Makerspace: Bristlebots

April Zuniga June 29, 2018

For our makerspace I decided to look into bristlebots, because we wanted to include more STEM activities into our programming that would allow teens to experiment, problem solve, and collaborate.

A bristlebot is a mini robot that teens can build just using a toothbrush head, a coin battery, some simple adhesives, and a pager motor. In order for your bristlebot to work, you have to make a circuit flow using the end of your pager motor wires and sticking them on either side of the coin battery. Once you create that circuit, the pager motor turns on and begins to vibrate. Because you will adhere everything to the bristle head, the vibration of the motor will make your bot come alive and move every which way. Teens can also experiment and try different positions to place the battery and the motor. Sometimes it makes it change directions by making it go in a circular pattern or go in a straighter line. This is a fantastic way to allow teens to team up and problem solve together in a fun way while learning about circuitry and robotics.

Type: Self-directed
Age: Middle school
Optimal size: 11-20
Estimated cost: $51 - $100
Planning time: 2-5 hours
Frequency: Monthly

Learning outcomes

Learning Outcomes

  • Collaboration
  • Problem Solving
  • Experimentation
  • Circuitry
  • Teamwork


Preparation: Done before program by staff

Step 1:The only material you will need to prepare ahead of time for your teens are the bristle heads. For the bristlebots, you will only be needing the bristle heads of your toothbrushes. You will need an exacto knife to cut the handle off of your tooth brushes. The disposable brushes I used for the Bristlebot activity were a little narrow so they would tip over when I tried to stand it on the brush end. I had to hot glue gun two brush heads together (side by side), in order for it to be able to stand on its bristles and not tip over.

Step 2: Create a working model of the bristlebot so that you can show it to your teens, and demonstrate how it works.


Directions for Participants:

Step 1: Cut a small rectangle of your foam tape and adhere it to the flat part of your toothbrush head. It should fit within that space and not stick out over the edges.

Step 2: Using a small piece of electrical tape, tape the blue wire of the pager motor to the positive (+) side of the coin battery. Make sure the exposed wire (the silver part) is what is touching the battery.

Step 3: Take the red wire (the exposed part) and touch it to the negative (-) part of the coin battery. If the pager starts to vibrate, then that means the wires are in the right place.

Step 4: Stick the coin battery and pager motor on the foam tape that you previously stuck on the toothbrush head. The taped blue wire should be facing down.

Step 5: Cut another piece of electrical tape and tape your red wire (the exposed part) to the negative (-) side of the coin battery.

Step 6: Watch your bristlebot go!



Teens really enjoyed this small project. Some parts were a little tricky for them, but they worked together to figure out how to create the flow of electricity. For some teens, they made it work right away. For others, it took them a little longer. The great thing about it though, is that they problem solved together and figured it out. I was just there to facilitate and help them when they got stuck.

Other resources

Here are some websites I used to get a little more direction on how to assemble a bristlebot.

How to Make a Homemade Bristlebot with LED

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