While not technically a robot, this is a good project to begin explorations. It helps participants understand some critical basic concepts about electronics: conductivity, resistance, that kind of thing. It is inexpensive, and works well with a surprisingly wide age range. The TED Talk below the jump explains it in about 4 minutes.
How did we get it?
- This review focuses on the concept rather than the product itself. I used wire and LEDs that I had at home and purchased batteries with my own money.
What’s in the Box?
- 1 – Recipe Card
- 1 – Motor
- 1 – Piezoelectric Buzzer
- 1 – Mechanical Buzzer
- 1 – 4 AA Battery Pack (batteries not included)
- 25 – LEDs in Red, Green, White, Yellow and Blue.
If you want to avoid the kit and DIY, the items can be purchased piecemeal at a Radio Shack or other similar stores.
- $25 for the kit
- Additional $10 to buy simple grocery store ingredients for dough, though you likely have them on hand already
- I’ve run this program with kids as young as 4 and as old as 13. All found it fun and engaging, but the attention spans, interest levels, and the level at which we could discuss the concepts varied.
Ideas for use
Making the dough will take some time, possibly time at home if your library doesn’t have kitchen facilities as the conductive dough needs to be cooked on a stovetop. It’s not very time consuming, but plan for an hour of your time at home to do this, just to be on the safe side.
Setup is fairly minimal once at the program site.
This program could work in a variety of time frames – everything from being availible on a table as a self-directed program, or with more staff involvement as a traditional one hour program.
one-time or recurring program
- Either; if recurring, you could step through the many different activities included, or segue into more complex electronics and robotics programs.
skills you need
other tools you need
- pot, stovetop, bowl, spoons, food coloring, flour, salt, sugar, cream of tartar for cooked dough and plastic bags to store them in. Table covers for program area. A multimeter is a fun extra tool to have and can be gotten cheaply.
This is a simple, inexpensive, flexible, easy to understand project.
I would highly encourage libraries to try this out. When I tested it with three middle school boys, I was pleasantly surprised to see that each of them explored the material in his own way, focusing on different capabilities of the kit. One built a battery, one took advantage of the “squishy” aspect and built an elaborate electrified dough contraption, and the third mainly explored the multimeter. In the end, each of them helped the other with his chosen project using the skills he learned in his own explorations. It was library magic!