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ShopBots are not entirely new for the Makeshop, but I still enjoy the project. I have done this project in many different ways: by myself, with a group of teachers, and with several classes. The one thing that I have never done is facilitated this project with visitors during a regular day at the Museum. Well, last week, we decided to do just that.
We had the materials available and decided to let our visitors finally try to create their own bots. I think the main reason for this activity is to not produce a product but instead to learn something about prototyping, design and experimentation. I would get the visitors started with the initial materials (a motor, batteries and battery pack) and then let them decide what to do next. There was a lot of time for discussion about the design of each individual bot. Visitors came up with some interesting ideas. I was amazed at the use of a binder clip as an on/off switch. Also, the bot made out of an old coffee can sounded so cool when it was turned on. We even had someone create a bot that looked like a turkey!
This was a great project for the older visitors. Our visitors were allowed to spend as much time as they wanted on the creation of their bot. Like I said, we provided them with the initial push but it was up to them to create a project of their own. I wasn’t sure how this project would work in such an open environment. The visitors who took the initiative to create something really showed me that this could be done. We were able to test an old project in a new setting and everyone involved seemed to enjoy it. It was fun presenting a project to the visitors that required little structure, but a lot of creativity. I ended up learning as much, if not more than, the visitors.