Armful of learning opportunities

Issue: Volume 99, Number 1

Posted: 31 January 2020
Reference #: 1HA4zu

The gift of an electronics kitset led to a Rolleston College student learning the practical and digital technologies knowledge and skills required to make a robotic arm that can be programmed to perform repetitive tasks.

Levente's robotic arm took two years and many prototypes before it became a reality.

Upon receiving a kitset to build an electronic arm for Christmas, Year 10 student Levente Scott was inspired to swap the syringes, which provided the air pressure needed to make the arm move, with actuators – devices that convert energy into motion. Four prototypes and two years later, Levente’s robotic arm was the star of the show at Activate, an event held in November 2019 to showcase design, technology and science among schools in the Rolleston area.

Levente’s aluminium robotic arm sits on a cart that can be controlled remotely and features a 3D-printed claw. It uses stepper motors: a powerful back motor from a golf trundler provides the drive. The robot is powered by two computer power supplies and can also run off two 15amp batteries. 

“The project expanded. I thought if I used electronics, I might make a bigger arm out of metal and it grew over the course of two years. What I have learned is that it’s really important to prototype and not to rush things,” Levente says.

To develop the arm, Levente had to learn a range of new technology skills. He says he knew the basics of electronics when he started Year 9. Over the course of the project, however, he learnt programming, basic coding, welding, and how to use a lathe, 3D printer, and CAD (computer-aided design).

He says Rolleston College gave him the freedom to explore the possibilities of his project. Students are able to pursue passion projects in which they can learn new skills and use the school’s workshops and facilities.

“I’m given one hour of class time a week and get opportunities at lunch times. This is a school-based project and the school introduced me to 3D printing, CAD, laser cutting and welding. But I learned most of my skills from practising in my own time, watching tutorials on YouTube and just experimenting until things worked.

“I have quite a few teachers working beside me. I email them, updating them on my project. They all specialise in certain parts and help me when I have problems. The school also helped me get in touch with electrical engineers, who have helped me quite a bit. If I come across a problem, they will email me information or help me out with it.”

Levente says the project doesn’t have a practical application; “it was all about the learning opportunity”.  He wants to study mechatronic engineering at university and ultimately start his own business in the technology area.

Digital technology in action

Rolleston College has been using project-based inquiry to support their learning and understanding of the new digital technologies curriculum content, specifically the new technological area: Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes. 

Visit the Education Gazette article Learning with digital technologies to support sustainable outcomes(external link) to read more about what they are doing.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:35 pm, 31 January 2020

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