Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Maker Monday: Bristlebots!

My test bristle bot
I had my first ever Maker program on Monday and we made bristlebots! I know many of you have done this project before but for those of you who haven't, bristle bots (aka "brush bots") are mini-robots made out of toothbrush heads. They are fairly simple to make, but more importantly they are really fun! Quality edutainment.

We bought 2 Brush Bot Party Pack kits from Makershed.com for this program. At the time, I believe each kit was about $25 (not including shipping) but it appears the price has gone up since then. I had received a donation from a local company of $50 for children's programming supplies so I used that for this program.

I set most of the supplies out on a book cart
I would recommend purchasing the kits if (as in my case) this is your first time doing a maker program. Or if, again like me, you've not made any type of maker project before. It is very helpful to not have to track anything down other than tools. The tools you will need are side cutters and wire strippers. They are both readily available. I was able to borrow 3 cutters from my garage and the library's maintenance department loaned me a pair and some wire strippers. My husband graciously trimmed and stripped the wires before this program, but the kids were able to use the cutters to take the heads off the toothbrushes.

About half of the kids were able to follow my oral directions and the others needed help. Luckily, I was able to borrow a staff member from our other city branch and I also had an adult volunteer that day. They were a big help in going around the room and showing the kids how to use the cutters, which way to face the batteries, etc.

My Race Track!
It took about 20 minutes of our hour program until everyone was done building and ready to race. I had built a quick little race track out of an outdoor umbrella stand box from home and used checkered flag duct tape for the finish line. The kids were able to use that one as a testing stage. Then they had 40 minutes to build their own race track from some supplies we had on hand. We gave them duct tape, cardboard boxes, paper towel tubes, paper clips (in case they wanted to mod their bristle bots or they could use them as obstacles), binder clips (also for obstacles) and cardstock (which they could use for lane dividers or some kids drew designs for the insides of their tracks). We also had pencils on hand.

I also set out a display of maker and science experiment books for people to browse when they were done creating. I don't think this is a necessary step but it can help you tie the program back into library materials. You could also booktalk the Nick and Tesla books which feature a bristle bot in the second book--one that has light up eyes!

A few other details:

  • 20 kids registered, 15 attended. We also had 4 adults (one mom and some grandpas!)
  • We had 3 adults running the program. I think one adult per every 5 kids is a good ratio for this age group
  • This was a program for grades 4-6. 
  • 1 or 2 batteries appeared to be duds, so definitely register fewer kids than you have supplies for in case this happens to you too. 
Overall, this program definitely took me out of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed doing it. We got great feedback from the kids and their parents so I am calling it a success! 


I mentioned to a couple people that we were going to be doing this project and got some advice so I'd like to thank Angie and others for their tips. Angie suggested using Lego bricks as obstacles and paper towel tubes as tunnels on the racetracks.  You can also cut the paper towel tubes in half and use those as lane dividers. 

2 comments:

I did this with middle schoolers - we should have stripped the wire before (or I should have had better wire strippers). We, um, ended up mostly using our teeth. But nobody was electrocuted or anything!

Definitely need to try this one! Thanks so much for sharing :)