Monday, May 9, 2022

DIY Robotic Arms for the Girl Scout Senior and Ambassador Programming Robots Badges


Step 2 of the Girl Scout Senior Programming Robots badge asks the kid to build a robot arm. Step 2 of the Ambassador Programming Robots badge asks the kid to build a motorized robot.

Let's streamline the process of mentoring a Girl Scout Senior and Girl Scout Ambassador through earning this badge together by asking them each to build a motorized robotic arm!

Each kid built her own OWI Robotic Arm Edge kit, obtained via a grant from the Civil Air Patrol.

You guys, these kits were TOUGH!!! I would consider both my kids adept at reading and following step-by-step directions, possibly even a little more adept than your average teenagers, just because we do a lot of step-by-step tutorials and crafts and hands-on activities in our homeschool.  But they both struggled quite a bit with these robotic arm kits, and each made several mistakes that they had to go back and troubleshoot. 

Will wasn't quite as careful as her sister, and she even managed to break a couple of pieces--she stripped a screw that she really needed to be able to unscrew to get back into the plastic casing to see what she'd done wrong (she'd put a piece of the motor on backwards), and she accidentally pulled a wire off of its connection. That one, at least, was an excellent learning opportunity, as it then became the first time she ever stripped wires and soldered them to their connection:

It was VERY satisfying when the motor then worked perfectly!

Other than the couple of times they got stuck (and thank goodness their grandfather happened to be visiting, because he had the patience both to compare every step of the instructions to their work to find the mistakes, and to sometimes disassemble the robotic arm back to that step so they could try it again), they mostly worked peacefully while we listened to podcasts together. We got through the entire 36 Questions podcast while DIYing robotic arms!

Finally, all you have to do is assemble the battery case and add SO MANY BATTERIES--

--and then you've got a fully functional robotic arm all of your very own!

You can see in this photo how a little hot glue was also required. Will was so rough on her poor robotic arm!

These robotic arms have already come in handy for more than just earning Step 2 of the Programming Robots badge. Will is already at work on the Ambassador Designing Robots badge, and used her robotic arm, along with some of the hydraulics that were last used building a cardboard robotic arm the last time the kids earned the Programming Robots badge at the Cadette and Senior levels to make a working model of a robot that could dispense a drink into a cup. 

The kids will soon have yet another use for their robotic arms, as well, as for Step 5 of this badge, they'll each be using the USB Interface Kit to write a program for their robotic arm. So it's a good thing that they got their robotic arms working... even if it did require a bit more hot glue and duct tape than I'd been expecting!

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