Robots in the Art Room – Exploring the Fusion of Art and Robotics: A Teacher Success Story


Attention! Attention!

Exciting news on the teacher front this week – plenty of successes to share!

That’s right, Teacher SUCCESSES.

For the first time in my art teaching career, I took the proactive step of integrating robotics into my classroom.

I know, surprising, isn’t it? While my TPT shop specializes in STEAM and Science-related resources, a valid question arises – why did it take me so long to grab those darn robots from the library cabinets and put them on my art cart?

Well, a variety of reasons hindered this process, actually. As you can imagine, for starters: teaching off a cart day after day is already a major inconvenience. Not to mention, those stubborn dusty robots absolutely refuse to charge, regardless of how many different cables I tried.

Here’s the thing – our school’s robots have been sitting in a cabinet since before COVID. Can you blame me for hesitating to bring them out for my students to use when uncertainty loomed in 2020? To top it all off: I was just starting out at a new school!

The dilemma of choosing between sanitization and quarantine, coupled with the challenges of getting things charged or batteries replaced in time… Ugh, just the thought of troubleshooting these mundane issues gave me a headache just thinking about it over the last four years.

For a long while, I thought to myself: this is SO not worth the effort. But, I’m delighted to report, I was… WRONG.

Truth be told, I’ve been using iPads in my Art and Science classes from the very beginning, even throughout COVID despite all the rules and regulations concerning cleaning and sanitization.

But admittedly, the idea of dusting off over 30 robots that had lain dormant for years didn’t exactly motivate me to even fathom taking inventory of what our school had. (I really had no clue what lay in those cabinets).

Well, here we are, in the year 2024, and I’ve FINALLY decided to give these robots a go!

Before I begin, though, it’s important to note that I invited my colleague Monica, our school board’s Robotics consultant, to lead all the workshops mentioned in this post.

So really, she should get all the credit for these amazing STEAM ideas!

Matatalab and Bee-Bots:

In her first workshop, Monica visited two of my Cycle 3 art classes, challenging my Grade 5 students to create abstract art (inspired by the late painter, Piet Mondrian) using both Matatalab and Bee-Bots.

Matatalab is a robot that incorporates block coding using physical tiles on an actual board. The coding device resembles, I would say, a lighthouse or control tower, and the robot that moves is a small UFO. The great thing is when you remove the top of the UFO dome, it reveals a hole where you can insert a thin Crayola marker (provided).

The Matatalab robot’s movements are very sharp and angular, making it perfect for creating shapes with sides such as triangles, squares, rectangles, and even stars!

Meanwhile, the Bee-Bots, although they can also move straight, were mostly used to create circles (you must physically press the direction buttons on the Bee-Bot’s back). To get it to draw, the children had to figure out a way for the Bee-Bot to carry a marker using masking tape and other materials.

Additional materials to colour in the shapes and trace the lines were simple (paint sticks, markers, tape), but I have to say the actual clean-up was a headache. It took more time than anticipated because groups needed to ensure all coding tiles found their way back into their box and were sorted neatly.

The results of their collaborative effort were really interesting (as you can see below). I think a few of the groups got carried away with the different task cards that come along with the Matatalab. Basically, some groups forgot the main objective of the art activity (create an abstract work of art with primary colors, primary values, line, and simple shapes). But for those groups that stayed on task, it was awesome!

Also important to note is that the Bluetooth needed to be constantly re-paired with the right tower and it’s robot. So for the second class of Grade 5s, we made sure to space out the groups further apart.


In the second workshop, Monica introduced my Cycle 2s (Grade 3 & 4) to LittleBits, an electrical circuit STEAM kit. Each “bit” connects to another component magnetically.

At first, Monica briefly introduced the kit but then she quickly let students explore their boxes in small groups without much explanation all on their own. Her hope was that, eventually, someone would figure out how to turn a bit on and make something work.

Surprisingly, my Grade 3 groups excelled at this this task!

Once everyone had figured out how to turn the bits on, she guided them to notice that the bits were color-coded by category (e.g., pink=switch, blue=power source, orange=wires, and green=device).

Then, armed with arts & crafts supplies, LEGOs, and recycled materials, the groups were asked to solve one of two problems: (A) find Monica’s dog who’s lost in the snow or (B) invent a device to defog Monica’s glasses outdoors.

Once again, my Grade 3s rose to the challenge, their smiles and sparkles evident as they tinkered, creating inventive solutions.

Botleys and Sphereo Minis:

During Monica’s latest workshop, she came to my Cycle 1 classes (Grade 1 & 2) equipped with both Botleys and Sphero Minis.

She admitted that the Sphero art activity would be a first for her too, and the children found it funny that they would serve as our little guinea pigs.

The children were divided into 6 groups.

Half of the groups would be given Botleys and a small bag of art supplies (paint sticks, permanent marker, pencil crayons). Students needed to figure out which kinds of lines Botley would or wouldn’t follow, depending on the thickness, colour, and media being used.

The other half were given Spheros, a hula-hoop, and two primary colors (tempera paints). We squirted the paint into two spots within the hoops and gave each group the challenge of mixing the colors together using their robot (and an iPad to drive it) to make non other than (you guessed it!) a secondary colour!

Needless to say, this station was a real hit. Halfway through the class, we switched stations of course. I think all of my Cycle 1s were really excited they got to spend an hour playing with robots in art class.

So I guess, as I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, 2024 is “The Year of Robotics!”

Both my students and I are grateful for the engaging activities that Monica brought to our school.

Evidently, it’s all my students want to talk about now when we cross paths in the hallway.

“Ms. Hope, can we play with the ________ robots again this week in class?!!”

“Umm, maybe in a few weeks, we’ll give it another go buddy.” 😉

Embracing technology, particularly the incorporation of robots, has proven to be a game-changer in my art classroom (ahem, I mean my art cart).

The dynamic engagement and creativity sparked by Matatalab, Bee-Bots, LittleBits, Botleys, and Sphero Minis on those 3 day separate days have definitely transformed the learning experience for my students, and mine as well!

This blog post serves as a testament to the success of integrating these robotic tools into art education, offering a glimpse into four distinct and exciting activities that captivated my students’ imaginations.

As elementary art teachers, let’s not shy away from the potential of technology in our classrooms. Instead, let’s harness its power to inspire and elevate our students’ artistic journeys.

Give it a go, teacher-friend – the world of possibilities is waiting for both you and your students!

Side note: After some online exploration, I stumbled upon the work of Sougwen Chung, a Canadian Chinese artist who engages in collaborative projects with robots to produce her art. If I had been aware earlier, I certainly would have introduced her to these groups prior to the art activities. As outlined on her personal website, Chung specializes in creating abstract paintings with the assistance of robots. She explores the intersection of manually created marks and those made by robots, using it as a way to better understand the dynamics between humans and systems. It’s truly worth taking a look at her unique and innovative approach!


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