What is a Robot?

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Introductory Activity for Unit on Building Robots

What is a Robot?

Possible Essential Questions

  • What is a Robot?</span>
  • How do you build a robot?
  • How does a Robot work?

What are the characteristics/properties of a Robot?</span>

  • Brainstorm list with students then post list in classroom
  • List may contain: (taken in part from http://science.howstuffworks.com/robot1.htm)
    • Autonomous
    • Has sensors
    • Makes decisions based on input from sensors
    • Contains a computer which controls it and makes decisions
    • Programmed to execute a particular task or tasks
    • Can be reprogrammed to do different tasks
    • Has a moveable body or moveable parts
    • Has actuators such as electric motors or solenoids
    • Usually is a vehicle that moves under its own control
    • Has a power source such as a battery
    • Others?
  • Create a checklist/worksheet containing the list of robot characteristics that students can write descriptions of and check off as they look at different devices
  • Activity
    • Are these devises robots or not? Have them on display where students can pick them up and look at these devices. Or show students videos of other possible devices.
      • Roomba
      • Cell phone
      • Radio controlled car
      • Radio controlled airplane
      • Drone
      • Automobile
      • Automatic Dishwasher
      • Automated warehouse
      • Others?
  • When students have completed this activity, get back together to discuss their findings as a group

At the end of this activity, students should be able to understand and have a working definition of what a robot is.
Here is what we consider to be a good definition:

"A robot is a machine that gathers (senses) information about its environment and uses that information (thinks) to follow instructions to do work (actions)."

Other Resources

PBS Lesson: What is a Robot?

Teach Engineering: What is a Robot? (with LEGO Mindstorms NXT)

Carnegie Science Center: What is a Robot?