What kid doesn’t love robots? You’re probably thinking, “oh, making a robot is a lot of work.” But guess what, it doesn’t have to be! This scrub brush robot is the simplest robot you can make, and there is no programming or complicated electrical engineering knowledge needed. A child of 8 years old and up can make this project completely (and safely) on their own, while younger kids can help make a scrub brush robot with just a little help from a teacher or parent!
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You will be surprised to see how easy it is to make a working robot and your kids creativity will go nuts with thinking of fun variations for this basic scrub brush robot design.
Scrub Brush Robot: STEM Building Challenge for Kids
What you’ll need for the scrub brush robot challenge:
- A scrub brush that can stand on its own (we used the kind used to clean out bathtubs)
- 3 volt motor
- AAA battery pack with wires attached
- Mini clothespin (or something else for a motor weight)
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Electrical tape or scotch tape (electrical is much better)
- Needlenose pliers
At first, this project seems really intimating. When I purchased all the supplies, I was worried about shocking the kids, blowing up the house, and burning out the motor. But, my fears were totally unfounded!
After a bit of research, we learned that the motor and battery in this project run off of direct current (DC power). The human body has the ability to resist up to 100,000 Ohms of direct electrical current. With a 3 volt motor, although there is electricity flowing through it, you are unlikely to feel any shock unless your hands are wet or you touch part of the circuit while it is active with your tongue. That makes this project perfect for kids new to electrical engineering. Still, we advise treating the current as active, for practice for more advanced/high-voltage circuits.
The first thing to set up is the motor-to-battery connection. We found it didn’t matter which wires were connected to which side of the motor (yours might be different, but unlikely), which made things even easier. We used needlenose pliers to connect the wires to the electrical ports on the motor and held them in place with tape. Put AAA batteries in your battery pack, and the motor should start to spin. Adjust the wires and make sure the batteries are in correctly if it doesn’t work.
Next, you’ll need something to throw the motor off kilter. This is what makes it vibrate and the brush move. We glued a clothespin around the motor’s rotor and that worked perfectly.
Glue the motor and the battery pack to the brush. You may also want to glue down wires if they hang off.
Put the batteries in the battery pack and watch your robot move!
We set up a little course for our robot using blocks. The kids were impressed at how they could direct the robot where to go just by moving the blocks a bit. We did run into one little snag due to our placement of the motor. Because it was on the side, if it hit the wall, the brush robot stopped. It would have been better for our design if we had placed the motor on top of the scrub brush robot.
What Kids Learn with Scrub Brush Robots
Making scrub brush robots is the perfect introduction to electrical engineering and robot building. Kids will love how easy it is to make a robot. Don’t be surprised if they start to come up with dozens of ideas for other robot designs. My kids spent the rest of the day trying to motorize most of their toys.
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