Unplugged: Design a Biomechanical Cyborg - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

Lesson Details

Age Ranges
Fab-Electronics.1, Fab-Design.1, MS-ETS1-1, MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-4

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Nettrice Gaskins
Nettrice Gaskins
Dr. Nettrice Gaskins has worked for several years in K-12 and post-secondary education, community media and technology before receiving a doctorate in Digital Media from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2014. She has focused on the application of cultural art… Read More


This activity is a perfect blend of science and creativity as students work with their partner(s) to create their version of a cyborg appendage (or device). This part must mimic the workings of a true organic body part, but incorporate some enhancements that would make people want to use it. Encourage students to think outside of the box on this one, their cyborg part need not be practical but it must be awesome!


Definition: A cyborg is a person whose body contains mechanical or electrical devices and whose abilities are greater than the abilities of normal human.


One example of a real life cyborg is the “EyeWriter” project with Tempt1. Video

What You'll Need

  • Found materials: toilet paper and paper towel rolls, scrap paper, discarded boxes, drinking straws, string, fishing line, elastic bands, and whatever else you can find (this could be a scavenger hunt activity)
  • Tape or hot glue
  • Computer/laptop/smartphone for research (see step 2)
  • Optional supplies are listed in the final section “Electrify It!”


The Instructions

Choose a Cyborg Model

Models are used as references for students, especially for research and design thinking.

Students can work in pairs or in small groups depending in the class size. Each pair/group must select one real or fictional cyborg and watch a video.


Cyborg Characters (for reference):

  • DC Comics’ Cyborg Video
  • Marvel Comics’ Nebula & Forge Video
  • Alita Battle Angel Video


Real Life Cyborgs (for reference):


Create a Design Concept Map

A design map is a 'riff' on the concept map that depicts suggested relationships between concepts.

Students should identify one device used by their cyborg model and research the model/device.

Next, students create their own design maps on paper.


For example, the design map for “EyeWriter” includes a sketch of the original project (center) and related concepts are placed or drawn around it.


Main concepts can ‘tagged’ with red text, secondary with green and tertiary with yellow.


For example:

In red: biomechanicsamyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALSphysical computingeye glassesTempt1. In green: biology, head injury, genetics, sports, graffiti, wearable technology, Graffiti Analysis, the eye. In yellow: aerodynamics, markup language, Chicano style and New York style (graffiti).


Build the Prototype

Rapid prototypes are scale models that can be built and iterated on quickly.

Students must quickly fabricate a scale model of their physical cyborg part using found objects and materials based on design concept(s) from their map. They have to use their imaginations.


They should be able to manipulate their prototype or demonstrate how it works.

Review the Prototype

Iterative design is based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process.

After completing their early prototypes, students need to participate in a ‘gallery walk’ using a questionnaire.


In a large class or group, the facilitator should make copies based on the group number… if there are 6 groups then each work area should have 5-6 copies of the questionnaire. Then, write numbers on each design map and on the corresponding questionnaires.


Each pair/group should spend at least 10 minutes with each project until all projects have been reviewed. Groups must leave the completed questionnaires at each work area before moving on the the next project.


When the gallery walk is over each group must return to their work area/project and review the questionnaires. If time allows, the groups can make changed based on the feedback. This is part of the iteration process.

Electrify It!

Note: This step is optional if you have the supplies listed below.