Black Line Follower: A Modern Bristlebot

It’s been a while since we’ve seen much action on the bristlebot front, which is too bad. So we’re happy to see [Extreme Electronics]’s take on the classic introductory “robot”: the Black Line Follower. The beauty of these things is their simplicity, so we’ll just point you to his build instructions and leave the rest to you.

The original bristlebot is a fantastic introduction to electronics, because it’s simple enough that you can cobble one together in no time. A battery, a pager motor, and a toothbrush head are all you need. But it goes where it wants, rather than where you want it to go.

Adding steering is as simple as tying two bristlebots together and firing one motor at a time to execute a turn. The Black Line Follower is of this style.

Of course, any good idea can be taken to extremes, as in this giant weight-shifting bristlebot, or this super-tiny IR-controlled bristlebot.

But that was more than five years ago now. What happened to the mighty engines of bristlebot creativity? Has the b-bot seen its finest hour? Or are we just waiting for the next generation to wiggle up to the plate?

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3D Printed Bristle Bots (Robot Cockroaches!)

Bristlebots are one of our favorite projects to teach young hackers the basics of electronics. They’re easy to build, fun, and most importantly — cute. Usually you make them out of the head of an old toothbrush and a cellphone vibrating motor, but [Kevin Osborn] figured out a way to 3D print the entire thing!

He got the idea from [Mark Peeters] who figured out how to turn one of the disadvantages of FDM style printers, into a new way of producing more abstract 3D prints… He calls it the Drooloop method, and you can make some really cool 3D printed flowers with it! Basically, it means you design parts without support structures and design in a droop. If you do it right, you can create the bristles for your Bristlebot!

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[Lenore] Eviscerates Her Racing Snail


You may have walked past [Lenore’s] unassuming card table at Maker Faire this year. But we’re really glad we stopped for a little chat. She went so far as to pull the working parts out of her racing snail to show them to us!

Wait, wait… racing snail? Yeah, this is a pretty neat one from a few years ago. The snail is a relatively large version of a bristlebot (incidentally, we believe bristlebots were originated by EMSL). The thing that’s missing here are the bristles. Instead of using a scrub-brush for this large version, [Lenore] discovered that velvet has a somewhat uni-directional grain. But using a piece of mouse-pad cut to the same footprint as the velvet she was able to get the flat-footed snail to move in a forward direction purely through the jiggle of a vibrating motor.

If this sparked your interest there are tons of other bristlebot variations to be found around here. One of our favorites is still this abomination which shifts weight to add steering.

Build a light following bristlebot as a way to teach science


[Ben Finio] designed this project as a way to get kids interested in learning about science and engineering. Is it bad that we just want to build one of our own? It’s a light following bristlebot which in itself is quite simple to build and understand. We think the platform has a lot of potential for leading to other things, like learning about microcontrollers and wireless modules to give it wireless control.

Right now it’s basically two bristlebots combined into one package. The screen capture seen above makes it hard to pick out the two toothbrush heads on either side of a battery pack. The chassis of the build is a blue mini-breadboard. The circuit that makes it follow light is the definition of simple. [Ben] uses two MOSFETs to control two vibration motors mounted on the rear corners of the chassis. The gate of each MOSFET is driven by a voltage divider which includes a photoresistor. When light on one is brighter than the other it causes the bot to turn towards to the brighter sensor. When viewing the project log above make sure to click on the tabs to see all of the available info.

This directional control seems quite good. We’ve also seen other versions which shift the weight of the bot to change direction.

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‘Vortex-drive’ for underwater ROV propulsion

This is [Lee von Kraus’] new experimental propulsion system for an underwater ROV. He developed the concept when considering how one might adapt the Bristlebot, which uses vibration to shimmy across a solid surface, for use under water.

As with its dry-land relative, this technique uses a tiny pager motor. The device is designed to vibrate when the motor spins, thanks to an off-center weight attached to the spindle. [Lee’s] first experiment was to shove the motor in a centrifuge tube and give it an underwater whirl. He could see waves emanating from the motor and travelling outward, but the thing didn’t go anywhere. What he needed were some toothbrush bristles. He started thinking about how those bristles actually work. They allow the device to move in one direction more easily than in another. The aquatic equivalent of this is an angled platform that has more drag in one direction. He grabbed a bendy straw, using the flexible portion to provide the needed surface.

Check out the demo video after the break. He hasn’t got it connected to a vessel, but there is definitely movement.

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Klackerlaken gets the common man excited about electronics

The Klackerlaken is a combination of LED throwie and bristlebot. The bauble is easy to build and really has no other purpose than to delight the masses. The diminutive devices were first seen in the wild at the 2011 CCC (Chaos Communications Camp) as a hands-on workshop. Check out the clip after the break and you’ll see why this really sucks in the spectators.

We’ve seen a ton of Bristlebots before (this tiny steerable version is one of our favorites) and were intrigued to see bottle caps used as the feet instead of the traditional toothbrush head. In fact, that video clip shows off several different iterations including two caps acting as an enclosure for the button cell and vibrating motor. Googly eyes on the top really complete the look on that one.

Decorating the robots with LEDs, fake eyes, tails, and feathers helps to temper the technical aspects that kids are learning as they put together one of their own. We’re glad that [Martin] shared the link at the top which covers the creations seen at a workshop held by Dorkbot Berlin. This would be a great activity for your Hackerspace’s next open house! Perhaps its possible to have follow-up classes that improve on the design, using rechargeable cells instead of disposable buttons, or maybe supercaps would work.

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Steerable bristlebot via IR control

Looking at the size of this bristlebot the first thing we wondered is where’s the battery? All we know is that it’s a rechargeable NiMH and it must be hiding under that tiny circuit board. But [Naghi Sotoudeh] didn’t just build a mindless device that jiggles its way across a table. This vibrating robot is controllable with an infrared remote control. It uses an ATtiny45 microcontroller to monitor an IR receiver for user input. An RC5 compatible television remote control lets you send commands, driving the tiny form factor in more ways than we thought possible. Check out the video after the break to see how well the two vibrating motors work at propelling the device. They’re driven using a PWM signal with makes for better control, but it doesn’t look like there’s any protection circuitry which raises concern for the longevity of the uC.

This build was featured in a larger post over at Hizook which details the history of vibrating robots. It’s not technically a bristlebot since it doesn’t ride on top of a brush, but the concept is the same. You could give your miniature fabrication skills a try in order to replicate this, or you can build a much larger version that is also steerable.

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