Language Arts Mini Projects


Grades: Middle School
Subject: Poetry
Students use Arts & Bots to bring poems to life. 

Animal Farm Characters
Grades: Middle school
Subject: English
In this Robot Diary, students would create a character from George Orwell's novel Animal Farm. The character would need to communicate using both spoken and written word as well as have at least two emotional states. This project would be completed in tandem with the work already in the curriculum for the student's English class, providing greater depth to a student's understanding and empathy for one or more of the characters. One potential robot could be a horse that is completing some heavy task and then is also sad, talking about how after his ability to work was used up he was sold to be made into glue.

Grades: Middles school
Subject: Poetry, English
The students will create a robotic reenactment of an Edgar Allen Poe work. The teacher can limit the works that can be chosen. This could be done solo or in groups of two. This idea could also be applied to the works of Shakespeare and others.

Mythological creatures 
Grades: Middle School
Subjects: Mythology, Language Arts
Our after school “Classics Club” participates in an Ancient Coin Museum Project where the participating students learn about the history, art, culture, language, and history of the ancient Romans & Greeks.  Students will be assigned a mythological creature that is represented on an ancient coin in our museum collection. Students will design a robot that tells the related myth with movements and lights that highlight the creatures’ features.  For example, the chimera would have the body and head of a lion, a goat’s head extending from the middle of the body, and a snake for a tail. Coordinating animal sounds and movements can be incorporated into the audio. Lights can represent areas as they are introduced or they can reflect mood.

Create your own Super Hero
Grades: Middle School
Subject: English, Language Arts
Our English teacher assigns a yearly creative writing project where students design and create their own Super Hero. Students draw their Super Hero and write a description of their powers for a poster. We have collaborated in the past on this project.  This year we could add the option of having students choose to represent their Super Hero in robot form using the Robot Diaries kits.  The servos, lights, and sounds will be used to show the emotions, expressions, and powers of the Super Hero.  For example, Super Margot has the ability to fly so a motor can be used to show the flying motion. She can read minds and her eyes will light up when she is reading your mind. 

Chemistry Mini Projects

Chemistry Design

Grades: High School
Subjects: Chemistry, Technology
One of the projects students complete in my chemistry class is a challenge to design a device that would help improve our environment. In doing so, students choose between three themes: air quality, water quality, and food production. Last year, students had to create a model of their device and present it to the class. With Robot Diaries, students could design a robot that improves the air quality, water quality, or food production. Their robot could serve as a model of what the actual device would look like and how it would perform a desired task.  This design challenge would force students to problem solve while learning about the chemicals that pollute our air and water and the factors that influence food production. This project would be cross-curricular because students would be required to study chemistry, biology, English, and technology.  Students would need to conduct research to learn about the chemicals that are polluting our air/water or the chemicals involved in food production. Students would also need to figure out how those chemicals impact our environment. Finally, students will use technology to design and build a model to demonstrate their design for a device that will improve the air quality, water quality, or food production.

Scientists of the Atom
Grades: Middle School
Subject: Chemistry
Another project students complete in my chemistry course is a timeline of the scientists who were the major contributors to the discovery of the atom and the invention of the periodic table of elements. Each student in the class is assigned a different scientist and must teach the class about that scientist and his or her contributions to the discovery of the atom or the invention of the periodic table of elements. Students present in chronological order and place a picture of their scientist on a timeline hanging on a wall in the classroom. With the help of Robot Diaries, students could design a robot of the scientists they are researching and have the robot tell speak to the class as if they were the scientist assigned to the student. This project would provide students with an interesting way of learning about the scientists that shaped the study of chemistry. Robot Diaries will also provide a cross-curricular project involving chemistry, history, English, and technology.

Gas Laws
Grades: Middle School
Subject: Chemistry
In chemistry, students will be learning about the gas laws, so they could use the Robot Diaries to design a robotic device that illustrates one of the gas laws. Usually students work with online simulations to observe the gas laws, but this project could offer a 3 dimensional representation of each gas law that will require an in-depth understanding of a gas law in order for the student to present their model to the class and illustrate how one of the gas laws can be illustrated in real life situations. Students would need to research the gas laws and apply that knowledge of their assigned gas law to design and create a robotic device that would explain a phenomenon that occurs in real life as a result of one of the gas laws. This project will be cross-curricular because it will involve the study of chemistry, technology, and physics concepts. Students will benefit from this project because it will require scientific application of chemistry concepts to real-life situations in a hands-on experience.

Periodic Table
Grades: Middle School
Subject: Chemistry
In chemistry, students learn about the periodic table of elements as a tool to scientists. In doing so, students completed a projected where they were asked to choose an element from the periodic table and explain who discovered the element, its atomic structure, and its uses. This project could be adapted using Robot Diaries by asking students to create a robotic model of an element’s atomic structure. Students could illustrate the element at the atomic level, showing the number of protons, neutrons, and electrons and where they appear in the atom. This project would provide students with an in-depth understanding of the structure of an atom and how to use the periodic table to deduce the atomic structure of a particular element. This cross-curricular assignment would involve the following subject matter: chemistry, history, and physics.


Other Sciences Mini Projects

Electric Car Timeline

Grades: Middle School
Subject: Environmental Science
Students create a visual robotic timeline based on the key events of the electric car's invention.

Scientific Visualization
Grades : 8-9
Subjects: Technology, Science
Students develop a robotic model and effectively visualizes a scientific concept.  Students research and model specific scientific processes to develop a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the concept.  Examples include:  Growing of coral, Arthroscopic surgeries, Fluid dynamics.

Grades: Middle School
Subject: Environmental Science
For this mini-project, students must research the latest innovations in electric cars, compare them to gasoline powered cars, and convince their audience to side with them for or against electric cars.

Grades: Middle School
Subject: Science
The students will create a robot that represents a news anchor. The news anchor will introduce a new scientific or technological breakthrough (within the past year). The news story should talk about the background behind the breakthrough, the current effect, and the potential future impacts.

Grades: Middle School
In conjunction with a unit on Astronomy, students will research constellations and use the robot kits to create a robotic representation of the constellation of their choice. This creation will be a robot diary for the constellation. For example, a student can choose to research the constellation Orion and create a hunter carrying a bow. The robot would tell the story associated with the constellation and include a featured motion of pulling back the bow.  The robot may include an outline of the actual constellation with LEDs in the places for some of the brightest stars.

Grades: Middle School
Subject: Science
Students will research snakes and using the Robot Diaries kits will create their own robotic staff of Asclepius.  Students can choose the species of snake of their choice to depict on the staff. The robot should include two servos, and at least two lights and at least one sound effect.   The student will read his/her presentation from the point of view of the snake and coordinate the animations with their presentation which will includes the species, diet, how the snake moves, typical size and weight, and  lifespan. The snake itself should represent the snake’s true color and markings.  Additional information can include other interesting facts about snakes (not all snakes have fangs), symbolism of snakes (ex. Biblical references or snake images in ancient or modern times), a joke about snakes (What is a snake’s favorite subject?  Hiss-tory!), or a retelling of one of Aesop’s fables which include snakes.

Grades: High School 
Subject: Environmental Science
Objective:  Student will develop an understanding of human interaction with the environment.  Students will explore both positive and negative impacts of human intervention.
Research - Student will research either a positive or negative effect of human involvement with the environment.  Examples include: Conservation, Lead Certification, Recycling (Positive) or Deforestation, Ozone Destruction, Water Pollution.
Action - Students will develop a basic interactive model that will change, either positively or negatively, with human presence.  Student will utilize a motion sensor to switch between two "modes" of their model; Before Humans and After Humans.

Math & Technology Mini Projects

Adaptive Game Board

Grades : 7-8
Subject: Technology, Engineering
Students develop an automated game board that is designed to assist children with a specific or multiple disabilities.  Students design, prototype, and test their automated systems.  The final product will include: Game, Packaging, Directions for Use, and Marketing Strategy.

Inventions and Innovations
Grades : 6-7
Subjects: Technology,Engineering
Students develop a working model for a solution to an identified need in their local community.  Scope of the design is to be set by the instructor and should include ways of making a positive impact on the students' community.  Students will identify a problem in which they are intimately involved or concerned about.  Examples include:  Fairness in Sports, Recycling, Water Conservation.

Grades: Middle School
Subject: Technology
The students will create a robot that represents a news anchor. The news anchor will introduce a new scientific or technological breakthrough (within the past year). The news story should talk about the background behind the breakthrough, the current effect, and the potential future impacts.

Grade: Elementary School
Subject: Math
Students will create a robotic device that teaches about angles. The device should be able to show congruency, supplementary angles, and complimentary angles. The students can then use their devices to teach younger students about angles.

 Grades: Middle School
Subject: Technology, Art
In conjunction with EARTH DAY activities, students will explore recycling and its impact on the Earth. As a school wide contest, students will be challenged to design a robot which will make use of the robot kits and encourage use of the existing water bottle recycling containers in our school cafeteria. Students will choose the winner from the top three selected from a group of teachers, administrators, parents, and students. The creator of the winning design will have have authority to establish a team to help build and construct the robot. The specific challenge should focus on changing the exisiting behaviors of misuse and non-use of the plastic water bottle recycling bins in the cafeteria.  A possible solution could include cheery lights and a silly sound when students place items inside the container. 

Full Curriculum

Grades: Middle School
Students analyze a poem for literary devices, as well as symbolzing the meaning of the poem. They then use the symbols to create a robot that illustrates the poem. 

Grades: Middle School
Integrating sensors into 2D artwork to depict changes occurring in nature (day to night, caterpillar to butterfly, food chain etc.)
One extension to this curriculum is a robotic haunted house scene including of robots that react to light and proximity.

Grades: Middle School
Time: 14.4 hours
Students create painting to visualy portray Beatles lyrics or themes and build robots inspired by the choosen theme. This curriculum was written for use in an Art class by one teacher.

Science, Technology, Math, Social Studies, Language Arts, Art -  Museum Bots

Grades: High School
This curriculum integrates Science, Technology, Mathematics, Social Studies, Language Arts and Art. It was written for collaborative implementation by an inter-disciplinary team of teachers. 

Grades: Pre-K
Students will design and build their own robot.

Grades: High School
Students study an organ system and then recreate one of its functions using Arts & Bots


Language Arts - Literary Bots

Grades: Middle School
Student write stories in their own voice, as well as stories in the literary voice of Dr Seuss' and build robots to support the narration. This curriculum was written for implementation by one teacher.

Grades: High School
Students create a model of the arm to show muscle movement.

Arts and Bots at Techapalooza 2012

I  facilitated a two hour session for teachers at the Techapalooza conference.  Participants had a chance to create a sample robot and explore the programming software.  Eight teachers attended the session and we discussed some implementation ideas.  This was the third annual Techapalooza and it was held at California University of Pennsylvania.

Rob Ruddle

Visual Arts Class

I am writing you to update you on my “Arts and Bots” experience with my 8th grade art class.  It was so helpful that I attended the “Educational Robotics for the Classroom”  course at CMU last summer, I was able to describe my experience with my students as well as having my Ringo “Beatlebot” that I built in that class, there for my students to see as I demonstrated how the robot works . My class began the robotics project late April through the month of May 2012 until the last day of school.  There were nine students, seven boys and two girls in my class. I began my introduction to robotics by defining what a robot was and the many purposes of a robot. I explained that being in an art class we would focus on a robot used for an entertainment purpose. I explained what components were included in the “robot kit” provided by CMU, including the “Hummingbird” circuit board. I also explained that the students would be using the “Visual Programmer” software to communicate the expressions and sequences used with their robot. 

I instructed the students to create a robot that can make simple movements and the robot should be based on a familiar personality from popular culture. I offered the idea that my robot “Ringo” would love a reunion with his Beatle friends, Paul, George, and John and wondered if any of my students would create a new “Beatlebot”, my 12-week theme was “The Magical Mystery Tour” after all!  But no such luck, my students interests focused on famous athletes in football, hockey, and basketball. Two students Mikey and Alec went with the entertainer/radio personality Howard Stern and the musician Bob Marley. Mikey enjoyed making his Howard Stern robot so much that he requested to borrow a robot kit to create new robots with over the summer. He will update me soon on what he’s accomplished. The two girls in my class created interesting robots with Carolyn making an “Oscar the Grouch” robot and Hannah recreating herself as a girls volleyball player on the South Fayette MS team. The students began by problem solving like they would in a math and/or science class. What could they create and how would it move? This planning stage took several classes and several more when the students began to build their robots. We used materials similar to the materials used in the CMU class. Foam core, exacto knives, and glue guns were used the most! What I discovered was that adults can make robots much faster than 8th grade students! The students really took their time to make the best robot they could. The students worked well alone and collaboratively, making good use of the limited time they had. I found that the technological component (the programming activity on the computer) went faster for the students and they seemed experienced with the computers and were comfortable with that aspect of our project.

Most of students created robots they were proud of. Some students didn’t have the chance to finish everything. This project thrives with a small group of students as well as a lot of time for the creativity and ingenuity to flourish.But everyone learned something. I learned that it is possible to combine art and science and create robots in the art classroom.  It was a good experience and I thank you Clara and everyone at CMU for helping me and supporting me as I left my “comfort zone” to try something new! 

Diane Lally

Visual Arts Teacher

National Junior Art Honor Society Sponsor

South Fayette Middle School

Arts & Bots in the News

The public availability of the Hummingbird Kit through BirdBrain technologies is a big step towards increasing the impact of Arts & Bots and promoting the use of robotics as tools for creative expression and exploration. We look forward to continuing to work with our wonderful partners and meeting even more educators interested in particpating in our ongoing research activities.

Since the release, Arts & Bots has been discussed by a number of news organizations, magazines and prominent blogs. We've included information on a few articles below.

Thanks to all of the educators and community partners who made this project so successful!

On Engadget: 

Hummingbird is a 'pre-Arduino' for kids

“It's never too early to get kids into robot building -- or so goes the thought process behind this nectar-loving kit. At its center is a custom controller that can be used to manipulate a slew of different sensors, motors and lights, a number of which are included in the box.”

On WESA 90.5 (Pittsburgh's NPR News Station): 

Arts, Crafts, & Robots: New Kit Brings Technology to Classrooms

“Teachers in any classroom can infuse robotics into commonplace arts and crafts materials to make sculptures that move, talk, and even sense objects — for example, a green cardboard dragon that chomps at any hand that gets too close, or a replica of the Star Wars robot R2D2 that slides and chirps just like its namesake. It’s meant to inject creativity into the sometimes dry process of programming robots, according to Hummingbird co-creator and Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Illah Nourbakhsh.”

On Fast Company: 

Hummingbird: An Educational Robotics Kit Designed To Get Girls Into Engineering

“Most educational robotics kits focus on building robots, but Hummingbird treats robotics as one element combined with craft materials and text to communicate thoughts, feelings, or ideas. […] Teachers whose students have experimented with the kit say it fosters interest in technology among students ages 11 and up.”


Kit turns kiddie art into robots

“Hummingbird differs from robotic kits available at toy stores where the focus is on building a specific robot; rather it comes with a control board along with lights, sensors, and motors that you use to roboticize your art project. This incorporation step is thought to make robotics more meaningful and useful to the user.”

 On IEEE Spectrum:

Every Kid Needs One of These DIY Robotics Kits

“Now, although this is called a "kit," it's not like there's instructions that tell you what to build. It's the best kind of robot kit: the kind where you use your imagination and some creativity to build a robot of your very own. You might need some additional structural components (like cardboard), but beyond that, all it takes is a good idea to make whatever you want, which (in essence) iswhat's so great about robots in general. ”

On DesignNews:

Kit Turns Arts & Crafts Into Robots

"An educational robotics kit developed at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute is fostering an interest in technology that goes a step beyond simply putting supplied parts together."

On NetworkWorld:

Arts & crafts & robots

“The Hummingbird offering from BirdBrain Technologies costs $200 and uses a drag-and-drop user interface that requires no programming experience on the part of the user. The kit (which includes components such as a controller, power supply, cables and senors) can convert artwork made from paper and cardboard into creations that move or display lights based on sensors. More elaborate creations have included a working replica of Star Wars' R2D2.”

On GizMag:

Hummingbird kit lets children design their own functioning robot 

"Children generally love to create art and are fascinated by robots, so what if there was a way for them to turn their art projects into robots? Well, there is. [...]Unlike some other educational robotics kits, in which people simply follow instructions to build a specific robot, Hummingbird is intended to foster a DIY spirit in its users."

On Treehugger:

Hummingbird Kit Combines Crafts with Robotics for School Kids

"It's amazing to think about students becoming this familiar with the functions of and potential for technology. Students can learn how electronics can sense what's happening in the environment and react to it, and as the kit is tied in to crafts and imagination, who knows what creative and helpful ideas will come out of classroom projects. The Hummingbird kit seems like an amazing tool for teaching our next generation of scientists, and inspiring creative uses for what technology is available. It'd be great to see a school host a science faire themed on technology helping the environment, using Hummingbird kits!"

On RoboticsBible:

Build your own art robot with Hummingbird kit

"Hummingbird is an educational kit that allows children or adults to turn their lovely arts or crafts into a functional robot within hours. This excellent stuff was developed byBirdBrain Technologies, a spinoff company of Carnegie Mellon University. The goal of this invention is to make the children to develop technologies rather than using it."

Original CMU Press Release:

Roboticize Your World: Educational Kit Can Turn Artwork and Crafts Into Robots

"The results often amount to kinetic sculptures that use sensors to detect changes in their environment and respond with movement and/or light displays. A cardboard dragon that turns its head and tries to bite anyone who comes close is one example. Students in West Virginia built a working replica of Star Wars' R2D2."



Robotic Poetry

Sue Mellon, Gifted Support Coordinator in the Allegheny Valley School District integrated Arts & Bots into 7th and 8th grade Language Arts classes. The project served as a culminating activity for a poetry unit, giving students an exciting anchor for the unit, and allowing them to practice their poetry analysis skills. Students worked in teams to analyze a poem and then create a scene or a billboard display for their poem. 


Grass by Carl Sanburg

"I learned that even though programming looks difficult it is actually easier than it seems."

A Drop Fell on the Apple Tree by Emily Dickinson


A Drop Fell on the Apple Tree by Emily Dickinson from CREATE Lab on Vimeo.

"I thought programming was really easy then I realized it takes a lot of timing and work to put everything together."


The Human Seasons by John Keats

"It doesn't take a genius to do robotics." 

"I'm happy that art can be intergrated into robotics."


El Dorado by Edgar Allan Poe

"Communication is key when working as a team."

"Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses."


The Pasture by Robert Frost

"Poetry can sometimes be hard to understand but using robotics and giving you a visual can help you understand it."


The Sun Has Long Been Set by William Wordsworth

"I learned how the robotics can relate to poetry."


Design by Robert Frost

"It takes dedication not necessarily a level of smartness to understand the robots."
"Programming is very challenging but once you get use to it, its easy."


Bright Star by John Keats

"I learned that poems can be brought to life off the paper."