Let’s Discover: Automatic Art


Let your artistic side run (or jitter) free with this project exploring eccentric motion and simple circuits.

We will be making a low-tech automatic art machine we call a scribble bot.

Follow the instructions below to get started, but remember there is no right or wrong way to make a scribble bot. You can swap the cup for a berry basket or small yogurt container, the cork for a taped-on popsicle stick, or add as many markers as you like – get creative!



  • Battery (AA or AAA)
  • Hobby/toy motor (1.5V – 3V)
  • Wire
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paperclips (metal)
  • Tape
  • Cup
  • Markers
  • Cork


  • Attach the motor – found at most hobby shops or hardware/electronics stores – to the top of the cup using tape or glue. Our cup had an indent on top so we glued on some foam core board to make a flat surface. Ensure the motor shaft hangs completely clear of the cup.


  • Connect the wires to the motor’s leads. We simply twisted the wire through and around the leads, but crimping, soldering or even adding a bit of electrical tape would make a stronger connection. You will need a set of wire cutters or wire strippers for this step if your wires are insulated at the ends.autoart3
  • Attach the battery to the top of the cup. Connect the end of one wire to an end of the battery. Twisting the wire onto a metal paperclip and taping the paperclip to the battery can make a stronger connection than taping the wire on directly.autoart4
  • Now we’ll make a simple ‘switch’ for our circuit. Fold a piece of aluminum foil to a size that will connect to the battery, and fit a paperclip snugly in the middle. Tape the foil to the other end of the battery and connect the paperclip to the other wire. Putting the paperclip in the fold of the foil will turn the motor ‘on’ – removing it will turn the bot ‘off’.


  • Stick the cork on the motor shaft, making sure it’s off-centre. If you don’t have a cork, use a hot glue stick, or tape on part of a popsicle stick – anything with a bit of weight that will stay attached to the motor will work, as long as it’s off-centre. The offset weight is what gives the bot its eccentric motion.
  • Choose your colours and add markers to your bot, balanced so it can stand. Decorate your bot with any art supplies you have on hand.
  • Lay down some paper and let it loose! Make sure you are ready to re-direct the bot when it gets too close to the edges.



  • Experiment with how far the motor’s weight is offset. Does this change how the scribble bot moves?
  • Change the number and position of markers to create different patterns.
  • What images can you see in the random scribbles? Colour in shapes and add some patterns yourself to complete the artwork!

We think you’re going to love this experiment. But, if your markers run out or your Scribble Bot gets exhausted, switch gears and drop into the Discovery Centre. The brand new exhibit GPS Adventures Canada, which explores the world of geocaching, is on now until January 3rd.

For more great things to discover – visit the Discovery Centre on Barrington Street in Halifax, check out their website  or join them on facebook.

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