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.
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Ploopy1 month ago


Mkj8903 months ago
This is a neat robot... I honestly thought it was just a tennis ball... Awesome though!!!
Bennettccohen9 months ago
TarekA19 months ago

could you help me fabricate a robot that evoid objects ,

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

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.
oldmechanic3 years ago
Wouldnt it be cool if it was remote control and had a GPS Chip???!!!
awesome project!!
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
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 ?
Hollow out a golfball and make it rc!

D_zeno4 years ago
Where can I get/buy these kind of motors you used?
You can buy them at radioshack for real cheap
BnKSeth D_zeno4 years ago
Try any console controller like an XBOX controller or PS2 controller. It helped me :)
TigrisLi D_zeno4 years ago
You can find a vibrating motor in a electric toothbrush
huksin D_zeno4 years ago
i think in a cellphone that's what i got
Lawlzdeep4 years ago
A switch that can't get turned on/off accidentally would be a nice addition
amklose5 years ago
Does the bristlebot inside ever fall over?
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 amklose5 years ago
many times in guessing
AnnaZed4 years ago
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?
morad10s4 years ago
in the controls of the play station these engines are.
carlpogi_114 years ago
im gonna make one and i will prank my friends hehe
I'm putting a 9V battery in mine! :)
randofo (author)  Arc Trooper 55554 years ago
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.
I was joking and I have a much larger motor.
randofo (author)  randofo4 years ago
*Whoops. You left the pager motor comment on a different Instructable :-)

Nonetheless, 9V might be too much.
ukkr4 years ago
Remove a ps2 controller and u will ind thos moters
mara01924 years ago
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)  mara01924 years ago
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.
Personal massager, eh?;) lol
typomaniac4 years ago
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.cwiok4 years ago
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.cwiok4 years ago
Is anything getting in the way off the eccentric weight. How large is the motor? Maybe you are under-powering it.
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!
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?
you have know simple robots.
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