Monster Automaton

My son has always been fascinated by how things work, so I knew I had to try out this cardboard automaton with him. I love that it's a fun way for him to play with simple machines, and it also creates a really cool art piece!

Step-by-step tutorial

  • Step 1

    Use a large plastic cup and trace four circles on the cardboard. Cut the four circles out.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 1

  • Step 2

    Use school glue to glue two of the circles together to create a thicker cam. For faster results, let an adult apply hot glue.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 2

  • Step 3

    To make the axle, poke one of the cams with a skewer in the center. Don't worry if it's not quite perfectly centered, it will still work. Apply school glue to attach the skewer. For faster results, let an adult apply hot glue.

    Photo reference of how to complete step 3

  • Step 4

    With the end of your scissors, poke a hole about an inch in from the top edge of your shoebox. Cut the straw in thirds and poke one piece through the hole. 

    Photo reference of how to complete step 4

  • Tip

    Use school or hot glue to secure the straw with the shoebox. The straw allows the skewer to spin freely.

  • Step 5

    Poke the second skewer through the center of the second cam. Then, use your scissors to poke two more holes through the sides of the box for the straws. With the cams in place, I had my son help me test out the motion. He was delighted to discover that rotating the horizontal skewer rotated the vertical skewer!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 5

  • Tip

    Make sure the second cam doesn't touch the backside of the box when it is assembled. If it does, poke new holes to move the skewer a bit more forward.

  • Done!

    Use your construction paper and markers to make some monsters! You can also use a paper cup to create your monster. Once you are finished, tape or glue it on the vertical axle. Let your monster fly!

    Photo reference of how to complete step 6

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