Monday, 10 June 2013

My First Robot gets littleBits

I've mentioned before that my four year old son has been designing a robot and we've been building it together. Last time we added a simple voice box to the robot.

Of course that wasn't enough for him so I had to find a way that we could make the robot do more stuff. We chose littleBits for this project - snap together electronics components that just work.

Note that if I had intended this robot to have electronics in then we wouldn't have covered it in kitchen foil. I thought we were just making a pretend robot, but my son has other ideas! The electronics are all on the inside of the robot anyway.

littleBits use strong magnets and are recommended for children aged 8+. My son is younger than this so we worked together on the project. He was very much in charge! I was just the helper to do all the tricky bits.

littleBits DC Motor
littleBits DC Motor @ Amazon
Our littleBits set has a DC motor so we just had to add a classic robot twirling antenna on the top.

There's a little switch on the motor bit so you can choose which direction it moves in. 

It can be a bit tricky to attach things to the motor shaft but we came up with a solution that worked well for this project.

The antenna is made from a sparkly pipecleaners and it is attached to the motor using a small LEGO Technic piece.

Threading the pipecleaner throught the LEGO piece gave a tight enough fit but it can be removed so we can take the electronics out and use them for other projects.

littleBits RGB LED
littleBits RGB LED @ Amazon
My son also wanted a light on the robot.  We have an RGB LED bit that can be set to any color using a cute little purple screwdriver.

On its own the light isn't that exciting so we decided to use a piece of translucent plastic to diffuse the light which looks much better.

Of course we didn't use just any bit of translucent plastic. My son drew the star or flash shape that he wanted on paper. And then we 3D-printed that shape from his drawing. (I'll cover that process in a future post.)

I cut out a flash shape from the robot head and then used sticky tape to attach the 3D printed flash. It glows quite well in daylight and looks even better in the dark. 

The littleBits can be powered by a 9V battery to hide all the electronics but we've just been plugging in a compatible power supply. 

Here's the circuit we put together. We also played around with adding a slider switch which would make the light brighter and the pipecleaner spin faster.

I made a little cardboard shelf inside the head for the electronics to sit on and used some sticky tack to keep the motor in place.

Here's My First Robot in action:

My son was very proud to show off his robot when friends came round recently and they all wanted to make their own robot. Next time I'll know in advance what we're planning to make and I'll be able to steer the craft project in the right direction. This worked pretty well for a retrofit though.

We used: littleBits electronics

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