Steampunk robot: What an old toilet roll can teach your kids about science

Even the most frivolous craft project can teach your kids more than just how to use scissors and glue things together.

This Steampunk inspired robot, for example, uses a sneaky counterweight to defy gravity, and is a fun way to explore balance and gravity.

It also has some cool additional features - a see-through head and arms that rotate up and down (revealing the robot’s steel heart). It was produced for Make:, as part of their Summer craft series, and is the perfect Summer holiday project.

Steampunk balancing robot
I wonder if he knows he’s made from two toilet rolls…
Steampunk balancing robot
…and an old plastic deodorant bottle!
Steampunk balancing robot
Wow… he’s light on his feet (or should I say foot)!

Now you make one

Steampunk balancing robot: how-to illustration
Can't read the instructions?

Step 1

Take a toilet roll tube (tube A) and use a compass to draw a circle on one side (slightly smaller than the diameter of the tube). Draw another circle on the opposite side.

Step 2

Now draw a small rectangle between the two circles. Use a craft knife to cut out the circles and rectangle.

Step 3

Take the other tube (tube B) and cut along the length, squeeze it & slide it through the 2 holes in tube A. Mark the overlap with a pencil, and then cut it off - rejoin the tube by glueing a strip of card along the inside of the join. Shorten the tube so it protrudes by 15-20mm.

Step 4

Use a hacksaw to cut the top off an empty plastic ‘roll on’ deodorant bottle.

Step 5

Spray this, the two tubes, and an A4 sheet of thick card with metallic silver.

Step 6

Draw a ‘heart and pipes’ onto paper and glue it on to the middle of tube B.

Step 7

Cut two discs from the silver card & glue them onto the ends. Take the silver card and construct the arms following the diagram above.

Step 8

Spray some more card with bronze metallic spray. Cut thin strips and glue them around the edges of the ‘shoulders’.

Step 9

Fashion a jaw and mouth from two more strips of card and glue them onto the ‘neck’ of the tube A.

Step 10

Use silver & bronze card to create the eyes and the cogs for the 'brain' - use the diagram above as a guide.

Step 11

Use hot glue to attach a clear plastic lid for the ‘head’. Glue on the eyes and whistle.

Step 12

Make the counterweight from stiff wire and an old battery. Use hot glue to secure it onto the inside of tube A (as shown above).

Step 13

Finally, use more hot glue to attach the roller-ball base. That’s it!

Go your own way

You can make a Steampunk robot from almost any material, so don’t feel you have to follow my plans.

My only challenge is this: try and ‘make things move’ - like the arms and head, or flaps that reveal the robots inner workings. If you have an electrical set, you could even add some LED lights!

I’d love to see how you get on, so why not send me a photo!

Left illustration
Right illustration