Galaxy Bots

Galaxy Bots use simple circuitry and motors to create out-of-this-world art! You can use a Galaxy Bot to create Spin Art and Light Paintings.

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Setup and Supplies

Building a Galaxy Bot is a fun and easy project that is suitable for all ages and skill levels.  You’ll need scissors, tape, a battery-operated motor, and a few other simple materials. After assembly, Galaxy Bots can be used to create art with markers or LED lights.

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Build time:

Approximately 30 minutes

Skills needed:

  • Able to use scissors

Tools:

  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Markers
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks

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Supplies for each Galaxy Bot:

Cost:

For a workshop with 25 students you can expect to spend about $80 on supplies.

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How to Assemble a Galaxy Bot

A piece of pool noodle taped to a cup acts as a handle and holder for the motor and battery. A circle of cardboard attached to the motor provides a surface for attaching drawing paper or LED lights.

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Step 1: Create a base for the motor

Cut off a small section of pool noodle and tape it to the bottom of your cup.

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Step 2: Place the motor in the base

Place your motor into the center of the pool noodle. Make sure that the motor is gear side up, with the wires coming out of the top of the hole. Don’t push it too far into the hole; if your pool noodle piece is very deep then you might want to put some paper or tape in the bottom of the hole before the motor.

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Step 3: Wrap the battery

Take the small section of bicycle tube and wrap it around the ends of the AA battery, the long way. This tubing will be used to hold the motor wires against the battery’s contact points.

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Step 4: Attach the battery to the cup

Tape the wrapped battery to the side of the cup. Make sure that the ends of the battery are accessible and in reach of the motor wires.

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Step 5: Trace a circle and cut it out

Use a circular object to trace a circle onto the cardboard or chipboard with a marker. Then use the scissors to cut the circle out of the cardboard.

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 Step 6: Poke a hole in the circle

Use the scissors to poke a hole into the center of the circle, large enough to fit over the spinning part of the motor.  If your hole seems too big, then you can add a piece of tape and try again! Your goal is to make a hole that the top of the motor fits into somewhat snugly. (The picture shows what will be the bottom of the circle when assembled, and includes a bonus draft circle drawing.)

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Step 7: Put tape over the other side of the circle

Cover the hole on the top side of the circle with a piece of tape. This will keep the motor from poking through the hole.

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Step 8: Add hot glue to the hole

Heat up the glue gun and use it to add a drop of glue to the inside of the hole. Then turn off the glue gun and make sure to leave it somewhere safe to cool off!

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Step 9: Attach the circle to the motor gear

Secure the cardboard circle to the top of motor gear. Hold it in place for a moment so that the glue can set.

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Step 10: Attach the wire leads to the battery

Connect the two wire leads to the battery by slipping them under the tube wrapper, with the red wire touching the positive contact and the black wire touching the negative contact. Your Galaxy Bot should start spinning! You may also want to tape one of the wire leads to your battery using masking tape; leave the other wire untaped so that you can remove it when you want to turn the Galaxy Bot off.

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Spin Art with a Galaxy Bot

Why do you think it’s called a Galaxy Bot?  Because you can use it to create circles and spirals to make multicolored galaxy-shaped art!  It’s time to break out the paper and markers and get creative.

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Step 1: Add paper

Attach a circle of paper to the top of your chip board with tape.

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Step 2: Spin and draw!

Start your Galaxy Bot motor and drag markers across the paper to create interesting circles and patterns.

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Light Painting with a Galaxy Bot

By attaching LED lights to the top of your Galaxy Bot, you can make swirly light-up patterns in the dark to create your own universe of beautiful shapes. With a long-exposure camera app you can capture those patterns to make light paintings.

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Step 1: Tape LEDs to coin batteries

For each LED, put the long wire lead on the positive side of the coin battery and the short wire lead on the negative side. Then tape the leads in that position so that the light stays on.

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Step 2: Attach the LED lights to opposite sides of the circle

Use tape to secure the LED light assemblies to the top of your Galaxy Bot on opposite sides. Be sure to tape the LEDs securely or they could fly off while spinning!

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Step 3: Turn on the Galaxy Bot and turn off the lights!

Your Galaxy Bot now looks awesome. Move it around to “paint” with spinning lights in the dark.

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Step 4: Get a long-exposure photography app

You can capture light trails using a long-exposure photography app on your phone or device. For Apple devices, one good option is to download the Slow Shutter Cam app.

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Step 5: Create long-exposure light paintings

Use the long-exposure photography app to record your movements with the Galaxy Bot. Experiment with moving quickly and slowly for different effects.

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Step 6: Try to write a word with light!

Can you write a word with your Galaxy Bot?  To make this picture we wrote the word normally in the air and then mirrored the image horizontally afterwards so that the word would appear correctly.  Or maybe you can write backwards?

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Going Further

What now? Try inventing even more new ways to create fun and interesting art with your Galaxy Bot. Glitter? Paint? More LED lights? Blinking lights?? Can you think of other ways to make cool light-painting tools? Get creative and make something amazing.

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If you’re interested in other light painting techniques, you can:

  • See some amazing professional light painting photography from Darius Twin, the light-painting alter ego of American artist Darren Pearson.  For example his “Sedona Stegosaurus” work is pictured on the left. You can also see a video walkthrough of how he creates his art in his How to light-paint a skeleton video on YouTube.
  • Learn how to build a homemade light-painting wand using a ruler, an electrical box, a battery, and some LED lights in Renz Tan’s D.I.Y. Light painting tutorial on YouTube.
  • Learn how to create three-dimensional light pictures by swapping out a 3D printer nozzle for an LED light by reading about the Light Extruder by mannytan on Thingiverse.

Acknowledgements: The Galaxy Bot design was developed for DHF by FutureMakers.

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