Introduction: Make a Robotty!

About: Well, I feel like I am a pretty regular guy... I work in the Entertainment industry. I love to create things, and build things so this site is one of my regular places :) I also enjoy going out doors, playin…
This Instructable will show you how to create a Robot Sculpture that lights up with LEDs. The whole project is pretty inexpensive. All the parts can be found around the house and at the local hardware, and craft store.

I will show you step by step detailed instructions to recreate exactly what I have done. You can copy it exactly or make it your own and just use some of my ideas to create your vision. However you want to do it, it is a fun project and people will be impressed by what you have come up with!

Don't let the amount of steps discourage you, I am trying to split it up a little more to help the work load feel a little less daunting.

Step 1: Laying Out What to Do!

Okay before you can start you need to know what you are making before you can start to buy parts for it. In my case I did many sketches to figure out what style of robot I wanted to make, and whether or not I wanted moving parts, lights etc...

Once I decided on the look, I went to Micheal's and Home Depot to look for parts that might fit what I needed. It took a couple trips back and forth to come up with the combination of parts that I used.

When you have all the parts, you will need to figure out the logical order in which you have to put things together. For me, I wanted to build the robot in pieces so I could paint things as a whole and not have to mask much off.

There is no wrong way in which to build your robot! There are easier ways and harder ways for sure though :)

Step 2: Getting All the Parts Together

There are quite a few parts needed for this robot. You can use anything to replace the parts that I have listed here to make it your own style and your own design, or you can follow it exactly to make a duplicate. If some of these parts are hard to find, don't give up!  Just think of something that would work as a replacement!

Found at Micheal's

Desert Foam - bought from Micheal's arts and crafts

Wooden Box - bought from Micheal's arts and crafts

Styrofoam balls - bought from Micheal's arts and crafts

Plastic Easter eggs - bought from Micheal's arts and crafts

Home Depot or Lowe's

Spray paint - your choice of color (I used John Deer Green)

Thick house paint - any color, white would be the best, this is to give it a think coat look

Below found in plumbing:
Utility Plunger x2

Orbit 1/2 " Swing Joint Elbow  
(Pieces for sprinkler systems)
(the link has a pack of 10, but if you go into the store you can purchase just two)

Orbit 1/2 " Swing straight   (Pieces for sprinkler systems)

Orbit 1/2 " Swing Joint T  (Pieces for sprinkler systems)

Clear Vinyl Tube 1/4 "

1/2 " Steal Tubing with threaded ends about 10" long

1/2 " Interior steal tube fittings

Thin copper tube about 3mm in diameter and 12" long (would be easier if it wasn't copper because copper is conductive)

Found in Electrical:
1/2 inch Conduit Locknut Steel

Rubber Grommets 1/2" inside
, pack of 4

Rubber Grommets 3/8" inside, pack of 5

Rubber Grommets 1/4" inside, pack of 6

Foil Tape

Found Parts:
Metal Bendable tubes with half dome shapes at the end, these were originally from a lamp, but the base of the lamp broke so I took it apart. These are used for the arms, you can use many other things for arms if you cannot get a hold of these.

Fruit cup container

Cans from Costco's weight loss shakes

Electrical parts


Perf board

Red wire

Black wire

100 ohm resistors

150 ohm resistors


Double sided tape

Small bolts with nuts

Tools needed:


Screw Driver

Hole saw bits

Soldering Gun

Helping hand

Step 3: The Legs

The legs are a pretty easy part to get together. In this case there isn't even any painting!

Parts needed for legs:

1/2 inch Conduit Lock nut Steel

Orbit 1/2 inch. Swing Joint Elbow

1/2 inch steal tube with threaded ends

Orbit 1/2 inch. Swing straight

Utility plunger base

1. The picture below lays out the order in which the pieces fit together. Since the inside of the plastic pieces on the end of the steal tube do not have threads on the inside, you will need to create some of your own threads.

Grab a hold of the steel tube and one of the plastic pieces. Now you need to press hard and rotate slowly, as if you were threading the plastic fitting on the tube if there were threads there. If done correctly the first time, you will later be able to take them apart and put them back together and the treads will stay there from now on.

2. To put the bottom fitting into the Plunger base you simply put it in and wiggle it around with some pressure and it will slide into place.

3. Now you need to drill some holes into the body so these legs can be mounted. Grab the wooden box and unscrew the front door to it (it will make life easier, but make sure not to lose the screws!).

Find the hole saw-bit that fits the size of the Orbit 1/2 inch Swing Joint Elbow end. Mark where you want to drill into your body (the wooden box). It is very important where you place these--you must make sure that they are placed evenly on each side, so make sure you measure and double check before you drill.

Now that you have the holes put the legs into them and make sure that everything lines up and looks even. And this is the first view of what your Robot is going to look like!


Step 4: The Head

Okay, so here we go on the head. This step we are going to pre-wire the head for lights later on. The way I am approaching this is that you only have this one time to wire it up, so make sure that you know ALL the lights that you want to put in!

Parts needed for the head:

Foam Blocks

Foil Tape

Red wire

Black wire

Neck Post

and grab the Body (wooden box)

1. Open up the foam blocks, grab three of them and tape them together (like the picture below) with the Aluminum tape. Grab three more and duplicate the same thing.

Place the metal rod you are using for the neck in the center of one side of the foam, then grab the other side of foam and press the two together so the Neck Post dents the foam until both foam pieces touch one another. Separate the two sides of foam and use the Neck Post to make indents in the foam for wires to ears, top of head etc.

2. At this point you can also grab a drill bit and drill holes through the foam where the eyes, mouth, and if you want, a nose.

3. Grab a 1/2" rubber grommet and shave off one side of the grommet, so the profile is more of a mushroom shape. Next grab the wooden box (the body). Drill a hole in the top of the body big enough that the 1/2" rubber grommet fits into the hole, and the grommet mushrooms over the edge of the hole.

4. The Neck Post should fit snugly into the grommet. Run the wires through the Neck post up into the head. Make sure that the wires are plenty long enough to have extra on each end (I ran into this with mine, not enough wire in the chest so it was a pain to solder).

5. Set the Neck Post onto the back part of the head and tape into place (where you made the indent). Now grab the wires and tape them into place. For exampl: tape the ear wires into their dents to the sides of the heads etc.. Grab the front of the head and put the eye, nose, and mouth wires through their holes so they hang out the front of the head.

6. Now that the wires are in place, tape up the head so it becomes one block.


Step 5: Adding to the Head

Parts need for this step:

Foil Tape

Fruit Cups

Copper Tubes

Easter Egg

Knife for cutting

1. To Help secure the head, start wrapping the head with the foil tape. When tapping up the head, make sure that you are keeping it nice and tight. It is important to keep all the Styrofoam compact.

2. Grab the Fruit cups and copper tubes. Drill a hole on the top center of the fruit cups just large enough for a rubber grommet to fit snugly into it.

3. Now that there are holes in the cups, put them in place on the head and pull the ear wires through the hole. Grab the foil tape and cut pieces about a 1/2" wide and start taping down the fruit cup to the head (which is now the ear).  When taping, try taping opposite sides of the cup down and and then going around so the cup is seamlessly attached to the head.

4. Repeat with other ear. No need to put the copper tubes in yet-- that is for the end steps!

5. For the top of the neck we will use the Easter Egg. Grab the bottom half of the Easter Egg and drill a hole so the Neck Post fits snugly into it. Slide the Easter egg up the Neck post to the head.  Now tape it down with the foil tape. Use same technique as explained above

6. To cut out the mouth, take a sharpie and draw a mouth on him to figure out the shape. Grab the knife and start cutting straight into the head.  It should be fairly easy to cut.  Once you have the overall shape cut in, start chipping away the foam to create a nice rectangular hole in the head.

7. Cut thin pieces of foil tape and start lining the inside of the mouth.  Foil tape is very reflective so it will bounce the light around a create a nice glow in the mouth.

Step 6: Making the Arms

Making the arms may just be the easiest step over all!

Parts need for arms:

1/2 " Steal Tubing with threaded ends about 10" long

Orbit 1/2 " Swing Joint T

Rubber Grommets 3/8" inside

Pieces from a bendable Lamp

Red Wire

Black Wire

the Body (wooden box)

1. Grab the Piece from the bendable lamp, or whatever you have found for the arms. Cut some wire lengths long enough to go from the chest of the robot out the arms and have enough at the hands to work with. Tape them up so they will not get pulled out while you work on things.

2. Take the rubber grommets and cut them the same way as described in step 4.

3. Mark the sides of the body where you would like the arms to be.  Make sure that they are even on both sides. Now drill a whole where the mark is so the rubber grommet fits into the hole. Place the grommets into their holes.

4. Take the swing joint "T" and drill a small hole in the middle for the neck wires to come out. Place it so the tip of the "T" is on the end of the Neck Post, pulling the wires through the hole in the "T".

Grab the 1/2" steal Tubing and slide it into the arm hole through the rubber gromit and into one of the sides of the "T", mark the length and cut. Cut a second piece equal length, you should have two smaller steal rods that look similar to the image below.

5. Grab all the pieces and put them together, the "T" on the Neck Post, short steal rods in the "T" through the rubber grommet to the outside of the body, arms attach to the rods there! Make sure that when you put the arms on the final time (after you paint) you remember to thread the wires through the hole in the "T". Now you should see the arms on for the first time!


Step 7: The Body

Alright lets get the body ready! 

At this point you should already have a couple holes in it.  There should be a hole for each leg, one for each arm, and one for the head.  Take a look at the pictures below for a visual example of the holes.  So we have five holes done, and a couple more to go. 

The parts we need for body:

Wooden box for body

Plexi glass

Project board

Tools needed:


Hole saw bits

Hack saw

1.  We need to drill some holes into the back of the box to mount the Project board.  Lay down your project board into the box and grab a pencil and make some marks on the box of where you want to mount the board.  My project board has holes in the corners for mounting the board, so I marked where those are. 

2. Grab your drill and a drill bit the size of your bolt.  Drill out the holes for the bolts to mount project board.  After drilling, do a test fit.  If all works, set aside until after painting.

3.  In addition to the holes for mounting the board, we need a couple holes for the wires from the rocketpack to get into the body and a couple to mount the rocketpack.

Line up the cans that you are going to use for the rocketpack and decide where you are going to place the mounting holes.  Mark them on the body, then drill, test, and set aside.  For the wires from the rocketpack, I drilled a hole big enough for a couple tubes to fit into above the left arm hole and another small hole in between the two holes on the back to attach the rocketpack.

4.  Now that you have the holes drilled to mount the Project board, we are ready to setup the front door of the body.  I wanted to have a little different look to the chest of the robot, so I decided to drill a handful of large round holes instead of one large opening to see the lights and wiring.

5.  To give the chest a more "finished" look we will put in Plexi glass behind the hole.  Measure the width of the wooden box/chest on the inside, and then the height inside enough to have a 1/2 inch past you holes on the top and bottom.  Cut plexi glass to those demensions, test fit, then set aside for after the painting.


Step 8: The Rocketpack

Lets get going on the Rocket pack!

Again, this can really be whatever you want.  In this case I am making it a rocket pack type of backpack. I was planning on making another robot that would have a Rocket pack that would have speakers in it, and so on... So however you want to tackle this part... I will show you what I did and you can take that and run with it.

First find the parts that you need to complete the design, I used:

Two Cans with the bottoms, and tops cut out

Two Fruit cup containers

The tops of two plastic Easter eggs

Foil tape

The setup it self is really simple:

1. Grab one of the cans, one Fruit cup container, and the foil tape. Cut off some thin strips of foil tape, approx 2" x 1/2" strips. Now tape the fruit cup to the top of the can using the foil tape. It is easiest if you tape down four opposite edges first, and then fill in the gaps that are not taped.  You want to make sure all edges are covered with the foil tape. The reason for that is so when you paint it, it will look more like one solid piece.

2. Now grab the top of the Easter egg. This will be the point of one side of the rocket pack. Again, cut some more then strips of foil tape appox. 2" x 1/2" strips. Place the half egg on top of the fruit cup, making sure that it is nice and centered.  Start tapping it down using the same technique of opposite sides and filling in all the gaps.

3. Repeat for the second Rocket.

4. We need to drill some holes for mounting the packs to the body. Hold up the rockets to the body and mark with a pencil two spots on each rocket and matching spots on the body. Drill out the holes on both rockets and the body big enough for you're bolts to fit through.

At this point you need to have decided what kind of lights you would like on the Rocket pack. I decided that I wanted to do three tubes coming out of the side of one pack and into the side of the robot. There are also three tubes going across from one rocket pack to the other to make it look like two kinds of liquid combining to create the propulsion of the packs.

To get power to the LED's I am using exposed tubes to one rocket pack and a small hole through the can and into the body of the robot so that side is hidden. You can do this anyway that you want to, as long as you plan ahead!


Step 9: Painting the Robot

The idea behind the look of the paint that I did was to make it look like this robot was some kind of government-owned robot. You know, like some of the government or county owned trucks, tractors, or even school buses!  When they get a scratch on them they just paint another coat, so it is thick with many coats of paint... so that's the look that I wanted for this Robot!

1. Before starting painting, take off the arms and legs.  Tape up the inside of the front door of the chest and all of the holes in the body. With taping the holes just throw a little piece of tape on the inside of the body, covering the holes. Also, make sure the Neck Post is taped off and all grommets removed.

2. Okay, the basis of how I made it look like this was a lot of random left over house paint--nice and thick. I painted it a couple of times, so maybe 4 coats, and then grabbed my spray paint of "John Deer Green" and just spray painted over the top of the other paint to get the color I wanted. I did about two coats of green spray paint just to cover up the random colors I used below.

3. Once it is dried, you can start to put back together, arms, legs, grommets, etc..

Step 10: Wiring Up the Back Pack!

Parts needed:

3 Blue LED's (5mm)

3 Red LED's (3mm)

3 Amber LED's (5mm)

Clear Tubing

3 Glue sticks

3 small Grommets

6 large Grommets

It is very important to test your circuits before soldering everything all together! If something isn't right then it is a HUGE pain to redo.  Best way to test is on a project board!

1.  In between the two rocket packs I have three glue sticks.  I wanted one side lit up with blue LED's and the other side with orange/amber LED's.  Grab a glue stick and the soldering iron, take the hot soldering iron and push it into the end of the glue stick melting a hole.  Melt a hole in about 1/4 - 1/2 inche, grab a LED and push it into the hole while the glue is still hot and pliable.  When you push the LED into the hole the glue will surround the LED and seal it in.

(Continue this process with all three glue sticks.  Make sure that you keep track of the blue sides and the Orange/Amber sides!)

2.  Now we solder the wires to the LED Leads.  Start off with soldering about 4 inches of the black wires to the negative leads and seal the exposed metal with heat shrink.  On one of the negative leads on one of the blue LED's, leave about a foot of black wire on there (that will be the main negative wire that will go through the robots back and into the chest).  On a different blue LED, solder a red wire to the positive lead and leave about a foot. This will be the main positive wire for the Blue side.

3.  Take the wires and string them in to the holes and back out to solder onto the next LED (Take a look at the Diagram below for the layout of wires).

4.  Repeat process for each set of three LED's, but keep the Red and Orange/Amber on the same circuit.

Step 11: Wiring Up the Arms

Here is a diagram explaining how the robot arms are wired.

Parts needed:

3 Blue LED's

3 White Wide angle LED's

Hot Glue

Hot Glue Gun

There are two wires coming out of the arm; one Red and one Black.  The Red is naturally Positive, and the Black is negative. 

Setup three of the LED's on one circuit and the other on another circuit.  To make it easier on myself, I put three white LED's together, and three Blue LED's together.  Please refer to the diagram below.

Step 12: Wiring Up the Ears

Parts Needed:

2 Rubber Grommets

2 Copper tubes

2 3mm LED's

For the ears, we are looking at only wiring up two LED's total.  We also don't really need to worry about the resistors in the ear tubing because those will be put on the board in his chest.

1.   Grab a rubber grommet and pull the wires from one ear through the grommet and see if the grommet fits in the hole. Mine did not, because the paint was so thick.  So if that is the case with you too, carve out a bigger hole around the wires with a razor blade.  Be careful not to go too big otherwise the grommet will not be snug.

2.  Now that the grommet is in place, grab the copper tubing and string the wire through it, too.  If planned out right, the copper tubing fits snugly into the grommet (again not the case for me).   I needed a spacer of some sort so I grabbed some of my left-over tubing and slid a couple inches of that right over the copper tubing and into the grommet.  Now it fits snugly!  Push the copper tubing into the head a little bit so it is nice an sturdy.  ALSO you push it in a little extra so you can have enough wire exposed to work with.

3.  Take your LED (I used a 3mm, seems to match the outside width of the copper tubing nicely), and solder the Black wire to the negative lead and the Red to the positive lead.  NOTE that this is copper tubing so it is conductive, so make sure that you shrink wrap the leads and exposed wire, or else you WILL get a short.  Now that it is soldered grab the copper tubing and pull it out just a little bit, just enough to cover the wires but not enough to lose any sturdiness crated by being pushed into the head.

Step 13: Wiring Mouth and Eyes

Parts needed:

For Eyes:

6 Blue LED's

Styrofoam balls

For Mouth:

3 White Wide angle LED's (if you don't have wide angle LED's, no big deal, it will still work)

Heat Shrink

The idea with the mouth is to make a nice even glow.  To do this, we need the bare minimum wires in there.  We already have the inside lined with highly reflective material, so that will help.  There are two wires coming out of the mouth, one Red and one Black.  The Red is naturally Positive, and the Black is negative. 

1.  Setup the three LED's on one circuit, and keep the wires as short as possible.  Aim the Leads down and away from the front so we mainly see bounced light, that way there will be less lines and will be more of an even glow.  Take a look at the images at the bottom.

For the eyes we are using LED's pointed right into the Styrofoam.  That in itself is going to give us enough diffusion that it will create a nice glow. 

1.  Grab a Styrofoam ball, and a hack saw.  Cut the ball in half!

2.  The LED's need to have nice even spacing around each eye, so take the Styrofoam ball and mark three dots in a nice even triangle on the flat side of the ball. 

3.  Grab the LED's and just push the head of each LED into the ball where the marks are.  Push all the way until the head is completely counter sunk into the Styrofoam. 

3.  Use the Foam to hold the LED's in place to solder the circuit.  Once the three LED's are soldered together, solder them to the Red and Black wires coming out of the eye holes on the head.  Just like the mouth, make sure to use the minimum amount of wire.  All the wire has to be kept hidden behind the foam eyes.

NOTE:  I painted the eyes with some glow-in-he-dark paint at this step.   It is really neat at night when you turn off the lights the robots eyes continue to look at you!  The foam takes about 3-5 coats, but the advantage is the foam gets sealed and will not crumble once painted.  Not necessary to do, but fun!

4.  Grab the double-sided tape and put some on the back of the eyes, in between and around the LED holes. Stick the eyes onto the head!

Step 14: Putting It All Together

At this point you are just putting all the puzzle peices together!  You can put it together in whatever order you want, but I will tell you breifly how I did it. 

1.  Start with the body, then attach the legs to that so you can get the robot standing. 

2.  Next mount the head. Grab the head and slide the neck into place, remembering the gromet.  In order for the wiring to be usable from the head we need to drill a hole in the "T Joint" (take a look at where the wires come out of the joint in the picture below). Pull the wires through the hole and squish the "T Joint" onto the neck

3.  Grab your arms and gromets and put them into place. Slide the wires from the arms through the same hole that the wires come from the head.  Now all the wires from the head and both arms should all be coming out one hole right above where the project board will be.

4.  Lets mount the project board!  Simple enough-- grab some bolts and nuts.  Slide the bolts into the correct holes and screw in the nuts all the way down to be snug against the wood.  Test to make sure that the project board will fit onto the bolts, but don't fully mount that yet.  We will want some room to be able to solder everything.

5.  Now mount the rocket pack with another set of shorter nuts and bolts.  Thread the wires from the rocketpack into the body (whether you decided to wire staight into the back or through tubes).

Step 15: Wiring Up Chest

We are so close to finishing up!  Really this is the easy part, compared to what you have already done.  This step it is all just a bunch of soldering things into place.  There is a diagram that I drew below. I hope it is clear enough.

This step is really much more in your hands and what LED's and power supply you ended up going with.  I used a 12 volt power supply, so everything I did was based off of that.  Hopefully you have kept everything labeled so you know what wires are coming from which LED's.  If not, you just need to test the wires to find out where they are going. 

The whole wiring setup is really simple; we have our main power input, so just use that and make a bunch of little circuits for each set of LED's. 

Remember we did not mount any resistors to the LEDs, so the project board is where the resistors will be mounted.  Make sure that you are using the appropriate resistors for your LED setup.  Here is a link to the best place I have found to make sure I have the correct resistors:

Step 16: All Done!

Congrats-- you are officially finished! Robotty is a fun project to build and can be used for decoration, a source of light or whatever your  heart desires.

Adding your own personal touches will make Robotty all of your own. I look forward to seeing what you can do with him!
National Robotics Week Robot Contest

Third Prize in the
National Robotics Week Robot Contest

3rd Epilog Challenge

Participated in the
3rd Epilog Challenge

Monster Contest

Participated in the
Monster Contest