Introduction: Solar Cockroach Virbobot

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.

Step 2: Solder the Motor

Picture of Solder the Motor

Put the motor in one clip of the Helping Hand and a wire in the other. Solder on.

Do the same to the other side.

You want the wires point out.

BE CAREFUL! You don't want to use too much solder, nor do you want to put your soldering iron on the tab for too long. Too much heat and you'll melt the motor.

(Another reason I love the motors from Electric Goldmine is that they have very big solder tabs that are easy to solder. You want the ones with the blue casing, the pure silver casing ones melt with the slightest touch.)

Step 3: Connect to Solar Panel

Picture of Connect to Solar Panel

Now align the two wires to the two solder points of the solar panel.

Positive and negative don't matter in this case.

I like having my motor hanging in the middle. You can have it any which way you like.

Simple, no?

No, you don't need anything else.

No, you don't need a diode.

No, you shouldn't try fitting a capacitor in there. (I tried, it's not worth it.)

Step 4: Paperclips

Picture of Paperclips

Straighten out your two paper clips. I usually only use about 2/3rds of a small paperclip. It all depends on how long of legs you want.

Then bend them in half. We're making nice little Vs here people.

Using the Helping Hand and Hot Glue Gun, glue the legs on.

Again, the position of the legs all depends on you and how you want the roach to stand. I like my roaches short and slightly angled forward. This way I can point him at the sun for max power.

(As someone was so kind to point out, don't let the paperclips touch the wires that run to the motor, otherwise you'll get a short. If you're worried, just throw some hot glue between the legs and the motor wires.)

Step 5: Enjoy!

Picture of Enjoy!

Your're now done.

To make your roach extra cute I usually add on some little antennas via a single strip of thin wire.

You can also go full crazy and add googley eyes to make him extra personable.

I've made quite a few and given many away. Below are a few I have in my room (including one with a capacitor, something that didn't work at all for me) to give you an idea of different ways to do the legs.

If you'd like one I have some for sale on my website, etsy store, and available as kits.

If you want a cheap and easy project you might as well put a cockroach together.


jean ranido (author)2016-12-13

that was so cute , i love it

ReniA1 (author)2016-07-11

Its really awesome & cute

tlm67 (author)2016-05-28

must have¤

good engineer (author)2016-05-03

this will problary help me win my science fair prodject

luna0221 (author)2016-01-23

so cute!!!!!!!!! i love this. i have to make this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

orlando james (author)2015-11-03

so cute i love it

yo_demigods (author)2015-07-09

aww cute

coppermaniac (author)2015-03-30

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 ?

MohammedP3 (author)2015-03-14

so nice and cute and fun

Lrobot8 (author)2015-01-09

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! (author)2014-03-02

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

Pwag (author)2013-07-04

How do these work under fluorescent lighting? I was thinking of putting one on my secretaries desk under a sheet of paper...

patbking (author)2013-07-02

nice I will try it

czorse (author)2013-06-11

I do stuff like this and I take Motors and wire out of toys

Frowney001 (author)2011-08-21

I have that exact same helping hand!

blindpyro (author)Frowney0012012-12-14

Me too, I don't think they vary much.

lah.gofar (author)2012-07-14

hmm ..
ya really want right hand materials of manufacture is simple ..?

mritunjay gupta (author)2012-05-15

your idea is simple and nice too . i like it but please tell me how will the vibrobot walk . my id (

Jsquared24 (author)2011-08-24

Would you be able to incorporate LEDS into this?

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.

Mic100 (author)2012-05-06

I like smalls robots,i like it and I will make a similar :)

ethiran (author)2011-12-09

can i use dc motor instead of vibrator?

BrownDogGadgets (author)ethiran2011-12-10

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.

ethiran (author)BrownDogGadgets2012-03-07

Er,but can u turn a mini 4wd motor to a vibrating motor?

Annix15 (author)2011-12-11

lol, a 4.99 rating, so to help you, i will rate it 5*, very cool, come check out my stuff!

Matrix-technician (author)2011-04-11

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!

ben_xman (author)BrownDogGadgets2011-07-21

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:

PS: careful with the leads, they can be fragile!

BrownDogGadgets (author)ben_xman2011-07-25

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_xman (author)2011-07-21

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.noris (author)2011-05-07

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

BrownDogGadgets (author)mr.noris2011-05-21

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.

javajunkie1976 (author)2011-05-21

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.

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.

BrownDogGadgets (author)2011-04-08

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:/

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_n (author)2011-04-08

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

I luv Duct Tape (author)2011-01-27

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

wncranger (author)2011-02-10

Very nice! Informative AND instructive, I like! Thank you!

I do what I can.

BrownDogGadgets (author)2011-01-31

Well it does look like a cockroach, and a cute one at that. Maybe it's because you don't expect a cockroach to be cute that he is cute.

Plus what other insect scurries around when you shine light on it?

himselfamily (author)2011-01-20

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.

Message me if you want kits...

bigrobbi (author)BrownDogGadgets2011-01-29

I want to buy the solar panels but cant seem to find them anywhere. Pager motor i found easily (thanks) but no luck for the solar panels. Please help?

BrownDogGadgets (author)bigrobbi2011-01-31

You may be out of luck right now. I order from a guy in Canada who bulk orders massive amounts of stuff from China. About a week ago I emailed him to buy more panels and he said that over the past week (for some unknown reason... he he he) people had been buying up all his 1.5 volt solar panels. He said he would order more, but that could take a couple of months.

That being said I do have 100 1.5 volt solar panels showing up to my house this week for use with my Solar Cockroach kits that I sell on my website. That or message me and we can work something out.

About This Instructable




Bio: I used to teach middle school science, but now I run my own online educational science website. I spend my days designing new projects for ... More »
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