Make your own painting Art-Robot: Inspired by “Ada Lace Sees Red”

One of the best ways to bring a new activity into your kid’s life is to be inspired by a special book. After reading Ada Lace Sees Red, (SPOILER ALERT) which features a robot that can paint (and an intelligent heroine), my daughter couldn’t get enough, so I thought I’d expand her love of the book by helping her make her own art-bot.

This project uses a vibrating motor to wiggle a cup attached to paint brushes. Other variations of vibrobots include bots that vibrate a scrub brush (bristlebots) and bots with markers for coloring!

Anna really likes taping things.

Materials

Note: Instead of using a motor with a nut, you can alternately just buy a vibrating motor. I prefer making it from a normal motor because we can also use the motor for other things that don’t involve vibration, whereas vibrating motors can only be used for vibrating things.

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Procedure

  1. Securely tape the bolt nut to one side of the motor shaft. As the motor spins, the nut will cause it to be unbalanced, making the whole thing vibrate.
  2. Hook up your circuit (including a switch if you would like). Be sure to follow the directions on the motor you purchase, as incorrect wiring can cause things to get hot or spark.
  3. Add the battery and test your motor, making sure the nut is securely affixed so it doesn’t fly off.
  4. Flip the cup upside-down and tape 3-4 paintbrushes around it so it can stand up on the brush ends (see picture above with markers as an example).
  5. Tape the battery terminal and motor to the cup, ensuring the nut has room to move around.
  6. Test out your bot to make sure everything is affixed securely.
  7. Dip the brushes into paint, put it on paper, then turn it on!

This can also be done with markers, which are less messy than paint, or crayons, which are even less messy than markers. After you’re done making art, try attaching your eccentric motor to something else, like a scrub brush or dry mop!

Book Inspiration- Ada Lace: Sees Red

From the publisher:

From Emily Calandrelli—host of Xploration Outer Space, correspondent on Bill Nye Saves the World, and graduate of MIT—comes the second novel in a brand-new chapter book series about an eight-year-old girl with a knack for science, math, and solving mysteries with technology.

Ada Lace is building a new robot! She’s determined to beat Milton in the upcoming robotics competition. But she’s distracted—Ada finds her dad’s art class impossible, while Nina is the star of the class, basking in the glory of being Mr. Lace’s star pupil.

When Mr. Lace suggests that Nina put on an art show, Ada becomes jealous and loses her temper. Now Ada isn’t speaking to her dad, she’s falling behind in art class, and she still doesn’t know how to fix her robot. As the competition looms closer, Ada starts to wonder if there might be a way to use both science and art to solve her problems.

Will Ada make up with her father in time to test her hypothesis? Or will her hurt feelings leave her seeing red and without a medal at the end of the day?


Ada Lace Adventures is a series about a girl who uses science to help solve problems and mysteries. It is intended for readers ages 8+, but I read them a chapter at a time to my young daughter. The books are not in-your-face nerdy at all, as Ada is just an ordinary girl who likes science. I like that these books counter the stereotypical dorky science character that we frequently see. They are well written, fun to read, and a great addition to your chapter book library.

Color Changing Lava Lamp

 

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One of my goals is to create simple science projects and demos that parents, caregivers, and teachers can easily perform using everyday supplies. I love this color changing lava lamp because it does exactly that. It illustrates so many concepts of chemistry, has ingredients you might already have (or can easily grab from the grocery store), and it is quite frankly AWESOME. So pour yourself some red cabbage juice, oil, and Alka-Seltzer and watch the science happen!

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Extract your own DNA!

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Did you know extracting your DNA so you can see it with your own eyes is one of the easiest science projects you will ever do? Take a look at the video below and try it out for yourself! We’ve also included some cartoons from The Baby Biochemist: DNA to illustrate what is happening during each step!

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How to Make Bendy Bones

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If you ask most kids what bones are made of, they would quickly answer “calcium!” Though it’s not incorrect, years of us telling them to drink their milk for strong bones has hidden an amazing feature of nature, biomineralization by proteins. Calcium is only half the story of bones. Though the semi-crystalline mineral that contains calcium, oxygen, hydrogen, and phosphorus, called hydroxyapatite, provides strength and rigidity, our bones also need to be elastic to help absorb shock. This is where proteins come in. Your bones are made of living tissue that spew out networks of protein that trap and crystallize the calcium in your body. Together they form the strong, resilient biomaterial we know as bones.

You can feel the flexibility of the protein network for yourself by reacting and dissolving the hydroxyapatite from the bones in vinegar. What’s left are entertaining, wiggly bones the kids will love to play with (except my daughter, who was too grossed out and didn’t want to touch them which is why all these pictures are of my hands ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

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Magnetic-Tile Circuits

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This project is for ages 3+ as it uses small parts which are 
dangerous when swallowed. Supervise young children.

Ready to make an already awesome toy even more awesome? All you need is less than $20 in special supplies (copper tape, LEDs, and button batteries), tape, scissors, and some magnetic tiles to start to snap together basic circuits.

If you don’t have magnetic tiles, you can also use these same supplies to make paper circuits.

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Maple Syrup: a sweet, delicious teacher of science for kids

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Springtime in rural Vermont is magical. It’s not just the melting snow with rivers of mud, it’s also magical because it’s maple syrup season. For a brief period each year the sap really flows and those lucky enough to have sugar maples can harvest the sweet nectar and boil it down into the delicious breakfast treat. For our budding family, “sugaring” has become a great outdoor adventure that helps combine some of the things we love: nature, science, and eating. Read on to learn how you can make your own maple syrup at home, and for ways you can use the experience to teach some science to your kids.

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The Science Behind Milk Plastic

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Have you heard of milk plastic before? Not only is it a project you can do with kids, but it’s also how they made many plastics before the advent of synthetic plastics! Many of those old buttons in a jar you have from your grandma are probably milk plastic (actually called casein plastic, Galalith, or Erinoid). They have a beautiful marbled or tortoise shell look, and are often pastel colored or two toned. The milk plastic you will make with this project won’t be exactly the same as the old casein plastics, the main difference being a pretty toxic step where you would need to wash and harden the plastic with a formaldehyde solution. That’s not something kid-friendly, soooo crumbly squishy curds it is!

This is a very easy project. All you need is milk, vinegar, and some basic household items.

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Make your own color changing paint with red cabbage

 

This activity is for kids 2.5 and up!

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Get ready for an incredibly simple set up with an incredibly entertaining result. You won’t believe how easy it is to make your own color changing paint with just two ingredients: red cabbage and white paint (and honestly, you can leave out the white paint and it still works, just more like water colors). Red cabbage has a huge amount of the highly pigmented group of molecules called anthocyanins. Widely known for their antioxidant capacity, these molecules also have the amazing ability to change color when exposed to a pH change. Read on for the method to make your own color changing paint and a little science lesson below!

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Experimenting with Real Enzymes: Bromelain

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This post is part of our Summer of Science series! Check back periodically to find more fun, easy, and affordable experiments and projects you can do at home with your kids this summer. This project is about the enzyme, bromelain, which degrades other proteins. You will use it to turn chicken to mush while learning about experimental set up, controls, and the wonderful world of enzymes.

Oh, the first time I learned about bromelain was in college on a trip to Hawaii (I got a chance to observe Mars on the NASA IRTF on Mauna Kea). My friends and I flew there a week earlier than our telescope time to explore the islands a bit. One day, we each bought a fresh pineapple and each ate. the. whole. thing. Never do this, it was awful. I mean it tasted absolutely delicious, but our tongues and mouths were sloughing skin off for a few days as they recovered from being eaten themselves by the enzyme, bromelain.

Pineapple fruit has a very high concentration of fruit bromelain, a protein that can break down other proteins, aka a “proteolytic enzyme”.

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