Engineering Inside:

2014 Issue 3

Design a Robot Arm

September 2014

When engineers design a robot, they usually have a specific problem or task in mind. TheyBlue Robot Hand Will Greet Gloseup have to select the materials, design, and construction that suit their robot’s needs best. In this activity, you will design a robot arm that needs to be able to pick up a Styrofoam cup. You’ll have a variety of materials to choose from. You’ll select your materials, sketch out your design, then build and test your robot arm.  If it doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board and try again!

Scroll down to the bottom of this activity for a list of more advanced robotics activities you can try at home.


  • 3-inch wide and approximately 22-inch long strips of cardboard, 5 or soMaterials
  • Binder clips (different sizes), 8 or more
  • Brads (aka paper/brass fasteners), about 10
  • Clothespins, 6
  • Craft sticks, 10 to 15
  • Fishing line, 3 to 4 feet
  • Hangers, 1 or 2
  • Paper clips (different sizes), 10 to 15
  • Pencils, 3 to 4
  • Rubber bands (different sizes), 15
  • Tape, clear and masking
  • Twine, 3 to 4 feet
  • Cardboard scraps of various sizes, 10


Your goal is to design a robot arm that can pick up a Styrofoam cup. The arm must be builtRobot arm in a factory using materials from the list above and must be at least 18 inches long.

  1. Examine the available materials. Think of a design for your robot arm, keeping in mind that it needs to be able to pick up a Styrofoam cup.  Decide which items from the list above you will be using.
  2. Draw a sketch of your design before beginning construction.
  3. Build your robot arm.
  4. Once your arm has been built, test it out. Is it able to pick up the Styrofoam cup?
  5. If your robot arm didn’t work, think about what why it didn’t work and what changes need to be made. Develop a new and improved design and try again!


  1. Did you use all the possible materials? Why or why not?
  2. Which material is the most critical to your robot arm design?
  3. If you had to make multiple designs before your robot arm worked, what did you learn in developing subsequent designs? What made your final design work?

Additional Advanced At-Home Robotics Activities

Want to try to build your own robot at home? Here are three more advanced activities you try:

How to Build a Robot: The BeetleBot v2 (Revisited)

Popsicle Stick Arduino Hexapods

Simple Arduino Robot Arm from 9 gram servos

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