Give the Gift of Robot Invasion




About: Space Monkey Pirate Robot

Solar powered robot ornament wishes you holiday greetings during the day but when the lights go out radios home for reinforcement.

Step 1: Parts:


2N3904 Transistor
Rectifier Diode
1M resistor
Blinking LED
2 Rechargeable 1.5v batteries
Solar panel

Misc. Parts:

Copper plumbing parts
Brass & copper wire
LED holder
Copper mesh or beer can
Hot Glue

Step 2: Battery:

For some of these I used 2 cells from a rechargeable 9v. Others I used rechargeable button cells. Be careful soldering to batteries.

Step 3: Circuit:

I found the circuit I used here:

I really like the simplicity of this circuit and wish I had done a better job showing it off.

Step 4: Robot Shell:

I decided to use copper plumbing parts because I had them on hand but this part could really be anything that has enough room to put the electronics in or on.

Drill holes in the end cap for the eyes and in the body for arms, belly button, satellite pole and wires. I use a hand drill and go slow, starting with a small bit and stepping up bit size incrementally.

I made the mouth with a Dremel and a cutoff wheel, but a hacksaw would work fine.

If you're feeling fancy and/or have them on hand finish the holes with aluminum grommets. On some I just used rivets for eyes on others it's a grommet + rivet mix.

Step 5: Soldering Arms:

I used a small hobby torch to solder the wire arms onto the body. Spending some time fitting the wire so it makes good contact with the inside of the body will make for a much stronger joint. I also sand both pieces I'm soldering right before.

I went with a four finger hand approach because it was easier to use small V's of wire.

I like to pretty much get the arms and fingers into position at this point because If you didn't do a very good job soldering they will break off. It's easier to fix now without the electronics inside.

Step 6: Satellite:

This could also be anything that kind of resembles a dish. I happened to have some fancy copper mesh/fabric, so I went with that. If this part seems like a pain, you can cut out the bottom of a beer can and use it as is.

If you have the fancy copper you still need a beer can. Turn the can over and gently work the copper mesh into the bottom, I used the handle end of a screwdriver. Once you have the shape cut the excess off with scissors.

Punch the hole in the center after you form the dish, if you do it before the hole will warp and spread.

I also solder some wires onto the led at this point. The led holders I used have a rubber cork that has to be on the led before soldering.

Step 7: Get Ready:

Turn the body over and put a piece of tape at the bottom of the neck, this is important because at the end we will be pouring epoxy into the neck.

When I used the 9v cells I kept the batteries on the outside like a backpack, with the button cells I just stuffed them inside. Either way we need to get those leads ready, either though a hole in the neck if they will be on the outside, or out on the desk if they will be inside.

The LED wires need to be strung through into the interior.

The leads for the solar cell need to be put through the belly button, better too long than too short.

Step 8: Solder the Circuit:

NOTE: Diode terminology is confusing, I'm going to call the end of the diode with the white stripe the negative (-) terminal.

Solder the components together.

+ Solar
+ Battery

- Battery
+ Diode

- Solar
- Diode


After you have it soldered together cover the solar panel and make sure the led starts to blink. Tape everything up so the leads don't touch and fold it into a shape that is going to fit inside.

Step 9: Attach Solar:

Solder the solar panel to the leads. Carefully position the panel into the hands. Flip over and hot glue panel in place. I also use hot glue to hold the electronics inside.

Attach satellite dish to pole and position at a rakish angle.

Step 10: Put Your Head On:

Use epoxy to glue spring inside the head. After it cures mix another batch of epoxy and pour into the neck, hold head in place until epoxy cures. This creates a nice "Bobble-Head" effect.

Step 11: Write Your Message:

If you're anal or just like to make life easier for yourself, you should probably do this step before you attach the solar panel.

I used a semi-fine point silver paint pen. Leave most of the solar panel exposed so the batteries can charge.

Step 12: Start the Invasion:

Box these up and give them away. I packaged mine a couple of days before Christmas and they were still blinking when they were unwrapped.

You can play with the resistor value to determine how sensitive the solar panel is. With the 1M resistor it has to be pretty dark before the LED starts blinking. With a 100k resistor it will blink in a lit room but turn off in direct sunlight. It all depends on how sneaky you want your robot to be.

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    81 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

     A few questions, what is the wattage of the resistor? Also, why is the transistor necessary? What exactly does the rectifier diode do? Do you think that I could butcher a solar cell from a calculator?

    Great work!

    3 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    The wattage of the resistor doesn't matter on this project. Something like ½ watt is okay. Rectifier diode rectifies the current so it can flow only one direction.
    Negative will go this way->  |<   <-and positive that way on the schematic symbol. The stripe is is also on the diode witch shows the cathode(negative). And a solar cell from an calculator may not have enough voltage or current for this project. Of course you can connect couple of them in series and try! And I don't know why is the transistor necessary. Seems like its amplifying the signal there..(?) I dont see anything why you can't make it without the transistor a bit different way... Well, I don't know too much about transistors so I'm not very very sure about what I said :-D


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    After analyzing the diagram I think the transistor is a switch to turn off the LED while the battery is charging. If the LED is ON the battery is not charging. It won't charge and run the LED at the same time.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Seems to me the solar panel would need to produce at least 3 volts to begin to charge the 2.4 volt battery which is in series with a diode which has about 0.6 volts of drop across it. More that 3V would be better.


    Reply 9 years ago on Step 1

    you can buy them on ebay.You get many of them fo a few bucks.You can also buy them in the electronic store or radio shack near you.


    7 years ago on Step 12

    is posssible to use a LDR instead of a Solar panel? (solar panels are a bit expansive on my country)

    also, great idea! i think i will be making something similar for my friends Xmas gift! (i think i will use normal leds cus the hight briliance ones costs 1,50 where i live)

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Solar panel generates electricity to recharge the batteries. An LDR is a light dependent resistor and produces no power.

    black holeFrozenIce

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Xmas does mean Christmas, if you take the time to look it up. From the book Imponderables by David Feldman:

    "The X in Xmas actually the decendant of the Greek equivalent of Ch as in 'Christos' which means 'Christ.' The letter X has stood for Christ since at least A.D. 1100, and the term 'Xmas' was first cited in 1551. 

    So, if it's not on a Christmas card, Xmas is okay to use. : )

    Excellent Instructable, well written and well photographed. Kudos to you for getting to be the Instructables project of the day.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very cute. The expression on your robot is priceless. I love it. (and I have no idea how to make it yet). LOL :D


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I loved your idea so much I just had to make some of them. I made some modifications and came up with a bunch of different designs. I gave them out as gifts to my whole family this year, and they were a big hit!
    You can see my version of this robot at

    I credited this post on Instructables, of course. Great work; thanks for the inspiration!

    Gort-Chef-Arnold 062.jpg
    1 reply

    Your robots inspired several that I made this year as Christmas gifts. Want too cute.

    My boards said "Do the robot" or "Robo boogie!". Those being my two favorite forms of robot dancing.

    I made a couple of these as Christmas gifts, people loved them!

    If anyone is looking to have some made, contact me or visit my website I can easily make one of several variations, and could always use some funding for my personal projects.


    9 years ago on Step 12

     Newbie here:  What are the voltage and mah of the solar panel and where can I get one that looks like the one in this instructable?  Thanks for the great project!