Hands-on Activity Movement Task Using Sensors - Humans and Robots

Quick Look

Grade Level: 5 (5-8)

Time Required: 1 hours 15 minutes

Expendable Cost/Group: US $0.00

This activity uses non-expendable (reusable) LEGO MINDSTORMS robot kits and software; see the Materials List for details.

Group Size: 3

Activity Dependency:

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

NGSS Performance Expectations:

NGSS Three Dimensional Triangle

A LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 robot's sensors assist its movement.
Copyright © Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:40365_Line_Follower_Robot.jpg


This activity helps students understand the significance of programming and also how the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot's sensors assist its movement and make programming easier. Students compare human senses to robot sensors, describing similarities and differences.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Biological engineers and neuroscientists perceive the human body as a functioning, controlled system, similar to a robot. Through this activity, students relate the similarities and differences between human senses and robot sensors. They see how a program is similar to the messages sent to human brains.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Compare the functions of the components involved in movement in both a human body and a robot.
  • Program an NXT robot to move, based on the input it received from a sensor.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-LS1-8. Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This activity focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence.

Alignment agreement:

Each sense receptor responds to different inputs (electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical), transmitting them as signals that travel along nerve cells to the brain. The signals are then processed in the brain, resulting in immediate behaviors or memories.

Alignment agreement:

Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural systems.

Alignment agreement:

  • Differentiate between inputs, processes, outputs, and feedback in technological systems. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Make qualitative observations using the five senses (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Describe how new technologies have helped scientists make better observations and measurements for investigations (e.g., telescopes, electronic balances, electronic microscopes, x-ray technology, computers, ultrasounds, computer probes such as thermometers) (Grade 5) More Details

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  • Identify receivers of visible light energy (e.g., eye, photocell) (Grade 6) More Details

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  • Make qualitative observations using the five senses (Grade 6) More Details

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  • Explain the interactions between the nervous and muscular systems when an organism responds to a stimulus (Grade 8) More Details

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Materials List

For the class to share: Various classroom materials, such as textbooks, wooden boards and bricks, to build a maze for the robot to navigate.

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/umo_robotsandhumans_act4] to print or download.


This activity is part of the How Do Human Sensors Work? lesson. In the activity, students learn to think like robots in order to learn how to program them with the sensor. Follow the Movement Task Involving Sensors PowerPoint Presentation to take the students through the procedure.


Before the Activity

With the Students

Refer to the Movement Task Using Sensors PowerPoint Presentation.

  1. Use slides 2-4 as an overview of the previous class about human senses and robotic sensors. As necessary, review Activity 1: Understanding Communication with a Robot in which students learned what a robot is.
  2. Revisit Part I of the first activity in this unit, Understanding Communicaiton with a Robot, which is reproduced on slides 5 and 6. Either do the activity or ask students to recall their experiences doing it previously it in approaching the questions on slide 7, which are designed to help students understand how program commands help in easy control of the robot and also how human sensors enable easy movement.
  3. The first part of this activity illustrates how robot sensors help in efficient movement of the robot. Next, revisit Part II of the first activity in the unit, Understanding Communication with a Robot, in which students programmed a taskbot to navigate a maze.
  4. Create a maze with textbooks, wooden boards or boxes. Increase the maze difficulty by adding more turns.
  5. Divide the class into groups of two or three students each. Distribute the built LEGO NXT taskbots to the groups, one per group. If available, they can start with the same taskbot they used in Activity 1: Understanding Communication with a Robot.
  6. Provide students with the instructions for attaching and programming taskbots with sensors, provided as attachments to this activity.
  7. Present the engineering design challenges on slide 8. Once groups have a taskbot that can navigate the maze without a sensor, completing design challenge B, each group should select a robot sensor of their choice to use to program their respective NXT robot to move through the maze. This is engineering design challenge B.
  8. After they have finished, ask each group to answer the discussion questions on slide 9 for the class.
  9. Conclude the unit by conducting the Jeopardy Game as described in the Assessment section and on slides 11-13.


robot: A machine that gathers information about its environment (senses) and uses that information (reads program) to follow instructions to do work (acts).

sensor: A device that detects a particular stimulus and relays information regarding said stimulus.

stimulus: A detectable signal that causes a reaction.


Jeopardy Rules

  • Team 1 chooses and answers the first question.
  • If Team 1 is unable to answer the question, then Team 2 gets to choose.
  • The question keeps cycling through all of the teams (repeating if necessary) until either one team gets it right, or the teacher determines that the question will likely not be answered and reveals the answer to the class.
  • The team that correctly answers the question is given the points for that question.
  • Once the answer of the question is known, Team 1's turn is over. The next question is chosen by Team 2, which gets the first opportunity to answer the question. This process continues until all questions are completed.

Final Jeopardy Rules

  • Each team is given a writing utensil and a piece of paper.
  • Each team is given a limited period of time to write down their answer to the final Jeopardy question.
  • Along with their answers, the teams must also write down the number of points they are willing to "wager" on their answers. The maximum number of points that a team can wager is the number of points that they currently have. If a team's answer is correct, it gains the number of points that it wagered. If a team's answer is incorrect, it loses the number of points that it wagered.
  • Then teams submit their answers for grading by the teacher.

Using the Jeopardy File

  • Open the Post-Activity Assessment Jeopardy Game PowerPoint and choose the slide show view.
  • Click on the particular point value in the particular column chosen by a team and read off the "answer" (in Jeopardy, teams are given the "answer" to a question and must come up with the "question").
  • To view the "question," click on the "question" button.
  • To go back to the main screen, click on the icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.
  • DO NOT SAVE a Jeopardy file after playing a game! ALWAYS KEEP A COPY of the ORIGINAL FILE!

Safety Issues

Make sure that robots are only run on tables to ensure that no damage occurs to them.


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© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2010 Curators of the University of Missouri


Ajay Nair; Charlie Franklin; Ashwin Mohan; Satish Nair

Supporting Program

GK-12 Program, Computational Neurobiology Center, College of Engineering, University of Missouri


This curriculum was developed under National Science Foundation GK-12 grant no. DGE 0440524. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: February 8, 2019

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