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Making Bristlebots with the Swiss Nanoscience Institute

A box full of our vibration motors recently accompanied the Swiss Nanoscience Institute to the largest Science Festival in Germany – Science Days, hosted in the Europa Park. The DIY bristlebot stand offered the 20,000 strong crowd the chance to put their engineering skills to the test in making their very own “nano cars”.


The tiny “robots” that have been taking the internet by storm are, at a most basic level, a motor strapped to the head of a toothbrush. Coin batteries are the power source of choice because each half of the casing is a terminal and so attaching wires to them is easy. Since the bristles of the toothbrush are arranged at an angle, the vibrating makes the “nano car” move in a random direction. If you want your bristlebot to move forwards, cut the bristles at an angle, as below:

As part of the outreach program, children were given an instruction sheet and the equipment to make their bristlebots. The brief bill of materials included one of our motors, the 304-111.


The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed from the picture above that the motor used in this project is the 304-111.001, a variant of the stocked 304-111. The difference being a shorter lead length, so assembling the bristlebots would be as easy as possible, just a little tape required.

The sorts of customisations we can do include:

  • Custom lead lengths
  • Change to shaft length
  • Different winding
  • Change to gearing

Note that this list is by no means exhaustive and that each customisation will carry with it a different minimum order quantity. Please contact us to learn more about what we can offer.


The bristlebots were a huge success, and the 500 children who travelled to Rust for the event loved making them. The event was even covered in German newspaper Badische-Zeitung (article in German). Note that the bristlebots grabbed the headline – ‘how to make a car from a toothbrush’! Of course, the true purpose of the event goes beyond making vibrating robots; the children were approached with a hands-on experiment, and subsequently invited to learn more about the world of Science and Nanotechnology.

So perhaps the event inspired the next generation of Scientists and Engineers, or at the least made them more likely to pick up a toothbrush once in a while. Either way, get started building your Bristlebot here.

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