SCIENCE OF THE SUMMER OLYMPICS: Sarah Robles and the Mechanics of Weightlifting - An Engineering Perspective (Grades 6-12) Print

Objective:

Framework for K–12 Science Education: PS2.A: Forces and Motion, PS2.B: Types of Interactions, PS2.B: Stability and Instability in Physical Systems, ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems, ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World


Introduction Notes:

Science of the Summer Olympics

Sarah Robles and the Mechanics of Weightlifting

An Engineering Perspective (Grades 6-12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning Information

 

Brian Zenowich, a robotics engineer at Barrett Technology, Inc., explains how he and others working in the field of biomimetics use nature to help design and engineer a variety of devices, including some of those used in medicine.  Zenowich discusses and demonstrates his company’s Whole Arm Manipulator, or WAM™ Arm, and compares it to how Olympian weightlifter Sarah Robles’ arms work.  Zenowich also discusses some of the limitations of the robotic arm.

 

0:00     0:12     Series Opening

0:13     0:54     Introducing Sarah Robles

0:55     1:14     Zenowich’s comments on Sarah’s abilities

1:15     1:33     Field of biomimetics

1:34     1:46     Barrett Technology’s WAM™ Arm

1:47     2:03     Comparison of the WAM™ Arm to Sarah’s arms

2:04     2:20     Haptic nature of the WAM™ Arm

2:21     2:32     How biomimetics robots are designed for different uses

2:33     3:07     Sarah’s lifts being filmed with a high-speed camera

3:08     3:31     Zenowich analyzing the lifts

3:32     3:38     Sarah explaining the mechanics of lifting

3:39     4:32     Using the WAM™ Arm to try to mimic Sarah’s movements

4:33     4:42     Constraints of using the WAM™ Arm

4:43     5:02     Sarah explaining technique

5:03     5:22     Summary

5:23     5:35     Closing Credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Connect to Science

Framework for K–12 Science Education  PS2.A: Forces and Motion

                                                                    PS2.B: Types of Interactions

                                                                    PS2.B: Stability and Instability in Physical Systems

Related Science Concepts

         Forces

         Motion—pitch, yaw, and roll

         Physical properties of matter

         Musculoskeletal system

(page 1)

 

Connect to Engineering

Framework for K–12 Science Education

      ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

      ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

 

Engineering in Action

The engineering addressed in Science of the Summer Olympics (SOTSO): Sarah Robles and the Mechanics of Weightlifting is a field called biomimetics.  Biomimetics engineers like Brain Zenowich and his colleagues do not strive to exactly mimic nature – but instead use nature as models for developing new materials and designs.  In the video, Zenowich demonstrates his company’s Whole Arm Manipulator, or WAM™ Arm, which was designed and built after compiling data from countless observations of the human arm and how it moves.  This effort involved the engineering knowledge-generating activity experimental engineering research.

 

Engineers who work in the fascinating field of biomimetics have an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints.  In the case of the WAM™ Arm, for example, the wrist, shoulder, and elbow of the robotic arm have pitch, or up and down movement; yaw, or side-to-side movement; and roll, or circular movement, just like the human wrist and shoulder do.  However, the engineered arm lacks many skills that are second-nature to most humans, including sight and vision processing and object location and identification skills, just to name a few.

 

Take Action with Students

Encourage students to explore solutions while working within constraints to design, build, and test a simple robotic grasping device using the Design Investigations section of Inquiry Outline as a guide.  As a class, set up constraints within which students will have to test their ideas, such as a limited selection of materials with which to work, and a maximum length and mass of no more than 50 cm and 500 grams, respectively, for the device.  Constraints should also include an ability to manipulate the finished product easily enough so it can be used to pick up several common objects of different sizes, shapes, and textures; hold each for 10 seconds; and move the objects without dropping them or using the pitch, yaw, and/or roll of their own hands.

 

Inquiry Outline for Teachers

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 7.

 

Explore Understanding

To introduce how the field of biomimetics can be seen in many of the materials, products, and devices around them, use the following or similar prompts to spark student thinking.

         Early aerospace engineers (or airplane designers) might have studied….

         Bullet-proof vests, which are lightweight but very strong, may have been designed by studying….

         The treads on a car’s tires may have been fashioned after….

(page 2)

 

 

         Cold climate clothing may have been designed by studying….

         Researchers developing sealants for metals and concrete may have studied how skin is able to….

         Engineers who develop robotic arms to do repetitive factory tasks might study athletes to help them in their research because….

         Designers of human prostheses might benefit from studies of….

 

Show the video SOTSO: Sarah Robles and the Mechanics of Weightlifting.

Continue the discussion of biomimetics by asking how observations and studies of Sarah’s lifting might be used in everyday applications.  Use the following or similar prompts to start and sustain the discussion.

         When I watched the video, I thought about….

         Sarah’s ability to lift large amounts of mass is related to….

         The expert in the video claimed that _____ because….

         The WAM™ Arm is like Sarah’s arms in that it….

         The WAM™ Arm is different from Sarah’s arms in that it….

         Some constraints of the WAM™ Arm include….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the following prompt: This video makes me think about these questions…. Have small groups list questions they have about how to design, build, and use a simple robotic hand within the given constraints.  Ask groups to choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable.  Some examples include the following:

         What types of materials could be used to make a simple robotic hand?

         Of the materials available to you, which do you think would be best to use?

         How should the materials be assembled within your constraints?

         What type of robotic technique will you be simulating as you manipulate the grasping device?

 

Design Investigations

Choose one of these two options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level.

 

Open Choice Approach (Copy Master pages 6-7)

Small groups might join together to agree on one question for which they will explore the answer, or each small group might explore something different.  Students should brainstorm to plan their design strategies.  Remind them to work within the size and materials constraints and to think about designing the grasping device so that it can pick up a variety of small objects – such as marshmallows, marbles, empty or full soda cans, coins, pencils, pink rubber erasers, a single sheet of paper, or highlighters, among others – and move the objects using pitch, yaw, and/or roll.  Also remind them that this is a robotic device that doesn’t have to completely mimic the design of their own hands.

         Given the design constraints, the best materials from those available might be….

         We will use _____ to hold the different pieces of the hand together.

         To conduct the investigation safely, we….

(page 3)

 

Focused Approach (Copy Master pages 7-8)

The following exemplifies one way students might design a simple robotic hand.  Use questions such as the following to spark their thinking.

         How does your own hand pick up objects?

         What makes your fingers move?

         Do you use different amounts of force to grasp different types of objects?

         When something starts to slip from your fingers, what is your instinctive reaction?

1.      Allow time for groups to examine all of the materials they might use in their designs, such as plastic knives, spoons, or forks; rigid wooden skewers or chopsticks; unsharpened pencils of different lengths; sturdy drinking straws; plastic coffee stirrers; craft sticks; small, empty margarine containers; foam or plastic drink cups; stiff cardboard tubes; wooden or plastic rulers of various sizes; strips of sandpaper; double-sided tape; rubber bands; twist ties; string; and glue or tape.  Give students free rein in determining which materials they plan to use, as long as they are considering the length and mass constraints.

2.      Encourage students to think about some of the physical properties of the materials they are considering using in their designs by providing prompts such as the following:

         We plan to use _____ because it/they….

         We are not going to use _____ because we think it/they will….

3.      As students consider their materials choices, ask them to observe the objects they will be picking up with their robotic hands.  Use the following prompts to guide their thinking.

         Picking up the _____ might be harder to do than picking up the _____ because….

         To pick up the coin or piece of paper, our robotic hand must be able to….

4.      Students might use a simple set of chopsticks and fasten them together with a rubber band and small wad of paper (as is often done for children who have not yet mastered the mechanics of eating with these implements).  Such a design allows student to vary the force they will use to pick up objects with different textures.  Such a device, however, might not be able to grasp and hold larger objects or objects with smooth surfaces.

5.      Students might continue their investigation by using their results to redesign the device using different materials, or by remaking their device in the same way but making it larger or smaller than the original device.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

As students carry out their investigations, ensure they record their observations of their devices in action either as short videos or as detailed drawings.  Students should analyze their observations in order to state one or more claims.  Encourage students with this prompt:  As evidenced by… I claim… because….

 

Example claims might include the following:

As evidenced bythe robotic chopstick hand, I claim that it is proficient for picking up and holding small objects because the two pieces of the hand could be easily opened and closed.

 

As evidenced bythe robotic chopstick hand, I claim that it is not proficient for picking up and holding heavy objects because it could not form a good grip on a full soda can.

 

(page 4)

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their designs with those of others—such as classmates who designed the same or a similar device, material they found on the Internet, an expert they chose to interview, or their textbooks.  Remind students to credit their original sources in their comparisons.  Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as the following:

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

My grasping device was similar to the WAM™ Arm because I could grasp certain objects with it, hold the objects, and make them roll by rolling my own hand.  My device was different from the WAM™ Arm in its complexity and composition.  These things support the idea that machines can mimic nature but can’t really duplicate it.

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before.  Ask groups to give short presentations about their investigations and encourage questions from the audience on group members’ thinking process as well as their procedures and results.  Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence…

         My ideas changed in the following ways…

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about...

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 9.

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Visualize a Concept:  Play the video segment from 1:47 to 2:03.  Then replay the segment, pausing it at 1:55, 1:58, and 2:01 so that students can mimic the motions of pitch, yaw, and roll with their own arms and hands.  You might also want to ask any volunteers who are ‘double-jointed’ to demonstrate these and other movements they are able to make with these joints. Use the video and students’ motions to review what is meant by the term biomimetics.

 

Homework:  Use the video as an impetus for students to research at least 10 materials or products in their everyday lives that are the result of biomimetics research.  Ask them not to use any of the examples already discussed in this lesson.  Encourage students to pick one of the materials or products, and use information about it to create an ad for the product.

(page 5)


 

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these E’s:

Explain:  Use the information in the video, and students’ results from the focused inquiry idea, to support your lesson on how the joints, bones, and muscles of the human arm and hand allow these structures to be both agile and dexterous.

 

Extend:  Have students brainstorm to form a list of different ways in which robotic devices are or could be used in factories, around the house, in your school, and in hospitals.

 

Connect to … STEM

Technology/Health

Have students research to find out how the field of prosthetics has benefited from biomimetics research.  Suggest students compare some of the earliest prostheses with their more modern counterparts.  Students might also compare their own robotic grasping devices with modern prosthetic arms and hands.  Encourage students to prepare an electronic presentation of their findings to share.

 

Use Video in Assessment

Replay the video segment 0:33–0:36 with the sound off two or three times, then provide students with the following instructions:

Explain how each of these three robots uses pitch, yaw, and/or roll to successfully complete the tasks shown. Be as detailed as possible with your answers.

 

 

 

 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: Sarah Robles and

the Mechanics of Weightlifting

 

Use this as a guide to design, build, and test your robotic grasper within the discussed constraints. Record your notes and observations in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose your materials and brainstorm with your teammates how you will construct and test your robot.  Take notes in your science notebook, which should include safety precautions as needed.

         Given the design constraints, the best materials from those available might be….

         I will use _____ to hold the different pieces of the hand together.

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations as detailed drawings that include labels and/or short videos.

 

(page 6)

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your drawings and, if applicable, videos, and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data shows.  Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your design with classmates who built the same or similar device.  Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert.  How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) what I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         I claim that my ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

 

 

 

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of the Summer Olympics: Sarah Robles and

the Mechanics of Weightlifting

 

Use this guide to design, build, and test a simple robotic hand, within given constraints.  Record your notes and observations in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

How can we design, build, and test a simple robotic hand?

Design Investigations

What things should you consider when choosing your materials and designing and building your robotic hand?  Use these prompts to help you.

         Of the materials available, I think that the best might be ________ because….

         Picking up the _____ might be harder to do than picking up the _____ because….

         To pick up the coin or piece of paper, my robotic hand must be able to….

 

(page 7)

 

         To build the robotic hand and stay within the constraints, I will….

         To be safe, I need to….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations as detailed, labeled drawings.  If you make videos of your design process and your testing, record the observations as drawings below.  Include short descriptions of what each drawing shows. Use the next page if you need more space.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence you observed. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and evaluate your design with classmates who made the same or similar devices or with classmates who made different robotic hands.  Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert.  How do your findings compare?  Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out.  How does it fit with what you already knew?  How does it change what you thought you knew?

         My ideas have changed from the beginning of this lesson because of this evidence….

         My ideas changed in the following ways….

         When thinking about the claims made by the expert, I am confused about....

         One part of the investigation I am most proud of is….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 8)


 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question had a yes/no answer, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data (e.g. number of trials, control of variables) was not sufficient.

Variables were clearly identified and controlled as needed with steps and trials that resulted in data that could be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment was used and only some safe practices needed for this investigation were followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and Data

Observations were not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations were made, but were not very detailed, or data appear invalid or were not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations were made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim was marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim was backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflection was limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

(page 9)

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