Thursday, March 21, 2013

what's a robot party without a life-sized, prize-distributing robot?

My husband started laughing at my "to-do" list for the kiddo's robot party, and I leaned over to see what was so funny. "You've got 'add glitter to Play Doh' and 'use stamps on napkins' on either side of 'build life-sized robot to distribute party favors'." 

Ah, yes.

He's right; my lists often lack a sense of scale. For me, there's no building up from the smallest project to the largest; I jump head-first into everything at once, all four burners firing, and the toaster running, besides. Everything's on equal footing. I think it keeps life interesting.

* * * * * * *

Awhile back, I blogged about this iPod speaker that we made from an old intercom speaker and a busted set of ear buds.

At the end of that post, I mentioned that the speaker was part of a larger project I'd be sharing soon. Today is that day, readers. Here it is: the aforementioned life-sized robot made to distribute party favors and entertain toddlers.

size comparison: kiddo is 42 inches tall

I started with a stack of cardboard boxes and a pack of MakeDo Cardboard Connectors.

beginning "planning" stages

The feet are made of paperboard packaging inserts.

The kiddo and I trolled Bring and the Habitat ReStore for months to find "robot parts". It got so bad that every time we parked outside of any store at all, he announced that we were there to search for robot parts. It got so bad that his first act upon entering JC Penney at Christmastime was to inquire with a clerk as to the location of their robot section. No surprise here: JCP doesn't carry old bike reflectors, dryer ducting, light fixture parts, or old combination-lock alarm system panels.

completed head

A note to anyone interested in completing a similar project: our hunts for robot parts weren't usually specific. Most of the time, especially in the beginning, we'd go in looking for "robot parts" and I'd let the kiddo pick out whatever he thought that meant, from springs to sprinkler parts to metal light fixture bases. At 25 cents to 2 dollars per part, we weren't going to go broke, he felt involved in our project, and I ended up finding ways to incorporate most of it.

in progress


I also used hot glue, glue sticks, duct tape and aluminum sealing tape, Christmas paper, reflective stickers, plastic gears (from the Village), cardboard tubes, colored wire, an old house number, a push light (from the hall closet), and the clear plastic fronts that some packages have.

 opens to access battery hook-up
The key really turns, due to a bit of engineering. It's made of layers of cardboard and an empty glue stick with a hole drilled in the exposed end. I tucked it into a hole in the back and secured it with a cotter pin so it would turn, but my original attempt with layers of duct tape failed upon Kiddo Test. Thank goodness for my built-in QA engineer!

duct tape makes it look better than layers of cardboard

The buttons on the front are juice caps attached with cardboard connectors, so they really turn, too, with less engineering.

The intercom/iPod speaker mouth played a mix of robot-centric music as well as robot noises and one-sided conversations we recorded in GarageBand with filters applied. If you need some help finding the right "robot" filter when you tackle this project, send me a note and I'll tell you our secret formulas. You can export the new robot audio tracks directly to iTunes, then sync them to your iPod. (This is way easier than you might think.)

The head isn't motorized, but can swivel (by hand) due to the cardboard connector attaching it.




The arms swivel, too. For sturdiness against the toddler horde, there are used cardboard mailing tubes inside of the flexible dryer ducting.

The pincher hand isn't functional (though with a grabber arm inserted, it could be); it's another section of cardboard tube covered in aluminum tape.

The party-favor-distributing hand is a toy package leftover from Christmas, covered in more tape. A hole in the back to join with the cardboard tube makes it easy to swivel the arm forward, drop a prize down the tube at the shoulder joint, and have it pop out into the hand for the fascinated toddlers . . . and big kids, too! My niece and nephew are several years older and still thought it was cool.

This was a really fun recycling project (all but the tape and the reflector stickers came to us used), but I did use a lot of tape. Two rolls of gold Duck Tape, one roll of chrome Duck Tape, a partial roll of standard silvery duct tape, and a roll of aluminum duct sealing tape in all, plus some leftover silver Christmas paper and some paper tape from Target. Still, by weight, it's more than 95 percent recycled.

The percentage is even better if you count the bricks I put into the trap door feet to keep it from tipping over too easily.

brick trap doors closed with tape

brick trap doors open for stabilizing bricks

So: what long-term projects have you been up to? Any birthday party over-acheivers out there?

Thanks for reading, and remember: you can make these pictures larger just by clicking on them, but you probably already knew that, clever you.

Linking up to:
Skip to My Lou
CSI Project

1 comment:

House of Burke said...

This is BEYOND cool!! Great job!!