Introduction: Mousebot Revisited

Picture of Mousebot Revisited

Mousebot from Make vol 2 is a fun introduction to robotics. So fun that I've created this expanded documentation of a Mousey build from start to finish, with a few extra little tips you won't find in the mag. This how-to is best understood after reading the original article from page 100 of Make vol 2 however it is probably not required.

Mousebot is a simple bot that uses two "eyes" to sense light and then turns towards the light. A single large "whisker" is mounted on the front of the mouse to detect collisions. A collision with a wall will cause the mouse to reverse and turn then take off in another direction. This project is pretty cheap, if you have a mouse to use the other parts can be obtained for less than ten dollars.

If you have any questions or comments you can get me at

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

Picture of Gather Materials and Tools

1 Ball Mouse
2 Small DC Motors
1 Toggle Switch
1 DPDT 5v Relay (Aromat DS2YE-S-DC5V works)
1 LM386 op-amp
1 2N3904 or PN2222 NPN Transistor
1 LED (any color)
1 1K Resistor
1 10K Resistor
1 100uF Electrolytic Capacitor
1 Audio Cassette Tape (you know, from the 80s...)
1 CD-ROM or Floppy Disk (for the bumper)
1 9V Battery Snap
1 9V Battery
2 or 3 Wide Rubber Bands
22 or 24 Gauge Wire (some stranded and some solid core)

Phillips screwdriver
Small pliers
Wire cutter/stripper
Razor knife
Soldering iron
Desoldering tool of choice
Superglue or epoxy
Hot glue gun and glue

Step 2: Scavenge Some Parts

Picture of Scavenge Some Parts

The Mousebot requires several parts which we can conveniently borrow from the donor mouse, its eyes and its whisker.

Open up the mouse and locate the components that we'll be harvesting, the momentary switch and the infrared emitters (the clear ones).

Remove the PCB and desolder the push switch and both IR emitters.

Step 3: Prepare the Case

Picture of Prepare the Case

Next we need to give Mousebots insides a cozy place to reside, so break out the Dremel and remove all of the internal plastic structure from the top and bottom of the mouse. If your mouse is small you may have to remove the screw posts that hold the mouse together.

Now use the Dremel to cut openings for the bump switch in the front of the mouse and motors on the sides.

The best Dremel bit to use for this is the short cylindrical type, it will cut a good right angle if the Dremel is held vertically.

Step 4: Make the Wheels

Picture of Make the Wheels

The axles on these motors are pretty small and if we want Mousebot to be stable at blazing high speeds we need to make him some rims. Cassette tapes have a rim of perfect size in the bottom right and left corners (if the open side is down). It might take a couple tries opening different brands of tapes before you get ones that fit your axles perfectly. Once you find some rims you are happy with super glue them to the axles.

Cut the rubber band and superglue it to the rim then wrap it around three times, adding superglue every half turn or so to keep it together. Cut off the leftover rubber.

Now glue another rubber band back to the one that you just wrapped. Complete one revolution and cut off the extra. Make sure to add enough glue to keep the outside rubber band on. Repeat the same process for the other wheel

Step 5: Layout the Design and Install the Relay

Picture of Layout the Design and Install the Relay

There are quite a few good component layouts for the mousebot. The best layout is probably the one picture on the top of page 100 of vol 2. However this alternate setup pictured below works better on certain mice. I chose to use the standard layout. The circuitry of the mouse will be free formed since there is not much extra room for a pc board.

Once we know where everything will go its time to get to the real work. Set down the relay and solder wires in an X connecting pins 8 to 11 and 6 to 9. (see pin labels on second image)

Then connect pins 1 and 8 with a wire along the side and add stranded wire to leads 8 and 9.

Solder the collector of the transistor (right pin looking at the flat side) to pin 16 and clip the lead short. Then connect the wire we soldered to pin 9 to the emitter (left pin looking at the flat side) leaving a little bit of slack.

Now glue the relay into the case. I have added two clipped leads to act as positive and negative voltage rails which will get rid of some clutter in the motor area. Use your razor knife to strip the shielding from the wire connecting pin 9 and the emitter and solder it to the - voltage rail. Then connect pin 8 to the + voltage rail.

Step 6: Install the Bump Switch

Picture of Install the Bump Switch

Now lets give the Mousebot his whisker. Make it by soldering the positive lead of the capacitor and the 10k resistor to the end pin that is normally open. You can check which side is the open side of the push switch by using the continuity check feature of your multimeter. There should be no connection between the middle and normally open pin until the switch is pressed. Once this is done add stranded wire to the ground lead of the capacitor and the middle pin of the switch.

Connect the resistor on the switch to the base (middle pin) of the transistor and the wire from the ground side of the capacitor to the - voltage rail. Then connect the middle pin to the + voltage rail. To make your joints a bit more secure you can use heat shrink tubing to insulate the connections and bend the capacitor to the side to free up a little bit more space.

Step 7: Build Mousebots Brain

Picture of Build Mousebots Brain

Mousebots brain is the LM386, flip it on its back (pins up) and bend pins 1 and 8 so that they are touching and add some solder.

Now place the 386 into position and connect pin 4 to the - rail, pin 6 to the + rail and add stranded wire to pins 2, 3 and 5.

We are almost ready to connect the motors so solder some stranded wire to pins 4 and 13 of the relay. At this point your Mousebot should look something like the third picture on this page.

Step 8: Construct Mousebots Top Half

Picture of Construct Mousebots Top Half

First drill three small holes at the front of the mouse for the two eyes and sensitivity boosting LED. Then drill a larger hole for your toggle switch at the back of the mouse and install the switch to form mousebots on/off tail.

To create mousebots eyestalks twist two pieces of solid core wire together and solder the IR emitter to the leads on one end. Place the LED in the middle hole and connect the + lead to the 1k resistor.

Next use the diode check feature of your multimeter to find the - leads of the IR emitters and connect them to the - lead of the LED.

Step 9: Glue Down the Components

Picture of Glue Down the Components

Use hot glue or epoxy to secure the bump switch and the motors to the mouse chassis. I used a combination of superglue and hot glue to hold in the bump switch and hot glue on the motors. Make sure the angle of the motors are roughly equal and extend down enough to raise the front of the mouse slightly off of the ground.

Step 10: Finish Up Making Connections

Picture of Finish Up Making Connections

Connect pin 13 of the relay to the left motor and pin 4 of the relay to the right motor. Now connect pin 5 of the IC (brown wire in picture) to the ground node of both motors. If you arent sure which side is + and which - on you motor connect it to a battery and observe the direction of the spin. The right motor should spin clockwise if you are looking at the wheel and the left should spin counter-clockwise.

Locate the wire coming from IC pin 2 (green) to the + lead of the left eyestalk and IC pin 3 (blue) to the + lead of the right eyestalk. Then wire the 1k resistor to the + voltage rail.

Hook up the battery by soldering the black wire on the battery cap to the negative voltage rail. Connect the red wire on the battery cap to the switch and then connect the switch back to the + voltage rail.

Replace the cover of the mouse and then cut a thin strip of your bumper material (CD) with the hacksaw. Attach the strip with epoxy or hot glue on one side so that wherever you apply pressure the button clicks. Once you have the strip attached give yourself a pat on the back, you're done.

Flip the switch and enjoy.


the science girl (author)2011-01-21

can i use a 12vdc relay, or can i use two relays?

The number on the relay is telling you how many volts are required to trigger the switch by sending the voltage through a coil between two pins. If your robot uses a 9VDC battery, then you will need a relay that can be triggered by about 5 or 6 VDC. A standard 9V battery won't trigger a 12VDC relay.

You want one Double Pole Double Throw (DPDT) relay rated for 5VDC or two Single Pole Double Through (SPDT) relays rated for 5VDC.

You can purchase and appropriate 5V DPDT relay from Solarbotics or just read more about how they work on their site.

Hope this helps.

Christin Boyd

misterxp (author)christinb2017-06-29

Thanks to Christin too. Even though this is 6 years ago from now, I just read Christin's article on trouble shooting. Would have been better if I had read it before! I will try the things Christin mentioned and see if I can get some improvements to mine. I put a 10 ohm resistor so will try 200 ohm resistor on the IC instead. Thanks!!

rimo (author)christinb2013-03-25

which one is correct pliz help

misterxp made it! (author)2017-06-29

First thing, many thanks to m_jake for sharing his project. I chose this project because it touched on some point that I wanted to get to grios with: relays, IC, sensors. To be honnest it looked easier than it turned out to be!

I started of well and was quite pleased with how things were going. The end product even looked quite tidy too..... Then it didn't work! I dismantled it and then re-assembled / re-soldered it 4-5 times, I changed the components, I tried the different drawings that were linked to by the good! Then I decided to get my tester out! I realised the transistor was round the wrong way! m_jake did mention to be sure which was collector and which was the emitter and which was base but I took it for granted that mine was like his one and instead it was not.. I turned the transister round and then it almost worked (the bumper switch worked but no lights) I put the - of the leds to the -rail and then all was OK. In the end, I had part of the system as per m_jake's example and part as per one of the other drawings. the end product it is not as nice and tidy as I would have liked but I am pleased I got it to work.

If I hold the BOT in one hand and shine a light on the sensors, I see that one wheel slows down and one wheel goes faster. However, doing it while the thing is in ones hand is one thing, while doing it while the thing is on the ground is another! I had my kids running after it with a torch but, by the time they got near it, the BOT had hit a wall and turned around, gone off in another direction or shot under the sofa! In the end, I am pleased to say, I did manage to get it to turn a couple of times while on the ground though. I also had a pair of blue LEDS from an old electrical device that came in handy for the eyes !

Any way, great experience for a new guy to electronics and great fun for the kids.

If it survives, I would like to: slow it down, also perhaps try different IR emitters. I would also like to put springs and another switch on the back end (perhaps NC), so that when the BOT gets a bump on the front end and bounces back into another object, the rear switch will open and cut the current on impact and then the switch should close again, as the mouse bot goes forward, thus allowing it to shoot off again.

Now I know how it works, I may even build another one or try improve my soldering skills and make it look better.....perhaps in a few weeks tough, after I have recovered from working on it for the past fewdays till late at night!

Thanks again M_Jake!

gedraher made it! (author)2016-06-09

its a very raw version, but it works :)

mohamadarvio (author)2015-02-27

please give me a video making !!!

backcountry (author)2006-04-03

I finished my Mousebot over the weekend. It works perfectly thanks to the correct schematic at: The kids and cat are impressed. I made a rubber bumper by cutting a rubber washer in half and hot glueing it around the front of the mouse over the switch. Several mechanical challenges. The case doesn't close completely so I'm holding it together with rubber bands. And the back end is so battery heavy that it often can't get enough torque to back up. And it likes to circle to the left which is actually a nice feature - less mouse chasing.

I learned a lot from this project and it really got my interest up in BEAM bots.

rimo (author)backcountry2013-03-25

this schematic is better that the first init pliiiz repliie

trentcole (author)rimo2014-11-06

thank you

davejuniortwo (author)2014-09-01

awesome stuff .. gonna try that on my mouse

yep great

ameera77 (author)2014-04-21

how many is it the DC dynamo size? and the size of relay? Please help :)

swolff1234 (author)2013-10-09

All I have is a LM358n. Will this work? 

swolff1234 (author)swolff12342013-10-09


Huuunksam (author)swolff12342014-04-11

yes it should...

Huuunksam (author)2014-04-11

This is a textbook quality Instructable !! Clear and concise - PERFECT!


Kelly Smith made it! (author)2014-02-02

Thanx! Going to make another now :P

ChippMarshal (author)2014-01-19

This is a really neat project. Where can I get all of these things?

MorganGardiner (author)2014-01-15

RIP Donor mouse.

toxiq2011 (author)2011-06-05

Hey, I just finished mine but unfortunately it does not work. Don't know what I'm doing wrong... One motor spins real fast & the other spins really slow.

Thought I had done some wiring mistake the first time & re-wired the whole thing again, but still the same issue.

Any guess's, adding in a pic of what I have as if now though.

Vapolord (author)toxiq20112011-12-22

hey dude i had the sam problem; once he had a circuit here and its different from the stuff he tells u; search for the circuit, it might be in the pdf

majswe (author)Vapolord2013-10-14

put a 200 ohms resistor 1 to 8 of the lm386

neoJunk (author)2006-09-14

Got this working a few weeks back. I had some of the problems other people have had, mainly one motor getting more power than the other. I found the bot worked perfectly in pitch black with one VERY bright light. It moves extremely quickly and the batteries don’t seem to last to long. It’s lots of fun!

rimo (author)neoJunk2013-03-25

wht have u used bro

Doddity (author)2010-01-28

+ is always the longer wire but look inside the actual thing and the smaller one is the anode (+) the larger one above it is the cathode (-) hope that helps

rimo (author)Doddity2013-03-25

which one is correct dude

jwoo2023 (author)Doddity2011-04-10

thankyou very very very very very very much!

nospleen (author)2006-02-20

Wow, lots of comments here since I last was on. I have finished building my mousebot. Here are some pictures: I used Radio Shack's LM386N op-amp and it seems to be doing fine. I had to order my relay online. The best deal I could find was from They had the exact part for $2. Worked great. Hecbot, regarding the LED. Did you wire the sensitivity boosting circuit with the revised schematic on I used that schematic and my LED lights up. The sensitivity of the IR beams seems to be pretty good too. I would think that there may be a problem in your circuit, although it may not have one. Check to make sure that the negative and positive are in the right spots, because the LED won't work otherwise. Stephen: that stinks that your bump switch isn't working. Did you check the poles on the switch to make sure that you didn't break off the wrong one. Out of the two side poles only one is connected to the switch, and that is the one that should be connected to the cap and the timer resistor. Other than that, I would just take a good look over the schematic and compare it to your circuit. I know that a few times I had some miswirings and they can drive you crazy! Also, I had a relatively small mouse and I had to cram it all in the case. My motors are also larger than normal, I took them off of an old xMod RC car. This has a been a fun project! Erich

rimo (author)nospleen2013-03-25

have u yoused that ?

robotix (author)nospleen2006-05-27

62 comments to be exact.

robotix (author)robotix2006-06-09

Now 65

robotix (author)robotix2007-05-06

Now 117!!!

girrrrrrr2 (author)robotix2007-06-16

girrrrrrr2 (author)girrrrrrr22007-06-16


christinb (author)2011-02-18

I found through some testing that putting a resistor across the gain (Pins 1 and 8) of the OpAmp chip (LM386) rather than just soldering them together gave me better results. Every robot will be a little different because we're all using different IR emitters or IR LEDs in our bots.

You can read about my experiments and how I determined that a 200 Ohm resistor resulted in my mouse moving in the straightest line on my blog.

-Christin Boyd

rimo (author)christinb2013-01-02

and also about the lm386 please help cuz i think that i fried them !!

rimo (author)christinb2012-12-31

im really impressed by your ideas !!! but i want ask you a question how can we know that IR light emitter works and not fired please help

chessman908 (author)2012-02-17

i just finished making this and it doesn't work! i have no idea what i am doing wrong, it could be anything!
PLEASE HELP ME!!!!!!!!!!!
maybe like a schematic of something like that.
please respond ASAP! i am doing this for a science fair project and its due Monday!!!!! :0

chessman908 (author)chessman9082012-02-18

......................or a circuit?

chessman908 (author)chessman9082012-02-19

never mind i found something

rimo (author)chessman9082012-12-31

wht waz your pbobleme brother because i also finished the project but it doesnt work ! please help me brother and i will be really thankfulllll ...thnx

rimo (author)2012-12-26

i've made the test in the bread bord when i on the toggle switch the motors run normally but the Led is still off .and when i put the light on the sensor they didn't work and also the bump switch didn't work :( :( :( please please help me i will be thankfull

cartilige (author)2009-04-12

I'm busy making a different project, but it requires a lot of similar components. I am looking for a LM386 op-amp but I'm finding it very hard to get, any ideas where I could get one. DO NOT SAY RADIO SHACK. I live in the UK and can't travel very far from Newcastle so where could I get one, if it is used in any household products I have aces to a whole range of them which I can strip down. Thanks

 you are retarted

You could maybe do some salvage.

Doddity (author)coleyy2009-12-22

jesus read what he wrote before you comment he said HE DOESNT LIVE NEAR ONE

milsorgen (author)Doddity2010-01-07


jwoo2023 (author)cartilige2011-04-10

maybe a amplifier? strip it down and try to find one!

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