STEM Robot Fun with Teenagers and Young Children!

An image of a group of teenagers sitting on a table, making robots with several vegetables, including potatoes, carrots and parsnips.

The Crafty Robot Takeover 

As you may have seen on our social media pages (Twitter, Instagram and Facebook) we have been organising a 'Takeover' of the OKIDO pop-up shop in Hammersmith once a month. It’s a fun day for young children where we run workshops making Fizzbots from paper cups, and vegetable-based BattleBots with Smartibot (Botato Wars). 

Image of three paper cup robots and one cup lid robot decorated with recyclable materials


A creative STEM workshop for all ages!

We don’t have a maximum age restriction for any of the workshops, but usually younger children (4-12 years) and their parents participate. So, we were quite surprised when a group of 17-year olds showed up for a Botato Wars workshop during our last takeover! They had found the link to our Eventbrite page and were very, very excited to build some BattleBots.

After explaining the outline of the workshop to them, I felt like I unleashed some sort of creative force and enthusiasm that I particularly enjoyed seeing. After all, the Botato Wars workshop is all about being creative and having fun, and I saw no shortage of that during this workshop! 

Teenagers versus young children building robots

It was an interesting workshop and I noticed some interesting patterns: the teenagers are much faster in building their robots (as you would expect) and make more adjustments/amendments than younger children, but both age groups make the same common mistakes (making the robot too heavy or too low), and take almost the same amount of time to finish their robots. Nevertheless, the teenagers were definitely more cheeky and tried to incorporate the strangest materials for the battle (like attaching tape to the front of the robot to trap their opponents - nice try indeed).

Their battles were also ruthless:

A GIF of two vegetable robots fighting

Robot workshop also for adults!

Although I found it quite surprising that a group of teenagers showed up for the workshop, the first ever Botato Wars was held with a bunch of grown-ups at Machines Room in Hackney and the second at the Robotex International conference in Estonia.

Three young adults holding robots made from vegetables and staring intently into the camera

Learning by making (robots)

It turns out the Botato Wars workshop suits individuals of all ages, and I think its success lies in its peculiarity; it is very unlikely that someone has made a robot from vegetables before, so it is a new experience that you have to explore step by step in order to understand what you are doing. It doesn't matter what age you are then, because it is a novel activity for (almost) all of us! It turns out that young children are as good (or better) at this as teenagers and adults. Maybe we would all be more able to deal with unfamiliar situations if we approached them more like five year olds? Maybe that is the most important part of STEM education?

Bigger and better vegetable robots

I have to say, I was quite impressed with everyone’s creations during the Botato Wars workshop, but it would be so much fun to see what older participants would come up with if we brought more motors, bigger vegetables and cables to make longer connections between the motors and the circuit board. We will definitely try that out next time!

An image of six vegetable robots, made from potatoes, parsnips and carrots  

Thanks again to the amazing group of teenagers who came to the workshop!

An image of 10 individuals standing and looking towards the camera, smiling

We are running another takeover in Hammersmith with four fun workshops in November. Book here!