Make an Art Bot

Art bots are noisy, spinny, wiggly, “vibrobots” that use their marker legs to create art. They’re easy to make, and the kids always love to watch them work when we demonstrate them at events.

Materials

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  • A “body” for the art bot. This can be a plastic cup, some toilet paper rolls, a pool noodle, a 3D-printed holder, or something entirely different! For this tutorial, we’re using a plastic cup.
  • 4, or more, markers. Alternatively, you can use 2-3 markers and 1-2 popsicle sticks!
  • A DC toy/hobby motor. You have a lot of options here! If you want, you can try digging one out of an old, moving toy, or you can just buy one online. Try to find one that has leads attached, to make it easier to connect to the battery. We’ve had good luck with these and a 9V battery: DC Toy / Hobby Motor – 130 Size (4.5 to 9VDC)
  • A battery. Be sure to match the battery (or batteries) to the motor. If you have a 3V motor, don’t use a 9V battery!
  • A battery clip/holder. Make sure you get one with the leads (wires) included, because otherwise you’ll have to add them yourself. You can get these with, or without, an on/off switch. We use a battery clip, and just remove it to turn the bot off.
  • Electrical tape

If you have trouble finding everything, we have a kit that includes all of the materials, except for the electrical tape.

Tools

Instructions

  1. Strip about 1/2″ of the insulation from the wire leads on the battery clip/holder. If your motor also has leads, strip about 1/2″ of the insulation from those as well. Connect the leads from the battery clip/holder to the motor. Polarity might be important here, depending on your motor. Our motors will simply reverse if you reverse the polarity, so it doesn’t really matter if you attach the wires to the wrong polarity, so long as you attach one wire to each side. For my project, I twisted the wires together, as shown in the picture, and then secured with electrical tape.
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  2. Now for the most difficult part: attach the markers to the body. This can be tricky! You want to try to get the markers attached so that all of them are touching the table when you stand it up.
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  3. Attach the motor to the top of the body. Our art bots use a “propeller” to help move them, so I usually attach the motor near the edge of the bottom of the cup, and secure with electrical tape. The picture only shows one piece of tape, but that won’t really secure the motor well, and will make the bot very noisy! Use more tape if that happens. My finished bot had 3 pieces of tape.
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  4. Add a propeller to your motor. You can use a piece of electrical tape to make this. Just cut a 2″ piece, center on the spinning part of the motor, and fold in half.
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  5. Secure the battery or battery holder.
    • If you’re using a battery holder with a switch, insert the batteries, make sure the holder is in the “off” position, and tape to the body.
    • If you are using a battery holder without a switch, secure it to the body without the batteries inserted.
    • If you are using a battery clip, secure the battery itself to the body, but don’t attach the clip to the battery just yet.
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  6. Your bot is ready to roll… err.. spin! Remove the caps from the markers, and insert/attach the batteries, or flip the switch, and place it on some paper to create some art.