Cranky Contraptions

July 3, 2020

Crank up your creativity with this activity from the 3M Tinkering Hub and make an automata to bring a story to life. 

Kaitlyn Chandler engineers a way to upcycle packing materials into small movable toys. Just because they're cranky, doesn't mean they're not fun to make. 

Materials | Supplies

  • cardboard
  • hot glue
  • paper, foam, or packaging materials
  • scissors
  • hole punch, awl, or nail
  • needle nose pliers
  • 18 gauge wire
  • markers, etc.

Concepts Explored

  • cause and effect
  • simple machines
  • upcycling
  • hand tools
  • engineering

Discovery Starters

How does the bend in the wire change the motion of the character?

What happens if your increase or decrease the size of your contraption?

Is it possible to have more than one character in a single contraption? Why or why not?

How doe the crank wire and follower wire interact?


Explore Further

Build multiple contraptions and try to connect them together. Can you move more than one contraptions with a single crank handle? 

Scale up your cranky contraption to a large size, what happens to the pieces?

Try to build a contraption out of items you find in nature.

Additional Resources

Caberet Mechanical Theater website Automata

Amazeum YOU activities Cardboard Wearables | Air Powered Vehicles