This tutorial provides background information on robotic arm technology and practical instructions for building your own. The author includes free-body diagrams, schematic drawings, help with performing force calculations in the joints, directions for setting torque parameters, and detailed explanations of each component in the system. For learners with little background in physics or engineering, the Robot Arm Calculator Tool determines the lifting capability of the robot arm.
This resource is appropriate for courses in introductory physics or applied physics.
Please note that this resource requires
Editor's Note:See Related Materials to quickly build a multimedia module for high school on the physics of a robot arm.
Metadata instance created
March 15, 2012
by Caroline Hall
October 7, 2013
by Caroline Hall
Last Update when Cataloged:
February 28, 2012
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
1. The Nature of Science
1C. The Scientific Enterprise
6-8: 1C/M3. No matter who does science and mathematics or invents things, or when or where they do it, the knowledge and technology that result can eventually become available to everyone in the world.
2. The Nature of Mathematics
2B. Mathematics, Science, and Technology
9-12: 2B/H3. Mathematics provides a precise language to describe objects and events and the relationships among them. In addition, mathematics provides tools for solving problems, analyzing data, and making logical arguments.
3. The Nature of Technology
3B. Design and Systems
9-12: 3B/H3. Complex systems have layers of controls. Some controls operate particular parts of the system and some control other controls. Even fully automatic systems require human control at some point.
9-12: 3B/H5. The more parts and connections a system has, the more ways it can go wrong. Complex systems usually have components to detect, back up, bypass, or compensate for minor failures.
11. Common Themes
6-8: 11A/M2. Thinking about things as systems means looking for how every part relates to others. The output from one part of a system (which can include material, energy, or information) can become the input to other parts. Such feedback can serve to control what goes on in the system as a whole.
6-8: 11A/M3. Any system is usually connected to other systems, both internally and externally. Thus a system may be thought of as containing subsystems and as being a sub-system of a larger system.
9-12: 11A/H2. Understanding how things work and designing solutions to problems of almost any kind can be facilitated by systems analysis. In defining a system, it is important to specify its boundaries and subsystems, indicate its relation to other systems, and identify what its input and output are expected to be.
9-12: 11A/H4. Even in some very simple systems, it may not always be possible to predict accurately the result of changing some part or connection.
Next Generation Science Standards
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions (HS-PS2)
Students who demonstrate understanding can: (9-12)
Analyze data to support the claim that Newton's second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration. (HS-PS2-1)
Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)
Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
Newton's second law accurately predicts changes in the motion of macroscopic objects. (9-12)
Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (PS3.B)
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems. (9-12)
Mathematical expressions, which quantify how the stored energy in a system depends on its configuration (e.g. relative positions of charged particles, compression of a spring) and how kinetic energy depends on mass and speed, allow the concept of conservation of energy to be used to predict and describe system behavior. (9-12)
The availability of energy limits what can occur in any system. (9-12)
Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems (ETS1.A)
Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them. (9-12)
Developing Possible Solutions (ETS1.B)
When evaluating solutions it is important to take into account a range of constraints including cost, safety, reliability and aesthetics and to consider social, cultural and environmental impacts. (9-12)
Optimizing the Design Solution (ETS1.C)
The iterative process of testing the most promising solutions and modifying what is proposed on the basis of the test results leads to greater refinement and ultimately to an optimal solution. (6-8)
Criteria may need to be broken down into simpler ones that can be approached systematically, and decisions about the priority of certain criteria over others (trade-offs) may be needed. (9-12)
Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)
Systems and System Models (K-12)
When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models. (9-12)
Structure and Function (K-12)
Investigating or designing new systems or structures requires a detailed examination of the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and connections of components to reveal its function and/or solve a problem. (9-12)
Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World (K-12)
New technologies can have deep impacts on society and the environment, including some that were not anticipated. Analysis of costs and benefits is a critical aspect of decisions about technology. (9-12)
Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology (K-12)
Science and engineering complement each other in the cycle known as research and development (R&D). (9-12)
Science is a Human Endeavor (3-12)
Science and engineering are influenced by society and society is influenced by science and engineering. (9-12)
Science is a result of human endeavors, imagination, and creativity. (9-12)
Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)
Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
Analyzing data in 9–12 builds on K–8 and progresses to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data. (9-12)
Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. (9-12)
Asking Questions and Defining Problems (K-12)
Asking questions and defining problems in grades 9–12 builds from grades K–8 experiences and progresses to formulating, refining, and evaluating empirically testable questions and design problems using models and simulations. (9-12)
Analyze complex real-world problems by specifying criteria and constraints for successful solutions. (9-12)
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (K-12)
Constructing explanations and designing solutions in 9–12 builds on K–8 experiences and progresses to explanations and designs that are supported by multiple and independent student-generated sources of evidence consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories. (9-12)
Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations. (9-12)
Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (K-12)
Planning and carrying out investigations in 9-12 builds on K-8 experiences and progresses to include investigations that provide evidence for and test conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical models. (9-12)
Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly. (9-12)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
Mathematical and computational thinking at the 9–12 level builds on K–8 and progresses to using algebraic thinking and analysis, a range of linear and nonlinear functions including trigonometric functions, exponentials and logarithms, and computational tools for statistical analysis to analyze, represent, and model data. Simple computational simulations are created and used based on mathematical models of basic assumptions. (9-12)
Use mathematical representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations. (9-12)
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