Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Vibrobots - Simple Robots that Move for a Maker Activity

Last Saturday I led some workshops at the Association of National Plus Schools annual teacher's conference in Jakarta. My workshop was all about Makerspace and Capturing the Learning in Real Time.

I used the term Makerspace in the perspective that it is a place where you can make something which could be really anywhere. I have always employed Maker activities in my classroom. I wanted to share about how making can unlock understandings in a way that viewing pictures or videos can't.

For this workshop we made a simple electric robot from recycled materials. I am really interested in robotics but I am even more interested in the mechanics and trying to understand how things work and why they work. These are abstract concepts but even young students can understand them when they get the chance to make it with their hands.

We started with the basic equipment:

a plastic cup
3 marker pens
two electrical wires with the ends stripped
a AA battery
a DC motor
electrical tape
sticky tape

About DC motors:
You can find DC motors inside many household items such as electric toothbrushes, battery operated fans or mixers. Here is an example of a motor inside a mixer.

Step 1:

Tape the markers to the plastic cup.

Step 2:

Make sure that the three markers are firmly attached with sticky tape. Put the markers facing downwards so that your robot can draw.

Step 3:

Prepare 2 copper wires by stripping (removing) the plastic from each end.

Step 4:

Connect one wire on each side of the motor. Thread the metal through the loop and twist to secure. Add a small weight to offset the motor shaft. This is to make the motor vibrate.

Step 5:

Tape the battery on the top of the cup. Tape the motor so that the spinning shaft is off the edge of the cup.

Step 6:

Using small pieces of electrical tape, tape on wire to the positive 'bump' end of the battery and one wire to the flat negative end. Using electrical tape is great because you can pull one end on and off to act as a switch.

Step 7:

Pull off the marker pen caps and place your robot on some paper. Watch it draw.

#Troubleshooting - Be aware that your circuit must be well connected or the motor won't run. Sometimes cheap DC motors can be faulty and you may have one that just doesn't work. Recheck your wiring too.

Make sure that your learners document the process with photographs and or video. Consider the 'Split Screen Learning Intentions' and focus on not just what you are learning but also how you are learning.

Extension Activities:

Try placing the battery on the centre of the cup end with the motor on top. Does this change the patterns that your robot is drawing? Try other combinations. Try using a different weight to offset the motor. Can you measure how these changes affect the drawing that your robot does? Consider how this activity can help your students understand about circuits and motion. Take some video and compare the differences. Identify how small changes affect the way your robot moves and draws.