Easy $10 Dollar Autonomous Robot


My class has a really tight materials budget, can I still make a meaningful interactive art project for under $15/student?


This project was inspired by the Autonomous DIY Robot workshop offered by Jessica Field and this really great Instructable by Robomanic.



Students will be expected to... 

  • Assemble their DIY Robot
  • Follow the provided instructions
  • Attach an/or solder the connections (Teachers can prepare the soldered parts in advance leaving only some loose ends for students to plug into a few solder-less snap-connectors)
  • Test and troubleshoot the wiring
  • Use the robot as the center for an autonomous drawing/painting, as characters within a performance or dance, or as an element within a larger robotics-based art project


This project introduces students to circuits, [pseudo] autonomous robots, troubleshooting, and the design and manufacturing of a working DIY robot. This is a great project to get students really involved in robotic art cheaply and easily.

Student Safety

  • Read all instructions carefully
  • Solder in a well ventilated area with a clean, dry, and well lit work surface
  • Only attach the electronics as described in the instructions
  • Remove the batteries when the robot is not in use
  • Do not allow anything from this project to be placed into a student's mouth at any time
  • If a student gets injured please follow regular first aid or safety protocols

Suggested Activities

  • Students should complete the standard robot
  • Students should then try 'hacking' or 'modifying' their robots to do something truly unique or interesting
  • Students should think of these tutorials as building skills in their available tool chest, but they should start to think of what is next or what else could these simple circuits do

Suggested Review Questions

  • What is a an autonomous robot?
  • Where did the DIY, Tinkering, and Maker movements come from?
  • Why do visual arts students need to understand circuitry?
  • Which contemporary artists use robotics in their professional work?

Original 'Instructables' Robot

Original DIY Robot image by Robomanic

Original DIY Robot image by Robomanic

The Circuit

Circuit by Robotmanic

Circuit by Robotmanic

Diagram made using Fritzing (Left SPDT is in a weird orientation due to program limitations)

Diagram made using Fritzing
(Left SPDT is in a weird orientation due to program limitations)

Question: What can you do to make this "Art"?