Robot Resurrection

When I was a kid there were few things I wanted more than a robot. I drew robots. I dreamed about robots. I remember telling my mother that I was going to be a “robot inventor” when I grew up. When I was somewhere between 8 and 11 Santa brought me a real robot, Robie Sr. I loved that robot but I got too curious and took him apart. Back then I wasn’t nearly good enough to actually put him back together, so his parts hung around my room for years before I finally got rid of them.

Robie hanging out with his homie, Emiglio.


Fast forward to 2007. I was thinking about Robie, and how much fun it would be to have him back. A quick trip to Ebay later I had found one, and he wasn’t very expensive either. He came in his original box and everything worked. It was around then that I started thinking about what I could do to make him better. …but without breaking the bank.

I know! Let’s swap out his old flashlight eyes with some LEDs!


At first, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, so I started shopping around for a Robie Sr. that needed some repair, but was largely functional. Once again thanks to Ebay, I got a second one that had some damage to the rubber on his wheels. Since one of the things I want to upgrade is his ability to move around (Robie Sr. is painfully slow), this is perfect!

Brittle and crappy. He lived in a garage for years.
This is a common problem with Robie Sr. wheels.


Now, what to do? I’d like to update his older parts with something a little more reliable and exciting. His eyes light up, and his mouth kinda flashes when he makes a sound, so I decided to start there.

His eyes are these screw-in flashlight light bulbs that will eventually burn out. What’s needed here are some super bright LEDs!

His head is easy enough to disassemble, look at the bottom of this article to see instructions on how to accomplish this.

The eye lights are screwed into the back of his eye sockets with a tiny screw. Unscrew it, and pull the holder out. I still had the bulbs attached, and they easily came out of the hole.

I clipped the wire off.

I got these big fat white LEDs at Radio Shack.

It’s a super snug fit in the reflector hole. Almost snug enough that I probably didn’t need any glue. (I ended up using some anyway)

I made sure to face the negative leads toward each other. That way, I could just attach one wire to both leads after I soldered them together.

The LEDs need current limiting resistors. These particular LEDs work between 3.5 and 4 volts, and draw 20 milliamps. The supply voltage running to the eye lights is 6 volts. I ended up using a 220 ohm resister for each LED. This seemed to work fine, but if any electrical engineers want to correct me, I’m more than happy to listen. With the resistor soldered directly to the lead, I soldered the two resistors together, then soldered the two resistors leads to the negative supply wire. I soldered a couple of wires to the positive leads and soldered that to the positive supply wire, then tested it out.


Next up is the mouth. Chloe recently got me a Getting Started with Arduino Kit for my birthday. There was a couple of blue LEDs in there, so I decided to use one of those to replace the boring old red LED. I know that blue LEDs are kinda played out, but whatever-I wanted something new and flashy!

Getting the red LED out was kindof a pain. I ended up breaking it in half, and it still didn’t come out. After pushing on it with a screwdriver, the glue holding it in eventually gave way, and it popped right out.

I don’t know what the capacitor does. It’s damaged, but everything still works fine.


I clipped off the red LED at the leads. I soldered the new blue LED right onto the old leads (after I tested it out.).

It fit into the hole that the red LED used to be, then I hot glued it into place.

It works like a charm.

I put some hot glue onto any exposed wires (except for the negative leads on the white LEDs) and put it all back back together.



Looking good, Robie Sr. 2.0! (more like 1.0.1, but it’s a start)

Now, if only I could do something about these old broken wheels…


Parts/Supplies needed:
  • (2x) 10mm White LED – Radio Shack Part #276-0005
  • (2x) 220 ohm resistors – Radio Shack Part #i don’t know, just ask them
  • (1x) Blue LED – Radio Shack Part #same as the resistors
  • Solder (flux core)
  • Soldering Iron
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Hot Glue
  • Wire Clippers
  • Thin Gauge wire
  • Multimeter (to make sure you’re wiring the LEDs correctly, measure voltage/resistance, ect)
Head disassembly instructions:

Starting is simple – just twist his ears off. After that, the plastic dome that covers his face practically falls away. There’s a tab on top of his actual faceplate. I used a flathead screwdriver to push down on the tab and remove the plate. There are some plastic lenses to diffuse his eye lights and mouth underneath. Nothing is holding those in besides the faceplate. This next part is a little tricky. The rest of the black plastic is held into place by tabs on the side of the inside of his head. if you put a screwdriver into the bottom edge of the black plastic, you can push it in a little (carefully!). Eventually, it’ll pop in front of the tabs, and you can pull it out being careful not to break the other side’s tabs. Underneath that is a silver reflective piece of plastic that holds the eye lights and the LED for the mouth. It’ll be connected by a silver tab that you’ll have to push down in the front.

A quick note about the battery for Robie Sr. :
Radio Shack has something that’ll work, but you’d be doing better going to a Lowes/Home Depot kind of place and asking for a 6 volt Emergency light battery. You know, the kind that come on in hallways of schools and businesses when the power goes out. It’ll be around 15 bucks. Keep it plugged in! It only takes a few months for that sealed lead battery to lose its charge, and once it drops down to zero, there’s no bringing it back. I’ve had mine plugged in for for over a year, and haven’t had a problem.

I’m going to replace his batteries with something a little more modern later on, but if you’re interested in Robie Sr. and want to get him going immediately for not too much money, that’s the way to go.

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