Picture of Solar Cockroach Virbobot

*** The 1.5V solar cells and little nokia vibrating motors can no longer be found online. I've written a new guide using new parts.***

I had a blast making bristlebots with my 4th grade science club a few weeks ago, so I started thinking up new ways to make simple vibrobots to give away as gifts.

I came up with this very simple Cockroach Virbobot. It only costs about $2.50 and 20 minutes of time to make. Super cute and super simple.

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

What you need.

Soldering Iron + solder
Hot glue gun
(A helping hand is nice as well)
Wire cutters or strong scissors

1.5V solar panel ($1)
Small DC Vibrating Motor (AKA Pager motor)
Two paper clips
Scrap wire (I used the ends from a couple of resistors I had cut down. They can be anything.)

Super Cute Option: Googley eyes

I bought a pack of 10 solar panels off ebay for $10. Great for a lot of projects.

I bought my motors from the online store Electric Goldmine for $1.10 each. I like the ones they have because they trigger at only 0.5V, whereas most trigger at around 1.5V. The lower trigger voltage you can get the better because it means that your roach will work under less sunlight. If you do buy from them be SURE to get the motors with the blue casing, not the silver. Silver ones suck for a variety of reasons.

If you don't want to buy these in bulk, I have a kit and prebuilt ones for sale on my website. It's a fun project you can do with kids or makes a great little gift you made yourself.

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yo_demigods1 month ago
aww cute
coppermaniac5 months ago
Nice ,can someone please make a instructable about making a multipurpose helping bot? And really nice cockroach
I don't know how to make my own instrucable can someone help me ?
MohammedP35 months ago

so nice and cute and fun

Lrobot87 months ago

Is there a special kind of soldering iron required? On amazon there's a 30watt soldering iron and a 40watt soldering iron. Does it matter which one you buy?

rhinhart13 made it!1 year ago

I've never used a glue gun and the last time i touched a soldering iron was about 20 years ago so this was nice easy project to start with

Pwag2 years ago
How do these work under fluorescent lighting? I was thinking of putting one on my secretaries desk under a sheet of paper...
patbking2 years ago
nice I will try it
czorse2 years ago
I do stuff like this and I take Motors and wire out of toys
Frowney0014 years ago
I have that exact same helping hand!
Me too, I don't think they vary much.
lah.gofar3 years ago
hmm ..
ya really want right hand materials of manufacture is simple ..?
your idea is simple and nice too . i like it but please tell me how will the vibrobot walk . my id (mritunjaygupta4@gmail.com)
Jsquared244 years ago
Would you be able to incorporate LEDS into this?
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  Jsquared243 years ago
You could. But you'd need a bigger solar cell. Red LEDs need at least 2.4V to operate, white need 3.6V.

Completely possible, with a bigger solar cell.
Mic1003 years ago
I like smalls robots,i like it and I will make a similar :)
ethiran3 years ago
can i use dc motor instead of vibrator?
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  ethiran3 years ago
Well the project won't move unless you have a vibrating motor. Sure, you can put any motor on there as long as it meets the power requirements.

The whole "vibrating" thing is kind of important.
Er,but can u turn a mini 4wd motor to a vibrating motor?
Annix153 years ago
lol, a 4.99 rating, so to help you, i will rate it 5*, very cool, come check out my stuff!
Wow! great "ible" for a simple vibrot. This has given me a few ideas. At your local Wal-mart, they are currently selling solar powered flashlights with a super-capacitor in them about the size of 2 quarters lined up in a row, a little larger than a calculator soalr pannel. Pretty small solar pannel, but very strong. I bought 4 of them for $2.36 a piece. I'm going to use these to make super small solar vibrots. 5 stars, Keep up the good work!
That would be cool to see! You should hook up a super cap into your vibrobot.

For fun I made a two solar cell roach this past weekend. Worked in a little 3V .6F battery. Worked rather well. Charged up the battery nicely and was able to keep the motor going even in the shade.

Too bad I'm unable to find those nice little 1.5V solar cells. Everywhere online is sold out!
At solarbotics you can get some solar panels including some ultra small .5 volt ones. Use those cell-phone vibrating motors and these and you can have a really small one!

Here's the linky: http://solarbotics.com/products/scpd/

PS: careful with the leads, they can be fragile!
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  ben_xman4 years ago
Only problem is that most vibrating motors don't trigger until 1V. I was lucky to find a supply of ones that trigger at .5V. Sadly I can't find them any more.

I did find a much better solution. I found some slightly bigger solar cells, 2V at 50mA, which work wonderfully.


I'm putting together a newer version of my Solar Cockroach kit using those cells and some new motors. They move around a lot more than the old version.
Basically that's what i am planing to do. I am going to gut the flashlight and build a new body around it's electronics. If i can get my camera working i'll get up some pics.
If you have a multimeter check the voltage coming out of those solar panels. Just to be on the safe side.

You also want to find some little vibrating motors that trigger at .5 or 1V, those work the best. Most are 1.5V, so you have to search.

I do remember reading that a lot of cheap "solar" lights you buy are fake. Several people reported buying them only to find that there was just a standard battery on the inside and the solar panel was fake. So test them out before you go to all the trouble of soldering and making.
This solar light works really well, It has a run time of about 8 hours before needing recharged. I took it apart and inside it contains a regulator and a voltage booster for charging the capacitor.
Then it's worth a try.

Also, save that capacitor! If it's as good as it sounds you can use it in all kinds of projects.
ben_xman4 years ago
That is a really great BEAM design. Just a motor and a solar panel! (and some legs of course)

I wonder if the same technique could be used by having two of these attached to each other under water. With the engines facing opposite directions and solar panels at different angles it could find the light source. Or if you had one for every direction then it could find the light on any plane!

Could this be inspired by common paramecium with eyespots? I've heard it's flagellum inspired modern day DC motors too!
mr.noris4 years ago
you sell 3.5 volt solar panals on the site can you get a 3.7v or will a 4v solar panal work 4 my 3.7v phone
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  mr.noris4 years ago
When going with solar you always want to pick a panel, or cell, that is higher than the amount you need. Solar cells are rated in several ways. Usually showing the max voltage and current possible, meaning on a very sunny day at noon. Typically you'll get less than that number.

For example. Big solar panels you see on homes or businesses usually charge up large 12V batteries. The panels are set up with a max voltage of 18 or 21 volts so that even on cloudy days

If you need 3.7V to charge your phone then you'd want a solar cell larger than 4V. The 7V I have might work well.

Usually phones charge up at 5V (if it's USB then it's five). You may want to do some googling about your phone.
For anyone that doesn't know where to find solar panels: I found solar powered walkway lights at the 99cent only store. The panels measure about 2" square and charge a 3V lithium coin battery during the day. They also have a light sensor that shuts off the LED when the sun rises.
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  javajunkie19764 years ago
The amount of current coming out of the solar cell also matters. I found some great solar cells on some 99 cent garden lights. High voltage but low current. While they were able to work with some of the motors I have, they didn't work with all of them.

Interesting that they use a 3V coin cell to charge up. All the garden lights I've torn apart use a single AA or AAA battery.
JoshuaZimmerman (author) 4 years ago
Holy wow! I love the fact that my little Solar Cockroach is on the front page again as part of the "build you first robot" collection!!! I still have heaps of parts for kits and parts to make them on my website, http:/www.browndoggadgets.com

I've also got a 2.0 version brewing in my head using larger panels and a stronger motor. More like a solar locus than anything.
tim_n4 years ago
Excellent instructable, I wish electronics in the UK were as cheap as America - I'll forward this onto the Cub pack as it'd make a good project for them
anyone know where i can get one of those solar panels? i checked ebay but couldnt find anything.
I ordered up the last of them from my usual dealer in Canada.  He was being bought out thanks to this instructable. 

I have them on my site as kits.  Buy them as a kit or shoot me a message.  We can work something out.
ok. im broke right now but maybe later we can work something out
wncranger4 years ago
Very nice! Informative AND instructive, I like! Thank you!
JoshuaZimmerman (author)  wncranger4 years ago
I do what I can.
I loved this and I'll definitely be doing it next summer here at Sky Lodge Christian Camp. I'm always looking for cheap but cool projects, especially that would interests boys. Thanks.
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