Build robots using everyday materials!
|Class Dates||March 3-31, 2022|
|Class Size||3-12 students|
|Class Times||Thursdays at 1pm ET/ |
12 pm CT / 11am MT /
|Each additional family member||$145|
Do you love making and inventing things? Would you like to build working robotic prototypes using everyday stuff? Want to learn about electrical circuits, motors, sensors, and coding with robotic prototypes you design yourself?
Join me for a series of five BOTS workshops, based on my book BOTS! from Nomad Press. It’s a complete introduction to the way robots work— no expensive kits needed!
Each week we’ll explore a different robotics system and make a short hands-on project. Written materials and links to real robotics research are provided to help you dive deeper into each topic if you choose. They include:
- What robots are and what they can do
- Different ways to power robots
- How robots get around, and how they pick up and move stuff
- How sensors help robots decide what to do
- How to create real and virtual robots and control them with free, online software
To make the projects in this course, all you need are some household supplies (such as index cards, pencils, and scissors), and some beginner-friendly electronic components. The components can be found through online electronics retailers like Adafruit, on Amazon, or even salvaged from dollar store devices.
Between classes, you have the option to keep improving and adding to your projects with suggested extra activities. You’ll also get time at the beginning of class to share anything new you’ve worked on!
Here’s a sneak peek at some of the projects we’ll be looking at and making:
A note on supplies: I highly recommend getting the Adafruit electronics parts savings bundle if it is available. It has all the electronics you need for class, and comes with a copy of my book BOTS!
Classes take place on Thursdays at 1pm Eastern / noon Central / 11am Mountain / 10am Pacific
Each class lasts about one hour.
No work outside class is required, but suggestions for additional activities are provided.
What to Expect
Each week features a different robotics system. We’ll discuss connections to familiar mechanisms, look at related prototypes from my books, and view slides or videos about commercial and research robots. In the second part of each class we’ll work on that week’s project. Here’s a rundown of what we cover:
Week 1: Intro and Robot Bodies
What is a robot? What are some different kinds of robots, and how are their bodies designed to help them do different things?
In class activity: Walking Paper Robot Dog
Extra at home: Build a robot body from materials around the house
Week 2: Actuators and Power
Robots can be powered by batteries, solar power, or nuclear energy. They can be actuated by pneumatics, hydraulics, solenoids, and motors.
In class activity: Motorized ArtBot
Extra at home: Solar WobbleBot
Week 3: Effectors
Robots move themselves and other things with legs, hands, wheels, etc.
In class activity: Paper Fin Gripper
Extra at home: Hydraulic Arm or Robot Hand
Week 4: Sensors
A robot’s electronic sensors detect the environment by measuring the flow of electricity.
In class activity: Pencil pressure sensor; intro to MakeCode
Extra at home: Design a tilt sensor
Week 5: Controllers
Robots are controlled by programming that takes in input and decides what to do (output).
In class activity: Build and program a head-turning robot in MakeCode
Projects in this course require the ability to cut, fold, tape, and measure (or judge amounts). For the coding activities, you’ll need to connect the programmable board to your computer with a USB cable and move files from the download folder to the attached device.
- Students will be introduced to the idea of using simple materials like paper and cardboard to create working models.
- Students will use engineering design skills like prototyping, testing, trouble-shooting, and iteration, and documentation as they build, improve, and enhance their models and share them with others.
- Students will learn the basics of electrical circuits.
- Students will learn to create basic computer programs.
- Students will learn to improvise, take risks, develop the confidence to explore new areas, and test out their own ideas and designs.
It’s important to have all the materials ready before class begins. (Weekly list here. See the Supplies page for more information.)
This class works best when students are on camera and use the microphone to ask questions or participate in class discussion. It is particularly helpful when trying to help a student troubleshoot a problem with their project. That said, I understand that everyone doesn’t want to be on camera all the time, and I will do my best to accommodate individual needs and preferences.
Supporting Your Learner
Adults are encouraged to stand by during class to help with the inevitable missing item or computer glitch. Some students may also need help with the projects during class. Printable instructions and templates for paper projects are provided to help make it easier to follow along.
Want more BOTS?
BOTS 2: Make and Code Robots is an additional four weeks of next-level work for students who have completed BOTS 1.
All you need for Week 1 is an index card, pen, ruler, and scissors. A week-by-week list of all the supplies needed, including crafts material, with links, is available here.
- Estimated cost of electronics needed is about $50 per person (less if you have multiple students who can share materials that come in bulk).
- I highly recommend getting the Adafruit electronics parts savings bundle if it is available. It has all the electronics you need for class, and comes with a copy of my book BOTS! If it’s out of stock, you can enter your email to be notified when it is back — sometimes within a day.
- You can also buy the parts individually from my Adafruit shopping list or on Amazon.
NOTE: Contact me if you are having trouble finding what you need! Electronics supply chains have been affected by world events this year. I have a limited number of kits for sale. I will also go over supplies needed the first week and suggest ways to salvage what you need from dollar store devices.
The programmable Adafruit Circuit Playground Express microcontroller board is also used in the follow-up class, BOTS 2: Make and Code Robots!
We will be using free, online Microsoft MakeCode software. It works best using the Chrome browser.
To download the code to the programmable board, you will also need a laptop or desktop computer (not a tablet) that can be connected to the board with a standard USB data cable (see the supply list for details).
Many families find it useful to watch the class on a second device while working with MakeCode on their computer. However, it is possible to Zoom and code on the same computer at the same time!
A camera and microphone are required. Parents will need a Zoom account (free).
Kathy Ceceri, B.A.
Kathy Ceceri is an award-winning writer and educator, and the author of more than a dozen books of hands-on STEAM activities for kids and teens. Formerly the Homeschooling Expert at About.com (now ThoughtCo), she wrote the Hands-On Learning column for Home Education magazine and taught her own two children at home from kindergarten until college.
Kathy’s workshops and activities are designed with the non-expert in mind. They introduce basic concepts in science and technology, and give students the skills and information they need to troubleshoot their projects and build upon what they’ve learned. Additional background material and resources look at the diverse people behind the inventions and put them into context in the larger society.
We offered Kathy’s DIY Buzzing Game online workshop last month and it was great! The kids had such a good time. Really creative!
Lara R. Cohen, Youth Services LibrarianTeacher: Kathy Ceceri
I just wanted to say thank you for teaching this class. My son enjoyed it so much and learned a lot. He is really into motors and circuits right now and this class was a great help to his robotics learning.
Parent of student in Build BOTS classTeacher: Kathy Ceceri
My daughter is really enjoying your class. We’ll sign up for anything that you do, as you are an excellent teacher.