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Robot Building 101

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: 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:

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 (, the doodling robot (, and a 4M salt water powered robot ( 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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