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Foolproof and kids are not words I usually put together. But out of the unpredictable process of working with kids come some of the most incredible ideas. My criteria, then, for a sure-fire project are based on the values we promote at Curiosity Hacked. Does it allow a child to explore a new concept or skill, with the flexibility to make it their own? Does it promote design thinking, innovation, creativity, and sustainability? Does it illustrate a level of understanding about technology in our world?

BrushBot Habitats is a simple project that’s successful every time we offer it. It’s accessible, affordable, and can be changed to suit the needs of any age group. By success, I mean kids (and adults!) are truly engaged in the process by which they create unique and innovative designs.

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BrushBots or BristleBots are a fun project for any age. But the bot’s not the focus of this project. The Habitat is. We like to bring in all kinds of recycled and household materials for this project: paper towel tubes, cardboard, duct tape, straws, Popsicle sticks, plastic bottles. The challenge is to create a Habitat for the bot that the child envisions.

Younger kids tend to build battle rings and mazes; older kids have produced beautiful labyrinths, multilevel structures, castles with working drawbridges, and even a zip line!

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We love this project because it includes all the values I listed above, plus it’s comfortable and fun, especially for families new to making. There is no failure, because there’s no preconceived idea of what a Habitat should look like. The learner controls the learning. For me, that’s as sure-fire as it gets.

Props to Evil Mad Scientist Labs, who got the whole bot world buzzing with their toothbrush BristleBot.

From the Maker Shed: BrushBots Party Pack

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In just a few steps, you’ll turn toothbrush heads, pager motors, and coin-cell batteries into spinning, speeding bots. The bristles act as hundreds of miniature legs that propel the BrushBots, buzzing and bumping, on their way. Each kit makes 12 wacky BrushBots. Maker Shed item #MSBBRP, $35 at makershed.com. You can also build BristleBots from scratch at makezine.com/bristlebot, or use similar small robots like HexBugs.


 

 BrushBots HabitatsMake:’s Michelle Hlubinka drew this fantastic poster about what “Makers Believe” — download it for free, and slap it on the wall for all to see!

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Samantha Matalone Cook

Samantha Matalone Cook

Samantha Matalone Cook is the founder and executive director of Curiosity Hacked, a national nonprofit based in Oakland, California, that empowers kids to learn new skills and STEAM concepts. She also writes for GeekMom.


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