to trace around your hand – the bigger the hand the better! Cut the hand outline out. Place hand back on paper to mark joints. Fold the paper hand at marked joint locations.
We cut our standard straws into a variety of sizes – as indicated, we began with tiny straws at the end of the finger, becoming bigger as we got to the wrist to represent the bones of the hand. We then taped them down. At the wrist, we taped down the thicker, smoothie straw.
Using yarn or string , cut five pieces into about a foot long each.
Tie a knot or knots at one end (we had to do multiple). Fish the non-knotted end through the straws, continuing through the smoothie straw. You may choose to use different colored string or yarn for each finger if you’d like so you know which yarn goes through each finger. All colors should meet at the wrist.
Once you are sure the knots are secure, pull on yarn or string hanging from the smoothie straw – you should see your fingers move!
Not only do kids get to design their hand, the engineering and robotic parts play out as we thread the string and demonstrate the movement. This project is an additional way to encourage student involvement in technology. Some of our fingers moved better than others!
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Photos & content by: Heather Kucenski