So it only took the whole summer to finally get around to busting out the art-bots. Sadly I didn’t get as over-the-top as I had originally wanted to at the beginning of the summer after having explored it with the possibility box I received from MakerEd. It remained as simple as it was in the beginning: take a dollar store tooth brush and attach three markers to it via rubber bands and let them go nuts on a piece of paper. I only had two working electric tooth brushes so the supplies were limited, but as I found out quickly, the supplies were ample.
It didn’t take much to gather a crowd with this project. Seeing a handful of markers jut around in circles on a piece of paper apparently unaided is definitely something to be curious about. Seeing two of these going is something to sit down and get involved with.
Now, I knew that the art-bots would be making some interesting images, but what I didn’t quite expect was that having two art-bots going at the same time going at a particularly sad 3rpms would bring such excitement from the kids at the library who watched, perched on the edge of their seats. The spark that really ignited their fascination with the bots was when they bumped into each other. “Ooo! That one just hit that one!” was a shouted a lot. It soon became a table-top Battle Royale of art-bots.
The kids would sit around the circular table watching the spinning bots creep slowly towards each other and occasionally make contact. A winner would be decided, and the loser would be torn about and replaced with new colors…a new challenger entering the arena.
Now I would expect the kind of excitement I was getting if these were spinning much faster or maybe they were colliding and knocking each other over in some exciting fashion, but it was hypnotic sitting there watching these things gyrate. It was also just plain bazar that this went on for seven hours. Seven hours of watching two electric tooth brushes rotate at incredibly slow speeds bumping into one another about once every minute. Certain color combinations were given names. Like some kind of ridiculous WWE championship we watched the gladiators bump it out.
This was a really fun, really basic project that the kids simply loved. It was different from a lot of the other projects that we worked on this summer because all it was was strapping markers to an electric toothbrush. It didn’t involve abstract thought. It didn’t involve any dexterity in particular. It could be made by anyone, whether you had construction skills or not. A lot of times I felt that the projects that I tried to engage the kids in were met with skepticism and doubt that they could actually create them, gauging their own skills against my own. For this project I was happy to see that when they gathered around they didn’t see me…they saw a simple device that anyone could produce with two dollars and a couple minutes of time. There were no excuses with this project. It was fun, it was easy, and it was cheap. And best of all it wasn’t intimidating in any way…just plain old fun and enjoyment.