RC Circuit for a Bibberbeest / Vibrobot




About: Also have a look at member Monster-Marit. She Rocks (I'm a bit prejudiced, though :-))
Last February I posted a vibrobot project "Scary bots and Super Creeps", making vibrobots out of connectors, cable binders and electrical wire. The creatures are named "bibberbeest" in Dutch.

Making Bibberbeests with kids is a HUGE success at schools, parties and festivals (second video in this step)! In the past months I witnessed 500 kids (6 yrs and up) making their very own, unique Bibberbeest.

Now what is more fun than a Bibberbeest? A remote controlled bibberbeest, using a standard audio/video RC? And it makes the project a bit more challenging to high school kids like monster-marit and emilyvanleemput :-)

So what I needed was a receiver circuit for a standard TV RC that can switch on and off a Bibberbeest's motor, working on 3 Volts max.

At first I was tempted to go the microcontroller way, inspired by Masynmachien's Wiebelbot. But in my eternal search to keep things simple, I eventually decided to use a hardware-only circuit: Just eight parts on a 2,5 x 4 cm board (1" x 1,5").
After some trial and error I used this IR toggle switch diagram (with slight mods) around a 555 timer chip by member BIC, which works quite well.

(I updated this Instructable on Sept. 6th. Before that date, I used a different circuit which was more sensitive to ambient IR light).


Last summer I spend 4 afternoons on a festival, making Bibberbeests / vibrobots with kids. If you're into it: It's a great project to do with kids! They love the creatures they make, and the easy to handle tools and materials enable the kids to make their very own, very personal Bibberbeest.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Apart from the stuff needed for a Bibberbeest, you need the following for the circuit:

Breadboard for prototyping
Jumper wire

Battery holder for 2 AA cells in series
Two pairs (male + female) wire connectors

1 IR receiver TSOP 38238 (to pick up the 38kHz IR signal from most audio and video RC's)

Logic IC:
7555 low power timer chip (needed because I want to use a max of 2 AA batteries / 3 Volt)
8 pin IC foot

1x BC547
1x BC337 (to drive the bibberbeest motor)

1x 0,1 uF
1x 1uF
1x 10 uF

1x 18kOhm

Strip board to mount the circuit on, about 4 x 4 cm (1.5" x 1.5")

Batteryholder, IR receiver and logic IC cost a bit less or more than €1. The other parts are much cheaper. The total circuit is around €5,- I think.

One-stop shopping at Radio Shack, Conrad or Farnell.

Soldering iron and solder
Small saw to cut out the strip board
Small pliers
File to smoothen the board
Multitool / small screwdriver

Step 2: The Circuit

The circuit is pretty easy to make: Just 10 parts and a decent lay-out.

The circuit works as a push-button switch: As long as any of the RC's buttons are pushed, the motor is turned on. Release the RC's button, the motor stops:

The circuit still is a little over-sensitive to stray IR light. Covering the IR receiver with a small tube made of a strip of plain paper works remarkably well.

(I'm still working on an electronic way to filter out stray IR light... It can be done!)

Step 3: Prototype It: Breadboarding

Just to make sure you understand the circuit, make it on a breadboard first. It will take about 30 minutes and gives back confidence in return.

To test the circuit, I soldered two wires to the motor, and male connectors on the tips.

During testing, the motor briefly switched on, without a "command" from the remote control. This is caused by ambient infrared radiation. I'm still working on an electronic filter to block the ambient IR, but I also found another, very non-electronic way to filter ambient IR out:

Cover the IR receiver with a small tube of plain paper! Just cut a strip of paper and roll it into a tube and close one end. This paper tube blocks a fair amount (but not all) ambient IR light.

Step 4: Build the Circuit: Soldering!

Cut a piece of strip board, 9 lines, 15 columns.
Smoothen the edges with a file or smooth sanding paper.

Cut the copper strips on the X-marked spots with a 4.5 mm drill bit. Check the cuts with a loupe.

Start soldering the components. I used blobs of non-hardening clay to fix the parts before turning over the board to solder the leads.
Start with the lowest parts (the jumper wire). Then the resistor and the IC foot, then the rest. Solder two female connectors in the holes marked with a circle.

One jumper wire must be mounted over the BC337 transistor.

I didn't build this circuit on a PCB yet. The bibberbeest on the pictures and in the video is wearing a previous version of the circuit (posted in the final step of this Ible...).

Step 5: Mount It on a Bibberbeest

You're there! You just made a brain for a Bibberbeest, giving it a sense for ordinary remote controls. Next step is of course to become Dr. Frankenstein, placing the brain into (onto?) a self made Bibberbeest. For that, you skip to this Instructable.

To mount the circuit on a bibberbeest's "spine" (a strip of connectors), I made a pair of straps with 16 Amp solid core wire (see pic 1).

The battery holder is fixed to the connectors using double sided foam tape.

Step 6: Improvements...

As always with electronics, there are a million ways to get to the desired functionality. So a new version of the circuit could contain: 
  • A microcontroller, controlling several motors on a Bibberbeests separately.
  • I want to give the circuit in picture 1 a try. It doesn't contain an IC and uses an analog filter to pick up the 38kHz signal from the RC, ignoring any stray / ambient IR radiation.

The use of a microcontroller pushes up the level for kids. So I also want a version for kids 8 - 12 years that can be soldered on a piece of wood, using copper pushpins to solder the parts on.

If you have any ideas about anything of the above, please leave a comment. It'll be highly appreciated! Thanks for reading.

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    35 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Ynze,

    I made the discrete circuit you posted, it did not work very well. Here are my changes:

    - I used a TSOP4838. No reason, just could grab a set for cheaps.

    - Added a filter (39R and 47uF) in the power supply to avoid spurious feedback from the motor to the TSOP. This could probably be removed.

    - removed the high pass filter and changed it to a "charge fast" using 1K5, the diode, and the 3uF3 and a discharge slow timer, using 27K and the PNP. The 1K5 resistor is need to avoid triggering on tiny spikes. This was key to make it rock stable.

    - changed the control to circuit PNP, as the TSOP's have a pull down resistor, with an internal 80K pull up resistor. This makes pulling down on IR light much more efficient.

    - changed the darlington setup, which is hard to run in 3V, to a hard core switch, also using a BD137 to avoid frying the last transistor.

    It works very well and while the board is a mess now as I made changes on the go, it is smaller than a stamp!

    Thank you for this great idea!

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Small addition: the diode can be skipped.

    And, you have to be a bit careful sourcing the motors. I got hold of a few high performance 3V motors and even when fully saturating the BD137 (or 139) they will not overcome their "stickiness" on the 6 positions the internal magnetic field keeps the rotor in. The voltage drop over the transistor (aproximately 0.5 volts) was too much for these little rascals.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Yoh-there! Thanks so much for your elaborate work on the discrete circuit! It really improves the Instructable. I'll build your circuit as soon as I find the time.

    Cheers and thanks again.



    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry for the annoying typo. The 4th bullet should read:

    - changed the control to circuit PNP, as the TSOP's have a pull down
    transistor, with an internal 80K pull up resistor. This makes pulling down
    on IR light much more efficient.

    dharmik pater

    4 years ago

    Can I use 555 timer in this circuit ??

    dharmik pater

    4 years ago

    Can I use 555 timer in this circuit ??

    dharmik pater

    4 years ago

    Can I use high volt battery and 2 moters in same circuit or need to do some changes?????

    Hi Ynze. I've followed your plans, made one of your b_beests but the remote has no effect. Luckily there is a switch on the battery for on/off until I figure out the remote.
    Luv the way it skitters around on a hard floor - on carpeting not so much - maybe more movement with legs a different shape.
    Fun stuff!

    4 replies
    terrible tinkererynze

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Here I thought you didn't feel my flag-waving beastie qualified for a pro membership! If the offer is valid I shall most certainly humbly & graciously accept.

    What a terrific idea ynze! Using fairly common components (in Canada I found the terminal connector at the Source for about 6 bucks), I thought I'd try put together a Bibberbeest of my own! I have the circuit in Step 4 soldered on a small piece of veroboard & I can see where to attach the motor leads - the 2 circled spots indicated. I just can't seem to find where the 2 battery wires connect to the circuit. Any chance you can, you know, point me in the right direction?

    3 replies
    ynzeterrible tinkerer

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The batttery wires are marked "+" and "-" and as black dots in the drawing (first pic in step 4).

    6 bucks for a terminal connector sounds expensive to me. In NL, a strip of 12 costs around €1,20. How does that translate to Canadian dollars?

    terrible tinkererynze

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Hey thanks for getting back to me so fast, I appreciate it. I`m teaching myself electronics starting with simple projects. I don`t think I`ve ever seen a battery connected next to the motor in a circuit so that threw me off. I`m used to seeing the battery connected on one side of the circuit and the motor on the opposite side. I think I see how your circuit works.

    6 bucks for the terminal connector is a lot but the store is close by which means I can start right away, I have everything else I need to build your project. Is your offer of PRO membership still good


    5 years ago on Step 6

    For a microcontroller, may I suggest a PICAXE 08M2. Cheap, uses the BASIC language, should be great for kids to program.

    Cool project.

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the tip! I know only a little about microcontrollers, so I'll put it on my list :-)


    5 years ago

    I think you could win a prize this is a good upload project