Dancing Robots with WMSI Mobile STEM Lab

STEM Explorers have hit the gas pedal on creative design this week! The WMSI Mobile unit recently visited Berlin and Whitefield, bringing a simple free build prompt to students: build a robot that moves without using wheels. Some thought it couldn’t be done, but students outdid themselves in another week of fantastic creative problem solving!

One amazing part of Mobile STEM Lab is that we get to see how different groups of students handle the same problem, highlighting the old saying, "there are many paths to achieve the same goal." Many Berlin students took off with our challenge by modeling their robot after an animal's movement system. One group focused on how a spider moves, with several long spindly legs. Somehow, in a 50 minute period, they incorporated 4 motors into their design, coded them, and had the device dancing around the table! (below).

Another group discussed making a sloth, but there was a design challenge here: a sloth's flexible arms and legs are hard to copy using LEGO parts. The pair worked fast, and had a prototype up and running in no time! however, when they coded the robot to move, they realized something strange:

"it moves more like an inch worm than a sloth!"

"No way - that's so cool!"

the "sloth" ended up having a movement system that looked similar to train gearing, giving it an inch worm like movement.

the "sloth" ended up having a movement system that looked similar to train gearing, giving it an inch worm like movement.

Of course, the Youth Leaders had a blast too, not just giving the students great advice but also doing a build of their own!

the Youth Leaders showing off their design skills!

the Youth Leaders showing off their design skills!

In Whitefield, students took an entirely different approach. they wanted to make a robot fly like a bird! We discussed the power to weight ratio needed to achieve flight. They switched their design to "what's the simplest way to achieve a dancing robot". Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.

This idea led to some wicked cool designs! Some students made a robot that looked like a person swimming freestyle (below)

Other students went for the double wind mill approach.

One student designed a race car but with turning arms instead of wheels. He then coded it to go five rotations forwards and then five rotations backwards. on a loop. FOREVER.

Slap a solar charger on that build and it would still be running!

Slap a solar charger on that build and it would still be running!

Finally, it was time to rev up the motors for one final group dance party! This was capped off with Whitefield's very first exploding robot. Shrieks, giggles and merriment were had by all!





WMSI Mobile STEM Lab Wraps up Spin Art

WMSI STEM Mobile Lab wrapped up spin art sessions around Coos County with a strong showing of excitement and innovation from our STEM Explorers! Arriving in Berlin, we were thrilled to see the smiling faces and minds ready to engage. One student said to me, “robots. Did you say we’re building robots?? Hey mom! I need to tell you something! Jeremy said we’re building robots!” She excitedly ran off to tell her mom. This story sums up our spin art well and highlights what we’re trying to do at WMSI: excite people about creative problem solving.


Indeed, each class had a high level of energy and creativity. Berlin students spent a lot of time on the coding part of the lesson, trying out loops, wait functions, and playing around with different motor speeds (below)

Some students tried out using one color and creating zoom patterns.

Other students went for more of the color explosion approach! (below) Several explorers had the idea of putting down two or three markers at once onto the spinner, creating a very symmetrical rainbow pattern!

In Whitefield, we had 3rd and 4th graders who had never coded before and were flabbergasted at the possibilities! (below)

Three Whitefielders stepped spin art up a notch and turned their project into an “art launcher”, sending a piece of paper skittering off the desk. Giggles were had by all.


We wrapped up spin art in Gorham with an excited bunch students and Youth Leaders! Five of Gorham High School’s most innovative inventors showed up to help the STEM Explorers, bringing knowledge, patience, and some well deserved goofiness! 

Gorham students were particularly interested in color blending, using similar shades to create vortexes and swirls. Artsy!

One group dove into coding, making a complicated spin pattern using loop, wait, and power functions. Cool!

This group below combined spin art with some astronomy and used the robot to make a model of a solar system!


At the end of each class we all gathered around and talked about our next session. The new challenge? You must build a LEGO creature that moves; however. you . Can’t. Use. Wheels (Gasps!).

“No way”

“How’s that going to work??”

One student, “I think I have an idea. . .”

We’’ll see how they do after Thanksgiving!