Scribbling Machines

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In this activity, learners explore electronics and motion by making a Scribbling Machine, a motorized contraption that moves in unusual ways and leaves a mark to trace its path. It’s made from simple materials and is based on the idea of motion created by an offset motor. Try using harvested motors and switches from discarded toys and electronics to make your Scribbling Machine - this not only keeps costs down, but is a playful and inventive way to explore how everyday objects work. To take the activity further, you can also incorporate PicoCrickets to make your Scribbling Machine more intelligent and to explore computers.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - adult

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • motor (1.5v-3v)
  • battery (AA or AAA)
  • electrical wire
  • wire stripper
  • masking tape
  • art scraps (cardboard, milk carton, strawberry basket, lids)
  • hot melt glue stick
  • markers or pens
  • PicoCricket (OPTIONAL)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Computers
  • Electronics
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, ESI-0452567