This post is part of a series relating to maker kits that I prepared for the HSBNE booth at Supanova 2016.

With the Brush Bot kit you can build your own Solar powered brush bot

Solar Brush Bots

Kit contents:

  • 2V solar panel with double-sided foam tape on the back
  • vibration motor (e.g. pager or cell phone motor)
  • nail brush
  • copper tape pieces (you can also use sticky tape)
  • craft supplies


  • Start by taping the two exposed ends of the vibration motor wires onto the solder blobs on the back of the solar panel using tiny pieces of copper tape or sticky tape. If you want a more permanent connection you can solder these wires in place.

  • Remove the backing paper from the foam tape on the back of the solar panel and use this to attach the panel to the top of the nail brush. A toothbrush with the handle cut off also works well in place of the nail brush. You can cut one or both of the nail brush handles off with a pair of scissors, depending on how you want your bot to look.

  • The vibration motor has a sticky pad on one side - remove the paper and stick it in place. You can mount your solar panel and motor at different angles / positions. Try the motor at the front vs the back of the brush or on top of under the handle. Try trimming the bristles in the centre to reduce friction in the middle. Bots often move faster if you put the motor to one side of the bristles rather than on the center of the brush

  • Remove the backing stickers from the self-adhesive googly eyes to attach them to your bot

  • Use the other craft materials provided (feathers, pipe cleaners, pom poms etc) to decorate your bot - add legs, hats, ears etc. The loom band will help with securing these to the bot, or use PVA craft glue. Make sure you don't overload your bot with decorations or cover too much of the solar panel or it will have trouble moving.

You'll need to place bot into bright sunlight or use a very bright torch to get your bot moving.

Vibration motors have a spinning disc inside that makes them vibrate. Brush bots move by friction of the bristles against the surface when the motor vibrates - in some directions the bristles catch and don’t move, in others, they will move smoothly. Friction is a force - it occurs when two things rub against each other. It releases energy - e.g. rub your hands together and feel the heat. Brush bots will move differently on difference surfaces.