VEX Robot Gripper
Innovations in programming and engineering have led to the development of robotic systems with limitless applications. One common design element in robots used for manufacturing, underwater operations, and materials handling is a gripper that mimics the human hand in its ability to grasp and release objects from its arm. What does this type of technology entail? How does it work? These are questions students explore as they use their critical thinking skills to design a VEX robot gripper.
|Time:||11 -14 hours|
|Subject(s):||Engineering, Math, Science|
- Innovations in computer programming, microelectronic control, mechanical systems, and material science have led to the development of robotic systems that are playing a growing role in fields ranging from manufacturing to health care.
- The field of artificial intelligence focuses on developing computer applications that enable robots to perform complex tasks and quickly respond to multiple sources of stimulation including sound, sight, and tactile response.
- Robotics is playing an increased role in underwater research and space exploration.
- Advancements in robotics present new opportunities to mitigate critical environmental problems in areas such as waste reduction, energy and water conservation, and alternative transportation systems.
- Research and development in robotics requires close collaboration between professionals working in disciplines such as mechanical engineering, computer programming, microelectronics, and integrated-circuit design.
- Engineers and designers use a variety of tools and techniques ranging from freehand pencil sketches to sophisticated digital modeling to explore ideas and communicate concepts and technical directions to others.
After completing this project, you will be able to:
- Explain the basic components of a robotics system.
- Describe the relationship between a computer program such as C++, microelectronic systems, and the mechanical components of an industrial robot.
- Explain the benefits of using robots in place of humans to perform certain tasks that are too risky, repetitive, or complex.
- Describe the seven phases of the design thinking process.
- Explain how physical sketch models, 2D sketches, and digital models can be used as visualization tools for design ideation.
- Use Inventor to refine design concepts into detailed models that can be used for presentation and manufacturing.
Have the students watch these Digital Study Packet videos to prepare for the project:
- Sketches: Video One
- Sketches: Video Two
- Sketches: Video Three
- Sketches: Video Four
- Autodesk Inventor Parts: Video One
- Autodesk Inventor Parts: Video Two
- Autodesk Inventor Parts: Video Three
- Autodesk Inventor Assembly: Video One
- Autodesk Inventor Drawings: Video One
- Autodesk Inventor Sheet Metal
Robot is a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. Some, but not all, robots are considered to be a machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions.
Robotics is the science or study of the technology associated with the design, fabrication, theory, and application of robots.
Computer program is a set of instructions for a computer to perform a specific task. Programs generally fall into these categories: applications, utilities, or services. Programs are written in a special language such as C++ and Java.
Robotic gripper is a component of a robot that grasps an object, generally through the use of suction cups, magnets, or articulated mechanisms.
Servo motor is a motor that controls the action of the mechanical device in a servomechanism such as those used in robots.
Material handling is the movement, storage, control, and protection of materials, goods, and products throughout the process of manufacturing, distribution, consumption, and disposal.
Mass production involves the manufacturing of large quantities of standardized products, frequently using assembly line technology. Mass production refers to the process of creating large numbers of similar products efficiently.
Prototype is a physical or virtual model used to evaluate the technical or manufacturing feasibility of a particular 3D design product concept, technology, process, end item, or system.
Essential Project Conceptual Questions
- How can robotics technology promote environmental sustainability?
- How have advancements in robotics technology impacted space exploration and underwater research?
- How will advancements in artificial intelligence impact the design and capabilities of future robotic systems?
- How will the increased use of robotics alter social values, customs, and culture?
Essential Project Design Questions
- What role does computer programming have in the design and operation of robots?
- How does an automated, flexible gripping device increase productivity and reduce costs when used in a material-handling application to sort recycled materials?
- What are the geometric forms and the weight and types of materials that correspond to the components that a robot will sort for recycling?
- What are the extreme positions that define the work envelope for a robotic arm used in a material sorting and recycling application?
- How are motion sensors, limit switches, and onboard cameras used to control a robotic arm and provide protection in the event of a malfunction?
- Read the Design Thinking Guide.
- Watch all of the videos included in the Project Overview and Project Packet.
- Be prepared to partner with your students in learning the new software techniques.
- Show students how to find help in the curriculum and use the software Help feature.
- Point out which videos the students need to catch up on if they need reference.
First-Time Users of Autodesk Software and the Autodesk® Digital STEAM Workshop
Use the Level 1 section of the curriculum to familiarize your students with the world of 3D and all of the things you can do with Autodesk software. Depending on your class time, you may choose to extend this to more than one day.
- Watch: Use the video "What is 3D?" and the interviews on the "Industry and Careers" page to bring the software to life. This will give you the visual assets to engage your students in a discussion about what learning Autodesk software can mean to them. There is even a page on sustainability to help students understand whole systems design as they move into designing their own projects.
- Interact: Autodesk has created an interactive application to teach students about visual design and the language used in design. There is also a hands-on lesson and a short quiz included in the downloadable teacher resources. This is a great starter project for any age group. It examines visual design in 3D space, which helps students make that connection with design when they start learning Autodesk software.
- Experience: Show students some of the projects in Level 2 and have them listen to the designers talk about their design process. Seeing how industry professionals approach the design process gives students insight into the possibilities and adds context to support the early stages of learning new software when students are often frustrated. Start the Autodesk software and introduce the interface, using the Skills as a guide. Start by giving your students a broad, high-level overview of the tool and then let them explore the short procedural Digital Study Packet videos.
- You are now ready to start a project! Once your students have explored the software, they can take the quick quiz in Level 1 to see what they know and what they need to brush up on.
Hours 1 – 3
Understand: Watch and Listen
To establish a solid foundation for the VEX robot gripper students need to have a clear understanding of what they are being challenged to do. The best startng point is to carefully review the project design brief and watch the Understand video to hear John V-Neun from VEX Robotics describe the challenge.
Distribute the student pre-test and have students spend ten to twenty minutes developing their responses to the questions. Your next job is to facilitate a student discussion built around the pre-test questions. These can be conducted as a full class or small group discussions. As presented in the video and outlined in the project brief, the primary goal of this phase is for your students to establish an understanding of all the design requirements for an effective robotic gripper design.
Explore: Develop a Knowledge Base
Through the Explore process you want students to develop a full understanding of the various design options for a gripper and how they operate. To develop this understanding, students need to investigate mechanical design principles related to features such as gears, levers, linkages, and motors. One way to accomplish this is to research other types of mechanical grippers as well as look to nature for ideas about grippers. A great example is the claw on a crab.
The exploration phase also requires an analysis of all the requirements that are needed for a robotic gripper to perform the identified task of picking up and sorting an aluminum soda can. This requires identifying variables such as the size, shape, weight, and surface texture of the can. Students also need to know how the gripper will be attached to the robot and the range of motion for the gripper. Knowledge about the robot's environment and the materials that the gripper will touch are necessary to determine the optimal materials for the gripper. These variables are referred to as design constraints. The manufacturer of a robotic gripper also needs to determine how much they can spend to produce the part, as well as how much it can be sold for.
Note: It is critical for students keep track of their findings in a notebook or journal. In some instances, digital photography and videotaping can serve as an excellent medium for capturing important insights.
Define: Clarify Requirements
As described by John the in the Define video, this critical phase in the design process involves taking the knowledge developed from the Explore phase and generating a specific list of criteria that will guide the design and production of the gripper. This list will establish design specifications for critical variables such as gripping strength, gripping size range, power requirements, and maintenance requirements.
Note: Open up the Design Criteria Worksheet, which will help you in completing the Define phase.
Hours 4 – 11
As John V-Neun stresses in the video, this is the time for students to come up with as many ideas as possible for their robotic gripper. While you want students to explore many concepts, remind them that it is good practice to keep the design criteria in the back of their minds as they explore ideas. Throughout the Ideate phase, a variety of techniques can be used to visualize a wide range of possibilities:
- 2D sketches on paper
- Quick-form studies or sketch models
- Virtual models using Autodesk software
The goal is to get students to visually communicate to themselves and others the essential direction you will take and refine in the next phase of prototyping.
In this phase, students use the best concepts for the gripper derived from the Ideate phase to create virtual and if possible, physical prototypes. A physical prototype for a mechanical product such as the robotic gripper can be extremely helpful when trying to evaluate a particular design concept. The traditional approach for producing a physical prototype of a product of this nature requires extensive, precise machining and assembly of the gripper parts. Because the design is being developed with the use of Inventor software, it is possible to use rapid prototyping technologies such as 3-D printing to efficiently prototype the gripper components. Converting the virtual prototypes into physical parts in this manner enables students to evaluate multiple concepts to arrive at a solution that best meets all of the design specifications. Students can watch the technical learning videos, explore the datasets from the example project, and refer back to the Digital Study Packets as they learn the skills that transform their concepts into reality. Encourage students to assist each other in learning the software.
Hours 12 – 14
Refine: Almost There
In this phase, students can take the best elements of the prototypes and integrate them into what they believe is the optimal solution. As students proceed through this phase remind them to keep referring back to the design criteria and the specifications that were identified in the Define phase. Because the gripper is an attachment for the robotic arm, it is extremely important to refine the method for securely connecting the gripper. Conducting real-time tests of the robot is ultimately the best way to produce the best design.
Solution: Final Presentation
This phase is vital for preparing students for future success in school, careers, and life in general. The Solution phase is where you ask students to demonstrate how this project has helped them expand and enhance the four Cs of their learning and innovation skills: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.
Instruct the students to prepare and conduct small group presentations that capture the important aspects of each of the previous phases. Ideally, students should be aware from the outset that the results of their efforts in design phases 1 - 7 will culminate in a final presentation.
Note: Emphasize that a successful presentation must clearly define the problem that guided the design and articulate the key criteria that are addressed in the solution.
Stress the importance of using software tools to visualize, animate, and present the same way real professionals do every day. Remind students that many colleges, universities, and employers place high value on digital portfolios that convey how a student thinks, how they work with others, how they can generate creative solutions, and how they communicate their ideas and knowledge through a variety of written, visual, and oral formats. By investing effort into this project, your students will be one step closer to their goal for careers and/or college.
Note: If time is limited, you may opt to have students share their final presentation electronically. This provides an opportunity to generate feedback from peers and teacher.
- Encourage students to review the lesson and Skills videos in small groups.
- Have small teams of students collaborate to complete one design criteria matrix by dividing up the work.
- Identify specific websites that students can use for the Define and Explore stages.
- Provide some students with a set of predefined design criteria and background content to modify the Define and Explore stages.
- Have small groups collaborate on the Ideate, Refine, Prototype, and Presentation stages. Have some students focus on the development of physical sketches and sketch models while collaborating with team members who focus on digital prototyping.
- Provide students with self and peer evaluation forms to be filled out at the completion of each phase.
- Provide students with models of successful student presentations with clear examples of each Design phase.
- Encourage students to tap into their own culture and life experience to discover prior knowledge of the project topic.
- Provide English/first language translation dictionaries and/or electronic translation devices.
- Allow the student to prepare materials in their primary language and have it translated later.
- Pair ELL students with native English speakers.
- Provide a translator for viewing of videos.
Special Needs Students
- Provide prefabricated modeling components.
- Engage the help of aides to assist in physical sketch modeling and prototypes.
- Accommodate students by allowing additional time and/or reducing the scope of project requirements.
- Provide any necessary accommodations for access to technology such as alternative input devices, larger font sizes, speech recognition, and so on.
Robots play an increasing role in society for applications that range from manufacturing to surgical procedures.
Advancements in robotics have been the result of close collaboration among professionals in fields such as computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
- Fundamental to the control of a robot is the use of integrated circuits that permit the carefully controlled movement of electrons to form the binary codes that are subsequently interpreted to manipulate the robot in very precise and repeatable movements. Investigate the molecular features of silicon to explain why it serves as the primary material for the production of semiconductors and transistors?
- The type of robot that might be used in any material sorting and recycling application is sometimes referred to as a pick-and-place robot. The designers of the robotic hardware must have a clear understanding of the potential forces that will be exerted on the robotic arm and gripping mechanism. Investigate the types of forces that need to be considered and how those forces influence the mechanical design of the robot.
- One of the ways in which a robot is given directions about where it is to move and how it must operate is through the use of what is referred to as a teach pendant. A human operator will move the robot to key positions and then use the pendant to record key positions. Investigate how this technology functions. How is information regarding the robot's configuration transmitted back to the computer to save the program and enable the robot to repeat the same movements in a continuous loop?
- To function, the parts of a robot need to move at different points that are referred to as articulated joints. One way to distinguish between different types of robots is by considering the number of articulated joints. In many cases, extremely precise motors called servos or stepper motors are used to accurately control pulleys or gears that produce motion in one or more axis. Investigate the types of motors that are used in robotics and determine the criteria that must be selected in order to develop the optimal robot design for a particular application.
- The successful development of a robot requires individuals from the field of electrical engineering to devise methods for translating the instructions built into a program code to the mechanical components of the robot to achieve the desired result. Investigate the types of switches and relays that an engineer incorporates into a robot to send the proper signals to the motors or pistons. What sort of input can be used to control the operation of switches?
- Small, yet highly intelligent, robots are commercially available at very affordable prices. Investigate how small-motion robots can be used to produce a performance art piece. How can the use of light sensors to control motion be incorporated into some form of kinetic sculpture?
- Art tools such as markers, paint brushes, or even a small paint sprayer can be integrated into a small motion robot. How can you program the robot to create designs on a medium such as paper? What might happen if you programmed two robots armed with the same marker and placed them both on a large sheet of paper and let them cycle though the program ten times?
- Robots are great for doing repetitive tasks; for example, a robot might be used to install a microprocessor on top of a circuit board for a laptop computer. Assume it takes a total of 7 seconds for a robot to move from its home position, pick up the microprocessor, install it, and return to the home position. Calculate how many microprocessors can be installed in 1 hour and 24 hours. What would happen if the robot had to wait an additional 1 second at the home position before it started to repeat a new cycle? What percent time increase per cycle does this additional 1-second delay create?
- For a robot arm to move from point A to point B to point C, you want to calculate the most efficient set of commands to minimize the distance traveled in the X, Y, and Z axes. Set up a series of three blocks on top of a piece of grid paper. Determine the optimal path that is needed for a robot to pick up a block at point A, stack it on the block at point C, retrieve the block at point B, and then place that on top of the stack at point C.
|Grade 7||Grade 8||Algebra I|
|Area||Ratios and proportions||Systems of linear equations|
|Volume||Area||Ratios and proportions|
|Ratios and proportions||Transformations||Volume|
|Graphing||Systems of linear equations||Tessellations|
|Quadratic equations - objects moving in gravity|
|Area||Systems of linear equations||Use of vectors|
|Volume||Modeling||Determine forces acting on materials and objects|
|Transformations||Linear inequalities||Determine distances, speed, acceleration|
|Calculating measurements indirectly||Right triangle trigonometry||Triangle trigonometry for indirect measurement|
|Cartesian coordinates||Cartesian coordinates||Coordinates: Cartesian, polar|
|Right triangle trigonometry||Production costs of modular parts|
|Linear equations||Area of complex shapes|
|Inequalities||Volume of complex Shapes|
|Calculating indirect measurements||Optimization|
|Materials and material finishes||Forces on objects|
|Resistance to corrosion||Simple machines|
|Makeup of molecules||Gear systems|
|Chemical composition of recycled content||Surface properties|
|Strength and weight of materials||Magnetism|
|Chemistry of robot production||Linkages|
When you ask an adult what they remember most about school, the answer often refers to something they produced—something they built, wrote, performed, or generated through some form of visual media. Such activities can take extra time but the benefits are worth it. It is hard to engage in the VEX Robot Gripper project and not think about the possibility of taking the best design and building a full-size version. The VEX Robotics System in conjunction with Inventor software enables students to do just that. Use the VEX components and your ingenuity to come up with alternate approaches for using robots to promote environmental sustainability.
- Use Autodesk® Inventor® software to design a conveyor system that can be used in conjunction with the robot gripper.
- Use Autodesk® Maya® software to generate an animation that describes how your robotic controlled recycling system will work.
The assessment process for all of the projects in this curriculum will provide students with formative feedback for each of the seven essential phases. The rubrics that are included as a separate document will guide students in knowing what is expected for each phase and the criteria used to evaluate the quality of the work. For each project, students complete a self and peer evaluation. These include a reflective narration for each phase, accompanied by a point score derived from the rubric. These evaluations are accompanied by a teacher evaluation that also includes a narrative and numerical score for each phase, along with a cumulative score. The STEAM questions, Extension Ideas, and the optional Build It activity offer students an opportunity to assess what they have learned and apply that knowledge to improve the quality of their work and increase their scores.
Download a zip file of the following resources to help you teach the Autodesk Digital STEAM Workshop. You must be an Educator and logged in to access these materials.
Teachers Resources include:
- Project Brief
- Lesson Plan
- Design Criteria Worksheet
- Project Asset List
- Academic Standards