Do-It-Yourself Program Ideas: Robots at the Library

RobotsDo-It-Yourself Program Ideas

“Robots at the Library!” is a great program you can hold at almost any size library, and at any time of year. The program features robot demonstrations and hands-on projects, geared to different age groups to introduce the concept of robotics to children and tweens.

If possible, see if there is a high school robotics club that can be a partner, volunteering to help at the activity stations listed below, as well as offering some hands-on experiences using some of the robots they may have available.

Icebreaker activity: Using radio-controlled cars loaned by the high school robotics club, have some races to see which car wins. The club members will actually race the cars, and each child who enters will receive a red or a blue dot to indicate which car to root for! If their car wins, they receive a sticker; actually, everyone will receive a sticker but the winning group gets first pick. Do this activity in groups of 15 to 20 children; afterwards have them move onto the other activities. Then, repeat the activity with the next 20 children.

There will be several stations (listed below), appealing to different age groups from young children to tweens and teens.

Arts Bots: Make Art Bots using electric toothbrushes from the Dollar Store. Limit to the first 25 children. Cost – $25 for toothbrushes. There is a fun variation using the same supplies, along with an old CD, called Doodlebots:

Brush Bots: Make Brush Bots as seen here. Supplies: Toothbrushes donated by a local dentist. Other materials such as foam tape and wire are part of our usual supplies. Cost – $20 for the CR2032 coin cell batteries (approx. 80 cents each on

Soldering: The high school robotics club will bring a soldering activity, using kits from Electric Goldmine ( to make small skateboard robots: This activity will be limited to those 10 years old and up for safety reasons. Free – no supplies needed since everything will be provided by the club.

Glowing Faerie Headdress: Make these cool light-up “tiara” style headdresses using fiber optic fabric ( Cost: Fabric is $10 per yard and can make up to 50 headdresses, coin cell batteries are approx. 80 cents each, and LED lights are approx. 10 cents each. Library has all other supplies: glue gun, dried flowers, copper wire, glitter, fabric paint, etc.

Magnets: This activity is geared toward very young children, preschool through 2nd grade (or ages 2-7). Learning about magnets is a fun precursor to learning about robots: This is a relatively free-form play activity. The library already has the needed supplies of magnets, a variety of small metal items, and plastic containers.

Sail Car: Another fun activity for the younger children, this simple craft introduces the physics concepts of lift and drag: Free – the library already has all the craft materials to make these wheeled toys.

LEGO free play area: When children have finished all the stations or are waiting for their turns at the busier stations, they can go to the free play area set up with various LEGO and Duplo blocks. The library already owns these supplies. Like all of the stations, this will be monitored by teen volunteers to make sure it is safe.

Budget: Cost of supplies for arts and crafts, etc.: Approx. $120 for craft supplies, coin cell batteries, electric toothbrushs, LEDs, fiber optic fabric. Other craft materials are already on-hand. Cost of refreshments (food, beverages, and paper supplies): $50 for water and fresh fruit.

Volunteers needed and their duties: Twenty high school volunteers, to man all the stations, plus Friends volunteers to man the refreshment table.

What kinds of book displays and/or related booklists or handouts will you prepare? Books on robots and robotics, as well as children’s books on electronics in general. This display would include:

  • Murphy, Maggie. High Tech DIY Projects with Robotics. Powerkids, 2015.
  • Clay, Kathryn. “Cool Robots” series, Capstone Press, 2014-15.
  • Kloepfer, John. Galaxy’s Most Wanted. HarperCollins, 2014.
  • Richards, C.J. The Junkyard Bot. Houghton Mifflin, 2014.
  • Mercer, Bobby. The Robot Book: Build & Control 20 Electric Gizmos, Machines, and Hacked Toys. Chicago Review Press, 2014.

Also check out Steven Engelfried’s “Robo Reads” in School Library Journal, April 2015, v. 61, no. 4, p. 48-51.

Penny Peck, SJSU iSchool

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