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In this activity, learners construct bug models that "jitter" all over the table with just a battery, motor, and counterweight. Use this hands-on activity to facilitate inquiry and invention as well as demonstrate how circuits and motors work to power machines.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • 4 paperclips for the legs
  • 1/2 of a hot-glue stick
  • Electric motor (3 volts DC or less, with wires attached if you can find them)
  • 1 AA battery
  • Block of insulation foam (yellow or pink)
  • A finger-length strip of thin foam or fabric
  • Masking tape or colored tape
  • Craft materials to decorate your jitterbug: feathers, googly-eyes, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, glitter


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Electrical Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Electricity and Magnetism
      • Electric Motors
      • Electric Circuits
    • Motion and Forces
      • Machines
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • About Inquiry
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Electronics


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 0087813