SCIENCE OF INNOVATION: Bionic Limbs - An Engineering Perspective (Grades 6-12)

Objective:


Framework for K–12 Science Education: LS1.A: Structure and Function LS1.D: Information Processing 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

An Engineering 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 Information

 

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

        LS1.D: Information Processing

        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 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 design an exoskeleton that will enable a rag doll to walk in a coordinated fashion.

         Use the video as a springboard to start students talking about the wide range of activities scientists and engineers participate in and the environments in which they work. Play the video with the sound muted and ask volunteers for their thoughts about the lab environment they are viewing, the way that everyone is dressed, what types of people, in terms of their careers, they think might be involved in the design and manufacture of bionic limbs, what they think the working environment might be like, and so on.

 

                                                                                       (page 2)

Encourage students to point out specific people and specific jobs being done and comment on what kind of science knowledge, technical abilities, or other expertise individuals might need to work there.

         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. 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. 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

Most students are probably not conscious of the complex symphony of actions needed for everyday movement, such as walking. In order to create functioning exoskeletons, researchers must carefully model the motions of actual limbs, and then create the hardware and software necessary to replicate these. If possible, have students instruct each other on how to walk, using only motions of the thighs (hip joints) and calves (knee joints) to form commands – such  as “right thigh forward” or “left calf backward” (i.e., a combination of left/right, thigh/calf, and forward/backward). After this potentially entertaining activity, use these or similar prompts to spark a discussion about the sequence of muscular actions required for walking.

         I would instruct someone to use their legs in walking by saying….

         I would instruct someone in using their thighs to walk by saying….

         I would instruct someone to use their calves in walking by saying….

         The correct sequence of instructions for walking is….

         Humans are able to walk because all of these instructions are processed by the….

 

Show the video “SOI: Bionic Limbs”. Continue the discussion of walking while using exoskeletons, with 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 in the exoskeleton by….

         The forearm crutches aid walking by….

         Devices similar to the exoskeleton for walking include….

         Patents enable the patent-holder to….

 

Ask Beginning Questions

Stimulate small-group discussion with the prompt: This video makes me think about these questions….

(page 3)

Then have groups list questions they have about the challenges that must be surmounted in order to create functional exoskeletons for walking. 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.

         What movements must be controlled in order to walk?

         How must movements be coordinated in order to walk?

         How might the computer assist in coordinating the motions of the various actuators?

         How might a computer develop a map of instructions on how to walk? How could you draw a flow chart to describe the steps involved in walking?

         How much control does the user have over the specific motions?

         How much control should the user have over the specific motions?

         What factors would determine whether or not an exoskeleton would be preferable to a motorized wheelchair?

 

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 rag dolls, craft sticks, tape, washers, bolts, nuts, and weights. The craft sticks described in the Focused Approach have holes drilled near the ends. Students might also benefit from having protractors available for measuring angles.

 

NOTE: A single additional craft stick, with both “thighs” connected at the same point (with extra washers to keep the legs from hitting each other) could function as a “torso,” if the dolls are not available or if time is limited.

 

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, 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 exoskeleton device we are designing will….

         The exoskeleton will move via….

         The actions the exoskeleton will accomplish are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

 

(page 4)

Focused Approach(Copy Master pages 10-11)

The following exemplifies how students could design an exoskeleton that transforms a rag doll into a marionette, and coordinates movements to enable it to “walk.”

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

         For a single doll, how many craft sticks are needed to make an exoskeleton?

         How will the exoskeleton be attached to the doll?

         What joints can be constructed, and how?

         To mimic human walking, which joints cannot swing past a certain point?

         What sequence of actions will enable the doll to “walk”?

         Does one action need to be completed before another is started, or can/should actions overlap?

2.      Students might use constructions such as two craft sticks: one for the thigh and one for the calf, with two washers, a bolt, and a nut serving as a “knee” joint. Other joints might be constructed similarly. Tape can be used to attach the craft sticks to the doll. Guide them to understand how their arrangement does or does not resemble the exoskeletons in the video.

3.      Once students have created an exoskeleton for their doll, explain that they need to attach strings from the joints to guide-bars that enable them to manipulate the exoskeleton in executing motions, similar to the way the actuators enable manipulating the exoskeleton for people. Use prompts such as the following to guide students in their thinking.

         The first motion needed is….

         The doll will fall over unless….

         Actions that cannot be performed at the same time include….

         The last step in the series before returning to the first motion is….

4.      Ensure that students brainstorm to formulate a list of all the actions needed to complete a full step. Students might devise a number of different ways to represent these actions, such as a linear sequence of all events, where different actions are represented on different rows, with a common time scale:

         The best way to display or list these steps is….

         Symbols we might use for the actions are….

         Alternative ways of walking that might still be successful include….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we will….

5. Students might continue their investigation by constructing flowcharts with instructions on how to walk, run, and/or having the dolls compete in a race.

6. Some students might wish to extend their investigation 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. Another option: have students engage in friendly competition to see who can run the farthest playing QWOP.

 

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.

(page 5)

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 inability of the doll to take multiple steps using only hip motions, we claim that both hip and knee joint motions are necessary for walking because without bending the knee joint, the leg in the back cannot swing forward.

 

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 ideas are similar to those discussed by researchers, published on the Internet, who have done detailed studies of walking. I found that the knee joint must bend at the correct time as the hip joint rotates, so that the foot can clear the ground.

 

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.

 

(page 6)

 


 

 

Incorporate Video into Your Lesson Plan

 

Integrate Video in Instruction

Visualize Concepts:  Use the video to support a discussion on how neural pathways are involved in human motion. Have students focus on the central portion of the video (2:07-2:21) and then construct diagrams that compare the human body and the robotic exoskeleton.

 

Homework: Have students choose various components of exoskeletons to research individually (or as part of small teams) so they can share their findings with the class the next day. These items could include “actuator,” “servomotor,” “power supply,” and “carbon fiber.”

 

Using the 5E Approach?

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

Explain:  Use the Design Investigations section of the Facilitate Inquiry to support your lessons on torque or mechanical advantage.

Elaborate:  Robotic devices replace or augment humans in many industrial situations. Use the video to encourage students to learn more about some of the many factors that determine how useful the robotic exoskeleton might or might not be. These include cost, weight, comfort, versatility, and the psychological benefit of being able to face others eye-to-eye instead of always having to look up at standing people. Students also might be interested in reading the article on future robotics systems in the January 2013 issue of Wired Magazine, to consider the similarities and differences among, for example, robots designed to teach, those designed for use in the medical field, those designed for factory work, and so on.

 

Connect to … Math

Trigonometry

Use either the rag doll exoskeleton—or a simpler version with the doll absent, but the hip joints of the two “thighs” connected by a “torso” craft stick—to collect data on the angles (from the neutral, vertical position) at which the leg and calf extend from their respective (hip and knee) joints. Graph these angles versus the point in the step cycle, for both legs. Discuss this in the context of periodic functions such as sine waves. This is most appropriate for older high school students who have had or are taking math courses incorporating trigonometry. Compare to similar, but rather sophisticated, analyses in the following sources:

         http://www.ipcsit.com/vol8/5-S1.8.pdf

         http://ruina.tam.cornell.edu/research/topics/locomotion_and_robotics/simplest_walking/simplest_walking.pdf

         http://www.engin.umich.edu/class/me646/HW04/MochonMcMahon.pdf

         http://groups.csail.mit.edu/robotics-center/public_papers/Hsu07.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

(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 improves on the process we observed in the video by….

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

         I think doing _____ would be an innovation because….

         I think if we did ...., it would improve the walking robot because....

         I think if we did …., it would improve an athlete robot because….

         I think if we did …., it would improve a teacher robot because….

         I think if we did …., it would improve a nurse robot because ….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 8)

 


 

Copy Master: Open Choice Inquiry Guide for Students

 

Science of Innovation: Bionic Limbs

Use this guide to investigate a question about exoskeletons, how the user might best control them, or factors that affect the usefulness of such devices. 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 exoskeleton device we are designing will….

         The exoskeleton will move via….

         The actions the exoskeleton will accomplish are….

         To conduct the investigation safely, we 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 cycle of thigh and calf motions used in a simple model of walking. Write your lab report in your science notebook.

 

Ask Beginning Questions

What sequence of thigh and calf motions is needed in order for either a robot or a human to walk?

 

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. Add safety precautions as needed. Use these prompts to help you design your investigation.

         The system I will use is _____.

         The number of joints needed for each leg is….

         The angles of the limb segments will be measured from….

         The steps I will follow to measure these angles include….

         The joints that can swing in only one direction from the “straight” (zero) position are the….

         The best way to display these angles as they change with the part of the walking cycle is….

         To conduct the investigation safely, I need to….

 

Record Data and Observations

Organize your observations. You might do this by using a smart phone to video an individual and then translate that into a step-by-step. Or, you might record data in a table, such as the one below, that shows how the angles of the limb segments change with percentage of the way through a whole step cycle (when both legs have swung and are back in the original position). Pick a direction (forward or backward) to be the positive one, the other direction being called negative. Think in advance about how many positions in the cycle (from 0 to 100%) will be sufficient to accurately describe the sequence of motions.

 

How Limb Angles Change With Percentage of Way Through Step Cycle

 

Sketch of phase in the step cycle

Percentage of way through a whole step cycle

Angle of Right Thigh to Torso Line

Angle of Left Thigh to Torso Line

Angle of Right Calf to Right Thigh Line

Angle of Left Calf to Left Thigh Line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(page 10)


 

Focused Inquiry Guide continued

Graph the Data

Plot each limb’s angle on the vertical axis of a graph, whose horizontal axis is a percentage of the step cycle, going from 0 to 100%. Make each limb’s plot a different color. Be sure to allow room for negative angles if needed.

 

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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