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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Draw-Bots in Prescott!

Draw-bot in action!
Thanks to Becky Arenivar for this post!

If I can help kids make robots, so can you!  Despite a total lack of mechanical aptitude or experience, Miss Becky hosted a second robot-making event on September 25 at the Prescott Public Library.  Our first event, during the Summer Library Program, was Brush Bots, made with a truly foolproof kit from Maker Shed.  I made a Brush Bot at WLA last year and felt comfortable using the kit and running this program.

The second time, I stepped well outside my comfort zone to find the instructions, assemble the supplies, make a prototype and conduct the program, and it paid off.  Our Draw Bots were awesome!  I can't wait to figure out what we'll do for our next maker program.

We set the age level of this event for 7-14 years old and encouraged (but did not require) parents to attend.  We had 9 kids and 5 parents attend.

We ordered motors, battery packs and batteries from Radio Shack. It was pricey ($120), but we got free delivery within 5 days. There are websites where these supplies are cheaper, but they charge a lot for quick delivery.  We bought the hex nuts and other supplies (cups, markers, electrical tape) from Walmart.

I made a prototype (with the help of someone more mechanically inclined than I, thank you dear hubby) to get the kinks out ahead of time. This also helped me figure out what STEM terms to talk about: kinetic energy, potential energy, completing the circuit, conservation of momentum, and eccentric weight.

For set-up, we covered tables with white paper and set up a separate table with all of the supplies.  Each attendee got a "shopping list," and a set of instructions, and I also wrote the instructions on huge pieces of paper and hung them on the wall in back of me.  I also taped a huge piece of white paper in the hallway, so the kids could really let their bots draw.

The motto of the day was "trial and error."  It took about 40 minutes to go through the assembly process, with some kids (and their very hands-on parents) getting done sooner.  We scheduled the event for an hour, but kids and parents were hanging around tweaking their bots and testing them for at least 30 minutes more.

Experimenting with flipping the bots

What about next time?  I'll get my shopping list done early, so I can take advantage of cheaper prices on-line.  I'll be less nervous about having it work perfectly.  When the eccentric weights fell off (actually, went flying off) the kids thought it was fun and got to work putting them back on.

If you're still nervous about doing a mechanical maker program by yourself, I'm sure there are people in your community who would love to help you.

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