Use readily available hobby electrical parts and everyday materials to create an art bot that draws by itself! Project and post by Danielle Falk of Little Ginger Studio.
Have you ever wanted to make your own motorized Scribbling “Art Bot”?
I’ve been itching to create art robots with children for YEARS! It looked like so much fun to make a real moving robot from scratch that can actually draw! And I wasn’t disappointed.
This ended up being one of the most successful (if slightly nerve-racking) art workshops I ever facilitated. Be sure to try this at home, but be prepared for a bit of tweaking and adjusting along the way.
Kids and adults will need to use problem-solving skills for this one. And please don’t worry if you’re not technically inclined, anyone can make an Art Bot!
How to Make Your Own Art Bot
For the mechanism:
- large disposable paper cup
- battery holder (2 x AA battery) with on / off switch (switch is not essential but I felt it made the design safer) and 2 leads (you can even make one without a holder and just tape your batteries on)
- hobby motor 130 size 3-6V
- 2 x AA batteries
- various coloured tape (it needs to be strong)
- hot glue gun
- hot glue sticks
- markers (we used Crayola washable markers – the longer the marker, the better)
For the decorations:
- disposable mini pie pans
- feathers, dot stickers, pipe cleaners, glittery paper or any craft materials you fancy!
- googly eyes
- silver bubblewrap (a most treasured recycled art material! – we saved ours from our Marley Spoon deliveries)
- washi tape
- a very large piece of paper (on a smooth, hard surface to reduce drag) for drawing onto (we glued paper roll lengths together to make our paper approximately 10ft x 10ft.
A rewarding activity for all ages
This activity works best for children in mid-elementary school upwards (all the way to high school). We did it with 4-year-olds but they do require more assistance.
All the hard work pays off when the children set their scribbling art bots loose to create fabulous giant collaborative drawings (the noise may not be so rewarding for adults!)
Preparing to make our scribble-bots
After researching many different designs for art bots on the internet, I decided to take the time to buy real electrical components from an electrical hobby supplier so that students could build their robots completely from scratch.
This wasn’t exactly straightforward and involved a bit more research and advice but I settled on using 130 size 3-6V hobby motors which I ordered from a hobby supplier online, as they were powerful and generated a lot of vibration.
Alternatively, you could use a cheap electric toothbrush and either take out the motor or build your robot around the toothbrush. There are many examples online of art bots made from electric toothbrushes & good old fashioned pool noodles and this would be the simplest way to create one.
1. How to make the Art Bot body
- Measure where to attach the markers (legs) so that they are evenly distributed and your robot can stand up straight. Attach the markers very securely using tape.
- Ensure the batteries are loaded into the holder correctly (this is VERY important – kids tend to have trouble with this step!)
- Securely attach the battery holder to the top of the paper cup using hot glue & tape. You may need to balance the holder and motor on top of the cup before attaching.
2. How to prepare the Art Bot motor
- Securely attach the hobby motor to the top of the paper cup using hot glue and lots of tape. It’s important that there is no wobble as you want vibrations to travel down into the cup to make the legs wobble & draw!
- Press a piece of cut hot glue stick into the end of the hobby motor for a propeller.
- Attach the leads to the batteries.
Now for the FUN bit! Turn on the motor and make sure it works (if not, check your batteries are inserted correctly).
3. Decorate the Art Bot
- Use mini foil pie pans to create the robot heads (with googly eyes & silver bubble wrap “hair” attached). Then loosely tape these over the propellers for safety.
- Create a breast plate (control panel) using cardboard, then tape it and add it to the front. Arms can be added by poking wire through the paper cup and decorating these.
There really is no limit as to how kids can decorate their Art Bots – as long as the decorations don’t interfere with the propeller.
4. Let your Art Bot loose on some paper!
Check that your Art Bot is working correctly then let it loose on some paper to create awesome swirly designs! If you’re having trouble – don’t freak out! – you may just need to do a little tinkering, perhaps:
- Tweak the placement of the motor.
- Make sure your leads are attached correctly.
- The batteries tend to wriggle out of alignment after the motor runs for a while and may need to be pressed back inside the holder.
- Be sure your paper surface is really smooth or the robot won’t move.
Take it Further!
I’m already thinking about BIGGER and better Art Bot workshops! I’d like children to have the chance to innovate on their designs by offering more components such as levers and gears. I’d also like to explore other propulsion methods – maybe wound elastic bands or even wind up toys!
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