Robotic Hand: Discovery at Home


  • Tape. 
  • Scissors. 
  • Cardboard or cardstock paper. 
  • Standard drinking straws. 
  • Pearl drink straws or bigger diameter straws. 
  • Yarn or twine.


  • Step 1: Gather supplies.
  • Step 2: Create your hand. Trace your hand on a cardboard or cardstock paper. Cut the traced hand out (try cutting it a little bigger than the line you drew).
  • Step 3: Create Joints. Mark your finger joints on the cutout. Draw joints straight or curved.
  • Step 4: Put it all together!
    • Fold the finger joints at the lines.
    • Cut standard drinking straws to size (leave a little gap between the lines to help thread the yarn).
    • Tape straw pieces to the hand.
    • Thread yarn through the straw pieces. Each finger will have a length of yarn of its own. Thread all five pieces of yarn through the bigger straw.
  • Step 5: Play! What can your robotic hand do?

Ways to expand it:

  • Scientists working in the filed of robotics often use the human body as inspiration for the way robots move and work. What other cardboard parts can you build that work like your body? How might these parts be able to solve problems?
  • How big could you make this? Try making a larger hand!
  • What happens if you only pull one string, does it work? Could you pick something up?
  • Try using the hand to pick up an object. Does it work as well as your hand? Why or why not?
  • What gestures can you make with your hand? Can you do a thumbs up?
  • What happens if you use a rubber band instead of string? How would that change the movement of the hand?

What kids learn:

  • Anatomy: the strings in your robot hand function much like the tendons in your own hand, which connect muscles to bones and let you bend your fingers. Your muscles create the pull that make your fingers bend and let you pick things up, just like your robot hand.
  • Basic engineering skills. Engineers solve problems with constraints, in this case, limited materials and air pressure. They learn to solve problems by using the engineering design process: asking questions, coming up with solutions, building, testing and improving.
  • Fine motor skills. Kids practice using the small muscles in their hands later used for writing.
  • Cause and effect: see how the hand reacts when you pull the strings.
  • Materials. The body is made up of certain types of materials which create the movements needed.
  • Modeling. Modeling is an important method in STEAM career fields. Models help professionals study and learn about a certain subject.
  • Further reading: Learn how real robotic hands are helping amputees regain function


  • Tendon: a band of connective tissue which connects a muscle to a bone. Muscles pull tendons to create movement in your hand.
  • Body tissue. A group of cells that look similarly and work together in the body.
  • Muscle. A collection of tissue that can contract which allows you to move your body or keep your body in a certain position.
  • Tension: The state of being stretched tight.
  • Pull: A pull is the force of bringing an object closer.
  • Force: Strength or energy as an attribute of physical action or movement
  • Robotics: a field of science that uses engineering to make machines, called robots, that can perform a task.