PBS KidsZOOM Home Back to Activity
Science Rocks!

Mechanical Grabber


your results

Sent in by:
Girl Scout Troop 2628 of Maynard, MA

Grab this chance to ZOOM Into Action!

Materials Needed

  • stuff from around your house, like...
  • sticks or wooden dowels
  • plastic pipe or tubing
  • wire hangers
  • string
  • rubber bands
  • pipe cleaners
  • duct tape
  • scissors



  1. Check with a grown-up before you get started.
  2. Lots of ZOOMers write in to tell us that they ZOOM Into Action by picking up trash, like Girl Scout Troop 2628 of Maynard, MA.
  3. It can be pretty yucky picking up trash with your bare hands. So, before you help out in your community by cleaning up the trash in your neighborhood, park, or school yard, design yourself a mechanical grabber so that you don't have to handle the garbage with your bare hands.
  4. Start by collecting some materials from around the house. Girl Scout Troop 2628 picks up trash from a river, so they needed waterproof materials for their grabbers, but you can use anything you want.
  5. Next, think about how your grabber will work to pick up the kind of trash in your area. If you need to pick up cans and bottles, you might design your grabber differently than if you plan to pick up mostly paper.
  6. Experiment with your materials and build your grabber.
  7. Now, try it out. Did you need to improve your design after using it? What improvements did you make? Be sure to tell us how you used your grabber and how well it worked.
  8. There are tons of different ways to make a working grabber, and that's what the creative design process is all about - coming up with your own ideas for how to do something. But, if you're curious to see how the ZOOMers made their grabbers, take a look at this.

You can also send us your pictures or video of this ZOOMsci:
Box 350
Boston, MA 02134

Some of your Results

Carmen of Edmonton wrote:
i used a lightbulb for the handle and a loooong stick and two thingy-magigys at the end and for a telltail result, it turned out to work!

Taylor, age 10 of Fort Carson, CO wrote:
Nothing happened exsept it grabed and squeezed a rotten tomato!!!

Dan, age 11 of New York City, NY wrote:
When I first tried it kept falling apart every time I touched something. Now im still trying to get this to work. Wish me Luck.

Maria, age 12 of Willis, TX wrote:
Well, from my results and testings I ended up with a super speed grabber because I added things to it, thanks for giving me the idea zoom!

Sarai, age 9 of El Paso, TX wrote:
It liffted some hevy thing I made it out of a pipcleaner with tape on top of it. The grabber was out of a tube.

Jelani, age 11 of NJ wrote:
It could pick up shoes, a full water bottle and my little brothers thomas trains.

Sela, age 11 of Southgate, MI wrote:
Well, It picked up most of my things in my room such as paper and plastic cups. Even thoe my hypothesis was right some things did not pick up.

Nathan, age 9 of Nixa, MO wrote:
I tried it and with a lot of practice, I am able to open doors. But I broke an orament on the christmas tree in the living room. So never practice in the living room, especially when you have a christmas tree that has glass decorations.

Mark, age 10 of Mahanoy City, PA wrote:
It didn't work too well, but it could pick up light weight things.

Rachel, age 10 of Norwalk, IA wrote:
It was hard at first (my brother and I were working together it was so hard he gave up) but I kept trying I was detirmened I would get it to work. And geuss what it finally did!!! And I only used the wired hanger to do it! Now I will be able to clean up trash in our neighborhood to keep it clean!!

Sharon, age 11 of Wrangell, AK wrote:
I invented it. To do it you need to have 2 broom sticks, tops of 2 bottles, ducktape and a metal net. Tape the 2 sticks into the holes of the tops of the bottles then ducktape a metal net to the bottom of the 1 bottom of the top hole. The only way for the thing to work is to put the sides together.

Zia, age 9 of Waco, TX wrote:
I decided to make my own mechanical grabber it was like your guys. I went to a park near my house and tried it out. Everyone was really intrested and everyone made their own. We cleaned up the park and made some friends. Thanks Zoomers!

Casey, age 11 of Maumelle, AR wrote:
When I tryed it it worked with bottles and cands. I use cardboard and a stick and some string.

Rebecca, age 9 of Knoxville, TN wrote:
Mine turned out great! I could pick up alot of stuff. I even made a ductape handle!

Kim, age 11 of Salem, OR wrote:
I saw that the mechanical grabbers had a hard time grabbing the trash so I decided to change the design to improve it. I made kind of like a scoop with holes so the water could strain out. There is a long pole with a plastic pail with the handle removed attached to the pole. You can make the holes with a can opener.*Note* use the pointy side of the can opener. Then you like scoop the trash in and you wouldn't have to touch it at all!

Connor, age 10 of Lexington, KY wrote:
It worked! I used 1 pipe, 1 coat hanger and duct tape. I modified some things on the one Shing Ying's team made. I made the coat hanger look like a V. Also, I used a stick instead of string. My way even picked up an empty gallon carton!

Xania, age 12 of Boston, MA wrote:
Wow this actually worked. and best of all I used this grabber for my school egineering science project, and I got an A+. (I also clean by neighborhood with it people say its really nice of me).

Nayiah, age 12 of Philadelphia wrote:
I worked. After a while it got tired. But I still got all the trash up on my block!!!

Santisha, age 11 of Jacksonville, FL wrote:
I did it and then it picked up my stuff I had on my floor. I don't know what I would do with out the mechanical grabber.

Jed, age 10 of Essex, VT wrote:
I made a small scale mechanical grabber out of a paper towel roll and a coat hanger. It works perfect. It even grabbed a pencil. Sadly it tears easy, but its very efficent.

Sei, age 11 wrote:
It worked way more than I thought it would. I could grab all sorts of things from my dog's slobbered tennis ball and a little key chain!

Robert, age 12 of Paris, France wrote:
I love the mechanical grabber. I picked up trash in my local park and the grabber was able to withstand a telephone book.

Brennan, age 11 of Livonia, LA wrote:
It was awesome!! I used a 1 ft long pipe, 1 coat hanger, 3 rubber bands. 1 rope.

Amanda, age 12 of E. Longmeadow, MA wrote:
When I made my own Mechanical Grabber with the formula off the internet, it worked very well. I like it alot and use it around my house everyday. Thank You Zoom for this wonderfull invention.

not yet implemented