MiniMakers: ArtBots

The ArtBots and the conductive dough weeks were ambitious. I’d never done either, I have lots of children, and I have a small amount of time. Recipe for making fun disasters.

I used basic instructions from Girl Scouts’ Get Making with Get Moving booklet which is (I think) aimed at 4th to 5th grade students. This would be a fun weekend project with my smalls or with a small group of kids. I ended up spreading it over two weeks, and wish I’d worked it over three weeks so that all of the MiniMakers could have finished a robot. They were tough to pull together.

The gist: use a tomato basket, hook on a motor and some pens (as legs to do the drawing), and go. I have not been using glue guns but I will. I think they are the kind of tool that require a specific lesson just on using them and safety with a small project to learn the basics, then have them available, but supervised. I don’t feel like I can supervise a glue gun safely. With ten kids, for sure, but more than that, we are bonkers.

(I realize the “too many smalls!” is a recurring theme, but after a few weeks of club and reflection during and after, it’s the obvious conclusion. One person cannot adequately run this operation, especially when we’re all learning new things, with so many kids. It isn’t fair to them because things get hectic quickly in all the excitement of MAKING STUFF!)

The ArtBots suggested drawing or sketching a concept, which I did.


(My own sketch as well as a student sketch. I attached my eyeballs to the wrong end of my pig. Cue cackling six year olds.)

The kids wanted to get to it, preferring to skip the step. I should have stopped them except I thought it would lead to a teachable moment, and it did. The ones who had a plan were better able to execute than those who didn’t, and a few created a plan during our second ArtBot session that kept them focused, even if they didn’t realize it.

Here is S’s drawing from the second week. She worked diligently the first, but couldn’t get what was in her head to translate. So the second week, she sat for about five minutes and sketched this out:


And she is hanging the last bits together. The eyes are facing her. It worked! She had to do some troubleshooting with the motor. The motors need something attached to keep them off-balance and therefore the robot off-balance so it forces the tomato basket/form to jump around. Her motor was attached to the inside top of the basket with a pipe cleaner. She eventually added a second to better anchor it, but still had trouble with it swinging loose and then getting stuck to her mounds of duct tape on the sides.

I had my own share of trouble shooting. I learned to solder (and then had to do it two more times and finally watched a video to VASTLY improve my technique) and strip wires and crimp things to my wires so that I could attach 9-volt battery leads to the motors. My weak soldering and their enthusiasm led to a few batteries being stripped of their wires. Duds and disappointment.

IMG_8780Crimping. I’m pretty good at it. I’d really like a better wire stripper. A side effect of learning new techniques is the badass bonus. It’s impossible not to feel accomplished when you can strip wires, add batteries, solder, make power.


We hacked the batteries, though, because I wasn’t going to solder in the middle of club. Duct tape did the trick!IMG_8963

You can check out a video of an artbot at work here.

MiniMakers: ArtBots

Something You Might Like #Getting Back on The Horse

As Aunty J remarked last night at a most excellent Mom's Night Out, I've been quiet lately. On the blog, that is. Elsewhere, try to shut me up, you just try.


In my way-back-machine-previous-life, I was a journalist. In my previous life, I was an English teacher. I think I still am a teacher. Anyway. I can resist useful resources like this one from, writing instruction and aid, including punctuation. Cool.

Bad dates. Who hasn't had at least one for the books? I'm not dating anymore, but Mister and I have a couple of friends whose bad dates have made for marvelous story-telling. And vicarious bad dating. Read up on bad dates, and comment if you'd like, because of course there is a site for posting bad date stories.

I confess, I've a bit of a crush on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the host of the River Cottage series on BBC and Great Britain's version of Michael Pollan. (One big difference: he raises or grows a lot of what he eats, and when he takes an animal to slaughter, he uses every bit of the animal in food for his larder.) He became a small-holder (small farmer) as part of his series, and has since become the voice of small farmers — local and responsible food production, especially meat production, and organic produce. As part of his River Cottage expansion, his site features Landshare, a way for landowners, growers, and helpers to team up and use resources in their communities. Given that we just relinquished our girls to Aunty Cake (her yard is about 10 times the size of ours, so much better for the girls), I'm extremely interested in landshare in the U.S.

Lentil gets a dose of Sesame Street songs whenever I cut her fingernails. (Favorites: Feist 1-2-3-4, Ladybug's Picnic, Any A,B,C but especially Ray Charles' version and Elmo singing with India Arie) I can't always remember when various muppets made their debut, given that I was born in '69, the year the show first aired. Here. Use this guide to the muppets to refresh your memory.


I have the Japanese pom pom makers that everyone has and, unless you read Kanjii, you cannot read or decipher the directions. Or maybe that's just me. As we head into the holidays, I thought it was high time I figure out how to properly use the pom pom makers to my poms quit looking like sad dust bunnies. Here you go: pom pom tutorial. Thank you, Purl!

In trying to find the pom pom tutorial, I came across a link to this Martha Stewart creation. If we subscribed to any print item, this shimmering stacked tree would be the perfect recycling project. Maybe I'll hit up my neighbors.

We're not quite ready for a memory quilt, but I've been planning one for Lentil. Sadie Fox's quilts for her daughters are featured in a new magazine, Green Craft

Papercutting. Nifty. I don't think I have this in me, but I admire and appreciate it!

I caved and signed up for a sewing class because, people, I can sew, but not really. I can sew if you don't care about tidy finishings, straight lines, neat hems, French seams, even seams, whatever. So, I've decided that rather than try to practice my way to perfection, and ruin some of my capes doing it, I'm taking a sewing class. And then I'm going to make Lentil this lovely little bubble dress.

Ah, the perfect diaper bag. It does not exist. But you could whip up a nice bag for yourself and see if it works out. And if it doesn't? It will make a super purse!

Susan at Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm posted a few great items in her picks a couple of weeks ago, including this humorous dog pillow

SouleMama's sponsor, bird and little bird, gave away one of these foxes last week. Yes, I was sad when I didn't win. No, I was not surprised as I never win anything, ever. Really. Never. Nope, not at that raffle. No, not that time, either. Never. But I love this fox and may have to acquire one for my lamb.


What to bake? I've been obsessed with marshmallows (though not enough to actually make them) and meringues (ditto), but have been caught up with fundamentals like Shepherd's Pie, ratatouille, and Glenn's Banana Bread (from Orangette's A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table). I tried my first batch of snickerdoodles. What took me so long? They were good, but the recipe needs tweaking. Likely, I'll try cake flour next time. Since my sweet tooth is out of control, I was thinking about these "old-school brownies" from Joy the Baker. Next weekend, our friends the Mibblestine's are coming over with a vegan chocolate avocado cake from Joy. I'm excited. Mister tried to banish them and the cake.

Yes, it would have been helpful if I'd copied the link and not just the photo link from Susan for this adorable flower cupcake.

For Sale

When I was single, I wondered if anyone would post a Missed Connection about me. I'm pretty sure it never happened, but some are hilarious, some are freaky-deaky, and some are poetic. Mostly, they are sweetly hopeful. What if you painted what was in the message? You might create something beautiful and strange.

Something You Might Like #Getting Back on The Horse