What the Bristle-bot Taught Me

Though he was tiny, limited, fragile and hastily constructed, the little bristle-bot had much to teach me.

A bristle-bot isn’t really a robot, but a cool, tiny, simple machine that’s easy to make, and its skittering motion, is so cool and organic-looking, that it really delights everybody that sees the little Frankenstein. To make one to make one requires a trip to Radio Shack, where you’ll need to buy two things — a “vibrating motor” and a 3v lithium watch battery.  The motor is a tiny thing, the kind that make a cell phone vibrate — it spins a small unbalanced weight to create buzz.

To make the bot, cut the handle off of a toothbrush (the bigger the “head” the better).  Trim the wires coming off of the motor to about an inch or two in length, then using athletic tape secure the motor to one end of the brush head.  Make a tiny tape loop (or double sided), and secure the black wire to the negative side of the battery, then tape the battery to the brush head.  Tape the red wire to the positive side of the battery, set the bot on a table and watch it dash around like a beetle.

It only took Bubba and I about five minutes to put this little guy together.  He was beside himself, excited that it worked, but also immediately taken by it.  It was instantly anthropomorphosed, named, cooed over.  Ri-ri and Coop began begging for one.

It was, simply put, a moment to triumphant fathering.

Namely because Bubba and I had been working for weeks on a long-term reading project, one that required him to write over a dozen books and prepare a handful of “book reports.” These reports weren’t papers so much as presentations and demos for the class on a book’s subject.  When the boy brought home some book on robots in popular culture, I knew we were going to make a bristle-bot as his report.

Daddy Troy gave me the idea.  His kids loved it.  I knew Bubba would go nuts over, his classmates would be wowed, and his teacher impressed. Super-dad stuff.

With three kids in activities, and finding time for family, social life — stopping by the the Radio Shack proved to be the toughest part.  I put it off for days.  Always seemed like I was always running just a few minutes too late leaving work to pick up Coop to have the time for an errand.  Finally, I was out of time.  The deadline for book reports approached.  Now or never.

So even though I was a keynote speaker, and even though the nice organizers of the conference often bragged about how available all the speakers would be throughout the day, and even though I really wanted to talk with the SEO guy,and even though Daddy Troy was doing way more than his share, I ducked out early and headed to Radio Shack.

But once the thing was together it was all worth it.

We even found a perfectly shaped box to pack the bot in (along with component parts of a second — the idea being that he would fabricate one in front of the class).  In the morning he packed off with it.

That afternoon I was itching to get the report, but Bubba was already off to practice and my wife and I had a sitter to we could go to the big DadLabs book party (a blog for another day).

The party was a success, and I came home glowing.  Bubba heard us come in and chirped form his room (they still do that at 10).  She asked how the presentation went, and he fessed up immediately.  He’d been showing it to friends, and he had broken it, and lost the components to the second one in the process, so he couldn’t show it to the class.

About half way through his story, I had to step out of the room.  I was fuming!  Furious. I stood in the front room and swore under my breath.  Didn’t he know!?  Didn’t he know that I’d made work sacrifices!  Didn’t he know that I was proud of that little thing?!  Didn’t he know that I was planning on writing about the perfect and quintessential fathering moment on my blog?

Answer: no.

He’d just loved the damn thing to death.

So thanks, bristle-bot for making the ultimate sacrifice, and for reminding me that any good moment with your child is reward enough.

Categories: Fatherhood, Toys | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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