Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Brushbots

I have been having remarkable luck playing with technology at my library. I was a little apprehensive at first, just because of our location and the kids- would they get off the computers to actually learn about Raspberry Pis? Would they think these were as cool as I did? Would they be willing to take a breathe and actually follow directions above and beyond the sticker crafts that we hold on Saturdays, take the steps, and work to put something together? And how am I going to put all of this together when I’m either IN the library floor proper, or across the hall in a meeting room that no one knows is a library program?

So far, however, the answer has been playing with them in front of the tweens and teens. It may seem simple, and at points it gets hard to explain to administration, but it’s one of those interaction development components that tweens and teens need- someone to pay attention to them, and to interact with them without feeling that the adult is being “put upon” or “suffering” their presence. I did this when we got the Raspberry Pis, and my classes have been full and we have wait lists. And I did this with the Brushbots.

Brushbots are simple little robots made from a toothbrush head, a motor, a small battery, and a piece of adhesive. You can buy these parts separately; however, since my library system decided to do this program (with variations) across all three locations we got ours from Make, which is an awesome site for program ideas and supplies. As well, they give learning outcomes to prove up the program to administrators aside from “It’s flipping cool and I want to build robots with these guys.”

The wait for the library an hour before we open

The kits came with enough supplies for 24 robots: motors (the round yellow things), the batteries (the small round things), assorted colors of toothbrushes, double sided adhesive, and a variety of stickers to decorate, along with a card with instructions and ideas for racing and basic modifications. 

Kit with the toothbrush body removed

 They recommend that you provide scissors (to cut the stickers), wire strippers (to take the casings off the wires), and some type of pliers/cutters to cut the body of the toothbrush from the head. I used the base of the wire cutters that were bought for our system, sorted the kits into their parts like this:

and then bagged them into individual robot sets. If you have a smaller group, or an older group, definitely let cut the adhesive tape and let them break up the toothbrush- it takes some hand strength but they’ll get a kick out of it. Since I had at least 20 from ages 10 and up, and showing a movie with robots and Legos, I went ahead and decided to break everything into individual kits. I also ran off copies of the instructions and suggestions for racing and modification so each participant had their own.

I brought out my Lego Makerspace, and they went to town creating mazes and racecourses for their bots. Some went in circles, some sideways, and some backwards…  

Everyone had fun, and they’re asking me when the next robot program is, so a definite success! 

Program Breakdown
  • Prep Time: 1 hours for separating the kits into individual bags and braking toothbrushes plus time for ordering the kits
  • Supply Cost: $19.99 plus shipping per 24 Brushbots;
  • Additional Supplies: Lego makerspace (on hand), baggies for individual kits (on hand), copier paper for instructions (on hand), kid scissors (on hand), glue dots for two issues with adhesive (on hand), DVD (on hand)
  • Program Time: 2 hours as I showed a movie with it while we experimented; without the movie the program could easily go just an hour

What awesome things are you doing this summer? Share in the comments!


  1. Where did you get a kit of 24 for 19.99? I looked at Make and only saw 4 for 19.99. Would like to do this program, but too cost prohibitive.

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