find explaining the mechanics. Some
schools require students to make solid
geometric shapes. You can find
various polyhedra models (
dodecahedron, icosahedron, and many others)
and practice an art form that literally
goes back several thousand years.
Paper models for these shapes
aptly demonstrate the principles of
construction. Before long, you’ll
be able to easily replicate these
techniques with most any robot
design, especially if you stick with
cube shapes. Curves and even semispherical shapes are a bit harder, but
they’re still doable with practice. If
you’re into origami, you can combine
traditional paper model construction
with folded paper effects. Rather than
a robot head made out of a cube, for
instance, how about the graceful
shape of a falcon or flamingo.
You can draw the designs out by
hand, but if you have a vector graphics
drawing program you can draft
out your designs. There are even
commercial and open source programs
designed just for the purpose of
making 3D paper shapes. For example,
paper-model.com offers a free, open
source software called PaperCut that
allows you to design various kinds of
geometric shapes on your computer,
and it generates the tabs, cuts, and
folds for you. You can adapt many of
these shapes to make robot bodies,
heads, and other parts. It’s for
Windows, and was written in Visual
Studio 2005. Out of Japan (where
paper modeling is a fairly popular past
time), there’s Pepakura Designer at
It’s shareware (under $40). The software is able to take many shapes from
3D data files (3D Studio, Lightwave,
Autocad), “unfold” them to 2D, and
provide a constructible paper model.
You can manually add or alter tabs,
resize elements, and add additional
fold lines and coloring. Aspex
Software ( www.aspexsoftware.
com) offers numerous shape-modeling
programs. Their Tabs program lets you
break out a 3D shape and make foldable patterns for constructing paper
models. Basic 3D building block shapes
are included — like the square or cone
— which you can then incorporate into
other more elaborate designs.
Time With the Kids,
or Kids Alone
Paper robot making is a safe and
fun activity for children five and older,
but depending on their age and other
factors, you may not want to leave
them to tackle the job on their own.
It can be fun to help your kids build a
paper robot, but just remember that
they should be the ones doing the
heavy lifting. Don’t be concerned
about mistakes; it’s easy to print a
replacement sheet and start over.
Kids should be encouraged to try it
themselves, even if they don’t get it
right the first time.
If you’re worried about your child
using scissors, do the cutting yourself,
and hand off the folding and gluing
to them. Most white glues (like
Glue-All or Borden’s) are nontoxic and
washable. However, it can take several
minutes to dry, especially if the paper
has a slick surface. While there are
faster setting glues, many of them
are not kid-safe, either because they
contain toxic chemicals or can cement
little fingers together.
Who knows. Maybe it will be
paper robots today but the “real
Arts & Crafts Sources
Following are online sources
for paper, arts, and craft goods that
go into the making of enhanced
Pepakura Designer helps you create 3D paper models from solid shapes.
Activa Products, Inc.
Arts and crafts supplies.
Includes casting and mold making
Art supplies: craft boards (such
as foam board), plastics, adhesives,
and lots more. Their online store
lets you browse by category or
search for specific products by
name or brand.
Art Supply Warehouse
Artists accessories, brushes,
foam boards, and paints.
Online and mail order (printed
74 SERVO 10.2009