Handy Work

Version 7



    The essential theme of this lesson is to ensure students are taught the basics of human biology whilst making it practical by creating a small program.


    At a Glance

    • Age Level: 5-7 year olds, 8-11 year olds
    • Subjects: Computing, Science (biology)
    • Time Needed: 2 hours


    Learning Objectives

    • Must be able to list how many muscles are needed to control the index finger
    • Should be able to create a simple model of a hand made out of straws
    • Should be able to devise a simple program to move fingers
    • Could be able to reflect on the project and analyze what went well during the project


    Standards Alignment

    GCSE - Science


    Inquiry Process

    Ask students to investigate the muscles needed to control our finger movement. Particularly the index finger as seven different muscles are used to control movement. Once this has been done learners should be asked to create a hand which should reflect finger movement.


    Prerequisite Skills

    Students should have a basic knowledge of body parts and how they function. This lesson would be ideal if the curriculum was about muscles and how body parts work together. Learners should also have an idea of how to program the Genuino 101 and the basics of declaring variables in code.



    • Give handouts in a different layout and ensure appropriate language is being used

    • Ensure help is provided on all elements of the practical task

    • Use a yellow background and black font on handouts


    Technology and Resources


    • 5 good quality straws (McDonalds are pretty good!)
    • String (about 3 meters)
    • Strong tape
    • Glove (optional)
    • Scissors



    • 1 x Genuino 101 board
    • 5 x 9g servos
    • 1 x computer with Genuino 101 software



    The activity is simple, students need to have some biology background about fingers and different muscles. The index finger and the seven muscles that make this work are imperative to students understanding the importance of finger joints.


    After students have been taught a little about biology, and assessment has taken place via a quiz or getting students to complete a worksheet, then they should be ready to create a hand using straws and a Genuino 101 board.


    This activity is quite simple, students should be able to create a hand using the five straws. The servo motors should be connected to the Genuino 101 board which will pull the fingers once programmed. This will give students an idea of the muscles in our body and how the fingers work.


    To start the activity:

    1. Learners should very carefully measure each straw to their own finger and cut off any excess.
    2. Students should mark each straw to their joints. The straws should match the finger length from step 1.
    3. Very carefully, students should make a small cut out in the straws for the joints. Repeat this for all five straws. Ensure the cut out is not too big otherwise the straws will not work as fingers!
    4. Using the string, feed it through a straw and ensure there is about 4/5 cm excess at the bottom. At the top of the straw tie a knot in the string and use the tape to secure the knot to the straw. Repeat this for all five straws.
    5. Once all five straws have been secured with the string, place each straw close together facing upright and tape the bottom of all five straws.
    6. Test the straws by pulling the string so that they activate a "finger" movement. If the straws move sideways un-tape the bottom of all five straws and reposition to ensure they work correctly.
    7. Using the Genuino 101 students should be able to use the basic servo sketch as a skeleton and build on the code.
    8. Learners need to add and rename all five servos which will be attached to the Genuino 101 and hand. (See sample code four servos attached.)
    9. Learners should be able to upload the code to the board. Attach a servo motor to ensure that it works as expected.
    10. Finally, attach the straws to the servo motor and watch the fingers move. Repeat for all five fingers.
    11. For a finishing touch you can put a glove over the top of the straws to make it look more realistic.



    Formative assessment should be a quiz based on the different muscles needed for the index finger to work. In addition, students should be able to complete a diagram or sketch their own idea of how the practical hand will work. Furthermore, questioning techniques on variables is also a good summative assessment.


    Summative assessment should be the completed practical hand which is fully functional. This should be a practical element. Learners should be able to explain to the teacher in person where the muscles work. Lastly, a working program and hand should be graded and feedback should be given.


    As an extension, learners can do some peer assessment on each other’s hands based on certain criterion. This can also further enhance learning and assessment on this particular topic.


    Additional Tips and Information

    • When completing the activity, ensure that all five straws face the correct way up when cutting the "joints."

    • Ensure the "joints" are not too widely cut otherwise the fingers will move sideways.

    • Ensure all the string is securely connected to each straw as the servos will pull and you do not want the string to detach.

    • Ensure the length of each string from the finger (piece which will be pulled) is roughly the same otherwise it will be hard to secure the motors.



    Tony Gilbert Tony_Gilbert14, Computing Lecturer, New College Swindon, United Kingdom

    Students learn the basics of human biology (the muscles of the hand) and create a practical computer program to make a hand move