SCIENCE OF INNOVATION: Bionic Limbs - A Science Perspective (Grades 6-12)

Objective:


Framework for K–12 Science Education LS1.A: Structure and Function PS2.A: Forces and Motion PS2.B: Stability and Instability in Physical Systems ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World


Introduction Notes:


Science of innovation

Bionic Limbs

A Science Perspective (Grades 6–12)

 

Lesson plans produced by the National Science Teachers Association.

Video produced by NBC Learn in collaboration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office
and the National Science Foundation.

 

Background and Planning

 

About the Video

This video features Homayoon Kazerooni, Ph.D., a roboticist and professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Kazerooni and his team at the Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory are working on electrically powered “exoskeletons,” which attach to the body (e.g., the legs), and allow people who are paralyzed to “walk” again. The video discusses how these bionic devices and systems replicate the functions of joints and muscles, and work with the human central nervous system to make walking possible. It also mentions how inspiration leads to innovation and how the patent process enables both protection of new ideas and the sharing of these ideas with other scientists and engineers, so improvements in science and technology can be made and sustained over time.

 

0:00     0:14     Series opening

0:15     0:50     Introducing exoskeletons as robotic devices to aid paraplegics

0:51     1:13     Introducing Dr. Kazerooni

1:14     1:40     Dr. Kazerooni describes his inspiration for the exoskeleton project

1:41     2:06     Defining bionics and adapting knowledge of the human body to the exoskeleton

2:07     2:21     Showing how exoskeletons are analogous to human voluntary movement

2:22     2:57     Describing the components of the exoskeleton

2:58     3:23     How the exoskeleton works

3:24     4:09     Paraplegic Steven Sanchez describing injury and demonstrating exoskeleton

4:10     4:27     Other examples of bionic innovations from Dr. Kazerooni’s lab

4:28     4:54     Role of the patent process in protecting and sharing ideas

4:55     5:09     Conclusion

5:10     5:22     Closing credits

 

Language Support

To aid those with limited English proficiency or others who need help focusing on the video, make transcript of the video available. Click the Transcript tab on the side of the video window, then copy and paste into a document for student reference.

 

Framework for K–12 Science Education

        LS1.A: Structure and Function

        PS2.A: Forces and Motion

        PS2.B: Stability and Instability in Physical Systems

        ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

        ETS2.A: Interdependence of Science, Engineering, and Technology

        ETS2.B: Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

(page 1)

Emphasize Innovation

 

The Innovation Process

 

Inspiration

Dr. Kazerooni’s inspiration for the initial ideas that sparked his innovations is rooted in his observations of problems around us. Dr. Kazerooni’s earlier work was for the military, developing exoskeletons such as the “ExoHiker,” “ExoClimber,” and the “Human Universal Load Carrier” (HULC) to help soldiers carry heavy loads. This experience laid the groundwork for a “natural progression from the military to the medical,” as he stated in the July/August 2012 issue of IEEE Pulse (which can be accessed at the URL below). He also saw a potential link between the engineering of humanoid robots, and solving the problem of enabling people who are physically impaired to walk.

IEEE Pulse: http://bionics.soe.ucsc.edu/publications/EMB_Pulse_Magazine_Exoskeleton.pdf

 

Take Action with Students

Have students discuss their own observations of problems around us (of any level of complexity or severity) that might be addressed or solved with a new technology pertaining to bionic limbs. Encourage their inspirations with a “sky’s the limit” brainstorming session, where any and all ideas are put on the table. Extend the discussion of some ideas to identify the science and math concepts that would support the technology.

 

Innovation and STEM

The innovation highlighted in Science of Innovation (SOI): Bionic Limbs incorporates many aspects of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). For example, required science knowledge includes an understanding of the role of the human central nervous system in voluntary movement and the relationship of the purposes of bones, muscles, and joints for strength and range of motion. Math concepts revolve around programming and the geometry needed to create angles that give the appropriate range of motion for the analogous body part. Starting with a vision and relying on science and math knowledge, this technology enables people to extend their natural capabilities by making an analogous relationship between how some parts of the human body work and robotic function. The engineering design process involved is limited by constraints related to materials, time, and costs. Among the constraints Kazerooni’s team is working with are keeping the weight of the apparatus to a minimum and minimizing cost to make it affordable to a greater number of people.

 

Take Action with Students

         Using the Design Investigations section of Facilitate Inquiry as a guide, encourage students to investigate how muscles connect to bones (or how actuators connect to robotic exoskeletons), and how to maximize strength and efficiency.

         Point out the volunteer patient Steven Sanchez’s statement near the beginning: “A very spiritual feeling... I’m as tall as you guys again.” Have students compare the definitions of the words empathy and sympathy to help them understand the importance of empathy in the innovation process. Then encourage them to write personal journal entries on what they heard and saw in the video, to make them think about the interactions with people with disabilities.

                                                                                     (page 2)

Suggest that they think about their career aspirations and consider how their feelings might lead to a STEM-focused career that results in enhancements to peoples’ lives that are similarly “spiritual.”

 

Facilitate Inquiry

Encourage inquiry using a strategy modeled on the research-based science writing heuristic. Student work will vary in complexity and depth depending on grade level, prior knowledge, and creativity. Use the prompts liberally to encourage thought and discussion. Student Copy Masters begin on page 9.

 

Explore Understanding

Many students might not have given much thought to how their muscles function in concert with their joints to generate force, or more specifically torque. Torque produces rotational motion and is key to how the exoskeleton system works. (Torque is defined as the lever arm length multiplied by the component of force perpendicular to the lever arm). To get students thinking about the torque necessary to cause rotational movement, demonstrate how turning a bolt using a wrench with a short handle compares to turning the same bolt with a long-handled wrench. In order to create functioning exoskeletons, researchers must carefully model the motions of actual limbs, and must connect the motors, or “actuators,” to these limbs to work as efficiently as possible and to generate sufficient torque. Have students pull on elastic exercise bands using their biceps muscles at different angles, to see at which angles they can exert the most force or torque (rotational motion), or exert a specific force most comfortably. Then use these or similar prompts to spark a discussion about muscular actions required for movement.

         The biceps moves the forearm by….

         The biceps acts as an actuator by….

         The angle at which it was easiest to stretch a band or lift a weight was….

         The angle of the forearm at which the most force is generated was….

 

Show the video SOI: Bionic Limbs.  Continue the discussion of exoskeletons, using prompts such as the following:

         When I watched the video, I thought about….

         The expert in the video was inspired to create exoskeletons by….

         The brain, nerves, joints, and muscles are simulated by….

         The purpose of the forearm crutches is….

         The motors used to operate the joints are called….

         Patents enable the patent-holder to….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: This video makes me think about these questions…. Then have groups list questions they have about the challenges that must be surmounted in order to maximize the strength and efficiency of exoskeletons. Ask groups to choose one question and phrase it in such a way as to be researchable and/or testable. The following are some examples.

         How are the actuators connected to the limbs?

         How are these actuators similar to, or different from, human muscles?

         What differences are there between hip and knee joints in a human? In the exoskeleton?

 

                                                                                      (page 3)

Design Investigations

Choose one of the following options based on your students’ knowledge, creativity, and ability level and your available materials. Actual materials needed will vary greatly based on these factors as well.

 

Possible Materials

Allow time for students to examine and manipulate the materials you have available. Doing so often aids students in refining their questions, or prompts new ones that should be recorded for future investigation. In this inquiry, students might use materials such as wooden meter sticks, wooden rulers, or other wooden sticks as “bones,” strings as “tendons,”and spring scales or rubber bands as “muscles.” Include tape, nuts and bolts, nails, pegs, or other tools to attach the sticks together. The rulers or meter sticks described in the Focused Approach have holes drilled along their length. Students will also need protractors to measure angles. Students might also use commercially available building sets, such as the mechanical dog available from http://www.scientificsonline.com/mechanical-dog-robot-kit.html.

 

Safety Considerations

To augment your own safety procedures, see NSTA’s Safety Portal at http://www.nsta.org/portals/safety.aspx.

 

Open Choice Approach(Copy Master page 9)

Groups might come together to agree on one question for which they will explore the answer to how they might maximize the strength and efficiency of exoskeletons, or each group might explore something different. Students should brainstorm to form a plan they would have to follow in order to answer the question, which might include researching background information. Work with students to develop safe procedures that control variables and enable them to gather valid data. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         Information we need to understand before we can start our investigation is….

         The variable we will test is….

         The variables we will control are….

         The steps we will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

Focused Approach(Copy Master pages 10-11)

The following exemplifies how students could investigate how muscles connect to bones (or how actuators connect to robotic exoskeletons), and how to maximize strength and efficiency.

1.      After students examine the materials you have available to construct a simple joint, ask them questions such as the following to help them envision their investigation.

         How can we make a model of the human arm from these materials?

         In our model, what will function as bones, joints, and muscles?

         What are some possible variables we can investigate?

         How could we hold certain variables constant while manipulating others?

         How many variables should we allow to vary at a time?

         How can we measure force?

 

 

(page 4)

2.      Students might use two rulers or meter sticks connected in an L shape: one for the upper arm and one for the forearm.  Students can then consider how and where to attach a string

to the forearm, and where it can go from there. A good option is to tie the string through other pre-drilled holes in the “forearm,” and then pass it over a smooth peg near the top end of the vertically positioned “forearm.” The string could then be attached to a spring scale or digital force sensor, hooked masses from a large set of known masses, or to a rubber band. Students could make the rubber bands into not only force-applying devices, but also force-measuring devices, by hanging known masses from them, measuring the length under tension, and making a graph of force versus length.

NOTE: This might be an opportunity to review or discuss the differences and connections between mass and weight, especially if this is being done in a physics class. Guide students to understand how their arrangement does or does not resemble the joints in the video.

3.      Once students have created a model of an arm, guide them to practice executing a series of motions with it, perhaps using standard hooked masses hanging from the “forearm” to vary the resistance. They might start with the upper arm vertical and the forearm horizontal, but later change one or more of these conditions. Use the following prompts to guide students in their thinking.

         This arm model is an example of a first class lever, which means….

         Attaching the string further from the “elbow” joint might reduce the required force needed to lift an object because….

(Note: This would be expected because a longer lever arm gives more mechanical advantage, or—in the case of this third class lever, less mechanical “disadvantage”)

         Attaching the string further from the “elbow” joint might increase the required force needed to lift an object because….

(Note: As the string is placed further from the joint, it becomes less perpendicular to the forearm, and therefore would produce less torque with a given lever arm length, BUT students will probably find that this factor is less important, so that increasing distance from the joint is a net “positive.”)

         Making the forearm more vertical makes the arm “stronger”/”weaker” because….

         Making the upper arm more vertical makes the arm “stronger”/”weaker” because….

4.      Ensure that students brainstorm to decide what to hold constant, what to vary, and how to measure the force. Use prompts like these to guide them in their thinking:

         The best way to hold force constant is….

         The best way to hold the angle between the segments constant is….

         The dependent (responding) variable and independent (manipulated) variable could be…

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

5.      Students might continue their investigation by varying the orientation of the forearm and/or upper arm. They might also think of ways to change the direction of the resistance (which by default tends to be vertical, if it consists of the weight of the forearm stick and any masses possibly hanging from it).

6.      Students can use the Internet or other resources to find where the biceps tendon is actually attached to the forearm (to which bone) in humans and how this compares with the positions used in the arm model they have been working with. Students can then use their graphed data, along with comparisons with tendon placement in a human arm, to estimate

 

(page 5)

the actual force exerted by (and therefore tension in) the biceps tendon when a person is

holding a certain weight with the forearm horizontal and upper arm vertical.

Encourage students to include labeled diagrams that show an understanding of the physics involved in the bionic motions they modeled.

 

Media Research Option

Groups might have questions that are best explored using print media and online resources. Students should brainstorm to form a list of key words and phrases they could use in Internet search engines that might result in resources that will help them answer the question. Review how to safely browse the Web, how to evaluate information on the Internet for accuracy, and how to correctly cite the information found. Suggest students make note of any interesting tangents they find in their research effort for future inquiry. Encourage students with prompts such as the following:

         Words and phrases associated with our question are….

         The reliability of our sources was established by….

         The science and math concepts that underpin a possible solution are….

         Our research might feed into an engineering design solution such as….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Students should analyze their data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence their data shows. Encourage students with this prompt: As evidenced by… we claim… because….

 

An example claim might be:

As evidenced bythe reduced tension in the “tendon” when attached far from the elbow, we claim that the greatest ability to lift weight occurs with this attachment position because this produces a longer lever arm, which increases the torque.

 

Compare Findings

Encourage students to compare their ideas with those of others—such as classmates who investigated the same or similar questions; material they found on the Internet; experts they chose to interview; or their textbooks. Remind students to credit their original sources in their comparisons. Elicit comparisons from students with prompts such as:

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Students might make comparisons like the following:

My findings on what maximizes arm strength are different from actual human anatomy, because a tendon attached too far from the elbow would not fit under the skin and would offer less range of motion, in spite of increased strength.

 

 

 

(page 6)

 

Reflect on Learning

Students should reflect on their understanding, thinking about how their ideas have changed or what they know now that they didn’t before. Encourage reflection, using prompts such as the following:

         The claim made by the expert in the video is….

         I support or refute the expert’s claim because in my investigation….

         When thinking about the expert’s claims, I am confused as to why….

         Another investigation I would like to explore is….

 

Inquiry Assessment

See the rubric included in the student Copy Masters on page 12.

 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Bellringer:  On a day when your lesson focus is bones and joints, play the video as students are getting settled. Have students note two ways in which the exoskeleton is like their endoskeleton. Use their observations as a springboard for points in your lesson.

 

Compare/Contrast: Have students compare and contrast Dr. Kazerooni’s robotic exoskeleton with the more familiar exoskeleton of arthropods.

 

Using the 5E Approach?

If you use a 5E approach to lesson plans, consider incorporating video in these Es:

Explore:  Students might investigate walking components by playing with the online game “QWOP,” at http://www.foddy.net/Athletics.html. This rather challenging game uses the keyboard letters Q, W, O, and P to control the motions of a character’s right and left thighs and calves to run a 100-meter sprint.

Elaborate:  Have students identify the neurological issue that resulted in volunteer patient Steven Sanchez’s paralysis.  Brainstorm with students a list of factors that might make Steven a good research volunteer for this project. Then have students research other conditions that result in paralysis, that might or might not be able to take advantage of the exoskeleton.

 

Connect to … Social Studies

Debate:  Refer students to the article “Better Than Human: Why Robots Will—And Must—Take Our Jobs,” in the January 2013 issue of Wired Magazine. Have students use the information in the article, plus other references if needed, to discuss the positive and negative impacts robots might have on future societies and economies. Divide the class into three teams: one that will argue in favor of the stated topic; one that will argue against it; and one that will act as the audience. Have students work together to arrange ideas for their team’s arguments, and to refute the other team’s arguments. The audience might do research about the topic in order to ask relevant questions. Hold the debate by allowing for arguments and rebuttals, back and forth until all members of both teams have had the opportunity to speak at least once. After the debate, ask the audience to determine which team “won” and why. Remind students to base their vote only on evidence presented in the debate, not personal opinions. Was there one specific argument that convinced them that one team won?

(page 7)

Prompt Innovation with Video

After students watch the video, have them research patents associated with exoskeletons and bionic limbs. They can do so with an Internet search on Google.com/patents using search terms such as the following. If time is limited, point students toward the following patents.

 

Primary Search Terms

Gait/Step

Mechanical joint

Biological joint

Paraplegic

Paralysis

Prosthetic

Orthosis

Actuator

Motor/Motorized

Additional Helpful Search Terms

Handicap

Disability

Robot/Robotic

Limb

Amputee

Muscle Assistance

Mobility Assistance

Brace

Controller

Propulsion

Sensor/Detector

 

Patent Examples

5,020,790 – powered apparatus to assist with walking motion

5,282,460 – exoskeletal robotic device

5,476,441 – apparatus providing controlled limb movement

6,500,210 – method for providing sensory perceptions in a sensor system of a prosthetic device

6,676,707 – prosthesis for a limb

6,807,869 – sensor for detecting presence of a force exerted by a person’s foot on a surface

7,041,074 – device for users with central nervous system injuries, handicaps, etc.

7,947,004 – lower extremity exoskeleton

 

Suggest students read abstracts of patents that attract their attention. Then hold a discussion about how various innovators are improving on the process. Use prompts such as the following:

         This patent is for _____, which is related to the invention shown in the video by….

         This patent describes _____, which differs from the invention shown in the video in that….

         I think doing/making _____ would be an innovation because ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 8)

 

 


 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Bionic Limbs

Use this guide to investigate a question about how you might maximize the strength and efficiency of exoskeletons. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

The video makes me think about these questions….

 

Design Investigations

Choose one question. How can you answer it? Brainstorm with your teammates. Write a procedure that controls variables and makes accurate measurements. Look up information as needed. Add safety precautions.

         Information we need to understand before we can start our investigation is….

         The materials I will use are….

         The variable I will test is….

         The variables I will control are….

         The steps I will follow are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I will….

 

Record Data and Observations

Record your observations. Organize your data in tables or graphs as appropriate.

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence your data show. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who investigated the same or a similar question. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         The claim made by the expert in the video is….

         I support or refute the expert’s claim because in my investigation….

         When thinking about the expert’s claims, I am confused as to why….

         Another investigation I would like to explore is….

                                                                                            (page 9)

COPY MASTER: Focused Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Bionic Limbs

Use this guide to investigate the muscles and bones used in a simple model of a human arm. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Where on the forearm should the biceps tendon be attached to maximize the amount of weight that can be held by a robotic forearm?

Where should this tendon be attached to maximize the range of motion of the elbow joint?

 

Design Investigations

Brainstorm with your teammates about how to answer the question. Write a procedure that controls variables and allows you to gather valid data. Draw pictures to illustrate your designs. Add safety precautions as needed. Use these prompts to help you design your investigation.

         The “shoulder” will be represented by….

         The “elbow” will be represented by….

         The steps I will follow to measure the tension in the “biceps tendon” are….

         The independent variable(s) I will be manipulating are….

         The best way to display the data I gather is….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I need to….

 

Record Data and Observations

Organize your observations and data in a table. The table below is a simple example of how you might record the dependent variable of tension as a function of the independent variables of distance from elbow, and angle between forearm and upper arm. You might first hold the angle constant at 90 degrees while varying the attachment point, and then hold the attachment point constant while varying the angle, perhaps from about 30 to 150 degrees.

 

How Tendon Tension Varies With Distance from Elbow and Angle
Between Upper Arm and Forearm.

 

Angle Between Upper Arm and Forearm

Distance of Tendon Attachment from Elbow

Tension in “Tendon”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 10)


 

Graph the Data

Plot tension versus distance of attachment from elbow for a 90 degree angle between upper arm and forearm, and then plot tension versus angle for a given (mid-range) attachment distance. More combinations can be tried, to produce multiple curves on each graph, if time permits. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make a Claim Backed by Evidence

Analyze your data and then make one or more claims based on the evidence shown by your data. Make sure that the claim goes beyond summarizing the relationship between the variables.

 

My Evidence

My Claim

My Reason

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Compare Findings

Review the video and then discuss your results with classmates who did the investigation using the same or a similar system, or with those who did the investigation using a different system. Or do research on the Internet or talk with an expert. How do your findings compare? Be sure to give credit to others when you use their findings in your comparisons.

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of the experts in the video in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those of my classmates in that….

         My ideas are similar to (or different from) those that I found on the Internet in that….

 

Reflect on Learning

Think about what you found out. How does it fit with what you already knew? How does it change what you thought you knew?

         The claim made by the expert in the video is….

         I support (or refute) the expert’s claim because in my investigation….

         When thinking about the expert’s claims, I am confused as to why….

         Another investigation I would like to explore is….

 

(page 11)

 

Copy Master: Assessment Rubric for Inquiry Investigations

 

Criteria

1 point

2 points

3 points

Initial question

Question had a yes/no answer, was off topic, or otherwise was not researchable or testable.

Question was researchable or testable but too broad or not answerable by the chosen investigation.

Question clearly stated, researchable or testable, and showed direct relationship to investigation.

Investigation design

The design of the investigation did not support a response to the initial question.

While the design supported the initial question, the procedure used to collect data (e.g., number of trials, control of variables) was not sufficient.

Variables were clearly identified and controlled as needed with steps and trials that resulted in data that could be used to answer the question.

Variables

Either the dependent or independent variable was not identified.

While the dependent and independent variables were identified, no controls were present.

Variables identified and controlled in a way that results in data that can be analyzed and compared.

Safety procedures

Basic laboratory safety procedures were followed, but practices specific to the activity were not identified.

Some, but not all, of the safety equipment was used and only some safe practices needed for this investigation were followed.

Appropriate safety equipment used and safe practices adhered to.

Observations and data

Observations were not made or recorded, and data are unreasonable in nature, not recorded, or do not reflect what actually took place during the investigation.

Observations were made, but were not very detailed, or data appear invalid or were not recorded appropriately.

Detailed observations were made and properly recorded and data are plausible and recorded appropriately.

Claim

No claim was made or the claim had no relationship to the evidence used to support it.

Claim was marginally related to evidence from investigation.

Claim was backed by investigative or research evidence.

Findings comparison

Comparison of findings was limited to a description of the initial question.

Comparison of findings was not supported by the data collected.

Comparison of findings included both methodology and data collected by at least one other entity.

Reflection

Student reflections were limited to a description of the procedure used.

Student reflections were not related to the initial question.

Student reflections described at least one impact on thinking.

 

(page 12)

 

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