Introduction: Simple Bots: Rolly

Picture of Simple Bots: Rolly

This Simple Bot was inspired by a work by artist James Rouvelle, called Colony, in which a bunch of odd-shaped ellipsoids self-propel around their environment. It is my understanding that his bots were made by placing a vibrating motor freely inside of a Styrofoam ball that was then coated to give it an irregular shape. This dynamic makes his orbs fluctuate between wobbling in place and jerkily moving around the room. While this is a cool interaction, I was more interested in making something that had a more regular motion and was able to roll steadily about. Towards this end, I have created Rolly Bot. To simply explain, Rolly is basically an over-sized tennis ball with an over-sized bristlebot placed inside. This allows Rolly to be rolled in whatever direction the bristlebot inside so chooses to drive.

Step 1: Go Get Stuff

Picture of Go Get Stuff

You will need:

(x1) An over-sized tennis ball
(x1) AAA double battery holder
(x2) AAA batteries
(x1) Vibrating motor***
(x1) Small scrub brush
(x2) Zip ties
(x1) Cutting pliers
(x1) Razor blade
(x1) Coping saw or hacksaw (not pictured)
(x1) paper

***My vibrating motor came from a back massager from Walgreens. You can learn to make your own here.

Step 2: Chop Off the Handle

Picture of Chop Off the Handle

Remove the handle from your scrub brush with a pair of cutting pliers.

The surface should now be made completely flat. Use your cutting pliers to trim off any remaining plastic. If that proves too difficult, you can cut off any plastic stubs with a coping saw (or hacksaw).

Step 3: Power Switch

Picture of Power Switch

Put the batteries into the battery holder.

Place a small piece of paper between one end of a battery and the battery holder. This piece of paper will prevent the motor from turning on right away when we make the electrical connection in Step 5.

Step 4: Zip Tie

Picture of Zip Tie

Place the battery holder atop the scrub brush and the motor atop the battery holder. Zip tie them all together. This may take a little bit of patience, but should be fine once you get the first tie pulled taught.

Step 5: Wire It Up

Picture of Wire It Up

Twist together the black wire from the battery terminal to the black wire from the motor.

Next twist together the red wire with whatever color wire is remaining. This is typically a red wire, but in my case, the wire coming from the motor was blue.

The colors are not so important as a DC motor should typically be able to spin regardless of the orientation in which the positive and negative terminals from the batteries are connected.

(If the motor has no wires coming off of it, solder the red and black wires to its power lugs.)

Step 6: Surgery

Picture of Surgery

Using your razor blade, carefully cut open a slit in the tennis ball large enough to pass the bristlebot through.

Step 7: Insertion

Picture of Insertion

Pass the bristlebot through the slit. Pull out the blue tab from between the battery and the holder as to turn on power to the motor.

Your bot should now be free to roll around as it chooses.


ccronkhite (author)2015-09-09

Our local Girl Scout Counsel has a robotics patrol. They do bristle bots as an outreach program and are able to get their motors from cheap electric toothbrushes at a local dollar store for just a buck a piece.

Ploopy (author)2015-07-20


Mkj890 (author)2015-05-14

This is a neat robot... I honestly thought it was just a tennis ball... Awesome though!!!

Bennettccohen (author)2014-11-26

TarekA1 (author)2014-11-06

could you help me fabricate a robot that evoid objects ,

scribble hero (author)2014-07-31

it should be im using a motor from a dvd burner from kipkays flashlight hack so yea and im using a smaller brush and ball

The Dark Lord (author)2013-07-11

Anyone think that it would be okay if I used the larger rumble motor from a PS2 controller and powered it with a 3.4 volt battery? Only slightly over powered.

oldmechanic (author)2012-07-06

Wouldnt it be cool if it was remote control and had a GPS Chip???!!!

Husham Samir (author)2012-06-04

awesome project!!

That One Eegit (author)2011-08-01

would it be possible to use a smaller bristlebot in a normal sized tennis ball?

yes i tried it. you use a toothbrush to replace the scrub brush..and the batteries, i got them from a watch

x-The Queen-x (author)2012-02-25

How to run Is there a key to the on and off ?

Please Help me I have a project about it

Do you still work to be completed on battery power ?

building_boy (author)2011-11-13

Hollow out a golfball and make it rc!


D_zeno (author)2010-09-07

Where can I get/buy these kind of motors you used?

Dearden805 (author)D_zeno2011-09-25

You can buy them at radioshack for real cheap

BnKSeth (author)D_zeno2011-05-22

Try any console controller like an XBOX controller or PS2 controller. It helped me :)

TigrisLi (author)D_zeno2011-05-05

You can find a vibrating motor in a electric toothbrush

huksin (author)D_zeno2010-12-24

i think in a cellphone that's what i got

Lawlzdeep (author)2011-05-22

A switch that can't get turned on/off accidentally would be a nice addition

amklose (author)2010-07-30

Does the bristlebot inside ever fall over?

Lawlzdeep (author)amklose2011-05-22

It seems that if the center of gravity is low enough it will always correct itself, that is if the bristlebot is big enough to never fall fully on its side without bumping into the inside of the ball.

dmac208 (author)amklose2010-08-25

many times in guessing

AnnaZed (author)2011-05-22

That rolly robot is just so utterly charming. Even though I am an extreme neophyte I think that I could make that.

Question: do you think that it would endure the attentions of a feisty cat?

morad10s (author)2011-05-22

in the controls of the play station these engines are.

carlpogi_11 (author)2011-02-18

im gonna make one and i will prank my friends hehe

Arc Trooper 5555 (author)2011-01-08

I'm putting a 9V battery in mine! :)

randofo (author)Arc Trooper 55552011-01-09

If you are using a pager motor, a 9V battery is far too much. Even for a motor of this size, a 9V battery is a tad much. Normally these motors take 3V to 4.5V. You might overheat and burn out the motor.

Arc Trooper 5555 (author)randofo2011-01-13

I was joking and I have a much larger motor.

randofo (author)randofo2011-01-09

*Whoops. You left the pager motor comment on a different Instructable :-)

Nonetheless, 9V might be too much.

ukkr (author)2011-01-12

Remove a ps2 controller and u will ind thos moters

mara0192 (author)2010-12-02

can anyone give me a website/part number of a motor like this, i'm new torobots and making things and i don't know where to look or what to search for one like this

randofo (author)mara01922010-12-02

This one was removed from a $5 personal massager from Walgreens. You can also pull them out of any gaming controller with a rumble pack. A vibrating motor like this is not something you could typically buy somewhere. You can make them out of any standard motor pretty easily by attaching any weight off-centered to the motor shaft.

chrizw123 (author)randofo2010-12-29

Personal massager, eh?;) lol

typomaniac (author)2010-12-24

this is pretty cool :-)
i have a general question: How do i find out, which is the right voltage for my motor? i do have some lying around but i do not know which voltage i should apply ...

thank you!


kevin.cwiok (author)2010-10-03

I got everything hooked up and wired correctly and even put a push button on there to power it off and on ,new batteries also, however, when i remove the paper and turn the button on, the motor spins slowly or it just stalls. I'm sure the push button isn't putting up any resistance because it's merely there to complete the circuit. Do you have any suggestions for why it could be doing that?

randofo (author)kevin.cwiok2010-10-03

Is anything getting in the way off the eccentric weight. How large is the motor? Maybe you are under-powering it.

kevin.cwiok (author)randofo2010-10-03

I got it. It was the voltage after all. Another battery made it work perfectly. The motor said 3-6V so that extra battery really made a difference. Cool idea and it was perfect for my first project. thanks for your help!

kevin.cwiok (author)randofo2010-10-03

Nothing is in the way of the weight and I'm using the motor from one of the massagers from CVS which looks practically identical to yours so I'm assuming 3V. I'm using 2 AA's. Should I try it with 4 of them?

Waren-Neutron (author)2010-09-05

you have know simple robots.

Waren-Neutron (author)2010-09-05

you such a good work

Pirondizzle (author)2010-08-10

What brand/type of back massager did you get to take the vibrating motor from? I can't find one that works with the AAA battery pack.

thekid (author)Pirondizzle2010-08-26

I have old Xbox controllers that are broken and i just used those. any rumble controller should have come :-)

randofo (author)Pirondizzle2010-08-11

I don't remember. You can use AA batteries. It doesn't matter particularly what type of batteries the motor uses.

Wasagi (author)2010-07-27

This is terrific! Could someone instead use a bristlebot and a tennis ball? Also, this is just solidifying my belief that randofo has an army of robots...

Doctor Freeman (author)Wasagi2010-08-22

not as many as grant imahara off of mithbusters

Wasagi (author)Doctor Freeman2010-08-22

Not yet as many....

Doctor Freeman (author)Wasagi2010-08-22

hmm.... not for a while 71/2 or 8 years but not eb=ven he has as many as black masia lol..........

Wasagi (author)Doctor Freeman2010-08-22

Well, James Rouvelle is lie friggin' Skynet....

About This Instructable




Bio: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previously life I had founded and run the Instructables ... More »
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