Friday, September 27, 2013

Build-a-Bot Workshop

Our guest post today is from Amanda Moss Struckmeyer of the Middleton Public Library!

We recently hosted a mini robot-building program for ‘tweens; it was popular, fun, and easy!  The idea and basic structure of the event came from the NOVA Making Stuff Activity Guide. 
What We Called It: Mini Robot Workshop
Ages: 8-12
Registration: None
When We Offered It:  After school on a Tuesday, from 3:30-4:30.  Kids could drop in anytime during the hour; many stayed the entire time. 
Materials We Used: One clear plastic cup and two magnets (3/4” round) were the bare bones of the project for each child.  We had a variety of optional accessories, including wing nuts, brads, blunt screws, washers, nuts, wiggly eyes, drinking straws pipe cleaners, glue dots, double-sided tape, and unidentified assorted hardware.  We had good luck finding materials at the local hardware store and the Habitat Restore.  American Science and Surplus would also be a great source!
What We Did:  One magnet (the “controller”) was held against the inside of the cup’s wall by the child’s fingers.  The other magnet was placed outside of the cup, opposite the controller.  As the child moved the controller, the other magnet moved, too, thanks to the force of the magnets working across the cup’s wall.  The challenge was to make the magnet on the outside of the cup into a mini robot by adding hardware, straws, eyes, etc. 
Questions We Explored:
How many accessories can be added before the robot gets so heavy it can’t be moved by the controller?
What happens if we add more magnets on the inside of the cup?  How about on the outside, creating a small stack of magnets as the base for the robot? 
Is it possible to build a robot with no adhesives (glue dots or tape)?  Hint: make sure you offer a lot of magnetic accessories—conveniently, a lot of hardware is magnetic!
The Verdict: This program allowed us to offer a STEM-related program without a large investment (time or money), extensive background knowledge, or a big mess. We were able to accommodate a large crowd with just one adult because of the no-fail nature of the project (and, to be honest, because of the kid-friendly glue dots!).  Attendees were very enthusiastic and built amazingly creative robots with features I never could have imagined.  They also came up with their own challenges and questions, which they were welcome to pursue with any of the materials available.  As the hour ticked by, ‘tweens who didn’t know each other at the start of the program began working together to create robots, work on new challenges, and have fun at the library—which is, of course, the whole point. 

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Hi, Sounds like fun! What kind of magnets did you use