Extending Grabber




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Step 1: Materials

For the basic example, you'll need:

Designable components:

For testing:

  • 2 cups

Step 2: Assemble and Reinforce the Beams

  1. Create four beams by inserting the craft sticks into the pieces of straws.
  2. Leave a small gap (about 1mm) between the ends of the craft sticks.
  3. Break off a 3-4" piece of skewer. Get a piece of masking tape. Use both hands to hold the tape and stick it onto the skewer. Without letting go of the tape, apply it to the straw piece. Fold the other half of the tape over the skewer.
  4. This will reinforce the connection between the sticks. Without it, the straws might bend and cause the grabber to be inoperable.
  5. Young students may have trouble with this step.
  6. Repeat with all four beams.

Step 3: Connect the Beams

  1. Use the pointed end of the skewer to carefully pierce the center of the straw.
  2. Pierce another straw piece with the same skewer.
  3. Pull the skewer most of the way through, then break off the skewer, leaving a 2-3" piece connecting the two straw pieces. By pulling the skewer all the way through, the pointed tip can be reused.
  4. Repeat for the other two beams to create two 'X' shapes.
  5. Repeat this process to connect the two 'X' shapes together as depicted.

Step 4: Design the Grabber

Use pieces of craft sticks, pipe cleaners, and/or rubber bands to improve the grabber's grip. This part of the project is more open-ended.

Step 5: Test

Tape two cups together as depicted.

Try to pick up the cups. If this proves too easy, then improvise new challenges.

Avoid picking up objects that weigh more than a few ounces.

Step 6: Safety, Tips, and Troubleshooting

  • The skewer pieces may be pointed. Don't allow students to try to grab at each other or wave the skewers above shoulder height.
  • Be sure that students create and reinforce the beams before assembling. Students may be eager to assemble the beams, but the reinforcement step is important for this project to be durable.
  • The cup challenge may be easy for many students. Improvise a variety of challenges to encourage redesign, such as picking up a large marker, a rolled up piece of paper, your keys, or other small objects.
  • If the joints are falling apart, you can wrap tape around the skewer pieces to prevent the straws from slipping off.

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21 Discussions


Question 1 year ago

I have some milkshake straws and craft sticks, however my straws seem to be too big. Do you have a size for the straws needed? I couldn't find one on the amazon link. Looks like a great activity! Also, do you think you could use toothpicks instead of skewers for the connection stability?

1 answer

Answer 1 year ago


The straws need to be about 1/4" in diameter. You can use larger straws and just tape the straws to the craft sticks so they don't slip out. You might be able to use toothpicks, but they could break easily, depending on how thick your straw is. Good luck!


2 years ago

Thank you! Kids loved it. I had kids kinder-5th enjoying this project. I did it with 4 year olds too and they had fun!


3 years ago

Super cool project! This is made with the skinny kind of craft sticks, not the jumbo ones, correct?


4 years ago on Introduction

When you do this, do you give them the directions or just hand them the materials and see if they can come up with the design on their own?

1 reply

Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

I show how to make the extending mechanism step-by-step, however the part that actually grabs things is designable and open-ended.


4 years ago on Step 2

Thank you so much - I teach an after school Science club and they are going to love this!!


4 years ago on Introduction

I think this is a good example of a first class compound lever. Should I use it for my project?


5 years ago on Introduction

"I made it!" No pics yet, but made 4 of these with a 10 and 8 year old this afternoon. First one we did together, the other 3 they made themselves for fun and friends. Nose grabbers. Huge thanks for these -- I'm helping home school 3 kids (the 5 y.o. was in on the grabbing, too).

1 reply

Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Awesome! Please do share some pictures if you feel inclined. It's always great to see others enjoying these projects :)


5 years ago on Introduction

I need to make one of these for when I drop hangers and clothing between the laundry machine and wall!


5 years ago on Introduction

Wow, thank you!!! There are so many cool and useful instructables but they were not materials I had laying around or stored up somewhere! And now, this simple but cool project is perfect for me to do with my sister. Thanks again!!!