Thingamabobas Inventors

The Thingamaboba Inventors

Time to create some silly inventions

Nottingham libraries, Makers of Imaginary Worlds, and Lakeside Arts have joined forces to create an exciting project. As we cannot visit Theatres and some libraries just yet, we thought it would be a good idea to create a Circus Show of silly inventions!  Are you are ready?  

Draw a silly invention

Make your silly invention

Compose  silly sounds

Challenge One

So far no one has ever invented a circus of silly Thingamabobas.

Can you? Stretch your brain and see if you can draw some really silly and fun contraptions for our circus.

Are ready to be an inventor? Watch the video above.

1) You need paper and a pencil for your drawing, ideas and plans.

2) Think about a name for your Thingamaboba silly contraption.

3) When you done with your awesome drawings send us photo using our online form, please get help from an adult. We will upload all submissions to our gallery weekly, so do come back and see the exhibition of drawings.

4) Add your pictures to our Gallery!

William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)
William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)

Need some inspiration?

Have you ever heard of William Heath Robinson (1872-1944)well he was an English artist, cartoonist and illustrator he drew very innovative, strange whimsical contraptions, like the picture above. There is even a museum dedicated to his work in London. Click here to see one of our favourite drawings of his. What kind of machine could you invent?

Rowland Emett

Have you ever seen any odd contraption like these? If you have visited the Victoria Centre in Nottingham, there is a wonderful one in there. It is the water-powered musical clock, The Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator, it was designed and made by Rowland Emett in 1973.

 Rowland Emett was an artist and a designer/creator of kinetic sculptures, he does not only draw strange inventions like Heath Robinson but he makes them come alive with different material from the kitchen utensils to scrap metal. We found a wonderful film of his inventions.


The Wrong Trousers

Many artists and film makers today still makes contraptions like these. Aardman Studios made Wallace and Gromit, here is clip of the scene from The Wrong Trouser for some more silly fun.

Storytelling Videos

Inventors storytime! 

Here are some inspiring stories to help boost your imagination and get creating your Thingamabobas!

See here.


Nottingham Library Service

Join the fantastic Stacy for Nottingham libraries live weekly storytelling that will take you on some great adventures with some circus folk and inventors. See here.


Arts Award

Lakeside Arts, Nottingham is an Arts Award supporter Discover at Home is an exciting way to take part in our arts activity and also get a chance to earn a certificate by doing what you enjoy.

It is a special home version of Arts Award for children under 11 years old. ‘Arts logs’ are used to record children’s achievements in the arts as well as collect ‘evidence’ of their participation (proof that children have completed each part of Discover at Home)’.

The Discover at Home special Arts Award Log book can be downloaded here and you can find for more information about the nationwide programme.


If you are working towards an Arts Award or Discover at Home here are the three things that you need to do. 

A) Take part in our challenge to invent a silly circus of Thingamabobas, draw and create it.

B) Find out about the work of one of the Artists that we will introduce weekly.

C) Share your Thingamaboba designs with us, your friends and family.

Submit your completed Arts Award Log Book here and we’ll send on to Lakeside Arts who will moderate and send you your certificate!


Challenge Two

Time to get making!

Techniques to help you build your own silly invention by Artist Michelle Reader. To find out more about her art work visit her site here.

Let’s Get Making!


Make an awesome Thingamaboba, a silly, nonsensical and fun contraptions. 

1. Let’s start by first thinking about what your crazy invention does? Does it do one thing or more than one? What features does it have? How can it move? Is it intelligent? Is it a machine with a brain that can learn or engine? Does it use any technology? Time to put your thinking cap on!

2. Some of best inventors and artists use simple materials to try out their ideas like cardboard, tubes, old toys, paper, string, wire and recycle materials. What can you find around your home to start building your nonsensical contraptions?

3. Check out our top tips video above on how to use recycle materials in our 2nd challenge video by Artist Michelle Reader above. Michelle is a nottinghamshire-based artist that reuses waste materials to create unique figurative recycled sculptures.

4. Share your awesome contraption by submitting your photo/s to our online gallery here.

Techniques to making things move

Make a Cranky Contraption – The Tinkering Studio

Cardboard automata is a type of mechanical sculpture. To build a cardboard automata like the one in the video above download from The Tinkering Studio.   Find more about the Cranky Contraptions in the video above.


Merry Go World - Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre

The Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre as founded by sculptor-mechanic Eduard Bersudsky and theatre director Tatyana Jakovskaya in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1989 and has been based in Glasgow since 1996.


Arts Award

If you are completing Discover at Home Arts Award (see details in challenge one) or just interested in artists that make Kinetic Sculptures, sculpture where movement is the basic feature. See below for two EastMidlands based artists you can research.


Find out about Martin Smith


Find out more about Phil Neal

Challenge Three

Time to compose some Silly Sounds!

1st you did some drawings of your inventions and then you made some contraptions and now its time to make some noise.

Can you come up with some funny amazing music / sounds and make your own instruments for your Thingamabobas silly contraptions.

Here is your 3rd and final challenge:

Check out these steps to get started:

1. First think what would the Thingamabobas might sound like? Would they play any silly instruments?

2. Can’t hear anything...don’t have any instruments. No problem! We found some wonderful videos to help you make your own instruments and website that make your own silly sounds. See below

3. Finally share your awesome one minute video/ audio recording of your silly music and /or pictures of your instruments to our online gallery.

Make Music Online


Chrome Music Lab is a website that can be assessed on your phone, tablet or computer. It is time to make some fun music. Choose one of the experiments and download the music. We used a screen capture app to make this video below.

How to make a screen capture video:
A screen capture video is a recording of your computer screen for a set period of time. You can use an app like Icecream screen Recorder the free version (PC /Mac) lets you record a one minute video of your screen.

Please check with a grown up before you use or download any software. You can also try using a mobile phone video camera to capture the screen or sounds to submit for our gallery.

Make your own Instrument!

If you feeling crafty you can make you own instrument and attached them to your contraption. We have found a few videos to help inspire you. Here are some fab ideas by Artist Isobel Irwin for The Design Museum’s ‘Create and Make Series’

Now let’s try using some other materials for making instruments!

How to make a Tin Can Drum

 Sophie Maletsky

Water-Bottle Membranophone 

Membranophone—an instrument that produces sound from a vibrating stretched membrane. Kazoos and drums are both examples of membranophones.Find a list of materials, instructions and more fun DIY instruments to make at Exploratorium website.

Arts Award

Completing and an Arts Award , Discover at Home see more details in challenge one above. If you have not found an artist yet you can look at the wonderful work by Artist Isobel Irwin.

Add your pictures to our Gallery!