I run a Makerspace for a prek-8th grade school in Oakland, CA. I put together this project for the younger kids. By using magnets, they have the opportunity to build robots without having to deal with glue or other adhesives. They get a chance to play around with the different parts and experiment with construction, balance, support and magnets. And, best of all, they get to create a unique creature; the possibilities are endlessly entertaining.
This is a very easy project to put together. I hope you will have as much fun with it as I have.
Step 1: You Will Need:
Random hardware; whatever you can find: screws, nuts, springs, hooks
Tin cans, small candy tins, tin can lids
Small magnets (you can get a set of 100 on amazon for around 10 dollars). Best to stick with ceramic magnets, not the super strong kind, which might be hard for kids to work with.
Some sort of strong glue. I've used E6000 and Gorilla Glue.
Optional: small sheets of stainless steel metal, found at hobby stores or hardware stores and tin snips
Step 2: Collect Materials
This is my favorite part. Go to thrift stores, hardware stores and ask your friends;give them an opportunity to clean our their junk drawer or toolbox. If you are a teacher, ask your families to bring in any hardware donations. Once you start this collection, you'll start noticing everything as a possible robot part. I've even started carrying a magnet in my purse to do a quick test on anything I come across, to see whether or not it's magnetic. You really don't have to limit yourself to metal; you can always attached a magnet to plastic pieces (I just like the look of all metal). I've been searching for some old erector set pieces, which would be a great addition to my collection. Small gears, tops of wire whisks, old watches...see what you can find.
Step 3: Prepare Pieces
Glue a magnet to the parts that aren't magnetic. Also, glue some magnets to pieces that are magnetic. Leave some pieces without magnets, so kids can experiment with balance and supporting their creation.
Some pieces, like tins, may have sharp edges. I lined these with silver duct tape for safety.
Step 4: Start Building!
Once you try out different robot combinations, you may want to add more magnets to specific pieces (this is why I got a set of 100 magnets). Also, I found that strips of metal from hobby stores (see picture in "Materials") can help support wobbly robots. Part of the challenge is to make robots that will stand on their own. And the other part of the challenge is to have fun creating!
Step 5: So Many Possibilities...
My five-year old neighbor said, "Look! I made a robot butterfly!"
Step 6: Storage
My whole set fits in a plastic tub, although I may need to get a bigger one as my collection grows!