A STEAM challenge and a creative way to reuse old toys’ parts – Pointillist robot

First and foremost, I think education should have an interdisciplinary approach to art and science. Teaching them separately is like mining the human brain for an isolate resource and ignoring the rest. I think it goes against the holistic evolution of the human brain and body to exploit an aptitude in favor of another and compartmentalize disciplines.

Secondly, teaching kids to creatively reuse and re-purpose old toys is a healthy habit that, in the long run, can build more such good habits and make humans more responsible in using the planet’s resources. I don’t doubt Elon Musk will succeed in his plan to take humanity to Mars, but some of us will have to stay here and turn off the lights.

So, here’s an idea from the Tinkerlab book I wanted to try since my husband started disassembling our son’s old toys and taking out the electronic and mechanical parts.

We built a simple robot that makes pointilist art by reusing one of these battery operated engines with a switch. You can use a remote controlled car engine for example.

Here is what you need:

– Small engine with an on-off switch
– Battery for the engine
– A light paper cup
– Pens of various colors
– Tape
– Cardboard propeller
– A small coin

Tape the engine to the bottom of the cup, cut out a cardboard propeller and attach it to the rotating axis of the engine.

Tape a small coin onto one of the propeller’s arms to weigh it down and destabilize the rotating movement. This little trick makes the robot move around. Tape the colored sharpie pens, we used 3, to the cup.


This is it. Now you can have fun watching how it moves around.

This idea offers many possibilities of entertaining kids from starting a discussion on pointillism, to explaining basic laws of physics or uping the game and setting up a robot race if more kids are involved.

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