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humbugs DusterBot

Sometimes you need a little help, and a robot can be the perfect buddy to join in and save the day. A DusterBot will hunt down the dust bunnies under your bed. It’ll buzz around helping you scrub your floors or desk.

You can’t control where a DusterBot goes or what it does, but that’s part of the fun. And forget about getting things done perfectly or quickly!

At a recent Maker Faire, Charley and Dakota Peebler and Stella and Giovanni Escobar-Rigon, all under 8 years old, taught visitors how to make all kinds of buzzy bristlebots that they called HumBugs.

Lenore Edman and Windell Oskay of Evil Mad Scientist Labs got a lot of people excited about bristlebots. They showed millions of people how to use a vibrating motor and battery on top of a toothbrush. Researchers at MIT and Harvard use a similar bot design to study how birds form flocks or how fish swim in schools.



Step #1: Cut the handle off the brush.


Put on your safety goggles. Saw the handle off the hairbrush. You can ask an adult to help if you’re unused to using a saw. Cut it close to the bristles, as shown here. Use sandpaper to smooth down the cut edge.

Step #2: Attach the motor.


Attach the motor to one end of the hairbrush using a cable zip tie. Cut off the extra length of zip tie.

Step #3: Stick the pack.


Attach the battery pack to the brush using two-part hook-and-loop (Velcro) tape.

Step #4: Connect leads.


Connect the battery to the motor. In this project, it doesn’t matter which way you connect the wires (you can twist black to black, or black to red).

Step #5: Set it loose!


Send your DusterBot off on its messy mission!

Step #6: Mod it for more fun!

  • Add some personality: Connect two bots together with tape or a bit of wire.
  • Trim or bend the bristles to make it turn.
  • Add wire legs to make it more stable.

Michelle "Binka" Hlubinka

Michelle, or Binka, is the Director of Custom Programs for Maker Media, overseeing publications, outreach, and programming for kids, families, and schools. Before joining Maker Media in 2007, she worked at the Exploratorium, in Mitchel Resnick’s Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, and as a curriculum designer for various publishers and educational researchers. When she’s not supporting future makers, including her two young sons, Binka does some making of her own, most often as a visual artist.

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