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Build an Art Bot

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Time Required Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability A kit is available for your convenience from our partner Home Science Tools.
Cost Low ($20 - $50)
Safety Adult supervision is required when using a hobby knife.


Do you like drawing or painting? What if you could build a robot that creates its own art? In this project, you will create your own Art Bot, a robot with markers for "legs" that wobbles across a piece of paper, creating drawings as it moves. You can then customize your robot to change how it draws. This is a beginner-level project with no robotics experience necessary, so if you want to try building your own robot, this is a great place to start!


Build an Art Bot and investigate how changing the robot's design affects how it draws.

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Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

This project is based on the following:

Cite This Page

General citation information is provided here. Be sure to check the formatting, including capitalization, for the method you are using and update your citation, as needed.

MLA Style

Finio, Ben. "Art Bot: Build a Wobbly Robot Friend That Creates Art." Science Buddies, 24 Apr. 2018, Accessed 18 Aug. 2018.

APA Style

Finio, B. (2018, April 24). Art Bot: Build a Wobbly Robot Friend That Creates Art. Retrieved from

Last edit date: 2018-04-24


Do you like to draw pictures and make art? Do you think it would be fun to build a robot that can draw with you? In this project, you will build a robot called an Art Bot, like the one shown in Figure 1.

art bot
Figure 1. An example of an Art Bot.

The Art Bot uses a small electric motor to move. In order to power the motor, the robot also needs a battery. When you connect the battery to the motor, you complete an electrical circuit, and this allows the motor to spin. The motor has an off-center weight attached to it (the popsicle stick in Figure 1), which causes the motor to vibrate. When the motor vibrates, it causes the robot to wobble across the paper. This is the same technology that makes video game controllers and cell phones vibrate; on the inside, they have little spinning motors with weights attached. Your Art Bot will also have markers for "legs," so it will draw on paper as it moves.

In this science project, you will find out how the weight attached to the motor affects the robot's movement. What happens if the popsicle stick is perfectly centered? What happens when it is way off-center? Move on to the Materials section to see the list of supplies you will need to build your own Art Bot, and the Procedure for instructions on how to build one and do the experiment.

Terms and Concepts

  • Robot
  • Motor
  • Battery
  • Circuit
  • Vibrate


  • What causes the robot's motor to vibrate?
  • How does the motor make the robot move across the paper?
  • What is an electrical circuit?
  • What do you think will happen when the popsicle stick is perfectly centered on the motor?
  • What do you think will happen when the popsicle stick is completely off-center?


This project is based on the Art Bot project from this book:

If you want to learn more about some of the concepts in this project, like circuits and vibrational motion, check out these references:

If you want to learn about real-life robots powered by vibrational motion, read about these robots developed at Harvard University:

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Materials and Equipment Product Kit Available

  • Bristlebot Robotics Kit, available from our partner Home Science Tools. You will need these items from the kit:
    • AA batteries (2)
    • 2xAA battery holder
    • 3 volt DC motor
    • Note: The kit contains enough parts to build two Art Bots, or one Art Bot and one Brushbot. It also contains parts to make two bristlebots.
  • You will also need the following items, not included in the kit:
    • Plastic cup, 16 oz.
    • Cork
    • Popsicle stick
    • Thin washable markers (3)
    • White posterboard pieces (3)
    • Double-sided foam tape
    • Electrical tape
    • Hobby knife
    • Scissors
    • Small Phillips-head screwdriver
    • Stopwatch
    • Lab notebook
    • Optional: Arts and crafts materials to decorate your robot (googly eyes, pipe cleaners, etcetera)
    • Optional: Digital camera to take pictures of your posterboards
    • Volunteer to help you run your experiments

Recommended Project Supplies

Get the right supplies — selected and tested to work with this project.
Project Kit: $34.95
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Remember Your Display Board Supplies

Artskills materials poster making kit

Poster Making Kit

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ArtSkills supplies trifold

ArtSkills Trifold with Header

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ArtSkills supplies poster lights

Poster Lights

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Experimental Procedure

Build Your Art Bot

  1. Follow along with this slideshow to build your Art Bot:
Battery switch off Remove screw Slide off cover Insert batteries Replace cover Press cork onto motor Cork on motor Twist red wires cut 3 holes in top of cup Thread motor wires through holes Motor shaft through center hole Apply tape to top of cup Press motor onto tape Twist together red wires Twist together black wires Wrap wires in tape Put tape on battery holder Tape battery holder inside cup Tape markers to sides of cup Tape popsicle stick to cork Add googly eyes How to build an art bot Turn Art Bot on Check for loose wires Leg falls off robot
  1. If you prefer, you can watch a video that shows how to build your Art Bot.
  2. Follow these troubleshooting tips when using your Art Bot:
    1. If your Art Bot stops moving suddenly, check to make sure that one set of wires did not get disconnected. If you did not twist the wires tightly enough, the vibrations may cause them to come apart. If necessary, take off the tape, tightly re-twist the wires, and then reapply tape.
    2. As your robot wobbles around, some pieces may fall off. If necessary, use more tape to reattach them.
    3. Your Art Bot might fall over frequently if it wobbles too much. To make it wobble less, move the popsicle stick so it is more centered on the cork. You may need to adjust the popsicle stick positions you test in the "Test Your Art Bot" section of this project to make sure your Art Bot does not fall over.
    4. Always turn your robot off when not in use to help conserve battery power.

Test Your Art Bot

  1. Label three pieces of posterboard by writing in their corners: "Popsicle stick off-center," "Popsicle stick partially off-center," and "Popsicle stick centered."
  2. Put the first piece of posterboard (popsicle stick off-center) down on the floor or on a tabletop. Important: Depending on the surface you are working on, you may need to be ready to catch your Art Bot before it goes off the posterboard. For example, you do not want it to fall off a table, or to get marker on surrounding carpet.
  3. Take the marker caps off your Art Bot, and place it in the center of the first piece of posterboard.
  4. Have your volunteer get the stopwatch ready.
    1. Lift the Art Bot up and turn the battery holder's switch to ON. Be carefully that the spinning popsicle stick does not hit your hand!
    2. Place the Art Bot down in the center of the posterboard. As soon as you put it down, your volunteer should start the stopwatch.
    3. The volunteer should say "Stop!" as soon as the stopwatch reaches 10 seconds. As soon as they say "stop," pick the Art Bot up and turn it off.
    4. If the Art Bot goes off the posterboard before 10 seconds is up, pick it up and turn it off.
    5. If any part of your robot breaks during testing (for example, if a marker falls off), stop testing, fix your robot, and then redo that trial.
    6. Can you make any observations about the Art Bot's motion? For example, does it seem very jerky and wobbly, or does it move smoothly? Does it move fast or slow? Record any observations you make in your lab notebook.
  5. Repeat step 4 two more times, on the same piece of posterboard, for a total of three trials.
  6. Now, re-tape the popsicle stick to the cork so it is only partially off-center, as shown in Figure 2.
popsicle stick partially off-center on artbot
Figure 2. Popsicle stick attached to the cork so it is only partially off-center.
  1. Repeat steps 4–5 with a new piece of posterboard.
  2. Re-tape the popsicle stick so it is centered on the cork, as shown in Figure 3.
popsicle stick centered on art bot
Figure 3. Popsicle stick centered on the cork.
  1. Repeat steps 4–5 with a new piece of posterboard.
  2. Analyze your results by looking at your three posterboard pieces side-by-side, along with the observations you recorded in your lab notebook.
    1. Which popsicle stick position made the robot move the fastest? Which one made it move the slowest?
    2. Which popsicle stick position made the robot end up farthest from its starting point within 10 seconds? What about staying the closest to the middle of the posterboard?
    3. Organize your results in a data table like Table 1.
    4. Make graphs of your data.
      1. Make a bar graph with popsicle stick position on the horizontal (x) axis and robot speed on the vertical (y) axis.
      2. Make a graph with the popsicle stick position on the horizontal (x) axis and final distance from starting point on the vertical (y) axis.
    5. Do your results match your predictions about how the popsicle stick would affect the Art Bot's movement?
Popsicle Stick Position Robot's Speed
Final Distance from Starting Point (farthest/medium/closest)
Partially off-center   
Table 1. Data table for keeping track of how popsicle stick position affects the robot's motion.


For troubleshooting tips, please read our FAQ: Art Bot: Build a Wobbly Robot Friend That Creates Art.

Communicating Your Results: Start Planning Your Display Board

Create an award-winning display board with tips and design ideas from the experts at ArtSkills.
ArtSkills button poster gallery 350
ArtSkills button design tips 350
ArtSkills button for more tips 210 h

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  • The Art Bot you built in this project is a tripod, meaning it has three legs. What happens if you build an Art Bot that is a quadruped (has four legs) or a hexapod (has six legs)?
  • Can you design an Art Bot that uses something other than a plastic cup for the robot's body? For example, can you build a body out of popsicle sticks?
  • Can you design an Art Bot that goes straight, instead of wobbling around randomly?
  • If you are ready for a more-advanced robotics project, check out Build a Light-Tracking Bristlebot.

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project Yes, I Did This Project! Please log in (or create a free account) to let us know how things went.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

If you are having trouble with this project, please read the FAQ below. You may find the answer to your question.
Q: Why does my motor fall off my Art Bot?
A: In order for it to stick, the motor needs to sit flat on top of your plastic cup and be firmly pressed against the double-sided tape. Have an adult help you if you have trouble getting your motor to stick.
Q: Why does my cork fall off the motor shaft?
A: Make sure the cork is pressed firmly, almost all the way onto the motor shaft. If you only press the cork partially onto the shaft, it may fly off when the motor starts spinning.
Q: Why does my motor not spin at all?
A: If your motor does not spin at all when you turn your battery holder on, several things could be wrong. Check each of the following:
  • Make sure you put the batteries into the battery holder correctly. The "+" signs on the batteries should line up with the "+" signs inside the battery pack. If you get one battery backwards, the motor will not spin.
  • You might have pressed the cork too far onto the motor shaft. There should be a tiny bit of space between the edge of the cork and the face of the motor. If the cork is pushed all the way up against the motor, the friction might prevent the motor from spinning.
  • You might not have completely twisted the motor and battery holder's wires together. Check to make sure the wires from the motor and battery holder are tightly twisted together.
Q: Why does my Art Bot fall over?
A: There are a few things that could make your Art Bot fall over. Check for each of the following:
  • Your marker "legs" are loose, and not firmly taped to the plastic cup.
  • The markers are not evenly spaced around the cup, causing the robot to tilt to one side.
  • The popsicle stick is too far off center, causing the robot to wobble excessively and fall over.
Q: Why does my Art Bot slow down when I use it for a long time?
A: Just like any battery-operated toy, eventually your Art Bot will need new batteries. It will gradually slow down as the batteries drain. If you notice your Art Bot slowing down significantly, use two fresh AA batteries and it should return to its original speed.

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