Build a Stack of Cups

“I taught myself how to program computers when I was a kid, bought my first computer when I was 10, and sold my first commercial program when I was 12.” - Elon Musk


Code is sometimes used to help robots complete a task. Robots have to “read” very simple commands or instructions. Robots can only do what they've been told to do, but we don't just tell them using words. In order to do something, a robot needs to have a list of steps that it can read. The instructions must be very specific so the robot can follow them correctly every single time.


Get some plastic or paper cups that you can stack. Cans will work, too. Stack the cups/cans in a pattern, say one cup on top of two cups in a triangle pattern. Next, write symbols that can be used for the codes. For example:

5 Pick up cup

6 Put down cup

4 Move cup ½ cup width forward

3 Move cup ½ cup width backward

` Turn cup 90 degrees

Using these symbols, write a program for a robot to create the cup stack. Have a friend act as your “Robot”. Give them the stacking program and some cups and have them build the cup stack. As your robot stacks cups, see if the code works or if there’s a “bug” that needs to be fixed.


This program has been designed for you to share with your child. Read the material together, ask questions and encourage your child to ask questions. Then nurture their curious mind by doing the activities with them. Books included are available via CPL’s digital library (with a library card).