When you think of robotics, it is easy to let your mind loose in a sci-fi fantasy of artificial intelligence that not only looks human but can also think for its self (and the reality is that we’re not impossibly far off from that), but for anyone just getting started it is better to think simpler. As the saying goes, you must learn to walk before you can run.
One of simplest types of robots is a vibrobot, which is primarily composed of a vibrating motor and a power source (ie battery). A vibrobot is the perfect first exploration into robots for any early elementary aged child, being that it is both simple to assemble as well as inexpensive.
We originally followed instructions to make BristleBots, however, instead of racing them as was recommended, we dipped ours in a bit of paint and used them to make art.
BristleBots work best when made with wide head toothbrushes, and ours were apparently not wide enough as they were very top-heavy and kept falling over.
We weren’t too terribly disappointed though. Real science is full of hiccups and its good for LittleMan to start learning that hard fact now, early in life. We discussed it and decided that we needed something with a wider base to keep it from falling over. We toyed with a variety of options but eventually settled on a small plastic cup. I disassembled the BristleBots and gave LittleMan all the parts (motor, battery, and tape) so that he could make his new cup-vibrobot.
The assembly was pretty simple, my kindergartner year was able to do it without help.
Before he did anything else, he drew a face onto the cup. Then he taped one wire from the motor onto one side of the battery. Then he taped the motor and the battery to top of the cup. Finally he taped the second wire from the motor to the other side of the battery and viola, done.
Just look at the pride on his face when he finished making his very own robot and it really moved. Priceless.
I made my own robot as well and we let them “battle” each other on a tray.
It was really only a matter of time though before LittleMan involved his robot in the adventures of his super heroes and super villains.
For more robot project ideas, I highly recommend Science Buddies (they also have a wealth of science projects outside of the robotics field). My personal favorite is the tutorial on how to build a robotic hand out of drinking straws, which is a bit more advanced than LittleMan is currently ready for.
This post has been part of The ABCs of Raising Well-Rounded Geeklings series.