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Design, construct, and test a virtual bionic arm in this interactive simulation. Users will first investigate the components used to make bionic arms, then work within a budget to build their own design. Decisions must be made about materials, type of gripping device, and type of motor. The ideal bionic arm will have a good range of motion, the dexterity of a human hand, strength to lift a heavy object, and withstand heavy use. But can such a device be constructed within budget?

This item is part of a collection of lessons and online games developed to help students think like an engineer and make decisions that apply an understanding of physics and engineering.
It is part of TryEngineering.org, a website maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Please note that this resource requires Shockwave.
Editor's Note: A bionic arm combines robotics, biotechnology, electronics, and physics. At the middle school level, students can explore materials science, torque, and force required to grip objects. The high school physics teacher could introduce force calculations and frictional force for robotic gripping. See Related Materials for a lesson plan on building a robot arm from common household items, plus a tutorial for building a more complex robot arm.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Applications of Newton's Laws
= Dynamic Torque
- Statics of Rigid Bodies
= Stresses
- Work and Energy
Education Practices
- Active Learning
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- High School
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Game
= Interactive Simulation
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Minimal Danger   No Safety Equipment Necessary  

Intended Users:
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2010 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
applied physics, bionics, computer games, engineering games, engineering physics, mechanical engineering, physics games, robot arms
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created March 14, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
August 27, 2015 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
June 30, 2011

Next Generation Science Standards

Energy (MS-PS3)

Students who demonstrate understanding can: (6-8)
  • Construct, use, and present arguments to support the claim that when the motion energy of an object changes, energy is transferred to or from the object. (MS-PS3-5)

Disciplinary Core Ideas (K-12)

Forces and Motion (PS2.A)
  • The motion of an object is determined by the sum of the forces acting on it; if the total force on the object is not zero, its motion will change. The greater the mass of the object, the greater the force needed to achieve the same change in motion. For any given object, a larger force causes a larger change in motion. (6-8)
Defining and Delimiting an Engineering Problem (ETS1.A)
  • The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that is likely to limit possible solutions. (6-8)
Developing Possible Solutions (ETS1.B)
  • Models of all kinds are important for testing solutions. (6-8)

Crosscutting Concepts (K-12)

Systems and System Models (K-12)
  • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions. (6-8)

NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (K-12)

Analyzing and Interpreting Data (K-12)
  • Analyzing data in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to extending quantitative analysis to investigations, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and basic statistical techniques of data and error analysis. (6-8)
    • Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings. (6-8)
Developing and Using Models (K-12)
  • Modeling in 6–8 builds on K–5 and progresses to developing, using and revising models to describe, test, and predict more abstract phenomena and design systems. (6-8)
    • Develop a model to generate data to test ideas about designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs. (6-8)
Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking (5-12)
  • Mathematical and computational thinking at the 6–8 level builds on K–5 and progresses to identifying patterns in large data sets and using mathematical concepts to support explanations and arguments. (6-8)
    • Use mathematical representations to describe and/or support scientific conclusions and design solutions. (6-8)

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3B. Design and Systems
  • 6-8: 3B/M1. Design usually requires taking into account not only physical and biological constraints, but also economic, political, social, ethical, and aesthetic ones.
  • 6-8: 3B/M4a. Systems fail because they have faulty or poorly matched parts, are used in ways that exceed what was intended by the design, or were poorly designed to begin with.
  • 9-12: 3B/H1. In designing a device or process, thought should be given to how it will be manufactured, operated, maintained, replaced, and disposed of and who will sell, operate, and take care of it. The costs associated with these functions may introduce yet more constraints on the design.
3C. Issues in Technology
  • 6-8: 3C/M8. Scientific laws, engineering principles, properties of materials, and construction techniques must be taken into account in designing engineering solutions to problems.
  • 6-8: 3C/M9. In all technologies, there are always trade-offs to be made.

4. The Physical Setting

4G. Forces of Nature
  • 9-12: 4G/H5c. The interplay of electric and magnetic forces is the basis for many modern technologies, including electric motors, generators, and devices that produce or receive electromagnetic waves.

8. The Designed World

8B. Materials and Manufacturing
  • 6-8: 8B/M1. The choice of materials for a job depends on their properties.

11. Common Themes

11A. Systems
  • 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.
ComPADRE is beta testing Citation Styles!

Record Link
AIP Format
(Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010), WWW Document, (http://tryengineering.org/play-games/bionic-arm-design-challenge).
TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge, (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010), <http://tryengineering.org/play-games/bionic-arm-design-challenge>.
APA Format
TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge. (2011, June 30). Retrieved October 19, 2017, from Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: http://tryengineering.org/play-games/bionic-arm-design-challenge
Chicago Format
International Business Machines. TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, June 30, 2011. http://tryengineering.org/play-games/bionic-arm-design-challenge (accessed 19 October 2017).
MLA Format
TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, 2010. 30 June 2011. International Business Machines. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://tryengineering.org/play-games/bionic-arm-design-challenge>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge}, Publisher = {Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {19 October 2017}, Month = {June 30, 2011}, Year = {2010} }
Refer Export Format

%T TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge
%D June 30, 2011
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%U http://tryengineering.org/play-games/bionic-arm-design-challenge
%O application/shockwave

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D June 30, 2011
%T TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge
%I Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
%V 2017
%N 19 October 2017
%8 June 30, 2011
%9 application/shockwave
%U http://tryengineering.org/play-games/bionic-arm-design-challenge

Disclaimer: ComPADRE offers citation styles as a guide only. We cannot offer interpretations about citations as this is an automated procedure. Please refer to the style manuals in the Citation Source Information area for clarifications.

Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

The MLA Style presented is based on information from the MLA FAQ.

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TryEngineering: Bionic Arm Design Challenge:

Accompanies TryEngineering: Build Your Own Robot Arm

A link to a lesson plan by the same authors in which learners build a robot arm out of common household goods (rubber bands, brads, paper clips, tape, fishing line, twine).

relation by Caroline Hall
Supplements Dean Kamen's Artificial Arm

This 6-minute video chronicles the efforts of inventor/physicist Dean Kamen to develop a robotic arm with the functionality and dexterity of its human counterpart.

relation by Caroline Hall

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