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Build a working robot

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

Click here for a PDF version of these instructions.

Basic GISMO 3 robotIn September 1990, Boys’ Life readers met GISMO 3, an easy-to-build robot that sat atop the chassis of a radio-controlled toy truck. Thousands of GISMO-Guys built some incredible ‘bots that boggled the imagination.

Now GISMO is back and ready to rumble. Our newest member of the clan, GISMO 4, is a bumper-bot. He’s ready to do battle, Sumo style, against other GISMOs or roll around the house or yard for a joyride without denting people or furniture.

GISMO 4 is wicked quick, controllable by remote up to 70 feet away.

You can build the basic GISMO for about $60. Spend less if you can find parts around the house. Several readers who built our last GISMO found inexpensive working radio-controlled trucks at flea markets or garage sales.

GISMO’s head is a clear plastic food storage container. His body can be made from a number of round plastic containers, as long as there is enough clearance for the wheels. We used a large plastic planter pot, but you could substitute a laundry basket or wastebasket for the body shell. Outside the body, we attached a plastic foam bumper.

Customized GISMO 4 robotThe heart of GISMO 4 is a radio-controlled truck chassis, including motor and wheels. Choose a 4 x 4 style truck with a rugged motor and good traction.

We used a Nikko Dodge Power Wagon. With high ground clearance and knobby balloon tires, it runs well even on carpet. It also comes with a rechargeable battery system. Other remote control trucks will work too.

If you plan to have Sumo-style ’bot battles with friends, choose remote-control vehicles on different radio frequencies so they don’t interfere with each other. You’ll find the information on the outside of the box, usually “49MHz” or “27MHz” or channel numbers.

To give GISMO 4 a high-tech look, apply a coat of silver paint, attach an antenna and stick an old circuit board under the clear dome for an electronic “brain.” Or go for the sumo look: a cloth tied on bottom and a cool pair of sunglasses on its head, under a topknot of hair.


  • Chassis from a radio-controlled truck.
  • Large plastic planter, wastebasket, or 1.5-bushel laundry basket.
  • Plastic storage container.
  • Plastic foam “noodle.”
  • One piece of 1-by-2-inch lumber
  • Screws
  • Epoxy glue
  • Tape
  • Long nylon wire ties
  • Sandpaper
  • Nuts, bolts, and flat washers.
  • Tools Needed: Saw, screwdriver, pliers, drill or awl, scissors.

Step 1STEP 1: Test drive the radio-controlled truck before you remove the chassis. Stores may not honor the warranty afterward.

Step 2STEP 2: Turn the truck over and remove the screws that hold the truck body to the chassis. Carefully lift the body off, pulling the antenna wire through the hole. Leave the front bumper/winch assembly on the front to provide extra stability for front-end bumping. Save the body parts and screws.

Step 3STEP 3: Center the 1-by-2-inch wood block and chassis, wheels up, on the plastic tub. Slide the chassis forward so the front bumper touches the tub. Mark and cut the block so it fits snugly inside—trim or sand the corners for a tighter fit. Glue the block to the flat part in the center of the chassis, above the motor battery compartment. Don’t let glue get on the other parts of the chassis. Check the fit inside the plastic body and set aside to dry.

Step 4STEP 4: Center the food storage container’s lid on the bottom of the plastic tub. Use an awl or drill to make a hole through both. Attach the lid with a nut, bolt and two flat washers.

Step 5STEP 5: Use an awl or drill to make a hole to attach the tub to the front bumper of the truck chassis. Secure with a bolt, nut and two flat washers. Mount the robot’s plastic body to the chassis’s wooden block with small wood screws. Make sure there is enough clearance for the wheels to turn and move freely. Tape the antenna wire to the inside of the body.

Step 6STEP 6: Add the foam noodle around the opening of the robot’s body to act as a bumper. Trim the noodle to fit, then use an awl or drill to make holes at the back and front as shown in the diagram. Attach the noodle to the body using nylon wire ties.

Step 7STEP 7: Paint or add accessories to the robot’s body if you want. We added an arm to GISMO (we used a plastic baseball bat). Now he’ll look more like the BattleBots of TV fame. Use an awl or drill to make holes through the body where you want to mount the arm. Use nylon wire ties to attach.

GISMO 4 is now complete. Add other accessories to your not-so-lean bumping machine and enjoy some ’bot bouts with your friends.

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25 Comments on Build a working robot

  1. wierdo (again) // May 13, 2007 at 12:44 pm // Reply

    i will make another 1

    i’ll call it the DOOMINATOR

  2. I made 1

    it ROCKS!!!!!!


  3. if u try my trick(printed above) u need to hook up the motorcycle and 4 wheel drive truck up to the same signal and rehook up the wires if u cut them. also,for a flamethrower, use the ther arm and make 1 wheel a fan. then make a door in the back( note:use one of the metal things on a door and cut out a chunk of the back to weld together(note note:dont weld together the ends of the henge thing)) and get coulogne(ca loan). on the inside of the door next to the fan wheel. make a bowl with something over it about 2 inches and make 2 or 3 more fans in a tube arm.put some caulogn in the dowl and, again when u move, it spits fire.

  4. This really works well! It runs across the floor smoothly and it doesn’t harm anything. Plus I can anoy my cat with it. It is really fun and inexpensive if you go to the right place. You should try it, (if you go to the right place). It is fun to make two and battle them. I think you should try it, it is fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I can not belive how well the robot works! it ran across the floor and won!! And it looks great too.

  6. i put a truck with 4 wheel drive on its back wheelsand cut a chunk from the bottom. then i put in a toy motorcycle so it had the same balance. then i put on 2 long knives on and when it moves the knives becomes a sawblade.

  7. Pyro Maniac // May 4, 2007 at 4:02 pm // Reply

    It is so AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IT ISN”T DUMB. IT”S THE BEST.

  8. Pyro Maniac // May 3, 2007 at 4:45 pm // Reply

    It looks difficult to get all the right stuff for it and it looks difficult to build BUT it looks very cool and awesome.

  9. Skywalker816 // May 2, 2007 at 3:03 pm // Reply

    AWSOME.peiriod.trav,take that back.

  10. what?

  11. looks a little dum

  12. cool

  13. Calvin Hobbes // May 1, 2007 at 7:41 pm // Reply

    Forget the saw and battle axe………. I’m thinking flame thrower.

  14. wowowwowowowowowow // April 30, 2007 at 6:53 pm // Reply

    wow i would relly like to try that

  15. I might do it but it needs something to defend its self from my sister (big knife?)

  16. Jamie P. Cohen // April 24, 2007 at 3:47 pm // Reply

    I just read about it and i defenitaly want to try it!

    P.S. I can’t beleve jinbob said flamethroer

  17. The SemiColon // April 24, 2007 at 2:11 pm // Reply

    this is a great idea. i’m trying this as soon as i get the money.

    maybe i’ll show my friends how to do this and we can set up an areana.

  18. I love gizmo he is crazy!!!!! yaaaa!!! yhoooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  19. i will start a collection of these robos and sell kits for $9.99.wanna buy 1 or 2?!?!?!?!?!

  20. egghead # 84 // April 14, 2007 at 3:35 pm // Reply

    i wuold like to do this, but i cant afford it. stupid money problems..

  21. this looks like a good weekend poject

  22. flamethrower

  23. i recycle bottles. once i get the money, I’M MAKIN IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. club penguins washing mash // April 11, 2007 at 10:16 pm // Reply

    i was on battle bots the show i was the champ then grant imahara (mythbusters helper)came and defeated me

    how dare he

  25. What? you want a kit? show your creative genius by building your own!

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