The electronics project for kids that is always met with the most excitement in our camps and classes is making bots! Today I am featuring one of our students’ very favorite bots: the Cork Bot AKA the Dance Bot. It’s an easy bot to make and perfect for kids of mixed ages. BONUS: Making bots is the perfect STEAM project! It hits so many STEAM subjects all in one project. Read on to see why.
This article will walk you through the materials and steps to do this easy electronics project for kids and build your very own Dance Bot. You will also learn how to turn it into an art bot.
Now before we get started let’s talk about bots, what they are and why they are the perfect STEAM activity:
Why is this called a bot and not a robot?
This project is a BOT for a very simple reason: Bots have no decision making capabilities. A robot is a machine that has artificial intelligence. It can sense, think, do work, and has been programed to make decisions. Bots on the other hand are mini machines that move and may perform work, but have no thinking capabilities.
Why are bots the perfect STEAM project?
Bots are the PERFECT STEAM activity for kids! When making bots kids learn the following STEAM skills:
- The science behind electricity.
- The technology used to build a working circuit.
- How to engineer a structure that can withstand movement.
- How to personalize their creations with artful designs and decorations.
- Use math to calculate battery voltage and match it to their motors.
They will also learn:
- Troubleshooting Electronics projects are FULL of troubleshooting!
- Maker Skills: wire stripping, connecting electrical components and wires together, how to use a hot glue gun
- Life Skills: Thinking about safety concerns, how to properly handle materials, how to store small materials
- Fine Motor Skills: Threading and twisting wires, gluing small components together, placing batteries in a battery pack.
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- ADULT SUPERVISION REQUIRED DUE TO THE USE OF ELECTRIC COMPONENTS.
- Ensure that battery packs with batteries in them are always switched off when not in use.
- The exposed ends of unattached wires with a battery pack in the ON position can shock you and/or heat up and smoke.
- These motors get hot! Be sure to monitor the motor and turn it off if it begins to get too hot!
Brava! The original giraffe design is by 8 year old Annabella!
Dance Bots: An Electronics Project For Kids
- AA battery pack with switch
- 2 AA batteries
- 1.5V-3V hobby motor
- Wire strippers
- Alligator clips (optional)
- Electrical Tape
- Large plastic lid
- Duct tape
- Corks (5 per bot)
- Hot glue gun
- Googly eyes
- Step One Strip the plastic ends of the wires on the battery pack to expose the metal wire beneath. Add batteries to the battery pack.
- Step Two Test the battery pack and motor by first turning the battery pack on. Hold the exposed ends of each wire and touch the motor leads. The leads on the motor look like loops. The motor should spin. If you have alligator clips, use them to connect the red wire end to one motor lead and the black wire end to the other motor lead. Turn the battery pack on and make sure the motor spins.
- Step Three Feed the exposed end of the red wire through one of the motor leads. Twist around the lead and secure in place with electrical tape. Repeat with the black wire and the other motor lead.
- Step Four With the lid facing down, duct tape the motor/battery assembly pack to the lid with the rotor sticking past the lid edge. The rotor is the spinning rod on the end of the motor. Place a cork on the rotor (find a good hole in the cork) and make sure it can rotate freely. Once it is working, duct tape the motor securely to the lid.
- Step Five Hot glue 4 corks to the other side of the lid to create “legs.”
- Step Six Turn it into an animal! Make a head and neck out of corks and glue onto bot. Add googly eyes Once it is working, duct tape the motor securely to the lid. Turn it on and watch it dance!
How to Make an Art Bot
The frame for this bot also makes a great Art Bot! To turn your Dance Bot into an Art Bot do the following:
Follow the Dance Bot Steps 1-5 above.
- Step Six (adults only) Use an exacto knife to make a small hole in the lid. The hole should be wide enough to place a marker through it.
- Step Seven Place a marker or a soft pencil in the hole. Remove the cap and make sure the marker tip is at the same level as the bottom of the cork legs.
- Step Eight Place in a large piece of paper , turn on the bot and watch it draw!
- Step Nine (optional) Decorate your art bot!
Troubleshooting your bot
If your bot isn’t working properly go though the following steps:
- Is the battery pack turned on?
- Did you test the power source i.e. batteries? If not, put in a fresh set of batteries.
- Are the wires attached securely? It’s easy for the wires to disconnect when you assemble a bot. Check the wire connections again and tape them securely using electrical tape.
- Is the motor ableto move/rotate?
- If the cork flys off the rotor, find another hole. It’s easiest to find a sung natural hole in the cork.
Psst….included in the BOT BOOK is a handily troubleshooting guide and printable checklist!
Where’s the STEAM in this electronics project for kids?
There is so much STEAM in this electronics project for kids:
Electricity is the flow of electrical power from a source to something that needs power. In our Dance Bot the power source is the batteries and the object being powered is the motor. The flow of electricity is called a current.
This project teaches kids how to make a circuit: a closed path around which an electric current flows. Circuits are the foundation of every single device and object that runs on electrical power.
One of the biggest challenges with the Dance Bot is creating a stable frame that can hold the electrical components while withstanding a lot of movement. When designing products, engineers have to consider many factors to make a product that can withstand movement and use. They often have to go through many iterations of a design to arrive at a final solution that looks and behaves properly, and doesn’t break. Making bots is the perfect way to demonstrate this iterative design process.
Probably the most fun kids will have with the Dance Bot is turning it into a creature through artful decorations. The designs will also give kids a chance to develop a story and personality for their creature. A wonderful extension idea would be for children to write and illustrate a story featuring their Dance Bot!
If you are using this bot as an Art Bot this is chance to talk about mark making and the different types of lines and marks artists use. Some of the bots will make continuous lines. Some of the bots that are more jittery will make dotted lines.
Making bots gives kids the opportunity to calculate voltage! Although we have already matched the correct motor to power source in this project, you can introduce children to how electrical components are classified according to their voltage. For instance AA batteries provides 1.5 Volts of power each. If you use (2) batteries you have 3 Volts of power coming out of the battery pack. A motor that is classified as 1.5V-3V needs a minimum of 1.5 Volts to work and a maximum of 3 Volts. If you use more power than that you will overheat the motor and if you use less the motor won’t work. Get children comfortable understanding how to match motor and power source voltages.
More electronics projects for kids!
Now you see why this easy electronics project for kids is a fabulous STEAM activity! It packs so much learning into a project that kids absolutely love and it empowers them to get started working on more electronics projects!
For more electronics projects for kids try:
and Lumos Wand
and Toy Marker Bots from Anne at Left Brain Craft Brain
If you enjoyed this bot be sure to head over here and check out The Bot Book ebook! The dance bot is just one of 14 DIY bots for kids to make.