Junk Bots:Trash to Treasure

October 11, 2021


Robots, androids, and… junk bots! 

What is a Junk Bot?  

A junk bot is robot made from virtually any old, discarded materials such as old electronics or computer parts, pieces of metal or assorted interesting knick-knacks, and recycled materials. The junk bot doesn’t go places or accomplish a task. It just looks very cool. Adding bells, lights, or an appendage that vibrates or moves can also be undertaken as a STEM challenge to add interest.  A junk bot lends itself to imaginative engineering, integrated science, loads of creativity, AND is definitely a lot of fun.

Our First Junk Bot


Our first junk bot was created for us by Tinkertopia, an extraordinary shop in Tacoma, Washington. Tinkertopia is a unique store filled with all kinds of recycled assorted materials for engineering and creating. It is a dream destination for any Maker Space teacher. We could spend hours exploring this hub of ideas.

We saw a junk bot creation on their Instagram page and immediately got on the wait list to have our own original junk bot created for us. We even donated the piece for the head - the old banged up 80-year kettle that had belonged to a relative.

The final creation is amazing and so much fun to have in our office. It is a constant reminder of the trash to treasures opportunities that are available.

Junk Bot Resources

We keep an eye out for books that support our interest in junk bots and these four are our favorites so far.

Homemade Robots: Ten Simple Bots to Build with Stuff Around the House by Randy Sarafan


Homemade Robots teaches total beginners how to build 10 mobile, autonomous bots quickly and easily with simple tools and common household materials. A Perfect DIY STEAM adventure for the electronically curious. 

Awesome Robot Projects for Kids. By Bob Katovich


Designed for young robot builders, these do-it-yourself robotics for kids’ projects will teach you about science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) as you assemble an amazing collection of robots!

Clink by Kelly DiPucchio


A heart-warming story of a neglected older robot who finds a special home. This is a great read aloud for a class with fabulous illustrations that inspire all kinds of junk bot ideas.

Mechanimal by Chris Tougas


When a tornado leaves a farmer with a heap of scrap metal and no animals, his neighbors are sure it's all over for him. But the determined farmer refuses to admit defeat. The farmer sets to work to turn that scrap metal into some rather surprising creatures. Mechanimals is a fun picture book filled with junk bots and with a main character who exemplifies perseverance.  The story provides a great way to integrate literature into a fabulous engineering theme of not giving up and STEM activities.

Integrating Junk Bots

We have a great STEM activity packet for the book Mechanimals that explores junk bot creation. Our STEM and Stories series combines picture books with science, technology, engineering, and math activities for your classroom.


With this packet we have the following activities to support your reading of Mechanimals:

  • Summary of Mechanimals
  • Reading - Discussion Questions
  • Writing a Description of an Illustration
  • Science Investigation – Tornado in a Bottle
  • Technology- Links for support materials and Robot Trading Cards
  • Engineering Exploration – Junk Bot Animal
  • Math – Word problems about robot facts
  • Student STEM Group Jobs
  • Rubric
  • Inquiry Questions
  • Engineering Design Process Poster

Additional Junk Bots Ideas

Junk bots provided an additional activity to our "Take Apart" Center. As appliances and technology equipment were deconstructed, the pieces were saved for a future junk bot.

We also found that they adapted well to a virtual learning experience for all elementary grade levels. The book Mechanimals was great to read online to students and we did not have to worry about getting supplies to kids at home. They just used whatever trash that their parents said was ok to have to create their junk bot.

Whether for an art display, a STEAM project, an introduction to a robotics unit or a recycling lesson, junk bots are an interesting addition to a class.

We hope you " Get Caught Engineering" a junk bot this year!

Wendy and Cheryl

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What They Say


Wendy came to Bellevue Arts Museum to co-lead our Full STEAM Ahead! Summer Camp in August 2014. This camp was a huge success thanks to her expertise, experience, and warmth working with the campers throughout the week…

Educational Outreach Director, The Bellevue Art Museum, Bellevue, Washington