Molly’s Robot


Created by a girl named Molly for a class project, this neat robot was proudly featured on her dad Grant’s Flickr page, where I stumbled across it.

Grant, a interactive designer and hardware geek who runs his web server off a Newton, somehow quelled the urge to interfere with his daughter’s project. I emailed him to find out how it went.

My daughter’s growing interest in robotics and electronics stems back to her involvement with a First Lego League team starting about 18 months ago. She was mainly an analyst and NXT programmer for the team, rather than a builder, but the experience piqued her interest in science and engineering more than I could have possibly imagined. She was also the only female on the six member team.

Needless to say, I was rather pleased with the whole thing.

Molly decided to take electronics technology as one of her grade ten options this year. She told my wife and I that it was because she wanted to hang out with her buddies from the FLL team, but I know it was partially due to her interest in the field. Given that electronics, computers, and building cool things out of bits of junk have been interests of mine since junior high — I was absolutely going to encourage her involvement and studies.

I had my own ideas of how to approach the robot, but I wanted Molly to come up with her own solutions and suggestions. However, Molly has never thought of herself as a mechanical designer or builder. She’s artistic and musical, has a sensitivity for typography, and a fantastic grasp of cut-n-paste-n-customize HTML and JavaScript (she’s maintained her own website since she was 8). But a builder, she is not.

This is where I came in.

Through encouragement, patience, and continual involvement regarding suggested materials use and building techniques, I pushed her along. Slowly, the pieces came together. She drilled and tightened and soldered and tweaked — and I only helped when asked specifically or an extra set of hands was required. When scrounging parts from my collected heaps, I would offer several similar chunks of detritus, allowing her to make the final call of which to use. When constructing and wiring, I let her know what I thought would be the best practices and techniques to use — but she pretty much had them figured out already.

Ultimately, we both had a lot of fun … with very little frustration.

Good job Molly for building the robot, and good job Grant for not building the robot!

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