Anthropometrics and ergonomics

Home learning focus

Learn the basics of anthropometrics and ergonomics.

This lesson includes:

  • two video clips demonstrating ergonomic design and calculating averages

  • two activities to try at home


The relationship between anthropometrics and ergonomics needs to be understood and used by designers:

  • Anthropometrics - Taking measurements of the human body
  • Ergonomics - How a person interacts with a product

Ergonomic designs will use anthropometric data to make the product easier or more comfortable to use, eg using average head circumferences when designing a safety helmet.

Ergonomic designs need to consider the size, weight and shape of the product, as well as the position of buttons and controls.

If a designer doesn’t use anthropometric data, the end product can cause discomfort, pain and potential injury.

In the following video, taken from 'The Dengineers' series, the team are creating a tree-house inspired village den for the children from Claire House Children's Hospice.

You will see how anthropometric data and ergonomic design come into play as the team investigate designing a zip wire that is wheelchair accessible.

It results in a basket-shaped cradle, big enough for a wheelchair and an additional person and strong enough to hold both, balanced on two cables instead of one to stop the cradle from tipping.

How to make a wheelchair accessible zip wire.

The anthropometric and ergonomic data for a design will form a part of your design specification, informing the measurements in your formal drawings and final product.

When using anthropometric data, often you will want to know an average. In most cases, this is the mean, which can be found by adding all the numbers together then dividing by the number of numbers.

In the following video, we find out more about calculating the mean, mode, median and range averages.

Calculating mean, mode, median and range.


Now you can try and put some of what you have learned about anthropometrics and ergonomics into action.

Activity 1

Fill in the table for hand widths and lengths provided by the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

You can start with the sample data provided (below), add measurements for yourself and then for those in your household - the more data you can collect the better.

From this, calculate the mean average for each.

You will need a pen and paper.

Example anthropometric data for hands

Hand lengthHand width
190 mm120 mm
187 mm117 mm
133 mm70 mm
181 mm111 mm
154 mm91 mm
Anthropometric data for hands

Activity 2

Have a think about how this anthropometric data might be used in the design of a computer mouse.

Think about the difference in measurements for your own hand and that of your parent's or the sample data provided - would a computer mouse designed of these measurements work for both younger and older users?

See if you can come up with a design that would work for both, or separate designs aimed at different aged users.

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

More lessons for Year 4 and P5
Primary Design and Technology
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