Short Circuit: An Adventure in Building Robots

During the last few weeks, I have been seeing a lot of pictures of robots made out of old electrical components. There are so many great ideas out there, and it is such a great way to get some use out of old broken electronics! One of my favorites was a little group of robots made from LED’s and Diodes. They had been formed into a band called LED Zeppelin.  They were so cute, I really wanted to make some!

Some friends of mine generously donated some of their spare electrical components. We had diodes, transmitters, resistors, capacitors, old computer fans, and all sorts of things to work with! I was fortunate to be able to sit and listen as many of their names and functions were explained to me, and I now have a nice collection of components with which we can really learn about electricity and circuit building.

For now, though, it’s all about robots! Because we were working with some old and dusty parts, the first thing we needed to do was organize them so we could access everything safely. There were a lot of sharp ends that could poke little fingers, so we had to put them in designated spots. We had an extra storage bin and several plastic cups which were perfect for the job. Once everything was in its proper place, we were able to look over our assortment and get some good ideas!

Our first order of robot business was to build a pet for our already existing robot, Roby. My husband had purchased this little guy from the owner of Space Boy Robots, a wonderfully creative robot art company here in Phoenix. Kat decided that Roby needed a friend, so we immediately set to work on Rosy, Roby’s little robot mouse.

Now that we have finished our first order of business, it was time for our second round of robot building!

ROBOTS UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Materials Needed:

Hot Glue Gun (make sure an adult helps with this part – I did all of the gluing)
Clean Workspace
Scissors
Needle Nose Pliers (with wire cutting element)

Spare Electrical Components (diodes, fans, motors, wires, switches, springs, fuses, resistors, clips, capacitors, remote controls, servos, etc.) Take apart some old and broken electronics and see what’s inside (always unplug/take out batteries before disassembling)!

Instructions:

1. Look over your electrical components and let your imagination run wild! Look for big pieces to serve as a body, smaller pieces for a head, and bendable pieces for arms and legs. Start piecing things together and see what you come up with!

2. Use your glue gun to connect your pieces together (except limbs – see step 3). Because many of the pieces are metal, you may find that you will have to hold them in place until the glue sets. Make sure that you are as still as possible, so that the pieces will be firmly locked in place.

3. Before you glue on the arms and legs, be sure to bend them into the desired shape. Some of our arms and legs included multiple pieces bound together by twisting bits of thin metal around them. Your needle nose pliers and wire cutters will come in handy at this stage! This was also something that Kat was able to do by herself, which gave her a nice sense of independence.

4. Glue the limbs to your robots. Once again, hold the pieces in place until the glue sets. When attaching the legs, I had great results with standing the robot upright while the glue dried.

5. Play with your robots! Make them robot food, a robot playground, or a robot house. You can even make robot pets for your new found friends!

Note:
While the hot glue gun worked very well with connecting all of our robot pieces together, it didn’t hold up for very long as Kat played with them. If your kids really want to play with their robots (most kids do!) consider trying a super glue or a plastic epoxy to make a stronger connection. I will be trying both of these methods and will update with our results.

We have had a great time making our robots. Our first robot group consisted of our awesome robot rock band, Strange Charm. When we were finished with them, Kat decided that we needed to make a little robot family, with a robot baby and a pet kitty.

When we were finished with the little family, it was decided that they needed to have a lot of friends. Kat and I set up a little barbecue area for the robots, so that they could have cookout parties with their friends.

We even set up a plate of sausages so that the robot pets could participate in the festivities as well!


The nice thing about all of this robot building, is that we still have a ton of supplies left over! This means that whenever Kat has friends over, we can have robot building parties where her friends can make a little robot to take home with them.

One of the greatest parts of building these was becoming familiar with all of these parts. When Kat and I do start working with electricity, working with the materials won’t be as intimidating as they were before. We have a lot of new electronic components that we can use in the future to connect light and fan circuits, and we even have little motors that we can play around with!

In the meantime, we are perfectly happy with constructing our new little robot friends and family.

Happy Exploring!

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