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  • Subject: Technology
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-8
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  • Duration: One class period

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will understand the following:
1. Robots can help disabled human beings.


For this lesson, you will need:
Lesson Plan Support: Robots
Drawing materials


1. Discuss with students what they have read or observed about robots helping to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. Tell them that they are going to design additional robots that can help someone who has a disability.
2. Tell students to begin by choosing a person (someone they know or a hypothetical person) who has one or more disabilities. They should focus on just one disability that the new robot will address.
3. When each student has identified the role his or her robot will play in helping a human, he or she should generate by hand or on a computer a drawing that represents what the new robot and its parts will look like. Each student should also prepare a second drawing showing the robot actually interacting with the human or the human using the robot.
4. Direct students to label each of the robot’s parts or features and to write a paragraph on how the invention could have a positive impact on the quality of a human’s life.
5. Ask each student to end his or her paragraph by predicting whether humans will accept or reject the new robot—and why.

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Discussion Questions

1. What are the advantages of creating a walking robot that is able to maneuver around the surface of the earth like human beings and other creatures that have legs? Make a list of situations for which walking robots would be better suited than wheeled vehicles.
2. In movies, on television, and in books, robots are often (though not always) portrayed as the enemies of humankind. Why do you think science fiction writers depict robots as frightening? What qualities make robots scary to humans?
3. Robots—from miniature earthbound types to those launched into Earth orbit—can be used by our neighbors, the military, local police forces, and our bosses to monitor every movement we make. In a free society that values privacy, there may be a need to put limits on the use of such surveillance-type robots. Take an inventory of the surveillance technology that is already available in your community and school. What rules do you think should be put into place for the acceptable use of each of these technologies?
4. Medical technologies that extend or enhance the quality of human life are becoming available at a pace that is faster than their ethical use can be debated, long before the rules that may govern their use can be enacted into law. Discuss some of the economic and sociological problems that might confront the next generation of Americans as these technologies become available. Consider possible solutions to each problem.
5. Artificial limbs may soon be connected directly to the nervous system so that the brain can command them to walk, grasp, wave hello, or even write a novel. Soon we may even be able to send commands to robots by mental telepathy. Will the next step be the creation of a robot brain that can think, learn, and make decisions without human control? Is this a good idea? What technological challenges stand in the way of this happening? Why do so many people think that this will never and should never happen?
6. It’s probably obvious why it would be better to use a robot than a human to perform certain functions—like diffusing a bomb, for instance, or fighting in a war. On the other hand, would you want a robot pitcher on your favorite baseball team? A robot teacher in your classroom? A robot psychiatrist or president? A robot parent? A robot best friend? What qualities do humans have that you think could never be replaced by robots? Why?

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You can evaluate your students’ illustrations and paragraphs using the following three-point rubric:
Three points:high-quality, clear, neat, and detailed drawings; very clear labels; complete paragraphs addressing the two topics mentioned in Procedures
Two points:adequately detailed drawings; clear labels; complete paragraphs addressing the two topics mentioned in Procedures
One point:inadequately detailed drawings; weak labels; incomplete paragraphs
You can ask students to contribute to the assessment rubric by determining what an adequately detailed drawing would consist of.

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Marionettes (puppets with parts manipulated at the ends of strings) are a primitive form of robotic performance. The marionettes mimic the natural motions of human beings and other creatures. Working in small groups, your students should choose a human, insect, or zoo animal and study the way it moves. They should think about the number of moving parts the human, insect, or animal has and the joints around which those parts naturally rotate. Then from ordinary household materials, each team should construct a marionette that closely mimics the motion of its subject.

Robots in the Workforce
In the future, robots, machines, and computers will continue to replace human workers in all areas of business and industry. Ask students to think about their own futures. For specific careers that students may now be considering, ask them to list the ways in which machines may make parts of those jobs no longer necessary for humans to perform. Have students write a 40-year work plan that shows how they will have to reeducate themselves or otherwise adjust in a competitive job market that will employ an ever-growing workforce of robots, machines, and computers.

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Suggested Readings

Ramblin’ Robots: Building a Breed of Mechanical Beasts
Ingrid Wickelgren. Venture, 1996
How would you design a robot? Reading this book will give you plenty of ideas about how to build a robot and the tasks you can program it to perform.

Artificial Intelligence: Robotics and Machine Evolution
David Jefferies. Crabtree, 1999.
This new book is filled with great illustrations, drawings, captions, and text to help us understand robots, the technology needed to create them, their history, and their possible future uses and forms. The author predicts that robots will be increasingly used in communication, in finance, in entertainment, in environmental work, and even as human assistants. Read the pros and cons of technological advancement for society. What do you think?

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What is the Near-Earth Rendezvous Mission? [PDF]
Find information and additional activities on this topic at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab website.

Build Your Own NEAR Shoemaker Spacecraft [PDF]
Find information and additional activities on this topic at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab website.

Design Your Own Robot
This website allows you to design and construct virtual robots to accomplish six different tasks. As you engage with this interactive website from the Computer Museum, you will learn about the elements of robot design.

FIRST Robotics Competition
Check out this national robotics event for high school students which culminates in a competition with over 10,000 students each year at Epcot Center in Florida. Middle school students are invited to participate in the “LEGO League.”

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    anthropomorphic
Definition:Described or thought of as having human form or attributes.
Context:Anthropomorphic robots working in environments dangerous to human workers will be controlled by humans wearing helmets with 3-D monitors and data-sensing gloves that interact in a virtual space that simulates the real space.

speaker    humanoid
Definition:A machine that looks and acts like a human.
Context:Some robot scientists envision the creation of humanoids.

speaker    nano-robot
Definition:A robot the size of a molecule designed to work inside the human body.
Context:Future nano-robots may be injected into our bodies to search out and protect us from diseases.

speaker    prosthetic
Definition:An artificial device to replace a missing part of the body.
Context:Prosthetics will soon unite body and machine by directly connecting microprocessors in artificial limbs to the central nervous system, enabling the limb to take instructions directly from the brain of the patient.

speaker    prototype
Definition:The first full-scale model of a new type or design of such things as furniture, machinery, or vehicles.
Context:In Japan, a prototype of a robotics ski coach teaches new skiers how to slide safely down the beginner slopes.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8
Subject area:technology
Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual.
Benchmark 1:
Knows ways in which technology has influenced the course of history (e.g., revolutions in agriculture, manufacturing, sanitation, medicine, warfare, transportation, information processing, communication).

Benchmark 2:
Knows ways in which technology and society influence one another (e.g., new products and processes for society are developed through technology; technological changes are often accompanied by social, political, and economic changes; technology is influenced by social needs, attitudes, values, and limitations and by cultural backgrounds and beliefs).

Benchmark 3:
Knows examples of advanced and emerging technologies (e.g., virtual environment, personal digital assistants, voice recognition software) and how they could impact society.

Benchmark 4:
Knows that science cannot answer all questions and technology cannot solve all human problems or meet all human needs.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:technology
Understands the nature of technological design.
Proposes designs and chooses between alternative solutions (e.g., models, simulations).

Implements a proposed solution (e.g., constructs artifacts for intended users or beneficiaries).

Evaluates a designed solution and its consequences based on the needs or criteria the solution was designed to meet.

Grade level:6-8, 9-12
Subject area:science
Understands the scientific enterprise.
Benchmark 6-8:
Knows various settings in which scientists and engineers may work (e.g., colleges and universities, businesses and industries, research institutes, government agencies).

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows that creativity, imagination, and a good knowledge base are all required in the work of science and engineering.

Benchmark 9-12:
Knows that science and technology are essential social enterprises, but alone they can only indicate what can happen, not what should happen.

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:life work
Makes general preparation for entering the work force.
Analyzes a current job and its future possibilities.

Evaluates the chances of getting a job now and in the future in fields of work that are of interest.

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Ted Latham, physics teacher, Watchung Hills Regional High School, Warren, New Jersey.

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