Thursday, March 3, 2016

ATLAS: ArtBot Tips and Tricks

For February's ATLAS we did something I've seen done on many blogs before: ArtBots. In case you aren't familiar with them, they are robots that make art. I've a few different types of ArtBots and they primarily vary in the type of materials used to make them. The most common materials I've seen used are cups and pool noodles. One thing most ArtBots seem to have in common is that an electric toothbrush serves as the power source. The ones we made looked like this:

I decided to model my ArtBots after Anne's at Sotomorrow. The basic idea is you push an electric toothbrush into the hole of shortened pool noodle. Next you secure markers to the sides with rubber bands to balance them so they hang just past the end of the noodle. Once they are balanced you tape the markers on with duct tape or masking tape. The final step is decorating your creation. When you turn on the toothbrush the ArtBot should move in a circle and create a Spirograph-like picture.

Since the basics of ArtBots are covered in detail by Anne and others, I figured I'd share a few new tips and tricks I discovered through my own experience.
  • The Luminant toothbrushes do fit pretty perfectly, as Anne mentioned. In my case I was lucky that they were very easy to find with a few calls to my local Dollar Tree. I didn't even have any duds in the 15 toothbrushes I bought.
  • If you are doing this activity in the winter make sure you have pool noodles ready and available because as seasonal items you will not be able to find them anywhere cheaply or easily. I had to rely on a children's librarian from my cooperative who happened to have some extra on hand to give me. Thanks to her kindness our program was able to go on as scheduled!
  • To make this a group art experience I covered our tables with butcher paper and used that as our drawing surface. It had the added benefit of keeping any marker from getting on the tables.
  • Balancing was definitely one of the most difficult parts of getting the ArtBots to work. Other blogs have mentioned balancing too well, but a couple of my kids had trouble getting theirs to balance at all. It may just be trial and error. 
  • 12 kids seems like a good sized group to do this project with. A larger group would most likely have made me feel spread thin when it came to providing the help some of the kids needed.
  • Precutting the noodles into the necessary smaller pieces was definitely a smart move. We filled the entire hour of the program making and decorating our ArtBots and would not have had time for this extra step.

I hope these tips come in handy if you choose to make ArtBots with kids. As an easy and fun maker activity I highly recommend it!

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