A well-rounded understanding of robotics begins with the exploration of four essential characteristics inherent in the design and engineering stages of this exciting scientific field. Movement, power, sensor driven input, and artificial intelligence are all components to be investigated throughout such a course of study. This activity specifically focuses on movement and power, demonstrating how electrical energy may be converted into mechanical energy, thus allowing the robot to complete a certain task, in this case transportation. By building a simple electrical circuit, comprised of a power source and a small motor, and affixing it to a body built from Lego® parts, students gain exposure to these concepts whilst participating in a design project that encourages creative thinking and problem solving strategies. Students with visual impairments tactually and auditorily explore how the vibrations caused by the unbalanced motorized ‘propeller’ create the movement of the robot, and its smooth metallic feet enable it to glide across many different surfaces.
Actuator - A mechanical device that takes energy, such as electrical energy, and converts it into motion.
Kinetic Energy - Energy an object possesses because of its motion.
Mechanical Energy - Energy associated with the motion and position of an object.
(Forced) Vibrational Motion - When a force applied to an object causes the object to be put into a vibrational, or back and forth, motion.
This activity is adapted to allow students with visual impairments to manipulate electronic components with greater ease, and requires relatively simple adaptations to commonly available materials prior to the building procedure. While we suggest certain materials, such as pennies, cardboard cutouts, and paper cups, we invite students to propose other materials that may be effective, as well as alternative designs that may be used when constructing the body.