2020 Robot Drum

Eli Whitney Museum

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For Families

Construct a music machine. Hear the logic of Leonardo's mind at work as he invents the first modern robot, an automatic drummer whose rhythms can be reprogrammed flexibly and whose tempos adjust automatically. Invent your own cadences.

We are accustomed to teaching with a model in front of a child, but these instructions should make it so that anyone can build one without our presence. We urge that parents and teachers be there to guide – but to allow the child to try to let the materials (and a picture of the final product) guide them. A wrong direction is always un-doable until you've glued something.


Step 1. Note: The side which is completely straight along the full length of the Drum is the top. Insert the 1/2" fluted dowel into one of the wheels (be sure the holes in one side of the wheel is facing outward) and put the dowel through the large hole in the body of the Drum. Then push the other wheel onto the dowel. The wheels should fit close to the horse's body but still be able to turn easily. The wheels should be tight on the axle. If not, put some glue on them. The dowel should be centered in the assembly.

Step 2. Put the plywood 'paddle' with the very large hole in one side into the slot in the front of the drum handle. Push the two 1/4" dowels into the 1/4" holes just behind the 'paddle'. Slide the white plastic bushings (spacers) onto the top dowel.

Step 3. Loop the rubberband onto the bottom 1/4" dowel and put the pine bar with the hole through the middle onto the top 1/4" dowel. There should be a small 1/8" hole at the forward end of that piece of pine.

Step 4.Flip the wooden pine bar to the horizontal position and bring the top of the rubberband over the bar and onto the bottom 1/4" dowel. Do the same thing for the other side. Remember, the pictures tell the story here...

Steps 5 through 8.Drop the plastic cup into the large hole, 6. put the crank handle into one hole on the wheel on right or left side of the handle. 7. Place the short dowels in different holes in the wheels on either side of the handle. 8. Put the short 1/8" dowel into the hole in the bar above the plastic cup and put things to make noise on it before you use a wheel to hold them on.

Then crank the handle and listen to the cadence (the pattern of sounds.) Change the order of the pegs in the wheels. Test again. And again. And again. Learn how to make the sounds you want.



Robot Drum. Horse. Unicorn parts

Robot Drum 2020 Step 1

Robot Drum 2020 Step 2

Robot Drum 2020 Step 3

Robot Drum 2020 Step 4

Robot Drum 2020 Step 5

Download cadences.pdf (pdf, 245.0kb)

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