Robot Sculptures from Recycled Materials

Folk artists around the world make robots from recycled materials – and you can too! Check out these inspiring examples and get sample project ideas to get started.

One thing I love about robot sculptures from recycled materials is that they are a mash-up of industrial and vintage aesthetics. If you look at the character Wall-E from the Pixar film, he is a great illustration of this. And in fact, the director of the film Andrew Stanton talked about how the juxtaposition of old and new is a central theme of the film Wall-E.

Common Materials in Recycled Robot Sculptures

Bodies

  • Boxes or containers made from tin or wood, such as tin food packaging – if it has the branding on it still, with the old-timey fonts and messages, that’s really good – it could be food packaging or lunchboxes, or machine parts
  • Radios and other items with dials and switches
  • Bakelite dishes
  • Large metal fire alarms

Heads – objects that have a fun shape, such as metal cookware such as funnels, colanders, pails, cake pans and citrus fruit juicers

Eyes

  • Viewfinders
  • Opera glasses and binoculars
  • Cameras
  • Glass bulbs, headlights and lamps
  • Round items like plastic or metal caps or metal washers

Hair, limbs and other fun details

  • Car parts such as hub caps or hood ornaments
  • Cooking utensils like egg beaters, graters and silverware
  • Watch components
  • Antennae
  • Farm tools
  • License plates
  • Old metal toys
  • Scrabble and other game pieces
  • Small wheels
  • Paintbrushes
  • Old rulers that fold up
  • Any tiny tin boxes – Altoid, Aspirin, spices

Artists Who Make Robot Sculptures from Recycled Materials

Mark May

https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Z_T0XjmyA/

Gordon Bennett

Anthony Pack

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Robin Davis

Alexi Devilliers

Nemo Gould

Todd Sloane

Make Your Own Robot from Recycled Materials

Idea #1 – Take a piece of scrap wood, paint it a bright color, add details like the items listed above by screwing them on.

Idea #2 – Scribble Bot or Art Bot – make a robot that draws

Idea #3 – Capulet – These are robots I make from gray plastic caps that I drill with my drill press. They are connected with a “spine” made from recycled t-shirt string. Check out photos from when I helped 500 kids make Capulets at KIDfest 2017.

Capulet - plastic cap creature
Capulet – plastic cap robot
Instructions for the Capulet Craft
Instructions for the Capulet Recycled Robot Craft made from plastic caps
Drilling plastic caps with a drill press - safety set-up
Drilling plastic caps with a drill press – safety set-up
Drill press with safety set-up for drilling plastic caps
Drill press with safety set-up for drilling plastic caps

Idea #4 – Take-Apart Event – combine with a robot building craft night

Bob & the kids do Take-Apart activity at Upcycle
Bob & the kids do Take-Apart activity at Upcycle

Idea #5 – Cassie Stephens Robot Week Lesson Plans

https://www.instagram.com/p/B91g1K3HAYb/

Idea #6 – Visit Liberty Street Robot Supply and Repair in Ann Arbor, Michigan, or some of the other combo store/tutoring centers that are part of the 826 network.

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