Maker Activity: Cardboard Automata

This video is part of a series of tutorials for integrating Maker Activities created by myself and John Kilbane at the American School of Bombay.

In this Maker Activity join me in creating your very own moving automata out of nothing but recycled materials. This is a great activity to introduce any age student to mechanical engineering concepts such as axles, gears and cams and can be scaled to show different forms of energy by adding a motor and a solar panel.

Supplies Needed:

  • Tape
  • Straws
  • Wooden Skewers
  • Cardboard (along with something to cut it)
  • Glue Gun or Tape
  • Markers (Or anything you want to use to decorate your display)
  • Something To Poke Holes With (I use a screwdriver)

The Impacts of Exploring

Whenever I am learning a new tool or working with new materials, I usually start by looking up a tutorial. When working from a guide, I don’t have to worry so much about failing, figuring out where to start, or creating a final product. But sometimes, I find myself unknowingly relying on guides and forgetting about the possibilities that sometimes arise from just exploring.


When we work on our maker projects, we often source our materials from different shops online and within a week or so it arrives in the maker space. I’d been told a place called Lamington Road was Mumbai’s #1 place to get electronics components. I’d always wanted to go but, it’s usually way easier and convenient to order online. It wasn’t until I had forgotten to order a component on my list that I actually visited.

When I arrived, I saw a street lined with every type of electronics component you could want, from LEDs to computer motherboards. I spent about 2 hours perusing the wares each storefront had, filling my Google Keep with project ideas and information on components I’d never even heard of!

From this, I was reminded that while It is undeniably easier and more convenient to order things from online or work from a tutorial, sometimes the biggest impacts come from discovering something through exploring. I learned of the many different types of LEDs which helped us improve our LED Constellations activity as well as inspired a new activity we’re running using LEDs in clothing.


Learning through exploration is the main reason our school maker spaces provide access to a wide variety of tools and materials. This type of learning often leads to student projects like the robotic handsvideo games that interact with you in the physical world, and hanging ball pianos. Lastly, it helps show us in the R&D department what the impacts of our prototypes are and where they show room for improvement.

Type: News

Experiencing a Maker Culture

The American School of Bombay (ASB) welcomed 15 students visiting Mumbai as part of a cultural volunteer program.  The American Women’s Club (AWC) Mumbai, part of the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas (FAWCO), hosted the visiting cultural volunteers coming from international schools across Europe as well as Nigeria. The purpose of the FAWCO youth program, launched in 2013, is to promote cultural understanding and to raise awareness of global issues in young people.  As part of their packed week of visiting NGOs and cultural sites in Mumbai, the FAWCO cultural volunteers and their AWC Mumbai hosts were welcomed into the ASB High School Maker Space to experience what it’s like to be part of a Maker Culture.


After some introductions, the students were introduced to the Scribble Bots activity by members of Re.D Studio and the Student R&D teams. “This is a Scribble Bot, but this doesn’t have to be what your Scribble Bot looks like. Feel free to try a different approach.” A Scribble Bot is a simple robot made out of recycled materials that uses a motor to become a moving contraption that draws or scribbles on its own.

no2 copy

This typical example of a Scribble Bot served as a starting point. A toy motor was taped atop an empty plastic bottle with a popsicle stick attached. The popsicle stick sits off-center, when the motor spins a wobbling movement is created. The example buzzed and spun around drawing dots and circles on the chart paper. The students tried different ways of constructing the bot such as using gears to create structure or attaching heavy wheels to move.


After trying multiple iterations of their Scribble Bots, the students returned to a group to do some reflection on the activity. One student mentioned, “I learned that when you try something new and it doesn’t work, it might be a good idea to go back to the old thing”. Other students spoke about how they were able to apply their knowledge of circuits to make the motors spin faster and how even creating a Scribble Bot that failed led them to learn and improve.

You can learn more about how to do the Scribble Bots Activity here and information on FAWCO can be found here.

Type: News

Getting Started with 3D Prototyping

When searching the web, we can find many articles and blogposts on the impacts of 3D Printing. 3D Printing will have a big impact on the future. How do we demonstrate this to our students?

The 3D pen is one of the most popular tools in our maker space. At its core, the 3D pen is just a 3D printer in the shape of a pen with the extruder at the tip and the filament fed in through the back end. But to our students, the 3D Pen is a way to illustrate colorful, three dimensional art or make the designs in their head come to life. Making with a 3D Pen happens in real-time, allowing students to remain engaged as they run into and correct their mistakes.

Student creations made with 3D Pens
Student creations made with 3D Pens

We expected it to be a great starting point to developing an interest in 3D Printing and prototyping but there were also a few surprises. We’ve seen our students come to recognize an understanding for three dimensional space when using the pen to draw on a flat surface, then peeling the drawing off, and holding it upright. We’ve also noticed students are more willing to take apart and fix a 3D Pen when a problem occurs, allowing them to build more confidence in deconstructing and constructing electronics. We hypothesize that the 3D Pen’s size, shape, and commonality with a normal pen make it less intimidating.

Student fixing a broken 3D Pen
Student fixing a broken 3D Pen

Looking ahead, we’re considering how 3D Printing technology could add meaning to art, science, and other subjects at ASB.

Type: News