Students create imaginary robots that can help us around the community, school or home.
Imagine a machine – a mechanical robot - that could help us around the community, school or house.
What would it do? How would it look? Brainstorm ideas on paper.
Make a 3-dimensional sculpture of a robot, with props to help tell the story visually of how it helps
people, animals or the earth.
Learn a multi-step process for building the finished sculpture (parts, base and accessories).
Learn conservation of materials and good work habits
Start with clean hands and work surface area. Good work surfaces include wax paper, metal baking sheet, or
disposable foil. Knead clay until soft and smooth. For best results, clean your hands in between colors. Bake on
oven-proof glass or metal surface at 275 °F for 15 minutes per 1/4 in thickness. For best baking results, use an oven
thermometer. DO NOT USE MICROWAVE OVEN. DO NOT EXCEED THE ABOVE TEMPERATURE OR
RECOMMENDED BAKING TIME. Wash hands after use. All baking should be completed by an adult. Begin by
preheating oven to 275 °F. Test temperature with oven thermometer for perfectly cured clay. Condition all clay by
kneading in your hands until soft and pliable.
First, we begin to imagine all the things robots could do to help people, animals or the environment. If
students study Community Helpers (usually in Grade 2) in Social Studies, this is an inspiring way to
help students think divergently – about helpers now and in the future!
The robots could help us carry things, help mom or dad at work, cook, a “catch and throw-bot” for the
baseball team, put out fires, rescue…the ideas are endless. Write or draw anything you think of: How
will it look? How will it work? What does it need to do its job?
My robots were made to help around the house – one cleans, one sorts the mail. They both illustrate
how the basic robot is made.
Each student works flat on a 4”x6” index card.
Bodies, heads, arms or legs and wheels are all rolled from balls, sometimes changed to become ropes
for limbs, balls for joints.
Small pieces of 20-gauge wire are inserted to make the joints and limbs bend. A good
rule: if it bends, like an elbow, add a wire at the joint. If you are attaching body parts to each other, add
Only Grade 3 and up should learn to cut wire in a shoebox with high sides and lid, and wear safety
glasses. (They love doing this, and it’s a good skill, so teach them how to do it safely and always
supervise children closely!)
Add a face if it needs one – electronic eyes, control pads, and the arms, legs or wheels (how does it get
around?)…this lesson is ripe with creative possibilities.
Cure the robot while still flat at 275° F. for 30 minutes on its card labeled with the name and class of
The second round of building is the “props” or the tools that help the robots do their jobs. This takes
just small scraps of any color.
Liquid Sculpey might be needed to “glue” tools into the hands of the robot, still flat on the card but
now very 3-dimensional.
The last step is to place the finished, cured robot on a block of clay to balance it. Then it is cured one
more time, a finished sculpture!
This is also a great writing lesson, after the robot is made. Reports or stories are easy to write after you
have made the actual model.