Scale model cockpit FPV

cool scale cockpit video

Funny Zoo Snap

man enjoys elephant My wife noticed this in the family archives.

RC Nitro motorcycle racing

rc motorcycle Motorcycle racing in Lilliput.

Manned RC Multicopter

manned multicopter
Here’s an RC multicopter big enough to ride on!

Make: Talk 004

make: Talk 004
I had a fun time talking to Mark Frauenfelder in episode 4 of his new podcast, Make: Talk!

One Man Basement Band

one man band
I feel like I could be getting more mileage out of my right foot.


liberty vintage motorcycles An Etsy portrait. Thanks, Danny.

Tequila Sleeve

tequila the champs
Champs sleeve

Wolf-Stelzer Book Lamp

Book Lamp
My friend Tess just made the cover of ReadyMade with her cool lamp design.

Tree Stump Bug

Can this be for real? The design is so awesomely Thunderbirds. Via

The Nothing Box

nothing box


Thunderbirds are go
Are Go!

Command Center

command center
Sweet assemblage spaceship’s bridge.

Four Drano’s

Watch the sink slowly, all but disappear from the design .

Toothpaste Aerosol

toothpaste aerosol
Aerosol toothpaste

Kid’s Draw Bot

kid's robot project

As far as I’m concerned, you’re never too young to start mixing art with robotics.

So, next time you and your budding young tinkerers need something to do on a rainy day, you should have no trouble scraping up the parts to put together this crude, drawing robot project that we saw at the Seattle Robotics Society Robothon.


Cathy Writes:

Hi Steve.

Your blog shows the ArtBot that FIRST Robotics Team 1318 was selling at Robothon. You call it a “Kid’s Draw Bot.”

First of all, I’m not sure that it’s really ethically correct for you to take someone else’s idea and publish it. We originally saw the ArtBot at PDXbot in Portland, and asked for permission from them before using their design.

Secondly, it would be nice if you gave credit to our team for the idea. There is no mention on your blog that the kits and instructions were created by our team. Our student team members worked hard to create the kits, soldering battery pack leads to the motor, creating instructions, and putting the kits together. It is a shame that you chose not to recognize their efforts.


Thanks Cathy.

No harm meant. I wasn’t trying to own the design, just share it. I looked to see if I could find this project documented anywhere on the Web, but I couldn’t, so I just linked to the SRS Robothon site when I gave credit in my post.

Thank you for helping clear this up, and thanks to the FIRST Robotics Team 1318.

Also, please pass my thanks along to the Portland team that you originally got the idea from.

Supplies for the Draw Bot ArtBot:

  • A paper cup
  • Duct tape
  • 3 felt-tipped pens
  • 2 AAA batteries
  • 1 small toy motor
  • Small metal weight (nut)
  • Switched battery holder (optional)

You should be able to pirate the motor, wires, switch and battery holder from some toy that you’ve either broken, out-grown, or never really liked in the first place. If not, you may have to dash out to Radio Schack for those, or just tape the motor wires directly to the battery terminals and forget the switch and holder.

Put it together

Assemble the parts as shown in the above photo.

  1. Tape the motor to the battery/switch assembly.
  2. Duct tape a small weight to the shaft of the motor (offset to one side)
  3. Tape the motor assembly atop the inverted cup
  4. Attach the felt pen “legs”

Remove the pen caps, set the robot down on some paper and connect the power. The eccentric weight on the motor shaft will cause the whole thing to vibrate and “walk” around on the paper.

Harlan testing the draw bot.

You can adjust the line smoothness by trying different rotor weights and weight positions. The path that the bot takes can be adjusted by changing the angle of one or more of the pens. Once you get it dialed in, you can make some neat patterns.

No, you’re not going to want to keep any of the crap that this thing draws, but the point here is engagement, and on that front the draw bot project is a keeper.

Reader Input:
More kid’s Art Bot links:

It turns out that this project dates back to at least the early 70′s, as part of a companion book to the old Zoom TV show. Make sure that you speak only in Ubbi Dubbi when running this contraption.

cup draw with lego rcx
Low tech cup draw
wobble painter
wave draw
roller paint


34 Responses to “Kid’s Draw Bot”

  1. Scott Says:

    I saw this bot at Robothon also… I had already planned on making a few of them with my son’s Cub Scout pack.

  2. kenofseattle Says:

    Reminds me of electric football. Or a honeybee dance.

  3. Leonardo Says:

    It’s better than Jackson Pollack!

  4. Pat Says:

    Cool, Robotic Spirograph!

  5. Dave Says:

    It would be awesome to rig up a big one with chalk and let it loose on the sidewalk. Or perhaps a bunch of little ones…

  6. Jay Says:

    great, another flash 8 video Linux users can’t watch. yippy!

  7. Cathy Saxton Says:

    The Robothon display and ArtBot kits were created by FIRST Robotics team 1318, the Issaquah Robotics Society. You can read about our team at http://www.issaquahrobotics.org. The picture above shows one of the kits our team created, which included a pre-soldered battery-motor connection. We originally saw this idea at the Portland Area Robotics Society (PARTS) robotic event, PDXbot.

  8. rob Says:

    Awesome! Maybe you should place a safety device over the spinning weight though, if your kids keep playing with it. I’m no helmet wearing nutjob, but kids DO like to grab dangerous stuff. :D

  9. Brittanie Says:

    Nevermind, it finally loaded. Cool!

  10. Sean Says:

    Interesting contraption, but not very interactive. The poor kid simply watched as the device drew, leaving him nothing to do but give a happy, albeit vacuous, thank you.

  11. Paul Says:

    rob, I don’t believe this robot has any dangerous stuff on it.

    Except perhaps for children under three (small removable parts).

  12. Michelle Says:

    You should also check out Drawbot first made my Jonah Brucker-Cohen in 2001.


  13. Evil Timmy Says:

    We made a few of these in my 5th grade Honors class (at Clover Creek Elementary in Spanaway), well over a decade ago. We all experimented with different angles and colors of pens, sizes and weights of paper, and tweaked the motor to produce a gallery of different images. So, while interesting, by no means new; probably cannibalized from some class curriculum or another way back in the past and retransmitted so many times the origin was lost.

  14. Philip Chapman-Bell Says:

    Saw this on Zoom, a children’s show in the early 70′s on PBS. They used a paperclip and a nut to make the motion eccentric.

    Don’t know where they stole the idea from.

  15. bryan kennedy Says:

    we’ve played around with a bunch of variations of this idea in the larning technologies center here at the science museum of minnesota. check out this other drawing robots:
    wobble painter
    wave draw
    roller paint

    They are great first experiments for kids to learn about making “creative machines.”

  16. bryan kennedy Says:

    Oh and here is some instructions to make cu draw using Legos and some simple motors.

    cup draw with lego rcx

    Low tech cup draw

  17. Jacob Says:

    Awesome project, thanks for sharing!

  18. Nick Post Says:

    Leonardo, it is NOT better than Jackson Pollock. Don’t make me beat your with an open can of black paint.

  19. pjune Says:

    The most interesting this about this, for me, is that the kid said “thanks” when the adult said “nice picture”, as if the kid had created something. Is this the future of robotics?

  20. Eric Bostrom Says:

    Maybe YOU wouldn’t want to keep anything it draws, but I sure would. I see all kinds of things in random patterns and lines like these, they’re nice to have around as an inspiration point.


  21. Artbot Says:

    This is a fraud! I’m the _real_ Artbot! Obey ME!!!!

    Actually, I encourage the combination of art and robots, as my moniker would imply. I do digital art and animation for a living and have had the site artbot.com for 10 years. Great job on _your_ Artbot! (I, too, love the kid taking credit for the robot’s work!)

  22. John M. Says:

    I have a Zoom book (from the 70′s TV Show) that documents how to build one of these. This is NOT an idea which is original to the FIRST Robotics team 1318. I can scan the book if you want to see it. The only difference is the fact that they use a weight on the end of a string which is attached to a vertically mounted motor probably to make it easier for kids to fabricate. Other than that, it’s the EXACT SAME device.

  23. Steve Says:

    John, Yeah, that would be cool!

    Scan it and I will add it to the post.

    C’mon and Zoom-a-zooma Zooom Zooooom ZOOOOOMMM!


  24. kenofseattle Says:

    There is no downside to building a project like this with your kids. It makes a horrible racket, looks a wee bit dangerous, and scribbles all over a sheet of paper randomly in three colors. I repeat: IT SCRIBBLES ALL OVER A SHEET OF PAPER RANDOMLY IN THREE COLORS!! What’s not to like?

  25. Bill G Says:

    This thing looks and functions as the search and selection committee for the San Francisco Art Institutes SFAI previous and new (two years ago) Presidents.

    I.e., there seems to have been the same amount of human input to the out put. :-)

  26. Anne Says:

    your kids are so lucky.

  27. Steve Says:


    Thanks. I hope that you are right.

  28. Good Jimmy Says:

    Shout out to John M… I rember doing this in s science fair at grade 3 (20 years ago) – straight from the “Do a Zoom Do” Zoom Book

    I think I saw it on Mr. Wizard or something too.

  29. fgrupt Says:

    Put one of these together with my kids — ages 4 and 8 — yesterday. They loved being involved in making it, even if all we were doing was taping things to a cup. And they were thrilled to watch it dance. They called it MarkerBot Mach 1.

    Thanks for a fun idea.

  30. kenofseattle Says:

    I had an artbot called Mr Rembrandt back in – oh, 1975 or so – that was almost exactly the same as this homebuilt. It had four pens, and was driven by wheels instead of vibration, but in no way was this idea conceived by anyone from FIRST Robotics or PDXBot. Disregard any comments to the contrary.

  31. vladimer kerchenko Says:

    jeeze steve… i think you caved to that snarky lady when you published her tart letter….. it was pretty nasty and after all as evil timmy says: “We made a few of these in my 5th grade Honors class (at Clover Creek Elementary in Spanaway), well over a decade ago.” regradless, cathy should brush up on her diplomatic skills. goodness!

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  33. Jean the robotic Says:

    Muito criativo e engenhoso, mas prefiro o robô escova de dentes da categoria VIBROBOT

  34. Jean the robotic Says:

    Muito criativo e engenhoso, mas prefiro o robô escova de dentes da categoria VIBROBOT