Tune in each month for a heads-up on
where to get all of your “robotics
resources” for the best prices!
Here Come the
At least once a month, I get email from a mom or grandparent asking for my
advice about the best robot kit for
their seven year old. Oh, and they
don’t have much money to spend,
so can the kit be under $20, and
preferably under $10?
Having had my own kids and
grandkids, I know the excitement they
feel at the prospect of building a
robot, but expectations run high in
an adult population that has no
experience in constructing robots.
A single new RC servo motor costs
at least $10. Even the most thrifty
builder is hard-pressed to not spend
at least $100, assuming they’re not
raiding their own junk box (which a
seven year old child probably doesn’t
have, am I right?!).
Turns out kids are a lot more
willing to consider the alternatives
than building the latest Robonova.
To them, the process of building a
robot is less about the mechanical
construction than it is the fantasy and
game-play that goes through their
heads while doing it.
If you’ve got young kids interested
in robots — and especially if you don’t
have a lot of pocket change to indulge
them — there’s always paper robots.
That’s right, robots made out of
paper. And why not? Kids (and even
adults) have been building paper
models for centuries.
Why should robots be any
different? You’d be surprised at the
resources — free and otherwise — for
making paper robots.
72 SERVO 10.2009
Paper Bot Anatomy
Paper robots are so simple they
hardly need an introduction, let alone
a description. But for the sake of
completeness, let’s quickly review
the two main types so you can decide
which is best for you and your robot-loving kids. The most basic paper
robot is a 2D affair (just like a paper
doll) except it’s of Robby the Robot
rather than Sally the Schoolgirl. With
paper dolls, you overlay paper clothes
on top of a paper person, and the
same idea is extended to robots. Most
of the 2D paper robot designs you’ll
see are intended to be humorous. You
mix and match funny-looking robot
parts, like a decidedly male robot
head with the body of a female robot
maid — dress and all.
Far more common in robotland
is the 3D paper bot. These are
constructed by cutting out the various
body pieces, folding along prescribed
lines, then sticking the parts together
using glue, pins, and other assorted
hardware. Since robots are intended
to be moving mechanical creatures,
it’s not uncommon for their 3D paper
facsimiles to be articulated, at least at
the elbow and knee joints. Depending
on the model, the articulation can be
quite elaborate. You’d be amazed at
what some of the paper robot
designers have dreamed up.
Print, Color, and
You’ll find lots and lots of
preprinted collections of paper dolls
already colored, and maybe even laser
cut so you don’t need scissors. With a
few exceptions, most of the paper
robots you’ll find require you to print
them out. If you have a color printer,
you can add color from your PC or, if
you’re printing in black and white you
can color them in.
Most of the paper robot
resources are free, where people
share their 2D and 3D designs. Often
the designs are produced as PDF files,
so you need Adobe Acrobat, Foxit, or
another PDF reader.
For example, wander over to
you’ll find a dozen or so premade
robot paper cutout designs. All are
free, in color, delivered on PDFs, and
have instructions included with them.
Use an inkjet or other color printer to
print them, cut ‘em out, and start
gluing. Arms and legs are articulated
using fine string or fishing line. This
allows the joints to move without
adding a lot of extra weight to the
A good example of the simple-is-better approach is the 2D design
found at the Family Craft blog
only colored construction paper, brass
paper fasteners, and plastic beads, the
blog entry shows how easy it is to
captivate the imagination of small
children in building simple mechanical
devices. The “girl” version of the robot
has a girl’s head with blonde hair;
the head on the “boy” version is a