Arduino-Powered Pom Pom Robots for Fun & Learning

PomPomRobotsWhen: Saturday, October 15

Where: Room 102 – CERAS Building, Stanford

Who: Suzanne Linder (University of Illinois Community Fab Lab, Urbana, IL, USA)
Jessica Nelson (University of Illinois Community Fab Lab, Urbana, IL, USA)
Jeff Ginger (University of Illinois Community Fab Lab, Urbana, IL, USA)


Join the Champaign Urbana Community Fab Lab for a workshop that will introduce and discuss a robot building activity that is an inexpensive, accessible, and scalable introduction to small board electronics and microcontrollers. During the workshop, you will construct a robot with one moving part that utilizes a servo motor for that movement. We will then show you how to attach to an Arduino and load example code to change the servo delay and rotation to adjust robot movement.

While you are building your robot, we will discuss how we use this activity with elementary age students to introduce the basics of a circuit, hardware interfaces and programming and with older students to challenge them to tinker with the materials and the code. We will discuss how we have used this activity for teacher professional development and the narrative possibilities that the robots offer.

This workshop is open to participants with all levels of skill and experience with Arudino, but we particularly welcome participants who have not had experience with small board electronics. This workshop will be of particular interest to participants looking for activities that incorporate art into a traditionally STEM activity.

Workshop schedule:

  • Introduction: We will show you examples of pom pom robots that have been made in the past during this workshop, establish our goals for the time together, and demonstrate the range of motion of the servo motors.
  • Design time: You will have time to begin designing your robot and tinkering with materials before you attach your robot to an Arduino.
  • Connection: As you begin construction your robot, we will help you connect the servo to an Arduino microcontroller and show you how to modify the code to change the range of motion and speed of your motor.
  • Iterate: After seeing your robot move for the first time, you will have time to iterate your design.
  • Discussion & reflection: We will be discussing and sharing curricular ideas as we design, construct, and iterate, but we will also have time at the end of the workshop for a larger discussion of the activity, how we have used it with a range of learners, and how it might be useful in your classroom or learning space.