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Robot Building 101

October 16, 2018

Let’s say you wanted to build a robot, and you wanted to do it on a relatively low budget and accessible to young children. This was my challenge one weekend over the summer, when I decided to robot building at a camp I was working at, with children as young as 4, and with over 500 children (not all at once!) over the course of the week. How should we do it? I wondered, and turned to the wonderful internet for resources.


First of all, robots need motors. You can buy real motors from a hobby store or from Amazon, but you can also use electric toothbrushes as pretty low-cost and reasonably effective motors. Usually people advise cutting off the actual brush part, presumably so that it is less obviously identifiable as a toothbrush.


Second, what do you do with that motor? You can attach it to the interior of a pool noodle and make a doodle-bot. See this link for instructions and more details: https://kidssteamlab.com/art-bot-art-projects-kids/. You can also make a brush-bot where you attach the toothbrush motor to a nail brush and use the vibrations of the toothbrush to propel the nail brush around. Check out this video for more details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNS56qYyfLY.


If you are interested, there are lots and lots of robot-making kits that are available on Amazon or in a hobby store.  Personally, I have tried the 4M tin can robot (https://www.amazon.com/4M-3653-Tin-Can-Robot/dp/B0014WO96Y/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1539003586&sr=8-2&keywords=robots+for+kids+tin+can), the doodling robot (https://www.amazon.com/4M-4575-Doodling-Robot/dp/B002EWWW9O/ref=sr_1_2?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1539003673&sr=1-2&keywords=4m+doodling+robot), and a 4M salt water powered robot (https://www.amazon.com/4M-Salt-Water-Powered-Robot/dp/B00AV8XBGG/ref=pd_sim_21_7?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B00AV8XBGG&pd_rd_r=0e801590-cafa-11e8-9abb-7d2cd28fbd32&pd_rd_w=ADIr8&pd_rd_wg=YCKSF&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=56838e6b-66d4-41e0-a762-743f1a1a628a&pf_rd_r=D2J6J1HA6DVQ4SR01ZRT&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=D2J6J1HA6DVQ4SR01ZRT). These are all lots of fun, although are all costlier than building a robot from old electric toothbrushes and other household components.


Happy Robot-Making, readers! Enjoy!

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