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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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50 Comments on Build a working robot

  1. ya Bob that would be COOL

  2. i want to do the robot it sounds cool. im going to build it.

  3. i made my robot.but my dogs ate it.

  4. This is soooooooooo cool i will show my friends and the word will spread out.

  5. Sam-ROBO199962 // April 10, 2007 at 8:53 pm // Reply

    Me gonna get this robo party started!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. sam-bot L7-8Q // April 10, 2007 at 11:05 am // Reply

    This thing tottaly rocks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. macxthegamer // April 9, 2007 at 8:53 pm // Reply

    ya, I think ill try it!

  8. otrater 88 // April 9, 2007 at 6:59 pm // Reply

    sounds wonderful

  9. this idea rules. i want to make 2 and battle with my brother.

  10. I shoul try it!

  11. funko reno // April 9, 2007 at 11:50 am // Reply

    these two robots i will make will fite with invisible lazers only…. if i get the stuff to make it and [ if my mom lets me make ] the robot………………………..

  12. robots are cool don”t you think so?

  13. these cool robots need weapons (battle axe??)

  14. to all those who wish for a kit: that destroys the whole point! IMO, the excitement about building the robot is seeing it slowly coming together, and then when you have the final piece, how it FINALLY WORKS!!!!!

    I oughta try this…..


    maybe I could use lego mindstorms to make a “souped up” version of it.

  15. i going to build that ROBOT!

  16. will this work for a giant toy tank?

  17. who would have the things to do that anyway?!

  18. you should hold a tornament

  19. wicked awsome

  20. sorry tipo i think you men’t destroy. and no wepons jumpjet. to dearmeat and mr cheese i do to you no it should come in a kit, why dosen’t it???????

  21. this is great but my dog might rip it.

  22. I’d like cool accessories and more than one bot.

  23. needs weapons (hmm… mini saw?)

  24. boyscout mannicac // April 5, 2007 at 5:57 pm // Reply

    I really want to try it . I have ben wondering how to buld thoes.


  26. expensive but cool

  27. JhotwheelsA // April 5, 2007 at 9:34 am // Reply

    I want to spy on my brother

  28. it needs to come in a kit yo.

  29. stinky flying toaster cheese // April 4, 2007 at 3:26 pm // Reply

    I have an itty bitty RC car so I’ll try making a micro-sized spybot!

  30. to deermeat:i do too

  31. i think this looks cool but my parents probably won’t approve of me tearing apart my truck i got for x-mas

  32. WOW this sounds cool ill have to try it

  33. this way cool. you should make them into kits and sell um for ten bucks or just sell um premade

  34. I think your robot is real good i project for cub scouts to make.

  35. Wow! this is really nice! I have my own battle bots that can punch and block and shoot invisible laser lines to other robots. I will see if gismo can beat them. I hope he will!

  36. I love all the positive comments and feedback here! The negative remarks are unnecessary. My son is so excited to try and build this! Thanks for the fun idea!

  37. My Brother tried to break the robot but it didn’t work! Ha Ha HA

  38. Teckno Freak // April 2, 2007 at 5:16 pm // Reply

    I have two trucks, Would I be able to make the arms move?

  39. I need yet to get the parts but sounds great!

  40. this robot cant defeat the robot im going to make. (‘–‘)

  41. I am vary impressed it is amasing ! I only need two more things and I will have it going as soon as possibal

  42. this is cool you should try it

  43. This is a geat way to spend your time when you have nothing to do. I like it!!!!!!!!


  44. If I find a remote controoled truck, a noodle, and a small tape recorder, I can spy on my sister. HAHAHA

  45. i like the experiment but i wish it came as a kit you could buy and put tigether yourself.

  46. I realy want to try the robot. Maybe i’ll buy it to annoy my sisters with it.

  47. i like your experiment

  48. this is cool i want to try it out

  49. robot basketball

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