STEM@Home: Moving Stories

Week3: The Tinkering Studio at

Hands getting itchy to make and do? Head buzzing with ideas? Fingers tingling? ExploreHope knows the feeling, and we’re here to help! This week we’re highlighting The Tinkering Studio, located at one of the coolest museums in the country, the Exploratorium.

Tinkering and storytelling unite as you build a moving machine, and transform light into art. Parents, be sure to check out the rest of the Exploratorium’s website. Make sure you’ve got some time set aside though – there are literally hundreds of STEM activities and explorations available. Now let’s get those busy brains working!

Activity 1: Cardboard Automata (ages 7+)

Auto-Mata. A-tomato? Aw-TAH-mata! However you say it, a cardboard automata is just a fancy way to describe a machine that moves independently. A moving machine? It lives! Run for your lives!

So are automata freaky robots, or fancy machines? Good question! The first automata alarmed and amazed people, who feared they were truly alive. Today’s robots spring from the dreams those historic automata inspired! Master the basic mechanisms, and let your imagination work hand-in-hand with your ingenuity.


  • Three in a Row: Can you master round-and-round, up-and-down, and back-and-forth motion by changing your cam structure?
  • The Storyteller: Illustrate a favorite scene from the books you’re binging using your automata.
  • Earth Day Guru: Let your recycling bin inspire design of your automata. Colors, patterns, texture, shape – how will different materials affect your design?

Activity 2: Light Painting (all ages)

Brushes, sponges, fingers….flashlights? You’ve never painted like this before! Explore light, color and movement over time while you make fabulous art. All you need is a digital camera, a light source, and a dark room! And the best part? Clean-up is a breeze!

READY TO EXPRESS YOURSELF? Info, tips and more here.

  • The Scavenger: How many different light sources can you use in your art? Think about lights on toys, remotes, watches, tablets – just get permission first!
  • Transformers: turn yourself into a butterfly, angel, alien or any other crazy creature.
  • Three’s Company: In the picture above, why don’t we see the motion of the girl’s arms? Who moved the lights? Who took the picture? Experiment with using more than one or two people to design your light painting!

If the intersection of science and art is your favorite exploration destination, check out these Hope Summer Science Camps!

  • Tinker Engineers, grades K-2
  • Science of Art, grades 3-5
  • Art and Design, 4-8
  • Inventing in 3-D, grades 6-12

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