Introduction: Strawbots: Instructables Robot

About: I'm a High School Technology teacher with Creativitis, a disease that doesn't let my brain sleep. I spend my days trying to infect my student's minds with a desire to learn. I lead by example and hope that my …

The STRAWBOTS are a family of robots designed for stop-motion animation. They are lightweight, easily posable, and economical to build. All you need to get started is some craft foam, some straws, and a hole punch.

The instructables robot was the second robot to join the family of STRAWBOTS. The other members will be unveiled shortly. Stay tuned!

* Don't forget to watch the animation at the end of this instructable.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

  1. Craft Foam - Yellow, White, Black, Red, Grey
  2. Black Straws ( I get mine from Harvey's - they are a slightly larger diameter than a standard 1/4" straw)
  3. Black Hair Elastics (available at most dollar stores)
  4. Tape or Marker (for adding details like the face)
  5. Wheels - K'nex or any other wheels you can find
  6. Double-sided tape
  7. Zip tie
  1. Hole punches (1/8", 1/4")
  2. Utility knife
  3. Scissors
  4. Pencil or Pen
  5. Template (paper or plastic)

Step 2: Trace Templates

In this step I use the plastic templates that I made to trace out the parts on to the foam.
  1. You can use a pen or pencil. I find pen rolls better on the foam, yet pencil shows up better on black material.
  2. Try to maximize the usage of your foam depending on the size of sheet you start with. 
  3. I use the paper template for the hand because it was so small. 

* You'll likely be using the paper templates, which I'll describe in the next step.

Step 3: Paper Template

If you've printed out the paper templates, there are couple ways to tackle this part of the project.
  1. Cut out the paper pieces with scissors and punch out holes with a punch. Then carefully trace around the paper patterns on to the foam.
  2. I find that it's much easier to tape the cut paper patterns to the foam temporarily with double sided tape. Then cut the pieces out with the paper in place. This way, you only have to punch the holes once.

* If you're using the double-sided tape method, do not tape over areas where you'll need to punch holes. The tape will gum up your punch.

Step 4: Cut the Parts

When cutting out the pieces, I use mostly scissors. You might feel more comfortable with a utility knife. I find that it's easier to cut the curves with a knife.
  1. Cut out each of the pieces.
  2. Punch out the 1/8" holes, and 1/4" holes
  3. Don't clean up right away. You'll need some of those little punch-outs later.
  4. If you're using a standard 1/4" hole punch, it's a little tricky to reach the center hole of the main body. I have a punch purchased from a craft store, which has a longer reach. 
  5. The small holes on the hand are punched with a 1/16" inch punch. If you have one, great! If not, you can probably poke a hole with something sharp. 

Step 5: Assembly - Legs

Let's build our robot from the ground up.

  1. Slide on of the black wheel supports on to the straw. 
  2. Roll thefirst leg piece and feed the straw through the bottom holes.
  3. Install the wheel using a white straw. If you're using k'nex wheels, you'll get a good fit with standard straws. The black straws I'm using are from Harvey's and they are a slightly larger diameter.
  4. If you don't have any k'nex wheels or a suitable replacement, you can make them by layering a few circles cut out from the grey craft foam.
  5. Trim the axles for the wheels now.
  6. Use a full straw and feed it through the top holes of the leg piece. Do not trim this straw yet.
  7. To add the stripes to the legs, I use hair elastics from the dollar store. You could draw the strips on I suppose.
  8. Build the second leg the same way and install it on the straw. Again, do not trim the straw yet.
* If you're having any trouble feeding the straws through your punched holes try one of two things:
  1. Cut the end of the straw first. Some straws come slightly flared at the ends.
  2. Use a pencil to temporarily widen the hole

Step 6: Assembly - Body

  1. Fold the tabs inward at the top of the body piece.
  2. Then fold the front and back downward.
  3. Next, fold the side flaps inward, keeping the straight edged flap on the outside.
  4. Line up the arm holes and feed a full length straw through the holes.
  5. Attach the legs to the body by feeding the straw through the bottom holes of the body.
  6. You may need to adjust the position of the legs.
  7. Don't trim the straws yet. They give you something to hold on to for the rest of the assembly.

Step 7: Assembly - Arms

  1. Build the arms on a separate straw, and install it on the body afterwards.
  2. Feed the straw through the top holes as pictured.
  3. Cut a small section of straw approximately an inch an a half long. 
  4. Wrap the hand piece around the bottom of the straw and then insert it in the bottom of the arm.
  5. Try to hold everything tightly together while you install two small elastics on the cuff. This step is a little tricky.
  6. Build the second arm, making sure to make it the opposite way.
  7. You can then remove the temporary straw from the top holes and install the arms on the body of the robot.

Step 8: Assembly - Head

  1. Fold all the flaps inward to start.
  2. Follow the pictures closely, and once you have the holes lined up properly, install a straw through the ear holes.
  3. Then, install a full straw for the neck. Do not cut this straw at all.
  4. Then cut two short sections of straw about an inch long for the eyes.

Step 9: Assembly - Eyes and Ears

  1. Cut an 1/8" hole in a piece of black foam, and fill it with a yellow punch-out.
  2. Cut the result with a 1/4" punch.
  3. Cut a 3/8" red circle for the outside of the eye. I originally got these red circles from a package of pre-cut foam shapes. I also have a set of metal punches that I can use to make circles up to half inch in size. Worst case scenario... you cut the circles by hand with scissors. Use the 1/4" punch to cut the inside of the red circle.
  4. After cutting the inside straw to length (I used a translucent red straw for this), install the eye pieces.
    You'll notice in the picture that I fed several eye pieces inside the straw to help keep them in place. This is also particularly useful for stop-motion animation if you want to animate eyes. Simple feed different eye shapes into the straws in the correct sequence and remove them or add them while shooting a scene. The red straw can also be rotated within the black straw to help animate. You can even push the straw in an out to make the instructables robot have telescopic eyes. Perfect!
  1. Use a 1/2" and a 3/8" red circle to create the ears. 
  2. Use the black zip-tie to create the antennae the comes out of the ears.
  3. To hold it in place, thread some of the 1/4" punch-outs on either side. Cap each side with a red punch-out to finish off the ears. 
  4. I use a 1/16" punch to make the hole in the middle of each punch-out, but you could easily poke a hole through each one if you don't have the smaller punch. Don't worry if the holes are slightly off-center. This will actually help hold the zip-tie in place.

Step 10: Detailing

Now, you just have a few finishing touches to finish off your Instructables Robot
  1. Use some 1/8" black punch-outs to fill in the holes around the outside of the body.
  2. Use some black tape to add the line details to the body. Depending on the tape that you use, you may have to cut it into thinner strips. You could also use a pen or marker to draw your lines.
  3. Cut out 3 buttons out of some grey foam. You can use scissors, or punches if you have them. I wrapped the edges of my buttons to add visual depth. I also prefer the look of hand-cut shapes for this part of the project. Use some double sided tape to stick the buttons to the robot.
  4. Use some more tape for the mouth and forehead of the robot. Again, you could draw these on with a pen or a marker. Using tape for the mouth will leave you the opportunity to change the robot's expression if you intend to use it for animation.
  5. Finally, you will install the head on the body. Remember that you'll need to have the full length straw for this. 
  6. Once you've pushed the straw through the hole at the top of the body, you will need to make sure that the straw is threaded in front of the straw that holds the arms, and behind the straw that holds the legs in place. The straw will be wedged in place, and will provide a stand for your robot. When positioned at the right angle, the straw will not be noticeable.

Step 11: Make It Real - the Design Process

The instructables robot is the second robot to be born into the Strawbots family. It was designed in a couple days under the watchful eye of Harvey 1.0, the first Strawbot.

The prototype instructables robot was built with a lot of trial and error, and based closely on a printout of the actual instructables logo. The legs were the easiest part to put together. The rest of the process was slightly more painful. The head proved to be the most laborious build. The poor robot was originally very big-headed, yet hours of fortitude resulted in a properly proportioned noggin. The first version also ended up way too tall, so it had to have its skirt shortened. No big deal.

Once the model was satisfactory, it was busted apart and scanned into the computer. The rough cut parts were traced and tweaked in Adobe Illustrator and exported as a DXF to be CNC cut into patterns for future production.

Step 12: The Adventure Begins

Once your instructable robot is built, the adventure ultimately begins. Please consider the following TOP TEN possibilities. I know that I will.

  1. Create a stop-motion animation and cast the instructables robot as the lead.
  2. Build one instructables robot in every colour you can get your hands on, and one for every occasion.
  3. Take your robot on trips with you and leave your garden gnome at home.
  4. Display your robot proudly on your shelf and have it oversee all of your future builds.
  5. Wrap it up and give it as a gift.
  6. Introduce your robot to your old toys, especially the autobots. Be careful  though, you can't trust decepticons.
  7. Install LED eyes.
  8. In the spirit of the Wizard of OZ, give your robot a brain.
  9. Sign your robot up for popular social media sites.
  10. Watch Short Circuit, The Iron Giant, and Wall-E with your robot.

Animating using StopmotionPro

Finished Movie edited in Adobe Premier Pro

Make It Real Challenge

Participated in the
Make It Real Challenge

Wheels Challenge

Participated in the
Wheels Challenge