How to Build a Scribbling Machine

Make a motorized contraption that moves in unusual ways.

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How to Build a Scribbling Machine
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A Scribbling Machine is a motorized contraption that moves in unusual ways and leaves a mark to trace its path.

A Scribbling Machine is a motorized contraption that moves in unusual ways and leaves a mark to trace its path.

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It’s made from simple materials and is based on the idea of motion created by an offset motor.

It’s made from simple materials and is based on the idea of motion created by an offset motor.

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Connect the motor to the battery: a broccoli band is perfect for keeping the leads attached to the motor and still be able to disconnect it when you want to change its position.

Connect the motor to the battery: a broccoli band is perfect for keeping the leads attached to the motor and still be able to disconnect it when you want to change its position.

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Experiment with ways to offset the motor: try clay, wood, or a hot melt glue stick

Experiment with ways to offset the motor: try clay, wood, or a hot melt glue stick

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What happens if you change the weight on the offset motor?

What happens if you change the weight on the offset motor?

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What happens if you change the length of the arm on the motor?

What happens if you change the length of the arm on the motor?

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Build a base and attach the offset motor (try foam board, a milk carton, a strawberry basket, or other things.)

Build a base and attach the offset motor (try foam board, a milk carton, a strawberry basket, or other things.)

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Tip: Make sure there is enough clearance for your offset motor to spin.

Tip: Make sure there is enough clearance for your offset motor to spin.

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Attach one or more markers to trace the jittering movement of your Scribbling Machine.

Attach one or more markers to trace the jittering movement of your Scribbling Machine.

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Turn it on and make some scribbles!

Turn it on and make some scribbles!

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You can also attach a marker to a pipe cleaner or metal wire for a different scribbling style.

You can also attach a marker to a pipe cleaner or metal wire for a different scribbling style.

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Experiment with different designs: can you make it go really slow and smooth?

Experiment with different designs: can you make it go really slow and smooth?

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How about fast and loud?

How about fast and loud?

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This one makes round traces big and small. Notice how the motor is mounted, too!

This one makes round traces big and small. Notice how the motor is mounted, too!

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And this one shows some out-of-the-box thinking…

And this one shows some out-of-the-box thinking…

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Taking it further: here are some ideas to expand the potential of your Scribbling Machines!

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Add a PicoCricket (www.picocricket.com) to make your machine more intelligent. Examples: • A light sensor to respond to the sun, or shadows • A sound sensor to make a drawing when you clap your hands

Add a PicoCricket (www.picocricket.com) to make your machine more intelligent. Examples: • A light sensor to respond to the sun, or shadows • A sound sensor to make a drawing when you clap your hands

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What makes this activity "tinkering"? Here are some reasons why we love this activity.

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New uses for everyday materials:  This is a playful and inventive way of using harvested motors and switches from discarded toys and electronics.

New uses for everyday materials: This is a playful and inventive way of using harvested motors and switches from discarded toys and electronics.

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Exploring variables: Although everyone is exploring similar ideas (eccentric motion and circuits), the outcomes vary widely because everyone is trying different methods for changing the variables.

Exploring variables: Although everyone is exploring similar ideas (eccentric motion and circuits), the outcomes vary widely because everyone is trying different methods for changing the variables.

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High tech / low tech: This exploration is a good example of a low-tech activity that works well on its own, but can be made more complex and interactive utilizing the PicoCricket and sensors.

High tech / low tech: This exploration is a good example of a low-tech activity that works well on its own, but can be made more complex and interactive utilizing the PicoCricket and sensors.

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For more information on this and other activities: tinkering.exploratorium.edu

For more information on this and other activities: tinkering.exploratorium.edu

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