Pocket Drunken Robot

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Introduction: Pocket Drunken Robot

About: Creative swashbuckler. Writer for MAKE Magazine, presenter of inventions on TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. Professional problem solver. Annoyingly curious. Hacker of all things from computers to clot...

 

Step 1: Parts and Tools

Here's the parts you'll need to make one pocket-sized drunken robot. But make more than one since it's no fun to drink alone.

Parts

  • 1 vibrator motor from a pager or cell phone. (I used these. You can find the same motor here and here, though it seems distributors keep selling out. Just about any tube-shaped vibration motor with two metal tabs on the end will work. Search for more.)
  • 1 AG13 button cell battery. A common watch battery that also goes by the aliases 357A, L1154, LR44, GPA76 or PX76A.
  • 1 square inch of sheet tin, copper or other easy to work with metal sheeting. You can probably use a tin can but it might be hard to work with. I'll be using 0.008" sheet tin from the local hobby store.
  • The PDF template linked below.

Tools

  • Pliers
  • Tin snips. (or old crafty scissors you don't mind messing up to cut some tin.)
Now that you have everything, lets get started!

Step 2: Cut the Tin

Print out the template from step 1 (also linked below) Be sure to print it at 100% and transfer the design to your piece of tin. (Cut it out and trace it or just glue it on with some temporary adhesive.)

Cut and snip your tin on the solid lines. Please be careful when cutting and handling sheet metal since it can get really sharp. Gloves and safety goggles are recommended.

Step 3: Make the Holder for the Battery

We want to make a solid connection to the side and bottom of the battery. To do that first bend the piece of tin up at right angles where it's indicated on the diagram. Then place the battery in the middle and fold the arms around so it holds it securely.

Step 4: Prepare the Motor

Our pager motor has two leads. One needs to be connected to each side of the battery for the motor to work.

The flat side of the battery (+) is already making contact with our tin support. To get a contact with the top of the battery (-) we bend one of the pins back underneath the motor. When we put the motor in place this lead will spring in contact with the top of the watch battery. (Picture is worth a few hundred words here.)

If you're using a different motor, say one with wires then you might need to get busy with a soldering iron to replicate what we have here. Do not solder directly to the battery. Applying that much heat to a battery is dangerous and can cause it to burst.

Step 5: Mount the Motor

Now we're going to complete the circuit by crimping the motor (lightly!) into the top pair of tabs. This will press the bent tab in contact with the top of the battery and the lead into contact with the tin which will complete our circuit.

First bend the top tabs of our tin into a U shape so we can rough everything into place. Then place the motor so that the bottom lead is in firm contact with the battery while the other lead is pressed against the metal of our tabs.

(You might want to put a piece of paper or tape over the top of the battery to keep our robot quiet while we're working on him.)

Very carefully crimp this closed with pliers. You want the motor to stay in place, but you don't want to damage the casing of the motor.

Step 6: Enjoy!

If everything is working right all you have to do is put it on a flat surface and let go. It should vibrate around drunkenly and only occasionally fall over. Make several and have a cocktail party! Give them tiny drinks and party hats. (Optional)

If you would like to carry a few with you take an old dental floss box, open it up, pull out the spindle and line the inside with craft foam. Holds two. (An Altoids tin will hold a full party.)

If you want to keep your robots ready for instant action, slide a piece of paper between the top of the battery and the motor lead. Pull it out when you're ready to see them go.

Troubleshooting

It doesn't go at all.
  • First be sure that the motor leads are touching the things they need to touch, and only those things. One should be touching the top of the battery and the other should be firmly pressed against our tin framework.
  • Check for shorts. Make sure that the only bit of metal touching the top of the battery is
  • Make sure that there is nothing keeping the weight at the top from spinning.

It falls over more than I'd like.
There are several ways you can counteract this.
  • Bend the motor back towards the center of the battery so its center of gravity is more in the middle.
  • Bend down the corners of the "front" of bottom platform.
  • It might be too vigorous, you can try letting the battery run down a bit so it doesn't jump as much.
  • Try a different surface. I found that a pad of paper was the most reliable. On a harder surface they'll bounce easier.
  • Get out a file and remove some of the weight from the top of the motor.

It falls over less than I'd like or doesn't act very drunkenly.
  • Give it a double whiskey neat and wait 10 minutes.
  • You might be using an underpowered battery., especially if you're using a bigger motor. Try a fresh battery or a more powerful cell. (If you use a different battery you'll need to rework the tin holder.
  • Make sure the motor isn't shaking lose. If it is, a dab of glue or tape can take care of your troubles.

Step 7: Become a Master of Drunken Robots

If you build one and post a photo (or better yet a video) of it in comments, you'll receive a Master of Drunken Robots patch* and a place in the Hall of Fame.

*As long as I have patches left to hand out.


Masters of Drunken Robots:

Pocket-Sized Contest

First Prize in the
Pocket-Sized Contest

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91 Discussions

these are awesome, i have made them several times before, in various different designs. i have found that it is also fun to combine these robots with a throwie (I.E. tape an LED somewhere on there), so you can keep track of them at night when they are flopping all over your apartment. It seems like it would be cool to put a bunch of these somewhere with lights on them, and take time-lapse photos of them, which would produce all kinds of trippy little bright swirly lines in the pictures. For those who are having problems sourcing those little vibrating motors, a good place to look (in the US at least) would be at charity thrift stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army. there you can sometimes find tons of old pagers and cellphones, in all conditions, for very cheap. At the Salvation Army store near my house, you can get twenty old phones for a dollar.

I found that taping or gluing a penny to the bottom can help with excessively "drunk" robots that won't stay up!

2 replies

This is a really great tip!  We did this for our small party of drunk robots for Maker Faire (on your suggestion!) and it let us do other things besides helping face-down drunk robots.  They spin around extra crazy, but they fall over a lot less.

It's a great idea!  Thanks for sharing.  (Your Master of Drunken Robots patch is on the way!)

The links for the sites with motors appear to no longer have said motors available.

I don't mean to necro this, but as it seems to be relevant.
I hope this can save someone a couple seconds.

this is awesome im going to try and build this, where did you get your motor from though?

1 reply

Wow, looks like both resellers stopped carrying it. The exact motor is available here. (Assuming that it matches the photo.)  You can use others but they'll likely require soldering. Good luck!

I've tried it with aluminum soda cans and it didn't really work well. It was too springy and weak to hold everything together properly. A better household option is a tin (steel) can lid.

Nice, 5 stars!
I just tried to make one, I took apart my tooth brush, and I don't thing it is quite a pager motor;-)
Would it work to attach a piece of metal a ZipZaps motor?
Thanks.

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9 replies

yes probably, as long as it was big enough and unbalanced enough to vibrate a bit and would fit in the design.

I made one!
It started out pretty much like yours, but with a Zip Zaps motor with a glue gun glue blob instead a pager motor, and I make the body out of thin cardboard, because of the anatomy of my motor. It just went in circles with the ordinary base, so it got stranger and stranger, I tried adding angled fins, which made it a lot better, but it still turned more than I wanted, so I elongated the neck and put on some legs, now it works GREAT! It zoom's forward tilted like crazy and turns occasional, and sometimes falls over;-). Unfortunately I only got photos of the last version. Its a hilarious little thing.

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 cool! you should post a video on you tube of it running and post it here (you wouldn't have to edit it or anything because it would be on here and people here would know what its about) by the way COOL!

Yes I would like to, but I do not have a YouTube account.
It is fun to put it on my desk while I am doing a project - it will potter around for a while and then go racing off teetering back and forth:-)

 then make one. i have and its been quite helpful sharing videos i try not to show my face but it doesn't really mater. id love to se this robot  it sounds quite funny and enjoyable to watch.

I would get one, but I do not agree with YouTube's user agreement, so that makes it a bit tricky, and I wouldn't use it that much, other than times like this;-).
Also, I may have slightly misrepresented how fast it goes, it does not zoom compared to biking or running or walking or anything, but it is much faster then any other vibrobot  I have seen a video of (but I have not seen many, just a few on instructables and Make:).
Cheers,
G33K

 It looks fantastic!  Thanks for posting the photos, it looks pretty hilarious just in the stills.

(Your Master of Drunken Robots patch is on its way!)