Nov 072019

Let’s make an articulated robotic hand that can be controlled with kid’s finger movements.

This is an activity that will describe the finger movements to kids with an easy explanation. You can also try this at home with kids. We have uploaded step by step demonstration for your easy reference.

How it all started?

My younger kid is very naughty and once she playfully closed the door when my elder one was keeping her hands in the closure. Her fingers got caught and she had pain. It was not very harsh though so I managed to keep ice cubes to relieve her from pain. At that time she was asking me about how the finger bends and why thumb finger has only two partitions while others have 3 etc. To cut the story short, these questions inspired me to teach her the anatomy of fingers with a DIY experiment.

Things required for making articulated hand

Before we talk about science, let us first see how to make this articulated hand model using simple things available at home. We bought few things from our local store. But, we have provided some links for your reference which you can refer to order online.

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Steps for Making Robotic Articulated Hand

Step #1: Tracing and Cutting

Trace the hand on the cardboard by placing the hands on it in such a way that the fingers are facing you. Cut the outline and refer video to know how much tracing is required.

Trace and cut articulated robotic hand

Step # 2: Bending the cardboard to make fingers

Use a ruler and bend places on the finger-like we bend our fingers. There are three lines in each finger and bending is complete in the portion where the fingers and the palm are connected. The next line also fingers bend thoroughly except for thumb finger. The topmost line in the finger bends partially. Make sure you check this action so give a perfect movement to your articulated fingers.

create tendon bends in cardboard articulated hand

Step #3: Straw cutting and pasting

Cut the paper straw into small pieces to make fingers with bones as well as tendons. Cut them small and place them in between each bend you just made. Remember the twine will pass through this straw and make the movement of the fingers possible. So place straw pieces in equal distance.

The straw will act as bones for fingers and twine as the tendons.

Note: You must make sure to give a gap between each straw and that is the best way to let the fingers bend flexibly. Also, do not tighten too much which will make it rigid and the hand anatomy will not be reflected properly.

paste straw tendons robotic hand making

Step #4: Pass the twine and tie beads

Cut strings into pieces and for length refer to the video. Tie the beads to the string pieces and 5 beads are required for one finger. Connect them with the straw to the thumb and other fingers too. However, beads are optional. You can skip beads and pass through twine in the straw as we did as well.

Ensure twine length and give enough space to allow it to move.

pass twine and tie beads to form nerves robotic hand

Step #6: Make a handle

Holding will become simple with the help of this cardboard cutting. Fold them and use glue gun to fix the handle. You must cut it that way and fix your hands inside.

Finally we used pipe cleaners to create rings for each finger and attached them to the twines. You can use actual play rings if you have.

It is over and the hands are ready to make any movement. You can hold things, play with the gun and much more.

Paste straws with the glue gun and allow it to try so that it is fixed correctly.

playing with articulated hand

I let the girls have fun for some time. Then we are ready for our final bit.. now that we made bones, tendons and nerves, why not we add flesh to make it look like a real hand.

My elder daughter suggested we should try inserting this hand in a glove to see whether it looked like a real hand.. Here is how we tried it..

inserting articulated hand in glove

Since we used cardboard, it was bit difficult to get it inside the glove. But we finally succeeded with few extra folds in the cardboard. That made the hand more flexible and less sturdy. But we could still use it to make finger movements.

Articulated hand with flesh
Science Behind Articulated Hand
  • Every finger has three bones whereas thumb has only 2. We call these bones as phalanges. That is why there are two lines in the thumb and three for other fingers to separate each small bone. We have straws to show them externally.
  • These phalanges will connect to the five bones present in the main portion of the hand. That is named as metacarpals. (You can find 8 bones in the wrist which are called carpals, but we have not shown that in our handcraft.)
  • The forearm contains the muscle which actually moves the thumb and the fingers.
  • Long flexor tendons are the one that extends from the forearm muscle and passes through the wrist as well as the palm to the thumb and fingers.
  • Tendon sheath is the place where the tendon slide and this passes through a snug tunnel. This is attached to the small bones of the thumb and other fingers. The tendons are held in place with the help of these sheaths. Contraction of forearm muscles will pull the tendons and thus the bones are moved.

Since the tendons are linked to the fingertip from the forearm, whenever there is minor damage in tendon it will affect the entire finger. I explained this to my kid and hence she suffered pain when the door slashed on her fingers.

The hand contains the veins and the arteries where the blood flows from and to the fingertips. The nerves present will let the feelings happen when you touch something with the fingers and hands. Indeed hands make a vital part of our body. These nerves are represented by the twine that forms the fibrous tendons.

Suitable For

It is a tricky activity but aptly suits 5+ years kids. We must provide help to them to make it work properly.  However, 7+ kids can do it on their own.

For kids above age 8 can understand the anatomy and so teach in detail about the finger science.

Word of Caution
When you make this articulated hand activity with cardboard you must be around as they need to use scissors to cut them. Cutting the cardboard can be tricky so my husband helpedme out. I would suggest you cut it for them to avoid any injury.Glue gun end point is pretty hot and avoid keeping near children. Alternatively, you can use double side tape like this one just to be safe.   

Try this DIY and share your feedback for improvement. Trust the video helps you make a hand model at ease. Refer this link for better understanding in case you wish to go in-depth about hand science to kids.

Disclaimer : This post contains affiliate links from Amazon. An affiliate link means that when you purchase using the link provided in this page, I would get a small referral fees WITHOUT any extra cost to you. I highly appreciate your understanding and support.

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