How To Make A Robot For Kids At Home

Father and son giving each other high five.
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Image © mrzivica, under a Creative Commons license.

A robot is a piece of machinery designed to perform tasks that humans would usually perform, making things easier for us and making robot craft an area where lots of fun can be had.

The world didn't spontaneously learn how to make a robot in one day, the robots we currently see developed through years of experimentation. Starting off in the 1400s, Leonardo da Vinci first made some sketches for a robot that looked like a knight and between the 1700s and 1900s more physical developments were made.

Robot-makers around the world got more and more creative, using machines to simplify daily tasks. One example of this is the conveyor belt, made in the 1900s by Henry Ford to help build his cars faster and now a staple part of our trips to the shop as well as factory production lines. Before you knew it, robots and robot-themed ideas were everywhere: think The Terminator, The Matrix and Frankenstein. Then, in the 1930s, robot toys hit the scene: 'Lilliput' made in Japan was the first of its kind, a robotic wind-up toy that was 15cm tall. From the Turing Test in the 1950s (to see if robots could think for themselves) to the first computer in the 1960s (The IBM 360), to even LEGO robots, they were becoming more and more integrated into society, to the point where we didn't always notice them! Now we have robot vacuum cleaners, farming equipment, satellites and much more, helping make us freer to perform more enjoyable tasks.

Did you know that Japan has more robots than any other country in the world? In spite of this, the first laws about robots were actually created in South Korea. Robots have gone to places most of us humans haven't: two have visited Mars and others have even been to some pretty dangerous sites, looking for bombs to safely dispose of. In addition to helping save lives, robots help a lot in factories doing lots of hard work to get things made faster and more efficiently, leaving fewer tasks for humans to make mistakes on!

Robotics buffs will love having a go at this epic robotics project to build your own robot. Follow the instructions to find out how to make a robot for kids under ten, sparking their imaginations and inspiring them to invent - what could be better?

How To Make a Toy Robot

You Will Need

To Make The Robot:

-A detergent bottle for the body.

-An aerosol spray can (with the lid) for the head and body.

-A plastic hanger with the middle bit cut out, for the tail.

-Four round lids for the wheels.

-Barbecue skewers, plastic straws and wall plugs for the wheels (4 each).

-Small screwdriver.

-Lighter (or candle flame).

-Marker pen.

-Aluminium foil.

-Glue gun.

-Craft knife.

Mum and daughter looking at drawings of their plan for a robot toy.
Image © angelina_zinovieva, under a Creative Commons license.

For Decorating:

-Aluminium foil.

-PVA glue.

-Markers.

-Stickers.

-Scissors.

-Empty packaging.

Method:

1) Place the lid of the aerosol can on top of the detergent bottle, attaching the robot's head to its body.

2) Use a pen to mark on the lid two points near the bottom, the other directly opposite the first.

3) Heat a small screwdriver (on a candle flame or lighter) to get it ready for creating holes in the plastic lid.

4) Use the hot screwdriver to pierce a hole at the bottom of the lid, on both ends. This will allow the barbecue skewer to pass through the lid from one end to the other.

5) Do the same at the top of the detergent bottle, so that once the lid has been placed on, the skewer will join them together by passing through the holes.

6) Place the lid over the bottle, line up the holes, then pass a skewer through the lid and bottle to join them together.

7) Make four marks on the bottle for the positions of the wheels. The bottle itself shouldn't be on the ground with the wheels, so mark a position high enough for the robot to move smoothly.

8) Heat a screwdriver again on a candle flame and pierce four holes on the marks made in step seven.

9) Reheating the screwdriver if necessary, pierce a small hole in the centre of each of the lids, small enough for a skewer to pass through, but without much wiggle-room when it does.

Grandpa and grandson sat on the floor with screwdrivers to make a toy robot.
Image © studiomay, under a Creative Commons license.

10) Take a skewer and pass it through one of the holes straight across and out through the other side. Repeat with another skewer and the remaining two holes. These will be the axels that join the front two wheels and back two wheels.

11) Cut an inch off a plastic straw and slide it over the skewer, so that it's touching the outside of the bottle. Take one of your wheels and put the same skewer through it, so that the wheel is attached to the robot and the straw is in-between. The straw is to keep the wheel from being too close to the bottle, so adjust if necessary, by trimming the length of the straw, or cutting a longer piece.

12) Repeat for the remaining three wheels.

13) Adjust the horizontal skewers sticking out of the bottle so that they are protruding by equal amounts.

14) Focusing on one of the wheels and leaving an extra 1cm of skewer sticking out past it, trim off any excess skewer.

15) Repeat for the remaining three wheels.

16) Attach a wall plug to the bit of skewer sticking out on each wheel, to hide the skewer. Then remove and reattach using hot glue from the glue gun.

17) Heat the screwdriver again and use it to create holes for the arms of the robot. These should be large enough for the ends of the plastic hangers to pass through.

18) Insert the hanger ends into the holes to see how the arms would look, then trim if necessary, using a heated craft knife.

19) Once happy with the size of the arms, use the glue gun to fix them on!

20) Using PVA glue and a spatula, cover the robot's body with foil (including the head, but not the wheels), to give it a metallic look.

21) Decorate by drawing on some features, attaching more spare parts and, of course, some stickers!

Make Your Robot Move!

For kids aged eight and over seeking a fun electronics project, you can get your robot to move! Please only do this in a controlled and safe environment, with a responsible adult who understands how to keep themselves safe when using electronics.

Young boy sat at the table with colouring felt tip pens.
Image © bodysport, under a Creative Commons license.

You Will Need:

-The robot you have just made!

-A DC motor (geared).

-A 9V battery pack and connector.

-Wires (at least 4).

-Rubber fabric strips to join the wheels.

-An on/off switch.

-A small cardboard box.

Method:

On the inside of the robot's body, connect the battery to the motor, then attach this to one of the skewer axels.

Make a slot for the switch out of the robot's body, then use wires to connect the switch to the motor and battery.

Use the fabric strips to join each pair of wheels on the same side together, then cover the electronics with cardboard, switch on, and watch the robot move!

Top Tips

It is best to leave the cutting, heating, electronics and hold-creating for adults who will supervise throughout, and the decorating for the kids.

If the skewers prove to be too thin for the holes created, or as axels, use an empty pen or thin metal rod instead.

This easy robot tutorial works well with cardboard too! Glue some strips together for the body of the robot using the glue gun, or simply use a box.

The aluminium foil can be used to cover the body of the robot before starting.

Got spray paint? Use this instead of aluminium foil to have the entire robot covered in seconds.

With so much room for creative freedom, feel free to attach more wheels to the robot, or make it taller by attaching a second detergent bottle!

Disclaimer

Disclaimer

At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things, that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents. 

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