Troubleshooting Your Bot 1

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Troubleshooting is a key skill for engineers to develop. For some it comes easy, but for me it was a skill I had to develop on the job. Troubleshooting is essentially trying out different things to fix something that is broken. It is brainstorming possible reasons why something isn’t working the way it should, and coming up multiple ways to fix it, then trying those solutions. It may sound complicated, but we troubleshoot all the time. If your trying to figure out what seasoning will make dinner taste the best, you’re troubleshooting. If you’re toy stops working, and you replace the battery, you’re troubleshooting. Through an adorable little story, my preschooler learned about troubleshooting, and then learned what makes a robot work!

Troubleshooting a Robot | Build a Robot for Kids | Boy + Bot inspired activities

Troubleshooting Your Bot

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I recently found a cute story about a boy who befriends a robot, called “Boy + Bot“. In the story, the boy falls asleep, and the robot thinks the boy is broken and he tries to fix him. He gives the boy oil, reads an instruction  manual, and tries to change out the boy’s battery.

My preschooler thought the story was hilarious, especial when the robot tried to put a battery in the boy. But he didn’t understand why the robot had added oil to the boy. I told him the robot thought the boy was broken, so he was trying to fix the boy the way you would fix a robot. To help him understand further, I found a really simple tin can robot for us to build.

First thing we did was read the instruction manual on how to put the robot together. The instruction manual gave us step by step directions on building the robot, and ideas on what we could have done wrong if our robot didn’t work.

Troubleshooting a Robot | Build a Robot for Kids | Boy + Bot inspired activities

One step in the manual told us to to add oil to two gears: a worm gear attached to the motor and a spur gear attached to the robot’s feet. Why did we need to add oil? When two gears move while in contact with each other, there is friction.  Oil acts as a lubricant between the gears, and reduces the friction between two surfaces. Less friction leads to the gears working longer. During one of my jobs a mechanical engineer, we had temperature sensors on the gears. If the temperature when about a certain point, we knew oil was needed. Another affect of friction is it can slow down movement. In fact, too much friction because of not enough oil can cause gears to stop moving all together. Since the boy in our story wasn’t moving, the robot thought the boy’s gears had stopped moving. That is why he gave the boy what a robot would need: oil!

Troubleshooting a Robot | Build a Robot for Kids | Boy + Bot inspired activities

Once we finished building our robot, we needed to add a power source so he could move. In our book, the robot thought he could “fix” the boy with a battery. He knew he needed some kind of power source to get the boy moving again. So did our robot! We added a battery, then turned the battery pack switch on, and our robot moved!

With our own robot complete, we now understood why the robot tried troubleshooting the boy the way he did. He was troubleshooting the boy the way you would troubleshoot a robot!

We had so much fun building our robot, and I had a lot of fun sharing a bit about engineering with my boy! Try teaching your kids about troubleshooting by building this simple tin can robot together!

This post is part of the Storybook Science Series organized by Inspiration Laboratories.  Check out all of the posts by some amazing bloggers!

Also, check out some of my other engineering posts!

Teach Your Kid to be a Mechanical Engineer!
Building Electrical Circuits and Playing with Light
Teach your kid to be a Project Engineer!
Make a Light up Card with a Simple Circuit!
Reverse Engineering a Fidget Spinner
Teach Your Kid about Biomechanical Engineering
Be a Process Engineer: Play How’s it made?
Material Science Activity: Building a molecular structure!
Teach Kids about Reliability Engineering!
Teach your kid to be a Materials Engineer!


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