Kids' Tech · Maker Programs · STEM Programs

Make! Art Bots

Our last Make! programs of the spring had the kids making Art Bots. Michelle, our teen librarian, and I did two sessions, one for kids in grades 4-5 and the other for teens in grades 6+. This video is from the session for teens:

The concept is pretty simple: you take a motor, like the one in an electric toothbrush, attach it to a cup or pool noodle, attach markers and decorate. When you turn the motor on, the art bot vibrates, moves around and makes interesting designs. The execution, however, is not so simple. We got dollar store toothbrushes, and while getting the motors out was easy, putting them back together so they worked took some finesse. We had the kids work in groups of 2-3 to do the first art bot and then with the older group they could each make their own if they wanted to after successfully getting their first motor to work.

Art Bots

For decorating, we put out various art supplies, including colored duct tape, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, feathers, etc. There were some creative-looking final products!

We had 8 kids for the first session and 16 teens for the second session. The first session didn’t go so well. The kids (all boys) got frustrated with the motors and lost interest really quickly. Michelle and I had to do most of the work on the motors for each group. They did like decorating their art bots and once they were done with that we had them make LED throwies with leftover supplies from another program. They *really* liked aiming their throwies at the target we’d set up on a magnetic panel. That was probably the highlight of the program for this group.

The art bots worked MUCH better with the teens. They had more patience (and interest!) and only needed minimal help from us to get the motors working. Just about every teen ended up making their own art bot. We tried to have them do an art contest but they were happy decorating their art bots and tweaking them so they moved in different ways. It ended up taking them about 50 minutes to finish the bots and in the last ten minutes of the program they also made LED throwies. One boy attached a throwie to the inside of his art bot so the light streamed out the bottom of the cup (it was awesome and I wish I had gotten a picture!).

Based on how everything went and the kids’ responses, I would definitely do this program again with teens, but I’d be hesitant to do it again with kids in elementary school.

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