Tiny BEAM Robot Smiles Big At The Sun

A tiny solar-powered robot that even works indoors

What have you been working on during the Great Chip Shortage? [NanoRobotGeek] has been living up to their handle and building BEAM robots that are smaller than any we’ve seen before. What are BEAM robots, you say? Technically it stands for Biology Electronics Aesthetics and Mechanics, but basically the idea is to mimic the movement of bugs, usually with found components, and often with solar power. Here’s a bunch of tutorials to get you started.

The underbelly of what might be the world's smallest BEAM robot.
This was before the large, flat storage capacitor came and covered everything up.

This here is an example of a photovore or photopopper — it moves toward light using simple logic by charging up a capacitor and employing a voltage monitor to decide when there’s enough to run two tiny vibration motors that make up its legs and feet.

[NanoRobotGeek] started in a great place when they found these 25% efficient monocrystalline solar panels. They will even make the bot move indoors! If you want to build one of these, you can’t beat [NanoRobotGeek]’s guide. Be sure to watch it toddle around in the demo video after the break.

We love to see people work at all different scales. Last time we checked in with [NanoRobotGeek], they had built this solar-powered ball-flinging delight.

14 thoughts on “Tiny BEAM Robot Smiles Big At The Sun

        1. Original author of the Instructable here. I like to believe the ideas from BEAM can be relevant but I definitely mostly make this kind of circuit for the art of it. Its so fun to have little creatures that I built going about their day on my desk!

          Never heard of that show either, may have to check it out if I can find a clip.

        2. Popular Mechanics for Kids. Locally made, the two biggest hosts were Jay Baruchel and Elisha Cuthbert. I saw the former once when he was ligning up for a show at our Fringe Festival. They both went onto make movies.

  1. Want a wee bit of input? On the next one, push the motors up so the balance is about 60% on the wheels. IDEALLY you want your critter to “pop a wheelie” every time a motor activates, to lessen the friction of the front drag point and get more traction on the motor shaft.

    1. Ahh awesome! Yeah I never made too many bots of this shape so I never dialled in the geometry. I have always been more concerned with the angle of the motors to the ground (which I still have yet to dial in either =P).

        1. Man, didn’t realise you were Dave from Solarbotics! When I was 10, my dad helped me use my birthday money to buy the lets make robots start here kit, the photopopper V5, and the useless box and my mum was furious we “wasted” my birthday money.

          I was so proud of myself when I figured out how they worked (couldn’t get the lets make robots bot working until I was a little older though). The photopopper panel has been swapped onto a couple different builds since then, the useless box is still working on the same batteries as over a decade ago, and the lets make robots bot is sitting on my shelf.

          Definitely keep an eye out for my next project, it is done, just waiting on some different motors and then some final tuning. I will post it on Instructables but it will probably get shared here too.


    2. The solarbotics website still exists and it badly needs a facelift.

      Building these B.E.A.M robotics designs by Mark Tilden is one of the defining things that made me a make.

      It’d be great to see more of the old designs built again, there’s so many to choose from my fav was the pummel engine.

      1. Yup, the Solarbotics.NET site only lives as an archive presently. No sites are active, as FB and the like have taken over personal project pages. We started hosting these before the days of FB (when MySpace and Geocities were the big players).

        We won’t be redecorating the SB.NET site anytime soon!

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