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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. spyscout123 // May 9, 2009 at 6:59 am // Reply

    how much is the pay load?

  2. cool i’m gonna do it for this school project i have on robots it’s just taking me a lot of time building it

  3. spyscout123 // March 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm // Reply

    Cool I will try it

  4. all of these rock

  5. eatlobster11104 // February 19, 2009 at 2:12 pm // Reply

    I wont to make one but i dont get the instructions it sounds cool!!!!!

  6. tmoilanenpack23 // January 30, 2009 at 10:51 am // Reply

    its AWESOM!!!!!! I have a truck and Its 4×4 I have all the matirials at my house so it costs me $0.00

  7. Tinkertech, I’ll have to talk to the honchos at BL about
    your suggestion for a mini-bot. Sounds like a winner to me!

    Thanks all for the positive comments.

    Writer/Designer of Gismos 3 & 4

  8. all it is,is a plastic contanor over a car.its not that amazing.p.s..lame

  9. transformers // December 25, 2008 at 6:25 am // Reply

    it great ,cool,fantastic and challenging.we are trying it out.

  10. 102.1[christmas music on radio] // December 10, 2008 at 8:12 pm // Reply

    its awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. it looks cool

  12. That sounds awesome! i’ll try it tommorrow.

  13. Optimus Prime // October 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm // Reply

    Regarding my comment on making one out of a metal trash can, it proved to heavy, used a light plastic one insted.

  14. im trying to make it

  15. they are so coolllllllllllllllll

  16. i hae it i thought it was goung to be a real robot not some cheap nock-off…grrrrrrrrr



  19. i am trying to build one

  20. fredo cheeseburger // July 6, 2008 at 12:41 pm // Reply

    my parents wont let me build it because u have to take apart a truck:{

  21. Optimus Prime // April 27, 2008 at 4:25 pm // Reply

    i am making one out of a metal trash can!

  22. It is very good and I like it vey much.I have made it.

  23. fred fred burger // March 23, 2008 at 1:00 pm // Reply

    I love robots and especaly ones hand made

  24. to bobmofghdfg

    i have sawblade and flamethrower further back but the instructions are all over there are about five sets

  25. Cub Scout 530 // March 10, 2008 at 7:23 pm // Reply

    It looks kind of hard.

  26. pokemon power1 // March 7, 2008 at 2:55 pm // Reply

    That is a grate rowbot

  27. preeeeeeeety cool, but, i killed mine

  28. This is so cool 😉

  29. Brooooooooooooo // February 22, 2008 at 8:02 pm // Reply

    That is way cooooool. I can not wait! I hope

    I can buld it soon! Peace out man!

  30. What are (safe!) accessories i can use on my robot to make it cooler weapon wise?

  31. i like robots there really cool but i dont know how to build one can you please show me how.

  32. bobmofghdfg // January 5, 2008 at 3:39 pm // Reply

    How do you make a flamethrower,sawblade,and railgun?

  33. i dont have a remote controlled car but actually something that moves when turned on and when it hits something it turns around

  34. I’m making a robotic arm for my gizmo

  35. how big is gizmo4?

  36. Look back to see a sawblade and flamethrower design on forums

  37. i like this alot but i have a question you ever think of makin a mini series 2? jw

  38. I wonder if you can play bumper bots! 🙂 😉

  39. gizmo 4 is the BEST OF THE LOT

  40. gizmo rokez but mabay u shouild make new robots


  41. this has a lot of mischieveious potential! Im thinking about putting a mini blow torch on mine aling with a electromagnetic conductivity occilator ( rail gun) 😉 :0

  42. Gary The Great!! // October 3, 2007 at 1:48 pm // Reply

    This is cool, espeicily if you can make attachments to it so it can hold stuff

  43. wowwwwwwwwwww cool its great, i tried it and you can put a dagger or a knife

  44. This looks awesome! I’m definitely going to try it.

  45. bloody monkey // August 11, 2007 at 1:02 pm // Reply

    this kid i know took mine and fed it to his dogs

  46. zeepoctoxz // August 3, 2007 at 7:10 pm // Reply

    gizmo 3 rocks up da party!!!!!!!!!! so #1!

  47. this is asome you now you could put a nail gun on it or a stapl gun

  48. General_Furious // July 26, 2007 at 7:36 pm // Reply

    not every chassis works. i have one, but the way it turns is will make it flip over

    the whole thing is just a modified RC car

  49. for the flamethrower keep wires away from the burning coulogne

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