Solar Powered Robot From TRASH!!!!




Update; My age category for the contest is 13-18 because I am fifteen. :)

Yes, the title explains it pretty well. In this Instructable I will show you step by step how to construct a light sensitive, solar powered, robot. All you need is some parts that can easily be found in the trash or in your backyard. I built mine totally from trash.

Step 1: Bits and Pieces


2- 1.5 volt motors
1- AAA battery pack that holds 2 batteries
1- On/Off switch
1- Old solar powered garden light
Random bits of wire
zip ties

And something to use as the chassis for your robot, I used some bits of Erector Set parts, but almost anything can be used.


Needle nose pliers
Wire stripper
Scissors or wire cutters
A vice grip (optional)
Magnifying glass (optional)
Soldering iron and solder (not optional)
Glue gun and glue

Step 2: And So It Begins...

For this step you will need...

Screw driver


Begin with the old solar light, you will have to open up the top and remove the solar panel and control circuit without damaging any of it. Follow the notes on the pictures to see how. Make sure to read all the notes as some wires need to be cut, while others do not.

Step 3: Assemble the Curcuit

In this step you will need...

Soldering Iron, solder, motors, switch, and the battery case.

When wiring the motors, don't worry about polarity (positive and negative), you can fix which way the motors spin by rewiring the motors later on. How the are wired dictates how they spin, and which way you want them to spin is going to depend on your frame you mount this on.

I guess while we are on the subject of the circuit I should explain how this works...

The circuit from the solar light is meant to charge a battery from the panel during the day, and discharge that battery through 2 LED's at night. By replacing the LED's with motors and putting in a more powerful battery pack, we do two things to this circuit;

1. The circuit will still charge the batteries, but only while the robot is on.

2. When the robot is in the dark it will run at half power, and full power in the sun. Meaning the motors will run slowly in the dark, and faster in light.

Step 4: The Frame

In this step you will need...

Something you can modify into a frame or an erector set like what I used.
Hot glue gun
zip ties

In this step you need to mount the circuit onto a frame. For my frame I used some random pieces from an erector set, but there are many things that can be used. The shape of my robot was inspired by robomaniac 's beetlebot v2 , which you can find here .

Follow the notes in the pictures to see how to mount onto a frame like mine. If you have one different than mine, you are on your own for this step.

Step 5: Testing and Rewireing

In the below video you can see the robot accelerates when a light is shone on it, but spins in a circle because one of the motors was reversed.

If this happens to your robot all you have to do is re-solder the motor wires in reverse. So the one that used to be negative is now positive.

Step 6: Video of Finished Project

In the below video you can see the finished robot running forward.

I hope you enjoyed this Instructable! Any comments or constructive criticism is very welcome!

National Robotics Week Robot Contest

Second Prize in the
National Robotics Week Robot Contest

3rd Epilog Challenge

Participated in the
3rd Epilog Challenge

7 People Made This Project!


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55 Discussions


1 year ago

how do you mount the motor and what do you use to mount it ?


3 years ago on Introduction

Hi I am doing this for a project do you have to use any color wires please get back to me asap


3 years ago

I am very knew to robotics and i have a few important questions:
What exactly does a soldering iron do?
Is a circuit board (i think thats what that green board is called) needed for any kind of simple robot?
If so, must i make a new curcuit board or can i recycle an old one (such as from an old rc car).
How much would a soldering iron cost in US Currency ($)?


6 years ago on Step 6

Very nice idea. It is super simple and introduced me to robotics. Thanks very much for the great instructable


6 years ago on Introduction

what is panel mounted that was used there and where can i find that thing ? please do reply i really need it for my project .. thank you so much :)

1 reply

Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

Sorry for the delay in this reply. The panel I got came from an old solar garden light. You can get them at any Walmart or garden store.


The control circuit (as stated in the instructable) is obtained by taking apart solar powered garden light. Practically every garden light has one in it.


7 years ago on Step 6

you could use some of the ideas of the beetlebot to make this robot automatically void things.


7 years ago on Step 2

Where are such solar-powered lights used usually? In the yard? They charge during the day, and then shine at night? I've never seen such stuff.

3 replies

Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

Are you from outside the United States? They are very popular here within the urban communities. I don't know about Europe, but you can find them at almost every garden section in any store in the U.S.


Reply 7 years ago on Step 2

Yeah, I'm from Russia. Thanks for the info and the i'ble!


7 years ago on Introduction

Could I put sensors on the front to make it Solar powered and sensored? I'm in 7th grade so would this be too hard for me?

1 reply