Week Sixty-One: Arcade Champions

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November 6, 2016 by WittyLibrarian

arcade-headerProgram Title: Science Explorers: Arcade Champions

Target Age Range: Teens, Grades 6-8

Program Length: 90 minutes

Brief Description: Create a DIY versions of the arcade claw grabber machine and other fun games!


Craft sticks

Milk shake straws


Masking tape

Yarn needles



Hot glue and glue guns

Cardboard boxes



Candy (any variety), pompoms, or other small, lightweight object


Extension Arm instructions


Cat claw scissors

Rubber bands

Disposable Cups, a variety of sizes

Pipe cleaners

Card Stock

Index Cards


Cost: $-$$

Advanced preparation:

  • Print out Extension arm instructions, enough for each participant.
  • Make at least one sample extension arm. Depending on how you choose to run the program, it might be helpful to have multiple samples for participants to examine.
  • Cut up some of the cardboard boxes into rectangles roughly the size of a sheet of 8×10 paper, enough so that each participant as a cardboard rectangle.

Program Outline:

  1. Demonstrate how sample extension arm works. Show how the arm extends and contracts when the handles are moved. Have a discussion, asking participants how they think the extension arm works.
  2. Participants make extension arm
  3. Extension arm testing
  4. Extension Arm Relay Race
  5. Create Marble Maze
  6. Free design on cardboard arcade games.  


  • Make Extension Arms

Our extension arms were inspired by Extension Grabber by Lances Makes on Instructables.com. We gave participants the option to either follow our adapted instructions for the Extension Arm or to look at a sample arm and attempt to create their own. They also had to design their own claw for their extension arm. We gave them disposable cups, pipe cleaners, card stock, index cards, and rubber bands as supplies to use for potential claw parts, as well as the option to use additional craft sticks, skewers and straws in their design.  

As a tip, the optional supply item of claw scissors is extremely helpful in cutting the skewers. The curved design allows for the skewer to be cut without splintering.arm

  • Extension Arm testing

candyAs participants finished their extension arms, they test them out by trying to get candy out of a bucket or box. Based on how their extension arm did, they could go back and modify their design. The extension arms could be tested using something other than candy, as long as it is lightweight.

  • Extension Arm Relay Race

Have participants use their extension arms to transport small lightweight objects from one end of the room to a bucket at the other end of the room in a race.  

  • Marble Mazes

For this activity, we were inspired by posts like this and this. Have participants map out their mazes on the cardboard in advance, and then cut straws to size. Supervise them as they then hot glue the straws to their drawn outline on the cardboard.

  • Free design cardboard arcade games

With remaining boxes, have participants design their own arcade games, as inspired by Cainesarcade.com.


Extension Arm instructions

Resources Used:

Extension Grabber by Lances Makes on Instructables.com

Kid-Made DIY Recycled Cardboard Marble Maze by Agnes Hsu on Hellowonderful.co

Cardboard Marble Maze on Therapyfunzone.net


What we would do differently:

bucketAlthough we had many activities planned, we actually never got to the relay races, marble mazes or the cardboard arcade. Our teens were fascinated by continually tweaking and re-configuring their extension arms, and then trying to pick up candy. Half of the teens followed the printed instructions and the other half chose to figure out their arms on their own. It was a very small group (tip: it is never wise to run a program during a history-making World Series!), and we let them do things at their own pace. With a larger group, there would be a definite need to eventually move beyond tweaking the Extension Arm, as boredom in a large group strikes fast, but perhaps only one of the additional activities would be needed. For the small portion that we did do, though, it went amazingly well, and we were impressed with the variety of designs our teens came up with.jaws

Adaptation for older/younger audience:

This program could be presented as planned to an older teen audience. The only adaptation we suggest is to remove the written instructions and have the teens figure out how to build the Extension Arm from the sample alone. The added challenge should be very appealing to an older teen audience.

This program would also work well with a Tween audience, grades 4-6th. For that age group, we recommend having them follow the written instructions for building the arm, rather than figuring the design out on their own.

We do not recommend this program for children younger than 4th grade, as the crafting of the Extension Arm can be a bit tricky.

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