This weekend, at our Wired 101 workshop, we tackled three projects: Circuit Cards, Bristle Bugs, and, the hands-down favorite – Drawbots! These little creatures make the coolest patterns and even our seven-year-old engineers were able to make them almost entirely on their own. Basically, they are a paper cup body standing on marker tripod legs and topped with a small motor and battery. The key to the whole project is an irregular weight affixed to the rotating axis of the motor. When the markers are uncapped, and the drawbot is turned on, the weighted motor causes the little creature to wobble around in a huge variety of patterns. The type of pattern depends on the size of the weight and the placement of all the pieces together. There’s plenty of room to experiment!
As I was jotting down the project steps, I realized each project had exactly seven steps and the first three were all the same: 1) Collect your materials, 2) Test your components, and 3) Plan your circuit. Some of our workshops are mayhem (by design) but others – like this one – need to follow a pretty set path. When tackling wired activities, there are specific steps to follow and at each step, trouble shoot.
First, make sure you have all the pieces you will need, along with a few extras. For the drawbots, we used 1 small rotary motor (like those in little hand-held fans), 1 battery housing (readily available at Radio Shack), batteries, a small weight about the size of a popcorn seed (a hex nut, tiny screw, etc), a switch (optional), a few inches of wire (if adding a switch), a sturdy paper cup, 3 thin felt tip markers, and plenty of tape (masking tape, foam tape, duct tape – whatever you have lying around).
Next, we tried out our components. We popped the batteries into their housing and touched the wires to the leads on the motor. If the motor turned on – we were in business!
Then, we planned our circuit. The batteries and motor needed to fit securely on top of the cup with the wires from the battery housing easily reaching the motor. The ‘on/off’ function can be attained by simply hooking, or unhooking, the wire from the motor.
However, a couple of ambitious young engineers chose to add a true switch, and they planned this into the wiring of their circuit and placement of all the components on the top of the cup. We secured all the connections and components with tape.
Once everything was in place and working, we added the marker legs, evenly and securely. Then we uncapped them and let them loose. Each drawbot had its own personality. One had a stuttering walk that made a pattern like stitchery.
Another buzzed along, making a beeline straight across the paper.
A third rotated in perfect circles creating colorful rings reminiscent of spirographs.
All eight drawbots wobbled around the paper making a really cool piece of art with each bot’s own footprints.
Occasionally they paired up on their own and start new patterns as duos or trios. All in all – great fun and super successful!