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Driving Question: 

How can you design a robot, based on plant and animal structures, that benefits its environment?

Language Arts, Science
Grade 4

Students explored biorobotics using plan and animal structures as the basis for the design of the robots.  Watching clips of bio-robotic designs inspired students to think outside the box. Students also chose a biome in China to research and used the features of that biome to determine a task their robot could perform, from providing water in arid regions to planting trees in deforested areas. They learned, in detail, the internal and external structures of plants, dissected lilies, participated in plant field study, performed skits demonstrating plant adaptations, and created habitats for both land snails and crickets. Students created a robot scale model and documented their work and progress in an instruction manual. Finally, students created rubrics for their models, determined deadlines and milestones, and presented their work at a Robot Exhibition.

Student Reflection

"I liked putting together a robot with combined plant and animal structures because we got to be creative, try to solve a real problem, and we weren't limited in our thinking." - Luca D.

"I like this robot unit. It is extremely exciting to look at parts of animal and plant parts.It is also a enjoyable time to create a model of a robot."   - Joanna C.

"I enjoyed working together with others on the robot project because we got to learn new ideas from each other. I liked designing the robot because we had free space to create." - Leah B.

"Making the robot was a fun process, going from researching to sharing the final project with a lot of people." - Jennifer L.

"This project helped me figure out that each living thing in a structure has a job, like in the human world." - Eric C.

"A challenge was working out our ideas as a team because everyone had their own ideas for the robot. We overcame this by naming different animal and plant structures and then combining them into one robot. In the end, our robot had part of all of us included in it." - Annie A.

"I loved the robot-making portion of it because it made us more creative" - James Y.

Student Products
  • Design and build a scale model of a robot that benefits a specific biome in China. 
  • Produce an instruction manual for the robot and its function
  • Present robot designs at a Robot Exhibition
Teacher Reflection

“As I reflect on our Structures of Life PBL unit a few key points stick out. First, there’s the student-driven excitement and ownership of their learning. Second, there’s the opportunity to work together as a team to accomplish a greater task. Finally, there’s the enjoyment they got when presenting of all their hard work to audience. “ - James Anderson

“Our initial goal was to make the study of plant and animal structures more compelling and meaningful for our students. So we felt that having them delve into biorobotics made sense. It gave them a real purpose to explore the internal and external structures of living things, and led to so much inquiry as biorobotics is such a fascinating and pioneering field. In the project’s second year we wanted to enhance the design process by having students identify a problem within a biome in China that their robot could solve. Not only did this help them become more innovative designers, it helped them connect on a more personal level to our immediate environment.” - Jeff Fessler 


Jeff Fessler

James Anderson