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Has anyone used the BrushBots mini robots with their class? Some of the teachers at my school attended the training and we are purchasing the motors to build our own mini robots. I know it will cover a lot of standards with physical science and I was wondering if anyone was familiar with them.
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I have built them with my class before, but I didn't buy motors, we made them. All you need is a toothbrush head, AAA battery, a piece of a fat straw, double sided tape, a wire (bare at both ends) and a fat rubber band. Attach straw to toothbrush top with the double sided tape. Slip the AAA battery in the straw and wrap the rubber band around the battery/straw. Then insert the wire at the + and - ends of the battery and hold in place with the rubber band. It should then vibrate if you have completed the circuit. I have the students race them down a hollowed board, or battle on the top of a pie plate. It was lots of fun and a very good way to segway in to electricity and circuits.
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This idea seems to be more cost effective and provides students with more opportunities to build and explore. Thank you for describing the steps! :]
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This is very helpful since I want to try this activity. Could you tell me what type of wire I need and where to purchase it? (RadioShack, hardware store etc.)
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Last year at our school family fair we sold brush bots. I thought they were pretty cool! It was very interesting to see how something made out of a toothbrush head and battery could amuse students. They were able to buy accessories to personalize their brush bots and they could also battle other bots. I think brush bots would be a great way to teach science if it applies to your science standards.
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Does anyone have a good source for the pager motors with leads? I had bought one at Radio Shack to build this model solar car which works well but looking for cheaper source.
smallsolarcar.jpg (0.25 Mb)
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Will, what grade do you teach?
We are going to build the Brushbots ourselves too! We have had a local dentist donate some toothbrushes. We are also going to have a booth at our school fair to get the students interested in them. What kind of accessories can you use to customize them?
Brush-Bots!! I love the idea, but have never heard of them before reading in this column. I teach 6-8th at an alternative middle school and am always looking for engaging activities that can be incorporated into several of our standards and across grade levels.
I'd love to see any photos if you could upload them to a post. I like the idea of racing them, even though I've never seen them to imagine the racetrack set-up. Do any of you have other ideas that may incorporate inquiry learning? Or utilize data and/or analysis? Can't wait to google and take a look at them.
Enjoy your night, Alyce
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Thanks, Will, for your detailed description of homemade brushbots - I love the idea of not having to spend s lot of money, especially since we don't have much these days! This is the first year I have helped coach a robotics team for our school, and we just competed in 2 VEX tournaments -- these kits are pretty complex and time consuming for students, not to mention the parts are expensive! Brushbots will allow all students to access this type of learning - not just a small group of students.
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Will, we are going to make them as well with all those parts but I thought you needed a vibrating motor to attach to the circuit. I think it is small like a blackberry motor and only a few dollars to purchase. I could be wrong....
As I had had mentioned you can buy a vibrating motor at Radio Shack that will work on low voltage, it worked well for a small solar car powered by a tiny cell from a yard light. But even at around $5, the cost adds up when you need a couple dozen of them. I purchased some from All Electronics for a little over $1 a motor but I think these are too tiny.
Brush bots are way cool. We build them using pager motors from Electronic Goldmine about a $1 a piece. They can make teaching standards on force and vectors much more fun and interesting for students. It is a great way to teach inquiry for almost any age. There is so much manipulating the students can do. I went to a workshop this summer and there were joust contests, races as well as sumo competitions. The hardware store in our town has actually been building brush bots as an employee project. I've even seen them done with toilet bowl brushes instead of toothbrushes. Either easy it is a good way to get young students involved with STEM. We do fundraiser for our club making and selling brush bot kits.
Colin Delos Reyes
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Thanks for the resource, I saw several things in their catalog that I might order for future projects.
Will, I love the idea of building the motor for the BrushBots. Your description is excellent, and I think I have an idea of what the Bot should look like, but being a visual person, is there any way you could upload a few .jpg photos so I could see how the final project looks? I am fascinated with the idea and would love to use this with my middle school students.
I am curious how long the BrushBots run on the AAA battery. I wonder if they would work using button batteries? I noticed in the Dollar Tree, they have button batteries on cards with up to 24 on a card for, you guessed it, a dollar. I am guessing the AAA would provide more stability because of its size and mass over the button batteries when it came to battling. A question that comes to mind is whether the button batteries would provide enough mass for the Bots to move in a straight line with more speed, or if they would more or less skitter and dance.
So many possible variables, so little time. What a great idea. I can’t wait to use these with my students.
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I am trying to upload a picture of a very basic BrushBot. As the forum has discussed, the kids can change them up for the assignment. I don't know about Button batteries...would have to experiment!
BrushBot.jpg (1.05 Mb)
I'm so sorry, I didn't realize all these posts had come after mine. I am still getting the hang of this site. :-) I will upload pictures of the kit materials, as well as the completed brush bot. IT lasts quite a while with just a battery.
Shawna, I teach 6th grade, but this is good for a wide variety of grade levels.
Thank you Shawna for posting a photo of the brushbot. I am curious as to how you attached the lead wires to the motor. Did you solder them on or find another way to connect them?
A fellow teacher sent me these resources for “Bristlebots”, which is another name for brushbots.
The video was well done, and the photos that accompany the article are really clear and easy to follow
http://www.evilmadscientist.com/article.php/bristlebot . As seen in this article, button batteries do work. I would think any battery that you can clearly connect the positive and negative terminals should work. I found button batteries at a local dollar store with 8 to 12 batteries on a card.
It appears Electronic Goldmine is the favorite website for buying the motors for the brushbots. The link to their website is http://www.goldmine-elec.com/ for their general site which contains lots of really awesome electronic “stuff”, specifically http://www.goldmine-elec-products.com/searchprods.asp for the motors at 0.89 each, though you will have to solder on the leads. While perusing www.evilmadscientist.com I found the pager motors that already have the leads soldered onto them. They normally run $2.73 for one, but quantity discounts are available. As I am looking at the website, they are at this moment on sale for $1.50.
Will, I look forward to seeing your photos and kit materials as well.
What an exciting project. I love how there are so many ways to make something that will thoroughly fascinate students and allow us to use a Design and Engineering model to build the “Bots”.
I found a terrific source for parts. Go to your local DollarTree or dollar store. There I got an electric tooth brush that came with a AA battery. Has a large motor, bu then again for $1 you have all you need. If you do not want to solder, I recommend getting 3M's double-sided sticky tape to adhere your components. I will (soon) attach some photos of the ones my troop and I built.
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Wade wrote, "I will (soon) attach some photos of the ones my troop and I built."
Have your troop and you built your brushbots yet? I am curious to see how they turned out. I would like to do something similar with our local Cub Scouts. How easy were they to assemble? Will I need to have an adult helping each scout?
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Wade, as soon as I saw your post I immediately went to my local Dollar Tree and purchased two different types of electric toothbrushes. Now that winter break is here, I am going to see if I can construct one. I am curious to see how your brushbots turned out. It’s my plan to do them after the first of the year after we finish our current unit.
I would love to try this the cheap way with my GEMS clubs--are the pager motors the way to go? I see two different options--vibrating motors and regular ones. Which one works best?
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I have a maker space in China. I buy small, electric motors here for .49yuan each + shipping. That's about $.08. I'd be happy to help anyone make a purchase. I usually buy 100 at a time, because they are so cheap and then, of course, I can afford to allow kids to take them home.
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Wade, I am curious if you ever completed the toothbrush bots with your scout troops? I would love to see a couple of photos. I would like to do this next week with my kids.
We did this as a test site for the Klutz people--so much fun! And very easy to do.
Okay, so I’ve played around with a lot of different versions of these and Wade is correct. If you go to a Dollar Tree and buy the electric toothbrushes, you get everything you need. The only problem is, the size of the motor is quite large and it makes it tough to balance in order to make the “bot” work. When they do though, the little buggers really scoot! I also found the button batteries I talked about in an earlier post work really well. I found these at the Dollar Tree as well, I got a card of them with about a dozen of the small cells on a card. The double stick tape kept them on with no issues, though they are light in comparison with the AA batteries making the “bot” easier to tip over. I am going to be doing these with my students on Monday. It will be fun to see how they overcome the issues I found when making my own.
I’m toying with the idea of having them make a “cover” for them to help stabilize their “bot” and making them kind of fun to watch. It would be kind of like watching a decorated tank move. We will experiment and post photos.
This was one of the favorite activities this year. The students were incredibly creative in their design process. It’s amazing the number of designs that all came out of the same toothbrush. To kick the unit off, I showed the kids three Youtube videos on toothbrush robots. I then had them sketch their design in their graphing notebooks after giving them their electric toothbrushes. Once their design was approved by me, I gave them a 9 cm piece of copper wire, 12 cm of electrical tape and 2 cm of white double stick tape. Students were allowed to use any parts that came off of their toothbrushes – which was where students were able to really be creative.
From there on, it was their job to build their robot to “fighting standards.” That meant their bot had to be able to stand and vibrate on its own for at least one minute. After students created their bots and had them running, they were given the option of “fighting” them in an arena we created on the lab tables with Algebra books. An extension for those that finished early was to create a “super bot”.
I wanted to extend the lesson to include having them identify the systems and energy transfers in their bot. The created posters where they had to draw the schematic first, then the diagram identifying the pieces and parts as well as where the energy transfers are occurring. The last thing they put on the poster was the “energy chain” where they clearly identify the energy transfers. There were mistakes, but overall, for 7th and 8th graders, they did a pretty good job. We now have a starting place for our discussions.
Bonner_Toothbrush_bot_energy_transfer_posters.doc (2.01 Mb)
Hohimer_Bot.jpg (2.44 Mb)
Holmes_Brush_bot_poster.doc (1.46 Mb)
I absolutely LOVE your students' diagrams of their brush bots! I would really love to teach this to my Tech Team. I was wondering what grade you teach and what types of lessons you taught before they were able to understand how the brush bots work?
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After reading through this thread and learning more about brushbots, I am really interested in trying this activity. I know it is late in the year and there isn't much time, but I'm always up to trying something new. I was wondering, what ideas others have about incorporating more math into the activities. Sandy, I really liked your ideas for making more of a connection to science content by including energy. I definitely see a connection with electricty and circuits. I was thinking that I could have races and have students determine speed/rates and graph outcomes. Are there any other ways?
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Hi all! So I tried brushbots for the first time this past month. The students loved it and it was definitely one of the most exciting lessons I did this year. Although I loved the communication, creativity, and problem-solving that this activity promoted, I have been having a little more difficulty making clear the actual content. I guess what I'm saying is that I still have not found out how to clearly assess my students. Besides successfully completing the bots, how could I assess for example, their understanding of how electricity works in their bot?
Sandy, I liked how you had the students write about the changes in the forms of energy in the brushbot. I can see how the content was tied to the lesson. I am assuming you had covered that topic earlier with your students. Do you think there is a way to work backward through the activity to reach the content? If anyone else has any suggestions for me, or any extra resources on assessment and problem-based science or STEM I would truly appreciate it.
Congratulations on sharing the activity with the students. As I was reading through your post, one question came to mind. Did you consider asking your students how they could show you they understood the content? Oftentimes my students will come up with better assessment methods than I could ever have dreamed of.
I think it is possible to work backward to achieve your content goal. Again, I would do this by asking my students what they learned from participating in the activity. Place them in groups of four or five and ask them to come up with all of the “Science” they can think of that applied to the brushbots. It never ceases to amaze me how much Science they actually get from doing this kind of project hands-on.
I would love to hear what they come up with.
Thank you for sharing your experience with brushbots and your thoughts on assessing students with brushbots. I also tried brushbots last year and definitely agree with you, Jason, the students’ enthusiasm and curiosity when creating their brushbots was contagious and inspiring! I love your connections between science and math by having students determine the speed/rates of their bots and then graphing the outcomes. We also had students challenge each other in “sumo”. We took an upside-down bowl or plate, placed two bots on the smooth surface and let them go! The first bot to fall off of the plate was the loser! It was interesting to see the kids apply some engineering to their bots as they changed the design between the two challenges. For the criteria that was needed for speed, was not similar to one that would win at sumo. If I could do brushbots again, I would certainly have students work through the engineering design process of sketching their design, building it, and then recording the outcomes of their various design revisions. And finally, having them correlate their design changes to data such as how fast the bot travels, or how long the sumo bout lasts. Thanks again Jason!
For those that are interested saving some time, we purchased the following brushbot kits: http://www.easybotics.com/content/brushbot-kit-x5
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I know it has beeb a while since this thread has been going, but recently I caught the last ten minutes of a hands on session with the middle school teachers making Brushbots. This was at the Va science teachers conference. The presenters had constructed a neat race track for about ten Brushbots to race at a time. They had a heavy piece of corrugated cardboard about 4 feet long and made cutting strips from another similar piece of cardboard and pasting them tomake racing alleys about 3inches wide with long racing bumpers. They then held races among the classes. The final design of the Brushbot was left up to the students who had a minimum amount of basic materials for their vehicles. The presenters used this Design activity very effectively with grades 4 to 6.
I was delighted to search and to refind this thread with so many resource suggestions to share with other middle school teachers.
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Just Googled a bit and found some kits ,expensive, but the two pdfs are useful. I think teachers could put together cheaper kits for vibrobots, aka, Brushbots and encourage more interesting design competitions.
Here is the Url site for pdfs
Thanks for bringing this forum to the forefront again. I had never heard of these little guys. And after reading through the forum I got lots of ideas!!
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I echo your response since I glanced at this thread in its inception but it was not until I participated in a hands-on session at a science conference that I recognized the great design and engineering possibilities of these cute 'critters' for the lower grades.
I went to Dollar Tree and bought an electric toothbrush that I am going to turn into a robot!! I had no idea they had electric toothbrushes at Dollar Tree until I read this forum topic. Let the fun begin!!
Betty, how much was the electric toothbrush and how will you modify it to make a Brushbot Robot. Do you think this purchase could be a viable alternative to buying or putting together kids? Teachers have so little disposable monies for science these days, even for interesting design projects.
Thanks for the info.
Patty, when I did this with my middle school students they didn’t have to modify the toothbrush a lot. The trick is cutting off the head from the body and then finding the balance for the motor and battery. The only other thing I had to buy was double sided sticky tape and electrical tape. Everything else is included in the toothbrush from Dollar Tree.
Many of my students chose to use other parts of the discarded toothbrush to add interest and stability to their bots. The favorite by far was the spring inside. For $2.00 a student you have a wonderful bot that works every time. Patience is required to make it work, but out of my 140 students, they all built a successful bot and many went on to buy another one so they could create another model. In my limited mind and old age, I came up with four different models using the same toothbrush. Students left alone to their own devices and imaginations came up with at least 35 unique models, with none of the 140 being exactly the same. Engineering at its finest.
I would never again buy a kit with the “pre-fabricated” parts. They all look alike and aren’t really Engineering any longer, they are more “cook book lookalikes.”
It sounds like this is a great STEM project for middle school, Sandy. What grade did this project with you? Also, where did the money come from for the toothbrushes? How many worked together in a group? Did you and your students work out a rubric for assessing their understanding as well as for their design? What science content served as the foundation for the project? Oh, so many questions I have but I just noted on another thread that a 4th grade teacher is looking for a STEM project. I really applaud your approach and the openness of the inquiry. It seems to reflect best practice in many ways.
The electric toothbrush I bought at the Dollar Tree store only cost $1 and had everything in it that was needed to make the BrushBot!! I needed to do a little cold soldering and used silicon to join the parts. Younger students would need a little help in that area. It is a little top heavy because of the size of the motor, but still works pretty well. I think it would be a great way for teachers to afford to do the project. Students could share BrushBots and do some of the activities described in this forum.
Thanks, Betty. Perhaps you can mentor a teacher who wishes to integrate this neat STEM activity into their classroom in the future. Your posts have been explicit and very helpful.
Take a look at this site from the Exploratorium. http://tinkering.exploratorium.edu/bristlebots/ If you look at the pictures at the bottom it shows a racetrack for the BrushBots. This Tinkering Studio also shows other things made out of motors and what they can do. Just go to the activities tab at the top to see them.
Another great site, Betty. Thanks again for sharing.
In the class that I observed, the students loved racing their brushbots and then explaining the science as they understood it to their teachers. The impromptu-like probes the teachers used were quite appropriate.
I probably shouldn't post this (as I've seen how crowed convention rooms can get) but there is a brushbot talk at the annual convention.
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The saga continues...
While shopping at Radio Shack I discovered they have a cousin of the brushbot for sale called a Hex Bug. It is built basically like a brushbot. They have a Christmas special at $4.99 each. The regular price is $9.99. They even have habitats and racetracks to run them on!!
Thanks for the info. Are you presenting?
I did not know the schedule was published yet. The nice thing is when presenters put their presentations up in the LC for all to download and to view if they were at the back of a crowded room or were not able to attend the session or to go to the Conference. We'll keep an eye out in March/April and see what happens.
Thanks, Betty. These kits might make nice Holiday gifts to our young relatives or a grab bag/ Secret Santa gift to other teachers to use with their students.
I know that many contribute to Toys for Tots but many organizations appreciate gifts for children who are a bit younger, as long as the gifts are marked appropriately.
No, not presenting, just found the info. A lot of the classes are up.... nsta.org/conferences/2013sa
Thanks, Keri. Good searching and congratulations! I see that you are part of the New Science Teaching Academy.
Patty, I did the brushbots with my 7th and 8th grade Design and Engineering students. I place the students in groups of four, but with this project, each had their own brushbot to design and build.
As for cost, the project was only $2.50, so each student was asked to pay for their own materials. If a student really couldn’t afford it, I ate the cost. I have several types of projects in class, but the general rule is, if it is a major project and students get to take the project home and keep it forever, they pay for the materials. Throughout the course of the year, students generally pay around $20.00 for all of the projects all year. Other courses that have students make projects charge a fee at the beginning of the year of around $30. This way, students are only paying for whatever they actually make instead of what they may or may not make.
As a class we didn’t formalize a rubric in the traditional sense, but did set out a framework for what a successful brushbot could do at different levels. Within the framework, we identified standards we were addressing in terms of our state’s assessment aligned with the application performance standards. Within the application standards in Science, students use the Design and Engineering process to create a product, test it, revise it, test it … until ultimately the brushbot was able to accomplish all of the criteria the students set out in their framework.
The second part of the project was for them to create a poster identifying energy transfers and transformations. Energy and Energy Transfers and Transformations is a huge concept for us, so this project was a wonderful way for students to learn about energy in an authentic way.
Sandy, thank you so much for clarifying how you implement the project in your classes and for aligning it with engineering standards. Although the cost seems minimal to many of us, some teachers may have to look for funds to purchase items or to perhaps ask the PTA for some science consummable funds. Many teachers only have 25 dollars per school year for consumables.
I appreciated that one poster to this thread approached local dentists for toothbrushes and then looked for the other supplies needed to purchase in bulk. This project seems to create inventive teachers in addition to providing a great platform for students to really follow through with the idea/input/test/re-evaluate/input/ output type of model for engineering.
Great threads....thanks a bunch to all.
Let's hear from those of you who may be trying BrushBots for the first time or a variation on the theme.
It's been a while since this thread has been going, but here are two pdf's that may be of use to readers, both current and future.
Brushbot_Olympiad.pdf (0.25 Mb)
Brushbot_Science.pdf (0.27 Mb)
I love your Brushbot Olympics! It's a great idea I could use to integrate social studies into science.
Thank you for sharing resources that tie the math and science concepts to the activity.
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Thanks Patty. I really enjoyed the .pdf on the Science. I really liked the Vibrobot idea. I think I am going to modify that to use with my middle school Design and Engineering class. They have been begging to do the toothbrush robots again this year, but I told them since I have them for two years, we need to do something different this year and the toothbrush bots next year.
The vibrobot is just enough different that the students will have the fun of the toothbrush bot with the thrill of having to create their own vibrobot. The photos give me a lot of ideas, what I need to come up with though is a variety of parts that could be available to students to choose from in building and balancing their bots.
If you live in Ohio you might want to contact your local county Ohio State University Extension office. In some of the counties personnel will come into your setting and, for a small fee that covers the cost of materials, do an Ecobot activity with your class. Ecobots are brushbots that clean up a "toxic" spill.
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Thank you to all of you for sharing your experiences and helpful information. We're planning our first family STEM event at our elementary school. Brush bots are the family project for our 5th grade students. I'll be using the resources you shared.
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thanks for bringing this upfront.
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