Robotics Technology


Over the years, Make: has featured some amazing robotics projects. I decided to go back through the archives and find a few projects I thought were particularly special and worth making sure current Make: readers knew about. Here are five of my favorites.

You’ll notice that all of these robots, while being reasonably affordable and moderately difficultly to build, all have a lot of character designed into them. Amateur robot builder I-Wei Huang believes that building this kind of character into a robot is something of an evolutionary driver; make it cute, make it funny, make it characterful and people will want to interact with it more and read more sophistication into its behaviors (and will be more motivated to build their own). There may be something to this. I didn’t choose these five with that design aspect in mind. I only realized this commonality once I had put the list together.


[youtube=]One of my favorite project submissions of all time was Dan Ray’s Jartron, a bot that he submitted to our CoasterBot contest in 2010. The idea for the contest was to use CDs/DVDs as the main building material for your robot. While other submissions used the CDs like staked layers of a cake, Dan cut them out to create legs and even used the plastic case that blank CDs come in as part of the body. Besides it being a very cool robot, he did a great, funny video and a full PDF of instructions. He ended up winning the contest. Download the PDF doc here.


This playful, characterful bot was submitted by the talented young maker known as RobotGrrl to another robotics build contest that we did. One of the many wonderful things about RoboBrrd is that besides electronics, the rest of it is made from basic crafting supplies like felt, popsicle sticks, and pencils, making it really cheap to build and easy to experiment with and change. Here is the Make: Projects page for RoboBrrd.

Self-Balancing Robot

m45_Self_Balance_Bot-16-620x413It’s kind of amazing that consumer electronics have gotten to the point where you can build this kind of a sophisticated, autonomous, self-balanacing robot from readily available components and 3D printed parts. This is a project for someone who likely already has a fair amount of robot building and programming experience, but what you end up with seems worth the effort. You can see the full instructions for building your own on the robot’s Make: Projects page.

Chopsticks the Spider Robot

[youtube=] Chopsticks was another contest winner. I was stunned by how sophisticated this robot was and how organic its movements and sensor reactions. This is another project best tackled by a seasoned bot builder, but look at the resulting robot, one in which nearly all of the non-electronic components are hand-made. Check out the Chopsticks the Spider Robot project page for all of the build details.

SunBEAM Seeker Bot

[youtube=] Sean Ragan’s SunBEAM Seeker was built as part of our Weekend Projects video series. The idea for the bot was to make various improvements to the Herbie circuit, a simple circuit that has evolved over the years from a line-following to a light-seeking design. One of Make:‘s early iconic projects was my Mousey the Junkbot, built upon the Herbie circuit. To that design, Sean made a number of improvements, including adding a roller-lever limit switch which serves as a tail-wheel that automatically turns on the bot when you set it down, and off when you pick it up again (or when it flips over). The full build instructions can be found on Make: Projects.


Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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