cardboard automata

Designing your own Automata

Build on your skills from the first Cardboard Automata to begin designing your own!


  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Wooden Dowels/Skewers
  • Glue
  • Straw


  1. Using inspiration from other automata, design the movement you want your automata to have.
  2. Cut out a box with one side exposed, stick in wooden dowel for the central turn mechanism
  3. Arrange your other cardboard pieces
  4. Glue down non-moving cardboard pieces, mark where you’ll have moving cardboard pieces.
  5. Consider the range of movement of the wooden dowels that will move your cardboard pieces when designing your gears.
  6. Place feet on moving wooden dowels to better slide across gears.
  7. Use straws to help guide wooden dowels and reduce friction.
  8. Assemble your pieces together and test before gluing in place. This may take some trial and error. Consider changing the direction of spin, making gears more smooth and moving pieces around.
  9. Decorate!
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