Tate Kids



Digital Makers: Make a drawing robot

Tate Britain
2 Hours

The Idea

Do you think robots can be creative?

Artists have been using machines to create artworks for a long time. We are going to be inspired by Harold Cohen and his first computer drawings and make our own spider-like robot that draws.

Cohen investigated the use of computers as a creative tool in the 1960s. He created AARON, a computer program designed to produce art on its own.

The machine’s he made may also be thought of as kinetic artworks. Kinetic means movement. Lots of other artists make kinetic art such as Alexander Calder and Liliane Lijn

Harold Cohen, Untitled Computer Drawing

Harold Cohen, Untitled Computer Drawing, 1982 © Harold Cohen


The Plan

We are going to make a robot that draws! We are going to program an Arduino (this is a small computer, which can receive and send data). It is a little fiddly in places so you may need an adult to help you with it.


You Need

  • Arduino
  • Breadboard
  • Transistor
  • Resistor
  • Single core electrical wire reel
  • Gaffer tape
  • Counter weights
  • Jumper weights
  • Capacitor
  • 3v motor
  • Motor mounts
  • Motor horn arm
  • Wire
  • Batteries
  • Battery holder
  • Decorations: feathers, pipe cleaners,
  • White paper
  • Pens

Do it!

Mztek made this detailed presentation [PDF, 3.4MB] on how to build your drawing robot. Print it out and go through the steps with an adult.

Here is an overview of the steps you need to take.

  • Check out your Arduino – make sure you know where the digital pins are and how to power it.
  • Get to grips with the software. Download the Arduino software and test it out.
  • Upload the sensor code (pdf [53KB] or ino file [1.4KB]).
  • Set up the breadboard and add in the motor.
  • Add the legs. Wrap the sensor wires around the spider legs.
  • Connect Arduino to the battery.
  • Decorate your robot and add it in the pens to the end of the legs. Place some paper to the ground and send your robot for a spin!

Now you can take a picture of your amazing robot and upload it onto My Gallery or get your parents or guardian tweet it @tate_kids!