Automata are moving machines complete with a wheel and axle. Using a few basic materials you can create your own unique automata.


  • Pens/Markers/Crayons/Paint
  • Tape
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Disposable Chopsticks or Food Skewers
  • Craft Foam or Aluminum Foil
  • Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
  • Paper
  • Cardboard (a cereal box would be perfect!)

Project Steps

Step 1

Take some time to plan out your automata. Think about which pieces you want to move and how they’ll fit together.

Consider drawing a sketch of your design.

Step 2

Let’s cut the cardboard pieces (or you can use a box you already have!)

Cut the following pieces:

  • 1 – 6×6″ square
  • 1 – 3×24″ section (this can be broken into pieces if you don’t have a 24″ long piece)

Hot glue the 3″ pieces along the perimeter of your 6″ square so it becomes a box.

Step 3

Poke a hole in one of the sides. This will become the top of your automata!

Cut an approximate 2″ long piece of straw and hot glue it in the hole you’ve made. You can add more holes for more complex automata.

Step 4

Insert a chopstick/skewer into the straw glued to your automata.

Cut a 2″ circle out of your foam (or make an aluminum circle disk). Glue your circle to the bottom of the chopstick/skewer.

Trim the top of the chopstick/skewer to the length best for your automata. You may need some help from an adult on this step.

Step 5

Create the decoration for the top of your automata and attach your decoration to the top of the chopstick/skewer.

Next, we’ll create the wheel and axle that runs horizontally.

Step 6

Cut another 2″ shape out of foam. This shape will determine how the top of the automata moves. Here are some examples:

  • A square will cause up and down motion
  • A circle will cause a rotation

Experiment with different shapes!

Poke a second skewer through your shape. This shape will run perpendicular to your first shape.

Step 7

Line up your circles and poke the chopstick/skewer through the sides of your automata. Once everything is aligned, hot glue the second foam circle into place.

Step 8

Wrap tape around one end of the horizontal chopstick/skewer to prevent it from falling out.

Step 9

On the other end, create a crank handle! Use any supplies you want for this step.

When you turn the crank, your automata should spring into action!

Step 10

Go back and decorate the outside of your automata!

Share Your Project!

Share, share and share! Take a picture of your automata and send it to us!

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Daily Prompts - Automata