How to Build a Robot from Scratch for Kids

Written by brandon getty
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How to Build a Robot from Scratch for Kids
This guy may take a bit more skill and craftsmanship to build, but the steps below will teach you how to build a cheap robot from scratch. (robot-sculpture. man and dog image by Rina from

Robots are a classic of our technology culture, making them the subject of countless films, cartoons and children's television shows. Purchasing commercially available, animatronic robots is a bit expensive for the average household, so why not build your own out of cheap, easily found materials? Whether you want to construct an interactive model robot for the kids to play with or assemble a classic Halloween costume, the steps below will help you to achieve great results no matter your budget.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tall torso-length cardboard box
  • Smaller head-sized cardboard box
  • Masking tape
  • Aluminium foil
  • Craft glue
  • Silver spray paint
  • 4 lengths of flexible heating duct
  • Scissors or Exacto knife
  • Hot glue gun
  • Large-tipped markers or paint
  • Electronic junk

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  1. 1

    Seal the top end of the tall cardboard box with masking tape. If the robot will not be used as a costume, you may seal both ends. Seal both ends of the small cardboard box. Close and tape the seals tightly to ensure they stand upright without bending or losing shape.

  2. 2

    Apply a light layer of craft glue to the top and sides of both cardboard boxes. Before the glue dries, cover the boxes in aluminium foil to create a metallic-looking "skin." You can make designs with the foil or, as an alternative, use a shiny silver spray paint to coat the boxes.

  3. 3

    Cut the necessary holes in the boxes with an Exacto knife. If the robot will be used as a costume, cut holes for the child's arms, neck, head and eyes. Make sure the arm holes are large enough for the heating duct to fit into. Wait until the glue, foil and/or spray paint has dried before taking this step.

  4. 4

    Measure your child's limbs and cut the four lengths of heating duct with scissors. Don't cut while your child's arms and legs are inside the duct material. If the robot will not be used as a costume, make its limbs any length you wish.

  5. 5

    Use the hot glue gun to attach the heating duct to the arm holes. If the robot isn't being used as a costume, seal the bottom flap of the tall box and hot glue the heating duct "legs" to the underside of the box.

  6. 6

    Cut a hole in the bottom of the small cardboard box large enough for your child's head to fit through. Also cut a space in the front for your child to see out. If the robot won't be used as a costume, simply attach the small box to the tall box by hot gluing a "neck"-sized piece of heating duct between them.

  7. 7

    Decorate your robot. If you have any old, discarded electronics, hot glue different bits and pieces onto the robot body. Old floppy disks, ruined CDs and computer wiring make great additions. You also can draw or paint designs (screens, buttons, knobs and gears) for an authentic look.

  8. 8

    Add finishing touches. If the robot is for display, spray paint an old pair of shoes or gloves silver and give the robot hands and feet. If it will be used as a costume, have your child test it out. Wait until the robot has dried completely and is free of fumes before taking this step.

Tips and warnings

  • Non-toxic silver paint applied with a paintbrush may be a better idea if the robot is to be used as a child's costume.
  • If used as a costume, make sure the box for your child's head is well-ventilated.
  • Do not allow your child to cut the box or the heating duct material. Exacto knives are extremely sharp and cutting through the duct material can be difficult.
  • Do not allow the child to wear the costume until it is totally dry and has been aired out. Fumes from the paint can be hazardous to your child's health.

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