Introduction: RC Minecraft Creeper Robot
For everybody who enjoys playing the hugely-popular video game Minecraft, and who would also like to try building a robot, this Instructables project is for you! This creeper bot is relatively inexpensive to build (the consumable materials cost about $30 total) and you do not need to have any electronics experience to make it. (I’m a biologist by training and this is the first robot I’ve made!) I’ve tried to provide enough detail so that it’s easy for anybody, no matter what their experience level, to make this creeper bot. This project also teaches how to “recycle”/”upcycle” a RC car in general to make it into a more entertaining RC robot.
This creeper bot is nearly 0.5 meters (1.5 feet) tall, zooms around on durable wheels (it can go on flat surfaces as well as carpeting), can turn left and right, can go backwards, can turn its head (left or right), and has eyes that light up as it charges forward (or backwards). And it’s all controlled by remote control (RC, also by radio control).
Why a Minecraft creeper?
The Minecraft creeper is probably the most recognizable creature from the game. Instead of just making a stationary creeper, I thought it’d be a lot more fun to have one that moves around and turns its head, like a real creeper from the game. It’s also much safer to be around than a real creeper because it does not blow up.
Why use RC cars instead of building it from scratch?
I made the decision to make the creeper bot from an RC car (and an RC mouse) because this approach uses pre-assembled parts (circuits, wheels with motors, and RC systems) that make it much more approachable for novices who still want to make something cool. Having an electronics background is not necessary to make the creeper bot, and a lot can still be learned by just taking apart (and putting back together) the RC devices used in this project. Lastly, the RC car and RC mouse used in this project are so inexpensive that the total cost of making the creeper bot (about $30) is not that much for what you get. (While you can get a relatively inexpensive robot platform from Sparkfun, it’s still $15 for the single platform and doesn’t come with an RC system.)
The Epilog Challenge VI Contest
If I won a Zing 16 Laser, I’d have tons of fun making, cutting, and assembling parts out of more durable materials than the paper and cardboard I typically use in my projects. I’d also like to try engraving materials to make lamps/projectors that can project images (on walls/ceilings) with detailed three-dimensionality.
Check out my other Instructables projects for several other Minecraft-themed projects.
Special thanks to my husband for some engineering advice!
Step 1: Materials You’ll Need
You’ll need these consumable parts to make the creeper bot (about $30-34 total):
- RC sports car ($12.95). This project uses this exact RC car – the dimensions given are for using it, so you’ll need to adjust everything accordingly if you use a different RC car. This car is used as the base of the creeper bot. (Note you can also get cheap RC cars locally, like a $10 one from Radio Shack, but the type varies.)
- Mini RC mouse ($9.50). This project uses this exact RC mouse. You could use something similar – it’s just important that it be small and able to move forwards and backwards. The back wheels of this mouse are used to move the creeper bot’s head left/right.
- Foam board, about 50 cm x 50 cm (about $4). Alternatively, you could use cardboard (free!).
- Plastic standoffs, ¾ inch ($8.45). You’ll need 9 total.
You’ll also need these tools and minor consumables to make the creeper bot:
- Printer with paper
- White school glue and a small foam brush. Alternatively you could use a glue stick. This is for gluing the paper to the foam board.
- Fingernail polish. This should be a greenish, or blue-greenish, shade.
- Push pin
- Safety pin
- Utility knife
- Glue gun with a few extra glue sticks
- Small Phillips head screwdriver
- Electrical tape
- Wire cutters
- Wire strippers
- Insulated wire
- Soldering iron – this is optional, but recommended, since it’s great for repairing any wires you might damage!
Step 2: Overview
The creeper bot is basically made of three parts: (1) its feet, (2) its torso, and (3) its head. See the schematic in this step for the dimensions (in centimeters [cm]) of the finished creeper bot.
The creeper bot’s feet are basically a rectangle (technically rectangular prism) that snugly fit around a disassembled RC car. I made the dimensions of the creeper bot based on the dimensions of the disassembled RC car – the feet are just large enough to completely fit around the RC car’s base (without its shell). Because the RC car can go backwards, forwards, and turn, the creeper bot can do all of this too.
The creeper bot’s torso is basically a long rectangle in the middle that fits around the disassembled RC mouse. The wheels of the mouse are arranged vertically so that the creeper’s head sits on top of one end of the wheels, and this turns the head left/right.
The creeper bot’s head is a cube on the top of the creeper. The headlights from the RC car get routed into the creeper bot’s head so that when it moves forward/backwards, its eyes light up!
Step 3: Disassembling the RC Car
Take the cute RC car and flip it over so you’re looking at its underside. Remove the four screws that hold the car’s top shell onto the car’s base frame (where the wheels, motor, battery pack, and circuitry are). Two of these screws are between the back wheels, and two of these screws are between the front wheels – see the pictures for details. Be sure to keep the screws – you’ll need them later.
Carefully lift the shell off of the car’s base, making sure not to damage the antenna or wires connected to the car’s headlights. Then remove the screw holding the headlights to the shell – see the picture. Again, be sure to keep this screw – you’ll need it later.
The car’s shell should now be completely detached from the car’s base. See the pictures for what this should look like.
Step 4: Assembling the Feet: Part 1
Preparing the foam board
From a piece of foam board (or cardboard), cut out a piece that is 62.8 cm long and 9.52 cm tall. Use a pencil to mark vertical lines that divide the long piece into four segments that have the following lengths, in this order: 12.36 cm, 19.04 cm, 12.36 cm, and then 19.04 cm. See the pictures for details. (Note that these measurements are different from the ones in the schematic in Step 2 because these account for the width of the foam board, which is 0.5 cm – if your board is a different width, adjust accordingly.) Use the utility knife to cut through just one layer of the foam board on the pencil-marked lines, and then fold them backwards. They should form a rectangle, as shown in the pictures. Tape it closed into a rectangle space for now.
Attaching the disassembled RC car
Put the disassembled RC car in the rectangular space you just made to make sure it fits around the car well and the car can still turn, etc., without the wheels hitting the board. Next cut out a piece of foam board that is 19.04 cm by 12.36 cm – this will be directly attached to the disassembled RC car (using plastic standoffs) and will then be glued to the foam board rectangle you just made. Make sure it fits well within the rectangle. Also cut a small hole for the antenna to go through.
Now take four of the plastic standoffs and screw them onto the disassembled RC car where it attached to its shell (use the RC car’s screws – they should fit in the standoffs well – and put the screws in where they were before, going from the underside of the RC car). Carefully coat the tops of each standoff with a layer of fingernail polish (color doesn’t matter). Then quickly fit the car in the foam board rectangle space and put the 19.04 cm x 12.36 cm piece on top of it (fitting the antenna through its hole in the piece). This should cause the fingernail polish to mark where the standoffs touched the foam board piece.
The nail polish marks from the standoffs are a good guide for how far forward/backwards the disassembled RC car should be attached to the foam board piece (to prevent the car from bumping the rectangular frame), but then you should move the car to the left/right to center it on the piece. This will help the creeper bot be more stable. See the pictures for details.
In step 6 you’ll attach the standoffs to the 19.04 cm x 12.36 cm foam board piece, but first you need to make the RC car’s headlights longer so they’ll fit all the way up into the creeper bot’s head! To do this, move on to the next step.
Step 5: Preparing the Glowing Eyes
Preparing the new wire
Take your insulated wire and cut four pieces, each about 55 cm long. (These wires need to be long enough to make the disassembled RC car’s headlights reach the creeper bot’s head.) Strip about 2-3 cm off of both ends of each wire.
Lengthening the wires
Cut one of the four blue wires that attach the RC car’s base to its headlights. Carefully strip about 2 cm of insulation off of the ends of the blue wire. (It’s really easy to detach the wire from the circuit board at this point, so be careful! This is when some soldering may come in handy.) Twist one end of the stripped blue wire together with one end of a 55 cm long wire you prepared, and then twist the other loose ends together. You should have now effectively lengthened the blue wire by about 55 cm. Wrap some electrical tape around where you twisted the wires to keep them held together.
Repeat this with the three other blue wires so they’re all similarly lengthened. Then add some electrical tape around all four of the wires to help hold them together (this will make it harder for any one to get detached from the circuit board). When you’re done, try turning on the headlights to make sure they still work!
Step 6: Assembling the Feet: Part 2
Preparing the foam board piece
Make a hole in the 19.04 cm x 12.36 cm foam board piece (you prepared in step 4) for the headlights to fit through. I made a 2 cm x 3 cm rectangle for this. Then unscrew the standoffs from the disassembled RC car and use hot glue to glue them into place on the 19.04 cm x 12.36 cm foam board piece (where you made marks in step 4).
Securing the disassembled RC car
Screw the disassembled car’s base back onto the standoffs, which are now on the foam board piece. (Be sure to fit the antenna and headlights through their respective holes.) Fit the rectangular frame (which you made in step 4) around the foam board piece. Raise the frame up slightly (I did this by putting 2 layers of foam board underneath it) so that the frame will not drag on the ground as the creeper bot moves around, and then hot glue the 19.04 cm x 12.36 piece to the rectangular frame.
Closing the feet
Next cut a piece of foam board to be 20.04 cm x 13.36 cm – this will cover the top of the feet. Make a hole in the center for the headlights to go out of (2 cm x 3 cm hole) and a hole for the antenna. These holes need to be in the center of the foam board so that when you put the torso on top of the feet, the antenna and headlights will go up through the torso – go on to the next steps if you want to see how this will look. Now hot glue this new foam board piece on top of the rectangle frame, as shown in the pictures (make sure to put the headlights and antenna through their holes). I recommend labeling the “front” and “back” of the feet at this point since it gets harder to tell.
Step 7: Putting the Creeper Skin on the Feet
Print out the PDFs in this step, cut them out, fold them, and glue them to the feet. Use a foam brush (and white school glue) to smooth out the glue on the foam board right before attaching the paper. Use the pictures in this step to figure out how to fold and orient the paper on the feet. (Note the directions on the PDFs are from the perspective of the creeper bot.) Make sure you put the creeper’s front feet (with the checkerboard pattern at the bottom) at the front of the car!
A word on printing
Originally when I printed these skins (which I generated), they were a bit bluish – I had to adjust my printing settings for them to look more bright green, as they appeared on my computer monitor. I’d recommend playing around with printing small test samples and adjusting the colors until they look right before printing out all of the full-size skin images.
Step 8: Disassembling the RC Mouse
Take the cute RC mouse and flip it over so you’re looking at its underside. Remove the three screws that hold the mouse’s top shell onto its base frame (where the wheels, motor, battery pack, and circuitry are). Two of these screws are on either side of the front wheel, and the other screw is right below the base of the tail – see the pictures for details. (You don’t need to save these screws.)
Carefully lift the shell off of the mouse’s base, making sure not to damage the spiral antenna. Next carefully remove the two screws that hold the motor (attached to the back wheels) to the base frame. Note that there are four screws around the motor – two of these hold the gears in the motor together, and you don’t want to mess with that. Look at the pictures for which two screws (of those four) you want to remove.
The wheels should now be removed from the base frame. Be careful not to detach the wires!
Step 9: Assembling the Torso: Part 1
Preparing the foam board
Cut out a piece of foam board that is 36.08 cm long and 19.04 cm tall. Use a pencil to mark vertical lines that divide the 19.04 cm tall piece into four segments that have the following lengths, in this order: 12.36 cm, 5.68 cm, 12.36 cm, and then 5.68 cm. See the pictures for details. Use the utility knife to cut through just one layer of the foam board on the pencil-marked lines, and then fold them backwards. They should form a tall, skinny rectangular frame, as shown in the pictures. (Don’t tape it closed into a rectangular frame.)
Cutting up the disassembled RC mouse
Use some sturdy wire cutters to cut up the disassembled RC mouse so that it is no wider than 5.68 cm (but the length does not matter, but you can cut it off to make the creeper bot lighter weight). Make sure not to cut off the three places where the screws were attaching the base to the shell, or to cut off the switch.
Positioning the disassembled RC mouse
Put the disassembled RC mouse in the rectangular frame vertically, so that it lines up parallel with the folds of the foam board. Do this on one of the 12.36 cm-wide segments. Arrange it so that one of the wheels can reach the top of the rectangular frame – it will need to stick slightly above the frame (see the pictures for details).
Now cut out a piece of foam board that is 19.04 cm by 5.68 cm – this will be directly attached to the disassembled RC mouse (using plastic standoffs) and will then be glued to the rectangular frame. Make sure this piece fits well within the rectangular frame, as shown in the pictures. Once you have arranged the disassembled RC mouse so that one of the wheels can stick out the top of the rectangular frame, make a hole in the 19.04 cm by 5.68 cm piece for the antenna to fit through, and another hole for the wires to the wheels to fit through. See the pictures for details.
Step 10: Assembling the Torso: Part 2
Attaching the standoffs
Now take three of the plastic standoffs and screw them onto the disassembled RC mouse where it attached to its shell, but this time use three screws from the RC car. (The screws from the RC mouse are too small for the standoffs.) To do this, go back to the RC car shell and remove the four screws that hold the passenger area in the frame. (Keep the fourth screw for later!) Carefully coat the tops of each standoff with a layer of fingernail polish. Then quickly fit the car into position within the torso, against the 19.04 cm by 5.68 cm foam board piece (fitting the antenna and wheel wires through their holes), as shown in the pictures. This should cause the fingernail polish to mark where the standoffs touched the foam board piece.
You can then remove the 19.04 cm x 5.68 cm foam board piece (from the rectangular frame) along with the disassembled RC mouse to make sure the positions the standoffs marked on the piece look good and centered. When you’re happy with their positions, unscrew the standoffs from the RC mouse and hot glue them in place on the piece.
Detaching the switch
Unscrew the switch from the RC mouse base so that the switch is loose. Keep the two screws.
Attaching the disassembled RC mouse
Screw the disassembled RC mouse back onto the standoffs, which are now on the foam board piece. (Be sure to fit the antenna and wheel wires through their respective holes. Leave the switch dangling for now.) Arrange the RC mouse-foam board piece assembly into the rectangular frame so that one of the wheels sticks out the top of the frame, as shown in the third from last picture in this step.
Reattaching the switch
Cut a small hole in the side of the rectangular frame where you’d like the switch to be. This should be on the back side of the creeper bot. Use the switch’s two screws to screw it back into place in the foam board.
Step 11: Assembling the Torso: Part 3
Preparing the foam board
Once you’re happy with the position of the disassembled RC mouse and its wheels, hot glue the 19.04 cm x 5.68 cm foam board piece into place on the rectangular frame. See the pictures for what this should look like.
Cut out a piece of foam board that is 6.68 cm x 13.36 cm. This foam board piece will go on the top of the creeper bot’s torso. In the center, cut out a circle that is the same diameter as the RC mouse’s wheels. Hot glue this piece to the top of the rectangular frame, as shown in the pictures.
Preventing the wheels from spinning freely
To stop the wheels from spinning all the way around (which could make the head rotate 360 degrees instead of just turning left/right), we’ll attach a safety pin to the lower wheel (inside the torso) and create a blocker from a push pin. See the pictures for details. Basically, push a safety pin through the lower wheel, and then hot glue it on with lots of glue (but only on the surface of the wheel). Then push a push pin through the foam board below the wheel. Hot glue the push pin in place.
Attaching the wheels
Once you’re happy with where the wheel is (it should be centered in the hole at the top, and sticking out about 1 cm above the top), use lots of hot glue to attach the wheels to the 19.04 cm x 5.68 foam board piece next to it. See the pictures.
Creating a hole for the headlights
Don’t forget to also cut a 2 cm x 3 cm hole in the top foam board piece (the 6.68 cm x 13.36 cm one) for the headlights to go through so they can reach the head.
Making sure things still work!
It’s always good to make sure everything still works as expected. Once the glue is solid, test that the wheels still work. It’d also be good to make sure the headlights still turn on.
Step 12: Closing Up the Torso
Making the battery pack accessible
Now that everything in the torso is in place, it’s time to seal it up! But first, you’ll want to make it easy for you to access the RC mouse battery pack so you can get to it if you need to put in fresh batteries. To do this, you’ll make that flap accessible via unscrewing a single screw. Hot glue a plastic standoff on the top of the wide rectangular flap that will be on the front of the torso. See the pictures for details. When you’re ready to close this flap, use the fourth screw you took from the RC car (in step 10).
Gluing the torso to the feet
Cut out (another) foam board piece that is 13.36 cm by 6.68 cm. Place this centered on the top of the feet, where no skin is covering them. Cut out holes for the antenna and headlights, and pull the antenna and headlights through their holes. Glue this foam board piece in place on the feet.
Closing up the torso
Place the torso on top of the piece you just glued onto the top of the feet (see the pictures). Run the headlights up through the torso, through the hole you made in the top foam board piece. Then glue the flaps shut around the torso, one at a time. Be sure not to glue the flap with the screw in it so you can access the battery pack! Also glue the torso to the piece on top of the feet.
Before you glue the front flap closed, be sure to mark the position of the wheel on the top of the top foam board piece. To do this, line up the wheel so the safety pin is 180 degrees from the push pin, and then mark the top wheel and where it lines up on the top foam board piece – see the pictures for details. This is so that you know how the wheel should be rotated when putting the head top of it.
Step 13: Putting the Creeper Skin on the Torso
Printing and folding
Print out the PDFs in this step, cut them out, and use the pictures in this step to figure out how to fold and orient the papers on the torso. (Note the directions on the PDFs are from the perspective of the creeper bot.)
Cut out a tiny rectangle on the creeper bot’s back skin for the switch to fit through – I recommend doing this using a utility knife with the skin placed on top of a spare piece of foam board (as shown in the pictures). Similarly, cut out a small hole for the screw to fit through on the battery pack’s side flap. Lastly, cut holes in the torso’s top piece for the wheel and headlights to fit out of, making sure to mark the orientation of the wheel on the skin.
Hiding the switch and screw
To help the switch blend into the skin of the creeper bot, apply a thin coating of greenish (or bluish-greenish) fingernail polish on to the red switch. Be sure not to get fingernail polish on any of the electronic components though. Similarly, also cover the screw (and surrounding area) with a little greenish fingernail polish.
When they’re ready, glue the skins to the torso. Use a foam brush (and white school glue) to smooth out the glue on the foam board right before attaching the paper. When gluing the skin on the creeper’s right side, be sure to not glue the skin to the very top and very bottom horizontal pieces that are on the torso – otherwise you won’t be able to open this side flap to access the battery pack later!
Step 14: Assembling the Head: Part 1
Preparing the foam board
Cut out a piece of foam board that is 49.44 cm long and 12.36 cm tall. Use a pencil to mark vertical lines that divide the 12.36 cm tall piece into four equally-sized segments (they should all end up being 12.36 cm by 12.36 cm). Use the utility knife to cut through just one layer of the foam board on the pencil-marked lines, and then fold them backwards. They should form a cube frame. See the pictures for details. (Don’t tape it closed into a cube frame yet.)
Also cut out two foam board pieces that are each 13.36 cm by 13.36 cm. These will go on the top and the bottom of the head.
Cutting out the eye holes
In one of the 12.36 cm by 12.36 cm segments of the head’s sides (it doesn’t matter which segment you use), mark where you want to cut out the eyes. (This is so the RC car’s headlights can shine through the eyes.) The eye holes should be 3.34 cm by 3.34 cm, spaced 3.34 cm apart, be 1.17 cm inwards from the right/left edges, and 2.84 cm down from the top of the foam board piece. See the pictures for details. Once you have measured and drawn where to make the eye holes, cut them out using the utility knife.
Making the bottom of the head (i.e., the “chin”!)
Take one of the 13.36 cm by 13.36 cm foam board squares you made earlier in this step. Print out the PDF in this step, cut it out, and glue the skin to the foam board square using a foam brush and white school glue. Place this piece on the top of the creeper bot’s torso (with the skin side facing down), centering it on the torso, and, once you’ve figured out the positioning, cut out a hole in the foam board for the headlights to go through. Do not cut a hole for the wheel! The wheel will be directly glued to the bottom of this piece, but not quite yet. See the pictures for details.
Step 15: Assembling the Head: Part 2
Attaching the headlights
Right between the creeper bot’s eyes, on the inside of the head, make a pencil mark for where to attach the headlights. You’ll be attaching the headlights by the screw that is in the middle of them (that was originally attaching the headlights to the RC car’s shell). Carefully hold the headlights up to the eye holes to see where you want them positioned so they shine out of the eyes.
Now take one of the plastic standoffs and use wire cutters (or other cutters) to carefully cut it in half – this is so that the LEDs from the headlights will be closer to the eye holes.
Next use hot glue to attach the half-length plastic standoff to the mark you made in between the eyes (on the inside of the head). Don’t skimp on the glue!
Screw the headlights onto the newly glued standoff (using the screw that the headlights originally had).
Closing the head
Carefully close in the head’s sides so that they form the creeper’s cubic head (you can tape it closed before gluing it in place). Make sure the headlights are facing the front of the creeper. Hot glue the sides of the head in place to the bottom head piece.
Attaching the head to the torso
Carefully position the head in place on top of the torso. Make sure it is aligned correctly from all sides. (See the pictures for examples.) When it’s positioned correctly, put a large glob of hot glue on top of the wheel (under the head) and then quickly put the head on top of it, making sure it stays in place! The head should now be attached to the torso only by the wheel, which will turn the head.
Making sure the head turns!
Once you’re sure the glue attaching the head to the torso has hardened, you can try turning the head. The wires in the head should prevent the head from turning more than about 100 to 150 degrees, depending on how you made the wire's holes. (The blocker you made in the torso using the safety pin and push pin should also stop it from turning 360 degrees.) If the head doesn’t turn, check the wires, switch, and batteries (in the remote control and the creeper bot’s torso) to figure out what’s wrong (for me, one of my batteries was dead!). (See the video in this step for how the final creeper bot's head should turn.)
Step 16: Putting the Creeper Skin on the Head
Printing and folding
Print out the PDFs in this step, cut them out, and use the pictures in this step to figure out how to fold and orient the papers on the head. (Note the directions on the PDFs are from the perspective of the creeper bot.)
When they’re ready, glue the skins to the head. Use a foam brush (and white school glue) to smooth out the glue on the foam board right before attaching the paper. Glue the side skins to the head before gluing the front/back pieces because the squares along the edge of the side skins are slightly stretched to cover any possible gaps (between the side/front/back skins).
Step 17: Enjoy Showing Off Your Creeper Bot!
Show off your Creeper bot to friends and family! You could have it stalk up on them unexpectedly, while they’re distracted mining for diamonds or just trying to harvest their garden. If they show concern about the quiet appearance of the Creeper bot that seemed to show up out of nowhere (like they always do), you can reassure them that it’s much safer to be around than a real creeper because it does not blow up. You could also take it to a gaming convention to be admired and feared by onlookers!
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