Art Bots: STEAM for Art Teachers

By |2018-06-28T01:02:33-07:00March 16th, 2017|

As soon as I read the words “Affordable Art Bots” workshop, I was in! A robot that makes art? And they are affordable? This is STEAM for art teachers and I was hooked. I knew I had to find out more about it and see if it was worth bringing this experience to my elementary students. I look forward to the yearly National Art Educator (NAEA) Conference, it is a great place to meet teachers you “talk” to online face to face (finally!) and, of course, to learn something new.

Art Bots, STEAM for Art Teachers | EducationCloset

Imagine twenty art teachers playing with pool noodle pieces, battery-operated toothbrushes, markers and googly eyes. You can see it, right? Problem-solving and fun all wrapped into one! We experimented with inserting the toothbrush into a piece of pool noodle, added marker “legs” and gave it a whirl! We learned that if the toothbrush and markers were adjusted the robot could move more, or move in different directions. Adding eyes, mustaches and other features were the icings on the cake.

Arts Bots in the Classroom

Even though this was fun for art teachers, what’s in it for our students? The National Core Arts Standards (NCAS) are process based. In my choice-based art room, students create their own original art, ask and answer their own questions. Across the all of our new teaching standards: ELA, math, science, art, teachers are encouraged to step back and allow students to identify and solve their own problems.

Art bots are STEAM for art teachersThree art bots made by educators at EdCampSWCT

Last week, I brought my Art Bot to school and had my students experiment with him. They changed him as needed. This photo shows what two third grade students created out of cardboard as a solution to help Art Bot stand up. And it worked!

Art bots made by educators at EdCampSWCT

Last Saturday, I facilitated an art bot session with teachers who attended an EdCamp in Southwest Connecticut. At the end of the day, two teachers were very excited about creating art bots with their students. One, a preschool teacher, couldn’t wait to have her students talk and write (together as a class) about art bots. The other was a high school creative writing teacher who was looking forward to having her students create an art bot and write about it.

Making the Connections

This activity covers visual art, engineering, art creation, problem-solving and can fit into STEAM, STEM to STEAM, science, visual art, maker spaces and arts integration programs. All you need are some dollar store items: pool noodles, battery-operated toothbrushes, markers, tape, rubber bands, masking tape and craft supplies to decorate your robots.


How could creating an Art Bot help your students learn? Let’s discuss it below!



  1. Marie March 26, 2017 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    Do you have a source to share for the battery operated toothbrushes?

    • Amy Traggianese March 26, 2017 at 1:25 pm - Reply

      Hi Marie! Yes, the battery operated toothbrushes I bought at a Big Lots store for $1.50 each. They are Dr. Fresh Turbo Power toothbrushes and come with a battery. The teacher I learned this from bought her toothbrushes (a different brand) at a dollar store.

  2. Noelle Griffin March 26, 2017 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    Wondering what you have for 4th graders.

    • Amy Traggianese March 26, 2017 at 1:28 pm - Reply

      Noelle, what do you mean, exactly? I had second through fifth grade students experimenting with the art bots and they were all engaged in problem solving. Let me know if this does not answer your question.

    • Amy Traggianese November 5, 2017 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Hi Noelle, thanks for asking! We are planning on having all of our 4th grade students (100+ of them) create their own Art Bot in art class this year. Our new National Core Art Standards align nicely with the Next Generation Science Standards, and we will be writing a local grant to cover the extra cost.

  3. Mary Prutch March 26, 2017 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I’d love to have my 5th graders do this project, but I’d love a list of supplies needed and the directions to put them together if that is available.

    • Amy Traggianese March 26, 2017 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Hi Mary! I sent info to your email. Let me know if you need anything else.

      • Mary Prutch March 26, 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

        Got it! Thank you!

  4. Yvonne March 26, 2017 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Excuse me while I inject a little querying here. As I look at the actual art bot….I see a little electronic sculpture – perhaps. But in terms of the “drawing”, what is the benefit/ arsthetic/ creaticity expressed here? What are we facilitating beyond the exploring of robotics? Is “art” being created by the artist, or is this more to do with STEM without the art? ( and, by the way, I also question why Art is interfacing with these other disciplines which are more is service to design than Art). As an Art specialist, my question lies with the benefits, learning, practice and expression that is distinctly Art -based. I an concerned that mingling and subservience to a multiplicity of disciplines weakens and compromises the power of ART. I have no objection to the use of technologies and such to enhance and as a tool to art making. ……but when I look at this example…..what has been “made”? In what sense is a robot an artistic process, pursuit?

    • Amy Traggianese November 5, 2017 at 9:40 am - Reply

      Yvonne, you bring up a point that many art teachers wrestle with! If you look at this lesson through the lens of the NCAS (National Core Arts Standards) you can find specific standards within Creating, Presenting, Responding and Connecting in this lesson. Adding science, through a steAm lens adds more standards from the NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards.) Artists often use the power of art through many different lenses and those could be traditional or not. When we look at works by Sherrie Levine, Christo, Marina Abramovic and Florentijn Hofman… how do we talk with students about art? That is another post I wrote about, here is the link.

  5. Sandra Garnett March 26, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Could you please send me the information (supplies and directions) as well? I would love to do this with my students! Thanks!

  6. Debra March 26, 2017 at 7:15 pm - Reply

    This is such a great integration idea. I teach accelerated math to gifted students and work to integrate other core classes into my classes. Art is a big focus for me as so many of my gifted are creative along with logical. Could you send the basic materials to me? I am also interested in any other ideas for arts integration in math. I teach 4-6 daily and then I work with 1-3 as enrichment for gifted students.

  7. Hugh Wilson March 26, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    I love this idea I would love the directions for this project.

  8. Nicole Minton March 27, 2017 at 4:54 am - Reply

    Love this idea! We do a similar project when working with circuits. We use a fan motor and a red solo cup. I think the kids would get even more out of the project if they could add the art aspect. Could you send me the supplies/steps for Art Bot too?. Thank you!

  9. Tamieka Grizzle March 27, 2017 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Georgia STEM Day is May 5th and I would love to do this activity with my students. May you please send the instructions for this project? Thanks!

  10. M Terr March 27, 2017 at 8:06 am - Reply

    Please post the supplies and directions online for all of us.. Or share it in my email please!!!

  11. Christina De La Pena March 27, 2017 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Love this idea and would love to collaborate with other teachers in my school. Please send supply list and directions,

  12. Monique March 27, 2017 at 8:58 am - Reply

    This is great! Can you please send me the directions?

  13. Yasmin May 15, 2018 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    What science question are they answering if they want to use these as a science project experiment? Thank you.

    • Amy Traggianese May 16, 2018 at 2:08 pm - Reply

      The Next Generation Science Standard I use is 4-PS3-4 “Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.” The National Core Art Standards that apply are VA:Cr1.1.4a “Brainstorm multiple approaches to a creative art or design problem” and VA:Cr2.1.4a “Explore and invent art-making techniques and approaches.”

      I tell them that their task is to create an art bot that draws AND has a unique design. I hope that helps!

  14. Rosemary March 15, 2019 at 9:11 am - Reply

    I am beginning this project with my PBL/STEM class, grades 2 – 5. I would love a copy of the directions and materials.Thank you so much for sharing.

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