Unit Humans Are Like Robots

Photo shows a bi-pedal robot that looks like a man in a white spacesuit and helmet.
How are robots and humans related?
Copyright © Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robot_asimo_cropped.jpg


Four lessons related to robots and people present students with life sciences concepts related to the human body (including brain, nervous systems and muscles), introduced through engineering devices and subjects (including computers, actuators, electricity and sensors), via hands-on LEGO® robot activities. Students learn what a robot is and how it works, and then the similarities and differences between humans and robots. For instance, in lesson 3 and its activity, the human parts involved in moving and walking are compared with the corresponding robot components so students see various engineering concepts at work in the functioning of the human body. This helps them to see the human body as a system, that is, from the perspective of an engineer. Students learn how movement results from 1) decision making, such as deciding to walk and move, and 2) implementation by conveying decisions to muscles (human) or motors (robot).
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

A major aspect of biological engineering and neuroscience is the ability to see the human body as a functioning, controlled system, similar to a robot. More and more findings show that mathematical principles similar to those used in robotics are extremely useful or even necessary for a complete understanding of the human body. In the fields of biological engineering and systems neurobiology, engineers are becoming more involved in human body research and efforts to replicate the functioning of many of its systems. Electrical circuits, motors, gears and controls are all taught in the electrical, mechanical, instrumentation and control, and biomedical engineering disciplines.

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.

See individual lessons and activities for standards alignment.


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Unit Schedule

More Curriculum Like This

Upper Elementary Lesson
Are We Like Robots?

Students explore the similarities between how humans move and walk and how robots move, so they come to see the human body as a system from an engineering point-of-view.

Upper Elementary Lesson
Brain is a Computer

Students learn about the similarities between the human brain and its engineering counterpart, the computer. Since students work with computers routinely, this comparison strengthens their understanding of both how the brain works and how it parallels that of a computer.

Upper Elementary Unit
How Do Sensors Work?

Through six lesson/activity sets, students learn about the functioning of sensors, both human and robotic. The overall framework reinforces the theme of the human body as a system with sensors—that is, from an engineering perspective.

Upper Elementary Unit
Our Bodies Have Computers and Sensors

Students learn about the human body's system components, specifically its sensory systems, nervous system and brain, while comparing them to robot system components, such as sensors and computers.


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


Ajay Nair; Kalyani Upendram; 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 number 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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