Make an Art Machine

Make an Art Machine

Activity Type:

SciFri Science Club Challenge: #MachineArt

1. Safely find, build, or hack a machine that makes art.

2. Share pictures and videos of your art machine on social media with #MachineArt, or by e-mailing us.

3. Inspire and get inspired by #MachineArt examples and project submissions.

Machine Art

We collaborated with the folks at the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium in California to craft this art machine challenge. So what’s an art machine? We define it as any device that changes the direction, duration, or magnitude of some force to make art. To get your wheels turning, think about motion and mechanisms, look around for some kinetic inspiration, and consider your artistic media. Then put on your tinkering tunes, and begin making, engineering, designing, and hacking to make art happen. We’ll meet back in a month to discuss what you’ve sent in.

See what participants created:

This Science Friday Machine Art project is a collaboration with:

FAQ’s and Helpful Links

What counts as an art machine?

For the purposes of this project, an art machine is any device that changes the direction, duration, or magnitude of a force in order to make art. Your machine can be simple or complex, analog or computerized, manual or electronic, so long as it makes art! Machines that are intended for another task, if safely and legally repurposed to make art, are fair game. Beyond that, there are no limits and no “winners”—just a healthy does of curiosity and innovation. Get ideas from these examples and shared projects, and check out The Art of Tinkering, a book by the folks at The Tinkering Studio who helped us develop this project.

What counts as art?
This is a complicated question, open to interpretation. We recommend sticking with visual arts, but if you make a dancing or music-playing robot, that’s cool, too.

How am I supposed to build a machine?
In The Art of Tinkering, a book by our friends at the The Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium, you can find inspiration and guidance from hundreds of makers that will get you started on your first tinkering project. We were inspired by an invention they call a scribbling machine, which might give you ideas for your art machine.

How do I do this safely?
The best practice for any kind of experimentation is to wear protective clothing and safety goggles, work in a well-lit and well-ventilated area, avoid hazardous materials and high voltages, and carefully read and follow the safety information that comes with any materials or tools you use. Please refrain from using or involving live animals in your projects, and be otherwise lawful and courteous in your endeavors.

What social media tools can I use to share my project?
Twitter – Tweet a picture or video  @SciFri with #MachineArt
Facebook – Post a picture or video to your timeline using #MachineArt
Instagram – Instagram a picture or video using #MachineArt
Vine – Post a vine of your project using #MachineArt
Pinterest – Post a picture of your project using #MachineArt
YouTube – Upload a video of your project using #MachineArt
Email – Send a picture or video to

As we see and receive new project posts, we’ll feature them here.

What is Science Club?
Visit our About Science Club page for more information. Check out our Projects Policy here.

Meet the Writer

About Ariel Zych

Ariel Zych is Science Friday’s director of audience. She is a former teacher and scientist who spends her free time making food, watching arthropods, and being outside.