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Simple Robot How-To

1This tutorial will show you how to make a very simple robot that will avoid obstacles on the ground. It uses no microcontrollers, no servos, and there is no need to program. The simple design make its an ideal project for those wanting to tryout robotics and also makes a great weekend project. After building one you can probably make a second one in less than 10 minutes.

This article was submitted by Emmanuel Carrillo as part of the “Hobby parts for articles” program. Emmanuel receives a Modern Device Company Bare Bone Arduino Kit for this great intoduction to robotics.

Update: Jerome Demers informed me that a very simular how-to was published as an instructable in 1999. You should take a look at his Beetle Robot Instructable as well.

2 – 1.5V motors
2 – SPDT switches mechanically easy to trigger
2 – AA battery
1 – AA battery holder
1 – Altoids Tin
2 – Wheels
Index Card or Cardboard
Electrical Tape

Depending on what you have lying around this should cost you around $5-$10. Mine cost me $6. You can get the 1.5V motors from the dollar store. The dollar store by me had two little “remote controlled” cars that each had a small motor in them. Switches for me were the only real expense, they were $2.50 a piece at radio shack. If you take apart some old electronic gadget, you can usually find them; old printers and VCRs are a great source of parts like this.

Soldering Iron
Hot Glue Gun
Wire Cutters
Dremel Wirecutters or Tin Snips

DSC00615Here’s an overview picture (far right) showing what the insides of our robot will look like when we are done with wiring the parts together.

Step 1
Solder together the top two pins on the switches together. Repeat with the middle pins.DSC00610

DSC00612Step 2 (right picture)
Solder together the two bottom leads on the motors.

Step 3 (below picture)
Solder a wire to the bottom on the battery pack as shown below.

Step 4 (right picture)
DSC00613Solder the negative lead of the battery pack to the middle pin of a switch and the positive lead to the top pin of the other switch.

Step 5 (below picture)
Solder the bottom pin on each switch the motor on the opposite side. Then solder the other end of connection you made on battery pack to the bottom lead on one of the motor.

Check Everything
This is a good time to check everything. Install both batteries and check that both motors turn. When you click one of the switches the opposite motor should spin backwards. Before continuing to step 6, remove the batteries.

Step 6
DSC00619Cut holes for the motors and switches in your robot body. For this article I used an Altoids tin. Line the insides of the Altoids tin with electrical tape and cut an index card to place in the bottom of the tin to prevent shorting.DSC00620

Step 7
Un-bend two paper clips to make atennas and glue them on the switches.

DSC00621Step 8
Glue everything in place.


Tip glue in the motors at an angle. This allows the robot to sit off the ground higher, and allows you to use smaller wheels. I have found that smaller wheels tend to make the robot handle better. You can use whatever you want for wheels. At first I used Lego wheels but then switched to smaller wheels after not liking the way the robot moved.

Final Step
Attach some wheels and let the robot roam free. DSC00628

Posted in Hacks, Projects.

49 Responses

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  1. Dave says

    Actually, this design isn’t original for either party involved in the dispute. In fact, I’d go so far as to say this design has been around for a very long time. I made several like this back in the late 70s with motors from some Sizzlers cars. Fun and easy to make, though. By the way, make several and put them in a penned in area. The behavior gets really interesting after a while.

  2. Art G. Granzeier III says

    Sorry, got a comma too close to the TableTop Bot site. Try this:

    Also, got a period too close to the series of articles. Try:

  3. Art G. Granzeier III says


    Do a search for “simple robots” lots of materials out there.

    Check out Eddy Wright’s TableTop Bot at, and his series of articles on building a robot for $50.00 per month:

    Also, look at, they have many different kits and range from simple to very complex. My 13 year old son bought a Herbie Mousebot from them and even though he had never held a soldering iron in his life, he put the entire thing together in one Saturday afternoon (very little help from Dad).

    Three other sites that have a lot of robotics information are:

    Good luck,


  4. Rahul Tripathi says

    Very nice can you also tell me how to make more simple robots.

  5. d-dog says

    Amazing!My first robot:> I don’t care who built it, its simple and i like it:)

  6. Ben House says

    I am ver impressed by this simple idea. I have read the “Beetlebot” design and they are similer but this on is easier to understand. I am not building this exact robot.. Just one that is in need of a simple bump and dodge mechanism.


  7. Cray-1 says


  8. nikypiky says

    This is cool but when i went to the shop to buy the components i asked for a SPDT switch and it was totaly different from the one on this site. I then looked around the found the exact one called a miniture micro switch.

  9. weirdo id weird says

    i cant buy all of that stuff!
    but thanks for the advice,ill be saving up my allowance

  10. elvisodemejero says

    the robot is good

  11. Amresh Borkar says

    Great Work for the aspiring upcomers….every move you make brings good results, as journey of thousand miles begins with a single step and every step counts for somebody or another.

  12. SDMike says

    Bah! I designed an identical circuit when I was in the third grade (that’s back in the 1950s). I still have the original diagram (I’m a sick pack rat it’s true). I didn’t use an Altoids tin I used the box some playing cards came in. My switches were home made. So I was “first.”

    Should I should sue everyone?

    Come on! it’s a simple idea.

  13. ddd says

    This robot is good

  14. dfowler says


    The switches are often called micro switches or sense switches. You would have to look around at local suppliers in your area for these kinds of parts.

  15. Jong says

    what is the “SPDT switches mechanically easy to trigger” where can I buy those things??..
    please help me I am a engineering student from Philippines!!!
    I find your work so cool!!!

  16. WTS says

    i really don’t think it matters who thought of it… it’s so simple. i had an idea for a robot a lot like this when i was in second grade 🙂
    actually, at the dollar store near where i live, we found the same exact motors in the same little cars. my brother and i used them to motorize these model airplanes we had. i think we still have a few motors lying around somewhere….

    i think i’ll go build one of those nifty little robots right now.


  17. Myk_Maker says

    imaretard, any power source will do as long as you can properly switch polarity on the motors in some way, (a simple switch can do it) and the power source has enough juice to run your motors without burning them out, and proper use of resistors. And people remember Imitation is the best form of flattery, and that yes two people can and will come up with similar designs, and phrases.

  18. Muntazim says

    excellent idea

  19. David says

    You’ve fulfilled my dream! I’ve always wanted to make a robot, and I thought I’d have to wait to college to find out how to! But now I can make one, thank you.

  20. dfowler says


    A trick that will get you through a maze is to pick a wall (right or left) and follow it. For example, if you were in the maze, you could stick out your right arm to touch the wall then walk without ever taking that hand off the wall, you would eventualy walk out of the exit side of the maze.

    Maybe you could modify this design to allways keep the right side against the wall… You might need to add a or two wheel to the side so that it could slide along the wall easialy. If the bot moves away from teh wall, trun to move back against it.

  21. Devanand says

    Can I make a maze robot with no microcontroller.If so I need ur help.Iam an engineering student from India looking for a good beginning in robtic projects.Please help.

  22. KenDude says

    I have to agree with those saying that this isnt a ripoff. But ideas dont have to be stolen or copied to be similar. If anyone has seen the episode of southpark with the IT (a one wheeled motorcycle that was steered in very wrong ways)invented by Mr. Garrison: i came up with the same idea by attaching a crotch rocket to a central wheel and replacing the bikes two wheels with gears to propell it forward. Not only was the idea allready done, it had been done multiple times (the two most most famous being the street surfer and Mcleans V8 monowheel).

    Look at the bow and arrow, that invention came about in almost every culture at relatively the same time (this was before a person could traverse the world without a 75% risk of dying). So i have to agree, it doesnt take a rocket scientist to put two motors in a box. You might as well go after legos for their mindstorms kit which had instructions for a similar robot.

  23. christian says

    I think this is an awsome robot so i’ve desited to look at MORE of your inventions. OH I also think you made it first.

  24. christian says

    I think this is an awsome robot so i’ve desited to look at MORE of your inventions. OH I also think you made it first

  25. JM Fahey says

    Well, don´t know if Jerome´s design is “World Famous”, it´s irrelevant. BUT he is definitely “Google famous” since he´s Nº 1 (one) in the search for “simple robot”, no small feat indeed!! Besides, reading carefully his page, all he claims is that “beetle robots” (not necessarily his own) are famous, which is true. In fact, I built one at the age of 16 in 1969 or 1970, and no, I didn´t design it, it was published in Popular Mechanic´s Electronics annual.

  26. Mr. Obvious says

    I assume that the robotic vaccuum, which has been out for quite a while longer than 1999 and appears to me to be this same concept of an automated bump-and-turn machine taken to the level of adding a vaccuum for actual product viability predates both sites?

  27. amintha (roboAlord) says

    i have corected my falt

  28. amintha (roboAlord) says

    i have made this thing but it dies not work i dont know it is a folt of mine.

  29. airtimer says

    hey this is a nice writeup and am vrey much fascinated and charged up ,so this would be my first ever robot…really i never thought it would be so easy to start with..can neone with a good knowledge in these stuff asist me further explaining me the real mechanisim involved with the switches…( i would be very greatful for that

  30. Laurence says

    Hi, i remember building jerome’s robot about four years ago, i have recently found it and have being rebuilding it, to make the soildering cleaner, and the glueing not as messey,

    I remeber trying to put heat shrink on my wires , and it melted all the gule and fell apart LOL

    I have desided to make another one, a mark 2 if you like… and even tho i have buld it before the mint tin looks very cool. well done!

  31. ima retard says

    ok thnx and i was working with 9 motors thats why i asked!

  32. dfowler says

    Mr Retard!
    No a single 9V battery will not do. You might be able to find some 9V motors and use two 9V batteries instead of the two 1.5V. Note that the battery pack is center tapped here to get + and – 1.5V.

  33. gloob says

    nice work

  34. imaretard says


    btw does it have to be 2 AAs? can i just make it run off of a 9v ?

  35. gloob says

    not that i care either way, but i am inclined to believe that this plan is a direct rip-off from that instructable by jerome, if only for the fact that they both have this in their respective supply lists:

    “2 – SPDT switches mechanically easy to trigger”

    That’s quite an odd phrase for two people to come up with independently.

  36. abbie says

    that’s a great robot!but i have difficulty in reading the article because the pictures are blocking the instructions.. but it’s great.. i love it!that’s what i’m looking for.. because i’m a 15 year old girl who’s very interested in robots..

  37. aniket says

    superb illustration

  38. ComonSenseGuy says

    I dont think the question is wether or not Jerome was the first person to think placing a switch in series with a motor to make a simple robot. I dont know how to prove that he was first with that but it does seem kind of obivous to me.

    The question is wether or not somoene has commited a crime, legal or social, if they did not mention that someone else had done something before they did. Jerome implied that Emmanuel had copied his idea without giving him credit. This kind of scares me as I have not spent the considerable time required to hunt down the frist person to do other things like hook a resistor in series with an LED before I posted articles sugesting that others could do the same.

    Assuming he was first and that he must be credited with any use of this unique and innovative idea lets start by figuring out what exactly that idea is.

    Was he the first person to think of a robot? With weels? With motors? Combine all this with a box? Put a set of switches in series with the motors? Use the switches to change the direction of the robot? Maybe it was the combination of all these obivous things into a Altoids tin that he really needs the credit for.

    Should someone own obivous ideas? Is it obivous that a simple robot could be put together like this? Would a good hobbyist or engineeer given a simular set of requiremnts not come up with this idea in 10 minutes? If it took them one day would that make it extra special?

    I dont mean to tear down Jerome’s acomplishment. I am just concerend that he feels that the idea is his and only his, that anyone using something closely simular must give him credit as being the fist person (ever) to think of it. How could anyone post any article of this nature? Was he the first to use a peice of wire to connect two devices? Did he do the research and credit the first person to use a motor to drive a robot?

  39. Dave says

    I’ve known of Jerome’s work for a good while, and I can testify that he is indeed the first to build this style of robot. Regardless if Mr. Carrillo developed it totally separately from Mr. Demers, it still stands that his was the first. This design has been out for a few years (at least), and anybody looking for “simple robot” on google finds Jerome’s design as the #1 result.

  40. Darrell says

    I also agree with Jim… I’m into robotics for quite awhile, but i have never heard of Jerome’s “world famous” robot. (That’s what he claims at his instrutables page.) He even have to mention about his (other) junkbot being used in Bramwyn’s book. And he reckons he should write a book too.. Talk about egomanics..

  41. farhan says

    i liked it very much

  42. il_Draco says

    It is always possible that this article was generated as an original idea with no knowledge of the other article.

    I personally have had quite a few amazing ideas which someone had already thought of, and made, and marketed, and made a lot of money from.

    Damn mind probes while you are sleeping, stealing all my ideas.


  43. pK says

    Im agree with Jim too

  44. Jim says

    I’m not all that moved by Jerome’s claim of intellectual pilfering. So Emmanuel’s robot design is similar to yours…so what. The text and photos were his own and it’s quite possible that, egomania aside, Mr. Carrillo wasn’t even aware of your design. You’re not the first person to put a motor and switch in an Altoids tin and I’d venture to say you wont be the last. Wait, let me guess, you think SCO has a valid lawsuit too, right?!

  45. dfowler says

    Jerome’s instructable is very similar. I don’t know if this is really proof that Emmanuel just duped the robot. He did create the text and pictures and may have just recreated his own version of the same general design. Either way I don’t want anyone upset so I will edit the post to include a link to Jerome’s instructable near the top. I hope this action will appease everyone.

    Please be kind to people in the comments. I deleted a comment here that used abusive language. I may have overreacted, perhaps I should have edited it but it’s too late now.

    Jim, please re-submit you comment without the overlay abusive language. Comments and criticisms are welcome at uC Hobby we just need to be considerate of the language. Comments should be focused on the article content and not the person who wrote the article or as in this case, the persons that comment about the article.

  46. pK says

    Uhhh… i have read the instructable… no good point for Emmanuel.

  47. Jerome Demers says

    Emmanuel Carrillo is using my design without giving any credit. Please visit this link to understand.

    This instructables is my beetle robot build back in 1999.

    step by step instructions to build and debug your first robot!

    Have fun!


  48. christopher lattimer says

    this is an awsome robot!!!!! but some of your pictures on your web site are in the way of the directions so i cant see them. but again it could be my computer also. thanks for the idea.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. project hal0 linked to this post on February 13, 2008

    Der simpelste Roboter der Welt

    Roboter müssen nicht immer komplex und aufwendig sein. Es gibt auch welche, die ohne µController auskommen und trotzdem perfekt funktionieren. Ein Beispiel dafür gibt es auf uC Hobby.

    2 Motoren und 2 Bumper reichen schon aus um diesen Roboter nachz…