Thursday, July 30, 2015

DIY Robots + Art! BCA

This week my love of art meshes fully with my maker self as I teach eight little lovelies to make simple circuit art objects.  We started off the week by posing the question, what does a robot look like? 
Paintings on foam core!
Artists rendered all kinds of robots from cute to threatening, and wired up a simple circuit with two LEDs, two button cell batteries, and three pieces of wire.

So proud of his work!

This lesson comes from the inspiring and awesome blog of Tricia Fuglestad, an force of innovation in art teaching. Previously, my students have had bad luck with copper tape- it rips easily, the edges are sharp, and the sticky side isn't always very conductive, so instead we used regular project wire.

A roomful of robots!
The artists had a broad choice of special little LEDs, which meant that while some chose solid color, other LEDs blinked red or slowly shifted through the color spectrum. I taught the kiddos to solder the connections in their circuit so that they would be super solid and nothing could wiggle loose.

No joke- a soldering iron is dangerous. I reteach it again and again, every day that it's in use.
 Next we added motors to the simple circuits, which the students used to create jittering bots that drew, bashed into each other (see the robot battles in the video below), or just blew some cool air at the maker.

These bots brought out their competitive spirit, and they sounded like sportscasters calling the matches to see whose bot would fall down first.

 They gave each other "prizes" in different categories. One in particular was rigged up be really loud (specifically designed by the maker with the idea of irritating his brother), so that one received the dubious honor of "Most Annoying."

Far and away the "Most Adorable and Sparkly"
Some of the bots looked rather spidery... or maybe more like a millipede!

These kiddos did not want to go out to snack. Or to leave after class. Which is not surprising, since kids will even come in on their evening free time to be makers. They were completely absorbed, and each afternoon waved goodbye to their creations until the next morning.

Once students had a good handle on turning a motor on, I let them loose to build whatever they envisioned, but several had specific things they wanted to learn, especially how to use a motor to turn wheels.
Underside of my car
So, we are building things with wheels. It's pretty simple if you think about it like a car, so that's the example I used. We took foamcore sheets and utility knives to cut out rectangles for the car bodies, little triangles with holes to support the axles, and a rubber band to connect the axle to the motor.  These could be powered by either a 9V battery or a set of 4AA batteries.

Top of my car
Pretty blank, I know. Think about it like a car chassis. You could put anything at all on top of it to make a zooming robot or a tiny parade float.

It's quite speedy too, and we have to generally run to catch them outside. Here's my little lowdown on making one:

We strapped a little bear on our, which my younger thought was hilarious, but try it with just about anything you can make out of cardboard or other sculpture materials to create different types of cars.

Off I go, headed to try my prototype going off the little ramp (made from a block and a book) my little guy just built- hope that bear's seatbelt is on tight!

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