Sparkle Crafts
sparkle craft: simple brushbot

sparkle craft: simple brushbot

In the Libby & Dish story “On Clouds and Hard Places,” Libby falls in love as soon as she meets Juan Paco’s pet cobayo, Vellosa. She is on a cloud-— until, moments later, a neighbor enters, and she takes a hard fall back to reality. Lucky for her, Juan Paco and his father understand, and they usher Libby and her mother into their soft, welcoming home.

While there, Libby visits Juan Paco's room. It looks a lot like Libby's except that, where Libby has her cozy corner, Juan Paco has a desk and bins filled with building material. The bins hold string, wire, popsicle sticks—everything Juan Paco needs to build his creative contraptions. Libby adds to his materials, bringing him some of her family's recycling as a housewarming gift to help him with his creative work.
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Inspired by Juan Paco's contraptions, this week's craft, a tiny toothbrush robot, would be perfect for a rainy summer day. It does require one piece of special equipment, however—a vibrating cell phone motor that's easiest to order online—so I recommend collecting the supplies ahead of time and stashing them away until they're needed.
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While these little robots aren't quite as cute as a pet cobayo, they do have a certain charming fascination. Once your kiddos have tired of playing with them on their own, try putting them in a tray lined with paper and a few blobs of paint to see what patterns they make. You can also create racetracks for them—I recommend setting up three thick books with two narrow channels between them to use as “tracks”—to see which robot is fastest.

Simple Brushbot

(Supplies listed make one robot; double- or triple-up to make more.)

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Double-sided poster-mounting tape

Coin cell phone motor []

3-volt coin battery

2 google-y eyes (optional)

Glue (optional)


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First, you'll need to cut the head off your toothbrush. How you choose to do so will depend on the tools you have on hand, but I stepped out into the garage and made quick work of it with the trimmers we keep for large tree branches. Discard the toothbrush handle but keep the head.

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Next add a piece of double-sided tape to the plastic side of the toothbrush head.

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Push the motor down onto the front of the tape, being sure that the wires coming out of it are pointing to the back of the tape.

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Take one of the wire ends and push it down onto the back of the double-sided tape. Be careful not to push the wire down too hard, as if it gets deeply embedded in the tape, it won't make a good connection with the battery.

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Now stick the battery onto the back of the tape, making sure it has a connection with the wire. Take the other wire and touch the end to the top of the battery. Your little brushbot should come alive at this point. If it doesn't, keep playing with the wire ends until you get a good connection.

If you want to give your bot a little extra personality, glue two google-y eyes to the front.

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While your new little contraption is certainly fun to play with on his own, try dipping him in paint and letting him scoot across a piece of paper or racing him against other brushbots. Enjoy!

If you liked this tutorial, here are others you might enjoy:

About the Author

Meryl Carver-Allmond

Sparkle Kitchen & Craft Blogger

The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.

Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.

When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.

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