Sugru + Servos = Robot




Introduction: Sugru + Servos = Robot

About: Married to Domestic_Engineer (but I call her Meghan).
Build a robot using a bag of Sugru and 5 mini-servo motors.


Build a robot using very few parts and very cheap servo motors.  

  1. Parts list
  2.  Build
  3. Wire
  4. Program
  5. Play!
Outcomes of this project:
  1. Robot with 5 joints
  2. Arduino Code which is expandable
  3. Control and wiring setup

Step 1: Parts

Parts used:

Step 2: Build -- Bottom of Robot

The bottom servo will twist the whole robot side-to-side.

The next servo is the waist -- it will bend.

Use Sugru as glue and supports -- pack Sugru around the servo arms.


Pay attention to the positions of the servo arms as you build.

To determine servo arm/horn position do this:
  1. What joint is the servo?
  2. Snap on the servo arm -- DO NOT ADD SCREW
  3. Turn the servo arm all the way to one side -- this is either 0 or 180 deg
  4. Then pull of the servo arm
  5. Re-align the servo arm so it is how you would want it to be when turned all the way, and stick it on  (ex -  body twisted all the way to the right)
  6. Now -- Turn the servo arm all the way to the other side -- hopefully it will be in the opposite side (ex - body twisted all the way to the left)
  7. If it is good, then add the screw
  8. If it is not where you had expected, pull of the arm and re-position halfway to the ideal position
  9. Turn the servo all the way to the other side 
  10. If the servo is now in an okay spot at both extremes -- add the screw.
  11. Now -- it should be like this: 0deg = all the way to one side;  90deg = in the middle; 180deg = all the way to the other side

Step 3: Build -- Arms and Head

Using 3 servo motors you can get:
  1. Head back and forth
  2. Both arms up and down
More servos will give you more motions; but it gets big and heavy very fast.  

But for now - No jumping jacks are 'YMCA' 

  1. Position and attach servo arms
  2. Cover the servo arms in Sugru
  3. Use Sugru to stick the motor bodies together
  4. Add some more Sugru for support
  5. Cut down the servo arms for the 'neck'

Step 4: Build -- Bracket

An L-Bracket is used to connect the top and bottom sets of servos.

My go-to for light brackets is metal plumbers strap.
  1. Cut about 5 inches of strap
  2. Bend a 90deg angle towards the middle
  3. Layout the servos and bracket to make sure it will all fit together
  4. Trim or bend bracket to adjust
  5. Press Sugru onto both sides of the bracket
  6. Assemble the parts as shown in photos

Step 5: Let It Dry

Lay out the robot so that the servos are in the correct positions.  This is a little tricky.  Check on it every 10min or so until it starts to set-up, tweak as needed.

Letting it cure overnight worked well.

Step 6: Photo Shoot

Here is what it might look like at this point.

Step 7: Wire It Up to Arduino

There are many ways you could wire the servos up to the Arduino.  I'll list exactly what I did here.  The important thing is that your Arduino code matches the actual pin connections.  

I am using a servo adaptor board made in another instructable -- here.
It brings the digital pins on one side, then the power supply; and ground is last.


*This is from the Arduino code.  Read 'servoHead.attach(11);' as -- connect the communication  wire (orange) from the servo that controls the head to digital pin 11 on the Arduino board.

// attach servos //

On the servo connectors:  orange - communication; Red = power; Brown = ground.

Servo power is supplied by a 6Volt battery pack -- this should be able to power the arduino too, but for now the USB is fine.

'Negative' side of battery pack should be connected to the arduino ground.

The controller is also from an old project ---   here.

Here is the wiring to the buttons on the controller and to the Arduino -

Wire the  Buttons - Arduino Analog/Digital:

Blue - Up (joystick) - A0 / D14
Blue/white - Down (joystick) - A1 / D15
Orange - Left (joystick) - A2 / D16
Orange/white - Right (joystick) - A3 / D17
Green - Left button (arms) - A4 / D18
Green/White - Right button (head) -A5 / D19
Brown - Ground (Arduino) - Ground
Brown/White - 5V (Arduino) - 5V

(note: the analog pins on the Arduino can be used as digital pins)

Step 8: Arduino Code

The Arduino code translates the button actions into the signal for the servos position.

The code is long, but I think it is readable.  Nothing fancy.  

It is in the attached zip file.  You can either unzip this to your Arduino/sketch folder -- or unzip anywhere, open with Arduino IDE, and then you can save it to your sketch folder.

NOTE:  you can also test the servos and buttons using this Firmata Test program

Step 9: Play With It

With the Arduino code loaded onto the board -- hook up the power supplies (grounds first).

Now it should work.

  1. Did you try turning it off and on again?
  2. Loose wires?
  3. Check ground and power with a meter, where ever you know that there should ground and power
  4. Reload the Arduino code
  5. If it still does not work -- or does not work the way you expected -- then take a look at all the pin assignments, make sure the pin in/outs match between the code and the actual wires.
  6. Errr... if it still doesn't work then something is probably wrong -- probably something simple but hidden or cryptic.  When this happens try to get one motion working from begining to end.  I like to copy parts of the code into another sketch and test one piece at a time.
  7. Good Luck!!
  8. Have fun!!

Step 10: Videos

Here are some videos.

Video:  Demo of all controls;

The Kids: first few tries --- this might only be interesting if you know us....

Video:  Emma First Try

Video:  Emma second try; Molly first try

Video: Molly second try

Toy Challenge 2

Participated in the
Toy Challenge 2

Arduino Challenge

Participated in the
Arduino Challenge

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Participated in the
ShopBot Challenge

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Participated in the
Holiday Gifts Challenge

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    5 Discussions

    rc jedi
    rc jedi

    8 years ago on Introduction

    nice to work on it with the kids, i take my projects too serious. I need to relax and just play. thanks for sharing your fun family project!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome project. This would be great to upscale and maybe use for Halloween to interact with the kids!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    This would be great to upscale and maybe use for Halloween to interact with the kids!

    Thanks!!  -- Funny you mention upscalling --- this is a downsized version of my last  two instructables --
    1. Nov. 2011 -This was so big it could puch you in the face, and it would hurt -- it also got up about 50lbs before I threw it in the basement.
    2. Dec. 2011 - This guy is smaller -- it is basically a box, so you can put all the peices inside and stack them on top of a bookshelf -- but it was made out of wood so I kept having to run down stairs to use a saw - and it got up to around $100 in parts.
    3. Jan 2012 - Sugru Man!!  -- Can be built entirely at the dinning room table.  All the peices can be thrown in a small box - and it only uses only about $30 in parts.

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the reply. All great projects by the way!