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Building a Solar-powered Bristlebot

Adding solar panels to a brushbot project gives a new twist to an intermediate robotics building activity, but does it offer more power? With this clever build and a kit from the Science Buddies Store, it was easy to put that question to the test!

Advanced Bristlebot Solar-Powered Kit and Hands-on Robotics Project - multiple images Advanced Bristlebot Solar-Powered Kit and Hands-on Robotics Project - bear head or googly eyes

After a successful series of building robots using Science Buddies procedures, we recently gave the Solar-powered Bristlebot a try. This bot is very closely related to the Light-tracking Bristlebot we built a few years back. Both of these bots can be built using the Advanced Bristlebot Kit from the Science Buddies Store, a fact that makes gathering the right specialty/electronics supplies really easy—just open the box!

My student decided to build this robot over spring break. We didn't need to do this hands-on science activity for school. We didn't need to formally track or test or measure. The focus was on the building, on the experience of plugging things into the breadboard appropriately. As a parent, this kind of casual at-home science and engineering moment is priceless.

Because our goal was on building, my role in the process was reading the directions out loud. He did all the assembly, all the breadboard hole-counting, tinkering, adjusting, taping, and customizing. That I had not been quite on top of things enough to have the right additional required elements gathered and on hand when the urge to build this bot struck meant I couldn't quite find the double-sided foam tape. He first improvised by making loops of clear tape to hold the small vibrating motors in place, but ultimately, he moved on to electrical tape. (We have lots of that!)

When the build was finished, we didn't have googly eyes, which some consider a "must" for their bots. But the impulse to customize his bot and give it added character was not lost. The head from a toy figurine made a perfect masthead for his bot, and, not shown here, a tiger figurine even got added at one point to ride on the bot!

As for the exploration of solar power... going outside to see if the motors would start spinning in the sun was exciting and rewarding.

This is a great and easy-to-follow project for at-home electronics and robotics fun!

Home Adventures in Robotics

For a look at some of our ther robotics-building experiences, and for related projects and activities that are fun for kids to do at home (with you or alone), see the following:

(Hint: The list above may be very helpful for summer activity planning!)

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