Recycled Robots

Eight weeks and over 30 robots, Recycled Robotics is where art and robots meet!

Anthropomorphism as explained by a student

When people think of robots they often think of anthropomorphic hunks of metal such as Wall-E or the Terminator.   In Recycled Robots at Rata Studios students learned that robots can be so much more, even artistic!

Before we could start programming robots, we had to understand how they worked.  We created a simple robot out of a motor, battery, and cup that helped us understand circuits.  It was important to understand the way wires are colour coded so humans know if they are positive or negative.

Throughout the remaining sessions we learned how to code a robot so it could perform autonomous tasks or respond to user input.   We worked with sensors, LEDs, motors, and servos.

Art was explored as well, we viewed surrealist art, the anthropomorphic robot work of Michael Salter, and saw a robot named PAM that can create her own works of art.

Some students preferred engineering to the programming aspects and vice-versa.  Working in teams of two allowed the kids to collaborate while at the same time working to their natural strengths.   Just as every child is different, every robot created in class was different, reflecting the interests and personalities of its creator.

On the last class students reminisced about their favourite part of the course:

  • I liked it when the robot walked off the table.
  • I liked building the robot, but it took a lot longer than expected.
  • I enjoyed making the first battery motor robot and the face expression robot. With the Hummingbird I preferred doing the programming rather than the wires and putting things together.
  • My favourite part was learning how to use stuff!

Don’t be fooled though, building robots is hard work.  In the last minutes of the penultimate class the first robot to be completed inexplicably stopped working!  Instead of throwing the towel in it’s creators got to work to discover what went wrong.  There was a lot of fiddling to be done.  First they had to reattach the legs to servos, then they had to completely reprogramme their robot’s motions as they had attached the legs on a slightly different degree than before.  It was hard work, but they stuck with it and ended up with the very first walking robot that Recycled Robots has ever seen!

You can view the walking robot, and all of the other robots, in action on our video gallery.

Hummingbird Robots are a project of the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University and can be purchased online at


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