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.
You can listen to my podcast episode about making robots from recycled materials in this YouTube video. It originally aired in April 2020.
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
- 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
- Opera glasses and binoculars
- 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
- Farm tools
- License plates
- Old metal toys
- Scrabble and other game pieces
- Small wheels
- Old rulers that fold up
- Any tiny tin boxes – Altoid, Aspirin, spices
Artists Who Make Robot Sculptures from Recycled Materials
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.
Idea #4 – Take-Apart Event – combine with a robot building craft night
Idea #5 – Cassie Stephens Robot Week Lesson Plans
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.