Robots

 

 

Robots! Think of the robot in Lost in Space (Danger, Will Robinson!), Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still, Robby in Forbidden Planet, Rosie the robot maid in the Jetsons. Doctor Who’s Daleks, Star Trek’s Data. Marvin, the dismal robot in Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

See below for robot books and resources of all kinds. Build a robotic arm and a programmable robot; make tin-can and cereal-box robots; and learn about a robot so adorable that people help it cross the street.

READ ABOUT ROBOTS – Fiction

 imgres Heather Brown’s The Robot Book (Accord Publishing, 2013) explains what a robot is made of – one mouth, two eyes, two arms – but it’s what’s inside (a mechanical heart) that counts. A great interactive book with sturdy cogs, gears, bolts, and wheels to turn, slide, and manipulate. For roboticists ages 1-4.
imgres-1 In Ame Dyckman’s Boy and Bot (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012), a boy out gathering pine cones meets a big bright-red soup-can-shaped robot in the woods and the two have a wonderful time playing – until the robot’s power switch is inadvertently switched off. Worried, the boy takes the robot home and does everything he can think of to revive it, including reading it a story and feeding it applesauce. Finally the boy falls asleep. The robot then powers on, only to find his new friend – off. He carries the boy back to the laboratory and attempts to repair the malfunction (oil? a new battery?). Luckily all is put right by the timely arrival of the robot’s inventor. Cleverly funny, with a simple text for ages 3-6.
 imgres-2 Jon Scieszka’s Robot Zot! (Simon & Schuster, 2009) is out to conquer the Earth. The problem: he has landed in a household kitchen and he’s just three inches tall. He battles enemy kitchen appliances and a television set, and rescues the Queen of All Earth (a pink cell phone), before speeding off to conquer new galaxies. The pictures are hilarious, and so is Robot Zot, who talks like the Terminator. (“No one stop Robot Zot. Robot Zot crush lot.”) For ages 3-7.
 imgres-3 The star of Kelly DiPucchio’s Clink (Balzer + Bray, 2011) is an outmoded little robot with red feet, who can make (burned) toast and play music, but lacks the glitzier features of the newer, spiffier robots. Eventually, however, a little boy comes along for whom Clink is just right. It’s a Corduroy story, with robots. For ages 4-7.
 imgres-4 In Margaret McNamara’s The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot (Schwartz & Wade, 2011), an outer-space take on the Three Little Pigs tale, the three little (green) aliens, Bork, Gork, and Nklxwcyz, have been sent off by their mama to find planets of their own – but have been told to beware of the Big Bad Robot.  (“I’ll crack and smack and whack your house down!” meeped the Robot.) For ages 4-8.
For many more versions of “The Three Little Pigs” (and lots of pig resources), see PERFECT PIGS.
 imgres-5 David Lucas’s The Robot and the Bluebird (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2008) is an old-fashioned fable (with robot). A robot with a broken heart is sent to the scrap heap where, one cold night, he adopts a shivering little bluebird. The bird makes her home in the robot’s empty chest and when she explains that she needs to travel south for the winter, he sets out to take her there. The robot gives out when they arrive, with the last words “Make your home in my heart” – and he ends up as a home for generations of nesting bluebirds. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-6 In Mac Barnett’s Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World (Disney Hyperion, 2010) – a picture book in graphic novel format – a little girl builds a gigantic robot for the science fair. The robot promptly breaks loose and goes on a rampage through the city. (“I probably shouldn’t have given it a superclaw or a laser eye or the power to control dogs’ minds,” she opines.) Funny and clever. For ages 4-9.
 imgres-7 In Cece Bell’s Rabbit and Robot (Candlewick, 2014), Robot spends the night with his friend Rabbit. Rabbit has a list of activities planned, but everything soon goes wrong – beginning with the pizza. (Robot doesn’t like carrots on his; he prefers nuts and bolts.) And there’s a great scene is which both appear in Rabbit-shaped pajamas. For early readers ages 5-7.
 imgres-8 In poet Ted Hughes’s The Iron Giant (Yearling, 1999), an enormous and indestructible robot with glowing eyes has crashed to Earth and is feeding himself on metal: barbed wire, tractors, and farm equipment. A little boy named Hogarth befriends the Giant and turns to him when a mysterious alien creature – the Space-Bat-Angel-Dragon – lands in Australia. As it turns out, the space creature is really there to bring about world peace. For ages 6-9.
 imgres-9 The 1999 film version of The Iron Giant is rated PG.
From Wired magazine, a thought-provoking article on The Iron Giant.
 imgres-10 For fans of the irrepressible and imaginative Freddy the Pig, see Walter R. Brooks’s The Clockwork Twin (Overlook Juvenile Books, 2013), in which Freddy and fellow animals on the Bean farm rescue a boy named Adoniram Smith from both a flood and his cruel aunt and uncle. Realizing that the boy is lonely, they convince Mr. Bean’s inventor brother Benjamin to make him a friend: a wooden robot operated by clockwork. When the aunt and uncle show up to reclaim Adoniram, they mistake the clockwork twin for the real boy. As always, Freddy and friends are funny, flamboyant, and make for a great read. For ages 7-10.
For many more pig resources (including Freddy’s fan page), see PERFECT PIGS.
 images L. Frank Baum’s Tik-Tok of Oz (HarperCollins, 1996) – eighth book in the original Oz series – features Tik-Tok, a clockwork man, and Betsy Bobbin of Oklahoma, who ends up in Oz along with her friend Hank, a mule. For ages 7-11.
 imgres-12 John Olander’s steampunk-ish My Robots (Two Lions, 2012) purports to be notes on the robots made by genius inventor Lady Regina Bonquers III (who disappeared in 1972). The book is designed like a scrapbook, crammed with photos, notes, sketches, newspaper clippings, and souvenirs. A fun read for ages 8-12.
 imgres-13 By Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith, Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage (Quirk Books, 2014) features Nick and Tesla, 11-year-old sleuths who solve mysteries using science. In this book – one of a series – they nab a criminal mastermind using robots. Instructions for building four different robots are included in the book, among them the Semi-Invisible Bottle Bot, for which you’ll need (among other things) two wire coat hangers and a 2-liter plastic water bottle. For ages 8-12.
 imgres-14 Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Scholastic, 2007) features 12-year-old Hugo, an orphan who lives secretly in the Paris train station, an incredible automaton in the form of a writing man, and Georges Melies, a master of early silent film. A terrific read for ages 9-12.
 imgres-15 Hugo, the 2011 film version of the book, was directed by Martin Scorsese. Rated PG.
 images-1 Selznick’s automaton is based on The Writer, an automaton built by Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the late 1770’s and believed to be the oldest example of a computer.
 imgres-16 A similar automaton, Maillardet’s Draughtsman-Writer, dates to the same period. It is now in the Franklin Institute science museum in Philadelphia.
 imgres-17 Gary Blackwood’s The Curiosity (Dial, 2014) is the story of Rufus, a 12-year-old chess prodigy, recruited by a sleazy showman to operate a chess-playing automaton called the Turk. History, mystery, and suspense for ages 9-12.
 imgres-18 John Bellairs’s books are Gothic novels for kids: creepy, dark, and exciting. In The Eyes of the Killer Robot (Bantam, 1994), starring Johnny Dixon, evil wizard Evaristus Sloane plans to bring a robot to life – using Johnny’s eyes. Available for Kindle and at libraries. (If you get hooked, all the Bellairs books are available for Kindle. The series was continued by Brad Strickland after Bellairs’s death, but the Strickland books lack the snap of the originals.) For ages 9-12.
 imgres-19 In Evan Kuhlman’s Brother from a Box (Atheneum, 2013), Matt’s “brother” is a French robot named Norman, created by his genius computer scientist father. There’s humor and suspense – Norman catches a computer virus and goes nuts; a pair of sinister strangers attempt to steal him – but there’s food for thought here too. Matt, for example, discovers that Norman resembles a son his parents lost years ago. For ages 9-12.
 imgres-20 In roboticist Daniel Wilson’s sci-fi adventure A Boy and His Bot (Bloomsbury USA, 2011),  young Code Lightfall falls through a hole in an ancient mound in Oklahoma and ends up in the Greater Mekhos Co-Prosperity Sphere, inhabited entirely by robots. (It was set up centuries ago as a science experiment.) Now the deadly (and squidlike) Immortalis is attempting to take over both Mekhos and Earth, and Code – with a pair of robot friends – sets out to save both. He’s also searching for his lost grandfather. For ages 10-13.
 imgres-21 In Greg van Eekhout’s post-apocalyptic The Boy at the End of the World (Bloomsbury USA, 2012), Fisher – who may be the last living person on Earth – sets off on a quest with Click, the robot, a pygmy mammoth, and a talking prairie dog to find others of his kind. For ages 10 and up.
 imgres-27 In Helen Fox’s Eager (Yearling, 2006), set in a high-tech future England, Grumps, the old-fashioned robot belonging to Gavin and Fleur Bell’s family, is running down, and they can’t afford one of the new state-of-the-art BDC4s. A helpful scientist friend then loans them EGR3, known as Eager, an unusual little robot who is able to learn and feel emotions like a human child. Together, the children and Eager uncover a plot by the sinister BDC4 robots to rebel against their owners and take over the world. The book raises questions about what it means to be human and the dangers of technology. A discussion promoter for ages 11-14.
 imgres-23 In Kurtis Scaletta’s The Winter of the Robots (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013), set in Minneapolis, Jim – the narrator – sick of playing second fiddle to his science geek friend Oliver, has decided to partner for the science fair with Rocky, a girl who wants to study otters. Then, along with Oliver and his new science partner, Dmitri, the kids begin to investigate a peculiar junkyard (on the site of a former research company) and discover a population of fierce feral self-programming robots. To combat these, the kids create battle bots of their own. An exciting read for ages 11-14.
 imgres-24 Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot (Spectra, 2008) introduces the famous “Three Laws of Robotics:” (1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human to come to harm. (2) A robot must obey orders give to it by humans except where such orders conflict with the First Law. (3) A robot must protect its own existence as along as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law. He follows up with a terrific series of interlinked robot stories. Two sequels. Highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
 imgres-25 The 2004 film I, Robot is sort of based on parts of the book. Rated PG-13.
 imgres-26 The title story of Ray Bradbury’s short-story collection I Sing the Body Electric! (William Morrow, 1998) is a tale of how a robotic grandmother comes to comfort a family of grieving children. It’s a lovely story and if you can track down the 1982 television movie version – “The Electric Grandmother” starring Maureen Stapleton – even better.
 imgres-28 In Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives (William Morrow, 2002), protagonist Joanna and family move to the little town of Stepford where she soon notices that all the women are turning into gorgeous and submissive housewives. Feminist issues and robots. A cool read for ages 13 and up.
 imgres-29 In Philip K. Dick’s dystopic post-World-War-Terminus sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Del Ray, 1996), Rick Deckard, the main character, is a bounty hunter, tracking androids – which is difficult, because the androids are nearly impossible to tell from human beings. (The crucial difference: androids lack empathy.) Decakard is also broke, and can’t afford an organic pet – the ultimate in status symbols. Instead he owns an electric sheep. A thought-provoking read for ages 13 and up.
The 1982 film Blade Runner is loosely (very loosely) based on the PKD’s book. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard. Rated R (for violence).
 imgres-30 First, THIS IS NOT REAL, even though it looks real. A robot named Boilerplate did not charge up San Juan Hill with the Rough Riders or visit the South Pole. Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett’s Boilerplate (Harry N. Abrams, 2009) purports to be the story of “History’s Mechanical Marvel” – a robot soldier named Boilerplate, invented in 1893, and subsequently sharing the stage with everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Lawrence of Arabia. Wonderful creative graphics (and a testimony to Photoshop). For teenagers and adults.
 images-2 Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (Penguin Classics, 2004) is the science fiction play, originally written in 1920, that first introduced the word “robot.” The initials stand for Rossum’s Universal Robots, a robot-making factory. Issues of justice, power, and the effect of advanced technology on humanity. For ages 13 and up.
Read R.U.R. online here.
 imgres-31 Best Robot Science Fiction is an annotated list of 25 favorite sci-fi books featuring robots.

READ ABOUT ROBOTS – Nonfiction

 imgres-32 Clive Gifford’s Robots (Atheneum Books, 2008) is an informative non-fiction account of the many different types of robots and their abilities. Learn about underwater robots, humanoid robots, medical robots, space robots, and spy robots. (An earlier version of the book cover was much friendlier, with a cute robotic giraffe.) For ages 5-9.
 imgres-33 Helaine Becker’s Zoobots (Kids Can Press, 2014) is a fascinating account of robots based on wild animals, with illustrations of the actual animal and its paired zoobot, and explanations of the zoobot’s structure and function. For example, learn about robots based on pygmy shrews, snakes, and jellyfish. For ages 7-10.
 imgres-34 Learn more about zoobots at Popular Science’s Animal Robotics and 5 Robots That Look, Act, and Are Designed Like Animals. (Robot sea turtles, hummingbirds, squirrels, fish, flies, and more.)
 imgres-35 Roger Bridgman’s Robot (Dorling Kindersley, 2004) in the Eyewitness series features a different robotic topic on each double-page spread, among these Fictional Robots, Robot Ancestors, Artificial Intelligence, Robots in Industry, Animatronics, and Cyborgs. Illustrated with wonderful color photographs. For age 8-12.
 imgres-36 Kathy Ceceri’s 128-page Robotics (Nomad Press, 2012) is a terrific introduction to the science and technology of robots. Included are a reader-friendly text, Fun Facts boxes, lists of words to know, and 20 great projects, among them a Wobblebot, a Passive Dynamic Mini Walker, and a Robotic Arm. For ages 8-12.
 images-3 By Gaby Wood, Edison’s Eve (Anchor, 2003) – subtitled “A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life” – is a reader-friendly history of robotics. The Eve of the title refers to Thomas Edison’s attempt to capture the American toy market with a talking doll. (He failed; the doll was creepy.) A thoroughly interesting read for teenagers and adults.
 imgres-37 Tom Standage’s The Turk (Berkley Trade, 2003) is the story of Wolfgang von Kempelen’s marvelous chess-playing automaton – a robotic creation that thrilled the world and inspired both the computer and the modern detective story. For teenagers and adults. (Also see Gary Blackwood’s The Curiosity, above.)
 images-4 From The Atlantic magazine, The Robot Will See You Now is a 2013 article by Jonathan Cohn on medical robots.
From How Stuff Works, How Robots Work is an illustrated multi-page explanation.
 imgres-38 Carnegie Mellon’s Robot Hall of Fame has pictures and information about each year’s “best” robots.
 ro.sm1 OLD robots! See Mechanical Marvels of the Nineteenth Century for such proto-robots as The Steam Man, The Automatic Man, and the Robots of Oz.
 imgres-39 From the RobotShop, History of Robotics is an annotated timeline of the history of robotics beginning with the ancient Greeks.
 images-7 A Brief History of Robots runs from Karel Capek’s R.U.R. (1921) through DARPA’s Pet-Proto and Legged Squad Support System (said to look like a warthog). Video clips accompany each entry.
 imgres-40 From Forbes magazine, 30 Great Moments in the History of Robots runs from the Babylonian clepsydra to the driverless car. Hyperlinked and illustrated.
 imgres-41 From The Tech Museum, Universal Robots: The History and Workings of Robotics is a detailed and illustrated overview.
 imgres-42 Kacie Kinzer’s Tweenbots are possibly the world’s most adorable robots. People help them cross the street.

BUILDING ROBOTS

 imgres-43 Aubrey Smith’s How to Build a Robot (With Your Dad) (Michael O’Mara, 2013) has 20 easy-to-make robotics projects, among them a robot suit and edible robots. Not clear why not “With Your Mom.” For ages 6-9.
 imgres-44 Sean Kenney’s Cool Robots (Henry Holt and Company, 2010) has instructions for building a lot of great LEGO robots (and spaceships). Illustrated with color photographs. For ages 6-10.
 1303695743m_SPLASH See Sean Kenney: Art with LEGO Bricks for more on Kenney’s books and exhibits of his LEGO creations.
 imgres-45 Daniel Benedettelli’s The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Laboratory (No Starch Press, 2013) has clear step-by-step instructions for building, programming, and experimenting with “five wicked cool robots!” For ages 12 and up. (See Robot Kits, below.)
 imgres-41 From Texas Tech University, Robotics Lessons and Activities are intended to form the backbone of a robotics curriculum, using LEGO Mindstorms. A well-done list of multi-part lessons.
 imgres-41 From Popular Mechanics, Build Your First Robot is a complete guide to building your own programmable robot from scratch.
 imgres-41 How to Make a Robot is a 10-lesson tutorial on robot-building for beginners.
 imgres-41 From TryEngineering, Build Your Own Robot Arm has complete instructions for building your own robot arm using everyday materials. Recommended for ages 8-18.

ROBOT KITS

 images-5 LEGO Mindstorms is a series of terrific programmable LEGO robots. See the website for kits, apps, downloads, and building instructions.
 imgres-46 OWI Robotics is a great source for robot kits of all kinds. For example, check out the Robotic Arm and the Moonwalker II.
 imgres-47 Arduino is “the microcontroller that launched a maker revolution.” What can you do with it? Check out this Popular Science article: One 12-Year-Old’s Quest to Remake Education, One Arduino at a Time.
Check out this very friendly Arduino Tutorial from MIT.
 imgres-48 By Michael Margolis, Make an Arduino-Controlled Robot (Maker Media, 2012) shows hopeful robot-builders how to do it. Also by Margolis, see the Arduino Cookbook (O’Reilly Media, 2011).
 imgres-49 The Hummingbird Robotics Kit is a spin-off from a research project at Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE lab, whose mission was to create engineering and robotics activities appealing to middle-school-level girls and boys. The site has instructions, tutorials, sample robots, project ideas, and curricula. The kit costs $199.

ACTIVITIES AND LESSON PLANS

 imgres-50 See NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers for information about the robotic rovers. The site has pages for kids, students, and educators, with many activities and printable resources.
 imgres-50 NASA Rover is an online game in which kids program a virtual rover and steer it around obstacles.
 imgres-51 For many more resources on Mars, including instructions for building your own LEGO robotic rover, see MARS: FROM CURIOSITY TO BARSOOM.
 robot64 Robots for Kids has a history of robotics, a robot image gallery, robot video clips, online experiments with electrical circuits, lesson plan outlines, and quizzes.
 imgres-53 Robots is a terrific iPad app featuring a host of wonderful robots. Find out all about them.
 pr2_grasping_towel_v2_320w From Discovery Education, Robots is a lesson plan on how robots can help people with disabilities. Targeted at grades 6-8.
 imgres-54 From NASA, Robotics Lesson Plans has a long and interesting list, variously appropriate for students in grades K-12. Also at the site are downloadable educator’s resource and curriculum guides.
 imgres-41 From PBS Learning Media, What Is a Robot? is a lesson plan supplemented with QuickTime videos of several different kinds of robots, targeted at grades 3-5. (Requires registration.)
 imgres-57 Play Botball! This is a robotics competition of middle- and high-school-level students. Participants get a kit with reusable components to get them started building their robots.
 imgres-56 The downloadable (free) 4-H Robotics Curriculum is designed for all levels of expertise, beginner to advanced.

ROBOT ARTS AND CRAFTS

 imgres-52 Stephen T. Johnson’s My Little Blue Robot (Simon & Schuster, 2012) is a build-it-yourself book with which kids can made a talking (!) cardboard robot on wheels. All the pieces, of heavy-duty cardboard, are right there in the book. (No glue; the whole thing goes together with slots and tabs.) For ages 3-8.
 imgres-58 Make a great robot from a cardboard box! Viviane Schwartz’s Welcome to Your Awesome Robot (Flying Eye Books, 2013) shows how, via great cartoon illustrations. For ages 4-8.
 imgres-59 Ralph Masiello’s Robot Drawing Book (Charlesbridge, 2011) has step-by-step instructions for drawing a wonderful array of colorful robots. For ages 7-9.
 imgres-60 Robert Malone’s Recycled Robots: 10 Robot Projects (Workman Publishing, 2012) combines a delightful and informative book on robots with instructions and accessories for making ten great robots out of recycled materials. (You’ll have to supply the boxes, paper towel rolls, and plastic cups.) Fun and educational for ages 8 and up.
 images-6 Rob Ives’s Paper Automata (Tarquin Publications, 1997) is a collection of four working paper models (cut and glue together). For example, make hopping sheep and a pecking hen. For ages 12 and up.
 imgres-61 Keisuke Saka’s Karakuri: How to Make Mechanical Paper Models That Move (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012) explains the mechanism by which karakuri work (levers, cams, cranks, gears, linkages, and Geneva stops), describes basic paper crafting techniques, and includes five karakuri models to build, among them a tea-serving robot. For ages 12 and up.
 cando-robots-craft-photo-420-FF1108EFA01 From Spoonful, 10 Robot Crafts include some great tin-can robots, a robot in a bottle (a.k.a. “2-liter transporter”), and an aluminum-foil-wrapped robot.
 mask_3_robot_0 Robot Crafts from Activity Village include a cut-and-paste robot, edible cracker-and-vegetable robots, a robot costume, and a robot mask.
 robot-final1 From the MAKE website, see these illustrated instructions for making Cereal Box Robots.
 imgres-62 California artist Larry Wong builds robotic sculptures called Mechanoids from junk. Check them out here.
 imgres-63 Pittsburgh artist Toby Fraley builds wonderful robot sculptures from vintage thermos bottles and picnic coolers. See them here.

ROBOTS AND POETRY

 imgres-64 Kenn Nesbit’s poem, My Robot’s Misbehaving, comes from his book of children’s poetry, My Hippo Has the Hiccups (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009).
 imgres-65 Scryf is a robot that writes poetry in the sand. (In Dutch.)
 imgres-66 By poet Robert Pinsky, see Death and the Powers: A Robot Pageant.
 imgres-41 Robotics Poetry is a great middle-school-level project that combines robots and poetry.

ROBOTS IN THE MOVIES

 imgres-67 Pixar’s animated film Wall-E features possibly the most appealing robot ever, a garbage-collecting bot left behind on an abandoned earth so buried in trash that life is no longer sustainable. Then Wall-E finds a growing plant – which alerts EVE, a reconnaissance robot with electric-blue eyes. Rated G.
 imgres-68 Robots (2005) is an animated film set in a world of robots, starring Rodney Copperbottom, brilliant inventor, who sets off to the big city to try to make the world a better place. Rated PG.
 imgres-69 Transformers! There are toys, cartoons, and a 2007 movie, Transformers. Rated PG-13.
 imgres-70 Robot & Frank (2012), starring Frank Langella, set in the near future, is the story of an ex-jewel thief whose son gives him a robot caretaker. The two develop an unlikely friendship. A wonderful thought-provoking film. Rated PG-13.
 images-8 Robots in Film has reviews, a robot photo gallery, and an extensive library of robot films, listed by year, genre, or robot.
 images-8 Androids and Robots in the Movies is a long, briefly annotated list, categorized by decade from the 1920s on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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