Building Robots - Full STEAM Ahead

You may have you heard of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) but have you heard of STEAM?

The “A” stands for Art.

Some people feel art is a discipline that is removed from more technical subjects but there are great advantages to using art as a means of incorporating STEM into your day!

Everyone learns more when they are engaged and interested in what they are doing. By setting challenges for your kids that combine a need for creativity with design thinking, you can encourage them to develop their STEM skills without them really even noticing.

With this in mind, I’ve created a crafty STEAM challenge for you and your kids.

There are often kids of different ages in families so I have divided this challenge into three levels of difficulty. This way your kids can all work on the same type of project together but take it on at a level that suits them.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it is: Making Model Robots!

Materials

You’ll need some basic materials to complete this challenge. Below is a list of suggestions but really you can use anything at all that you have around the house and that could be repurposed for a crafty project.

Suggestions:

  • Cardboard tubes like the ones from paper towel rolls
  • Paper plates
  • Empty cereal boxes
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Glue (low temp hot glue guns are great for this type of project)
  • Stapler
  • Split pins (these are available from places like Office Works and newsagencies)
  • String
  • Sticky tape
  • Paddlepop sticks
  • Rubber bands
  • Coloured markers
  • Paper

Basic challenge – Best for children aged 3 to 5-years old

Ask the child if they would like to make a robot.

Show them the available materials and have a chat about what the robot might look like and what they might like it to be able to do.

Give the child the markers and some paper and ask them to draw or design their robot. Get them to talk you through what they have drawn. This is the design element. It doesn’t matter whether the drawing looks at all like a robot. The idea is to get the kids thinking and talking so that they become used to planning what they are doing.

Next sit with them and let them select the materials they want. Let them create their robot and only offer suggestions or help if they ask for them. Try to support them in solving any problems that they are having by asking questions like “is there something else that you could use that might work better?” or “Could you try using that part a different way”.

Whatever happens this should be fun for the kids, so if they are frustrated or not enjoying themselves, feel free to jump in and give a helping hand.

Next leave challenge – Best for children aged 5+

Follow the instructions in the basic challenge but for kids who have experience in designing and making things, add an element of complexity to the challenge by giving them an outcome that they need to achieve. Some ideas include:

  • Add arms that can move.
  • Add a moving mouth.
  • The robot needs to be able to help carry items.
  • The robot should be able to stand on its own.

Don’t make the instruction overly complicated. Allow the child to have a say in what they want their robot to do. They will be more engaged and enthusiastic if they are interested in what they are trying to achieve.

Super max challenge – for more experienced creators

For kids who spend a lot of time building and designing, it can be really engaging to have a proper challenge put in front of them. Think about giving the robot a purpose, for example, the robot must be able to lift and pour milk into a bowl of breakfast cereal.

Here’s a few ideas to get you started:

  • The robot should be able to lean forward and push open a door.
  • The robot should be able to turn off a light switch.
  • The robot should be able to carry a specified item.
  • The robot should be able to put bread in a toaster.

I hope that these suggestions have got you thinking about some crafty fun that you can have together with your family. I’d love to hear your thoughts and see what your kids do with this challenge so please feel free to drop us a line in the comments section below!

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