Recently, I helped out at the local library makerspace on a workshop for teens. We started with the BrushBots kit and project from Maker Shed. We used the BrushBots Party Pack, and then built CupBots with supplies that I had prepared beforehand. As we were getting started, many of the group set up accounts on the DIY.org website.
The PHILS is an after school group that has been meeting at the library for a while, starting out as a philosophy discussion group. They are now exploring and demonstrating their philosophy with lots of hands-on learning. This week, they started building things that use electricity. Check out Ellen’s blog post on the workshop.
Working on a whiteboard was a good strategy. This provided a flat surface to work, and having it on the floor suited the teens well. As it turned out, this also provided a good place to share information about the project. As they were working, I was able to draw the schematic diagrams of the various circuits they were building on the whiteboard, which they could see without having to look away from their projects. I also brought along a small whiteboard on a stand, which seems to be a tray for eating and working. We tried making a little hockey rink, drawing goals and a center line. Several students made cardboard sticks to try out the game play of BrushBot Hockey. The trickiest part seemed to be stripping the wires without cutting them all the way through. There was a little trouble with some of the double stick tape getting dusty from the rug and not holding onto the brush or battery, but there was extra tape to be had by cutting some of the pieces from the kit into smaller pieces.
As we were winding down from using the kit, I revealed the supplies for the CupBots. Earlier, I had soldered two wires to each motor, which made it easier to build the motor circuit. We used just a few supplies for each the BrushBot and CupBot project, and the tools were pretty simple as well. The CupBots have the same circuit, but larger components. Instead of shrink-wrapped batteries, they use AA packs, and a DC motor with a bit of hot melt glue stick on the shaft to provide the rotation. The teens built them very quickly after a brief demonstration, and went on to modify them in some festive and creative ways. After they had them running, I gave out some LEDs, which they incorporated into the circuit. This altered the speed of the motor, which brought us back to the white board to explore what influence the LED was having on the motor. One of the guys found that he could hold onto the glue, causing the cup to spin in front of his mouth. This caused an effect similar to older models of electric organs that used a Leslie Speaker. Other options that were explored included varying the amount of glue stick on the motor, changing the direction of the electricity flow, attaching pens to the cups, and modifying the cups. At the end of the workshop, everybody was able to take their projects home for further exploration.
BrushBots Party Pack from Maker Shed
White boards: a larger one and a small one
Plastic cups, enough for each participant
dc hobby motors with wires soldered to the terminals, enough for each participant
AA battery packs, enough for each participant
AA batteries, two for each participant
Glue stick for hot melt glue gun, about 1/5th of a stick for each participant
Wire cutters: a smaller pair, and a bigger pair suitable for cutting the toothbrush handles
Wire strippers: a regular pair of wire strippers, and a pair with a very small opening for the tiny wires of the motor and battery pack
There are photos of this project.