Jump to main content

Art Bot: Build a Wobbly Robot That Creates Art

1,782 reviews


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!


Areas of Science
Time Required
Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Material Availability
A kit is available from our partner Home Science Tools. See the Materials section for details.
Low ($20 - $50)
Adult supervision is required when using a hobby knife.
Ben Finio, PhD, Science Buddies

This project is based on the following:


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


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.

Photo of a fully assembled 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



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:

  • Self-Organizing Systems Research Group (n.d.). Kilobots. Harvard University. Retrieved March 23, 2018.

Materials and Equipment Buy Kit

Recommended Project Supplies

Get the right supplies — selected and tested to work with this project.

View Kit

Disclaimer: Science Buddies participates in affiliate programs with Home Science Tools, Amazon.com, Carolina Biological, and Jameco Electronics. Proceeds from the affiliate programs help support Science Buddies, a 501(c)(3) public charity, and keep our resources free for everyone. Our top priority is student learning. If you have any comments (positive or negative) related to purchases you've made for science projects from recommendations on our site, please let us know. Write to us at scibuddy@sciencebuddies.org.

Experimental Procedure

Build Your Art Bot

  1. Watch this video or follow along with the slideshow to build your Art Bot:

Slideshow Images

1. Make sure battery holder switch is in the OFF position.

2. Remove screw from battery holder cover.

3. Slide cover off battery holder.

4. Insert two AA batteries into holder. Make sure '+' signs on batteries line up with '+' signs in holder.

5. Slide cover back on until it clicks in place.

6. Press cork onto motor shaft. Make sure cork is off-center.

7. Cork and motor should look like this.

8. Tightly twist together exposed metal ends of red wires.

9. Adult supervision required: Cut three small holes in top of cup, as shown.

10. Thread the motor wires through the two outer holes.

11. Important: The motor shaft sticks out the back of the motor. Make sure it lines up with the center hole so it can spin freely.

12. Put two pieces of double-sided foam tape on either side of the holes and peel off the paper backing.

13. Press motor firmly onto tape. Make sure you do not accidentally tape the back of the motor shaft.

14. Tightly twist together exposed metal parts of red wires.

15. Tightly twist together exposed metal parts of black wires.

16. Wrap both wire connections in electrical tape.

17. Put a piece of double-sided foam tape on the battery holder (on the side opposite the power switch).

18. Tape the battery holder inside the cup. Make sure the on/off switch is facing toward the rim so you can reach it easily.

19. Tape three markers to the sides of the cup, equally spaced around the edge, to form a tripod.

20. Tape a popsicle stick to the cork.

21. Optional: Decorate your Art Bot.

22. Remove the marker caps and place your Art Bot on a piece of posterboard.

23. Turn the power switch to the ON position. The popsicle stick should spin, causing the entire robot to wobble and move around.

24. If the motor does not spin, check that your wires did not come loose. If necessary, tightly re-twist them together.

25. Pieces may fall off your Art Bot as it wobbles around. If necessary, turn the power switch off and re-tape the parts to the cup.

End of Slideshow Images

  1. 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.
A popsicle stick is taped length-wise and off-center to a piece of cork
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.
A piece of cork is taped to the center of a popsicle stick
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 That Creates Art.

icon scientific method

Ask an Expert

Do you have specific questions about your science project? Our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.


  • 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.

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.


If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

Career Profile
Have you watched "The Transformers" cartoon series or seen the "Transformers" movies? Both shows are about how good and evil robots fight each other and the humans who get in the middle. Many TV shows and movies show robots and humans interacting with each other. While this is, at present, fantasy, in real life robots play a helpful role. Robots do jobs that can be dangerous for humans. For example, some robots defuse landmines in war-stricken countries; others work in harsh environments like… Read more
Career Profile
Mechanical engineers are part of your everyday life, designing the spoon you used to eat your breakfast, your breakfast's packaging, the flip-top cap on your toothpaste tube, the zipper on your jacket, the car, bike, or bus you took to school, the chair you sat in, the door handle you grasped and the hinges it opened on, and the ballpoint pen you used to take your test. Virtually every object that you see around you has passed through the hands of a mechanical engineer. Consequently, their… Read more
Career Profile
Just as a potter forms clay, or a steel worker molds molten steel, electrical and electronics engineers gather and shape electricity and use it to make products that transmit power or transmit information. Electrical and electronics engineers may specialize in one of the millions of products that make or use electricity, like cell phones, electric motors, microwaves, medical instruments, airline navigation system, or handheld games. Read more
Career Profile
Robots are no longer futuristic machines. Robots are here and now and are used in manufacturing, health care, service industries, and military applications. They perform tasks that are repetitive and hazardous—things that humans don't want to do or are unsafe to do. But robots are still machines, which means they require humans to build, maintain, program, and keep them functioning efficiently. Robotics technicians work with robotics engineers to build and test robots. They are… Read more

Contact Us

If you have purchased a kit for this project from Science Buddies, we are pleased to answer any question not addressed by the FAQ above.

In your email, please follow these instructions:
  1. What is your Science Buddies kit order number?
  2. Please describe how you need help as thoroughly as possible:


    Good Question I'm trying to do Experimental Procedure step #5, "Scrape the insulation from the wire. . ." How do I know when I've scraped enough?
    Good Question I'm at Experimental Procedure step #7, "Move the magnet back and forth . . ." and the LED is not lighting up.
    Bad Question I don't understand the instructions. Help!
    Good Question I am purchasing my materials. Can I substitute a 1N34 diode for the 1N25 diode called for in the material list?
    Bad Question Can I use a different part?

Contact Us

News Feed on This Topic

, ,

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 That Creates Art." Science Buddies, 18 Nov. 2023, https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Robotics_p014/robotics/build-art-bot?from=Blog. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

APA Style

Finio, B. (2023, November 18). Art Bot: Build a Wobbly Robot That Creates Art. Retrieved from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/Robotics_p014/robotics/build-art-bot?from=Blog

Last edit date: 2023-11-18
Free science fair projects.