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Active Time
1-2 hours
Total Project Time
1-2 hours
Key Concepts
Automaton, machine


Have you ever wondered how to create art with moving parts using nothing but cardboard, a few skewers, and some craft supplies? In this fun STEM activity, you will build an automaton, a machine that makes parts appear and disappear, move up and down, spin in circles, or all of these together. The instructions will show you how to build a moving caterpillar, but you can use your imagination to build any other animal or object you want!


Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,200 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.


  • Cardboard
  • Cardboard box; an old shoebox works well
  • Cardboard tube or toilet paper rolls
  • Cardstock or paper
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Tip of compass or needle
  • Glue
  • Drinking straw
  • Skewers, at least one that is 2 inches longer than the shoebox
  • Beads with smooth surface
  • Pencil
  • Materials to color and decorate your creation
    Materials for automata science activity


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Active Time
1-2 hours
Total Project Time
1-2 hours
Key Concepts
Automaton, machine
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