A scribble machine is a “vibrobot” (vibrating bot) with “legs” than make marks. This project describes one popular scribble machine design, but feel free to make yours with any materials in any shape or size.

Scribble machines work best on a large surface, so break out that big roll of paper and get marking! To avoid scribbling on everything, limit your machine’s range by surrounding it with a 2″+ wall of cardboard, or wood 2″x4″s.


Most scribble machines use pens, but any mark-making tool will work. Try chalk on cement, whiteboard markers on plastic, watercolors on paper… you can even make anti-scribble machines with erasers!

Also see

Thanks to The Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium for introducing me, along with countless others, to scribble machines.

Project Steps

Prepare and explore your motor

If your motor doesn’t come with wires, solder a 5″+ length of insulated wire to each solder tab. Haven’t soldered before? You can do it! https://makezine.com/2011/01/06/skill-set-soldering/

Hobby motor solder tabs can be very fragile. To make them last longer, don’t bend them, and consider covering them using hot glue or epoxy.

Test the motor. Hold one wire to each end of the battery. Does it spin? What if you switch the wires around, so they touch opposite terminals of the battery?

Many electronic components will break if you hook them up the wrong way, but not motors. They spin the opposite direction if you reverse the polarity.

Tape one wire to the top of the battery (+) with masking tape.

If you have one available, stretch a rubber band around the battery the long way.

Cut a piece of eraser or hot glue stick. Press it on to the motor’s shaft. If it doesn’t press on easily, make a pilot hole with a push pin.

Slip the second wire under the rubber band or tape it on. Watch how the motor spins.

Can you change the weight so it shakes? If so, you’ve made an offset motor!

Design your Scribble Machine

A scribble machine needs a body and something that makes marks. A simple design is a cup with pen legs.

Tape the offset motor and battery to your scribble machine. Check that the wires reach and your eraser weight can spin freely.

Test your scribble machine with the pen caps on. Connect the second wire and set it down. How does it move? Do you want to make any changes?

Scribble and explore!

Take your scribble machine to the scribble area. Take off the caps, connect the motor, and watch it go!

Ask questions, test ideas, and explore! See what happens when you move or add parts. Can you make your machine draw circles, straight lines, or little loops? Can the motor shaft be used as a wheel? What else could be used as a body?

Scribble machines can be anything!

Try “masking” your paper with painter’s tape or full-adhesive sticky notes to create a pattern under the scribbles.