Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers

Helping Hand Challenge

Posted on: March 17, 2013


helping handI did this engineering challenge last year, but it didn’t go the way I wanted it to.  I provided the kids with a stick, about 25″ long as the basis of a reach device.  My mistake was allowing them to split the stick in half.  As a result, they all made a big scissor and then made some small modification to make it grip.

This year, I have added a whole new level to the challenge.  The stick can not be cut, only drilled for brass fasteners.  They are given a budget and each item has a cost.  I made sure they can only purchase a single stick with their budget.  Purchasing two of them will put them immediately over budget and cost them lots of points.

The challenge came from pbs.org/designsquad, they have a few things there worth looking at if you are into engineering challenges.  I downloaded the information a while ago.  Here is the link for the activity:  http://pbskids.org/designsquad/parentseducators/resources/helping_hand.html

Here is how I modified the activity for use in my classroom:  Helping Hand Challenge.  If you use this, let me know what you add or change.  I will be using this tomorrow.  The scoring rubric is at the bottom.

Update:  I’m still angry over how some of the kids approached this.  A couple of the really lazy ones did nothing but complain for two days.  At the last second, they purchased a foot of tape, wrapped it around the stick and then tried picking up the objects with the sticky tape.  Naturally, I changed the rules so that can’t happen next year.  Tape got very expensive.  I also changed the grading to downplay the points earned for moving the object and increasing points for the design.  Essentially, I changed the grading to reflect effort and creativity.  With the change in focus, I will need to watch for students copying ideas.

To be fair, I had a couple excellent designs.  Some were quite well thought out.  I had one group use rubber bands at the tip to increase friction of the grabber. Helping Hand 2013-03-22 09.38.51

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1 Response to "Helping Hand Challenge"

This brings back some memories– Years ago…eons ago, my students and I did the National Engineering Design Challenge (NEDC), and had a similar device to what you have here.

Here’s the problem statement:
3rd Annual NEDC Problem Statement 1991-92 “Just out of Reach”

It happens all the time. It’s the height of the sandlot game and the ball rolls under somebody’s porch, just out of reach. The varsity player, home alone in bed with a broken leg, has dropped the TV remote control, just out of reach. A shopper puts parking meter change in her purse while in a questionable neighborhood and — clink — her car keys drop through the storm water grate. Fifty dollars of grocery money has fluttered off the counter and fallen behind the refrigerator. The five-year-old tries to reach his own cereal on the top shelf by climbing on a stack of boxes while the household sleeps. An eighty year-old, suddenly short of breath, finds her nitro-glycerin tablets are one shelf too high … just out of reach!

Your team is to develop a solution that will enable a person to handle — place, retrieve, and manipulate — common household or office items that are beyond his/her ordinary reach.

There were ~10 assorted items: a bag of flour, a light bulb, a dime, etc. that had to be retrieved from ~10 various places– from a high shelf, from around a “refrigerator”, under a bed, down a tube, etc.

Students had to design the device, and also create the simulated locations (lots of cardboard boxes were used), then explain and demonstrate their device in a given time period.

They did well — 2nd place in the state, but at the finals, they didn’t bring the spare parts I told them to bring, and in the (timed) demonstration of their device, the cable snapped!

Still, they enjoyed it a lot!

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