Hexbug Hack

Give your Hexbug a Real Brain!
Chapter 1 - Possibilities -

Hexbug Hack

The Hexbug is a very cleverly designed, tiny toy robot bug. Once removed from its package and switched on, it marches forward until its antennae bump an obstacle. It then does a reverse-right turn, and continues forward again until the next obstacle. A loud noise (like a hand clap) will also cause it do its reverse-right turn.

This simple ‘reflex’ response looks very much like a real insect. It does apear like it is exploring its environment. But this is a robotic insect. Shouldn’t robots be smarter?

The designers of the Hexbug,
Ignition, Inc. and Innovation First, Inc., decided to display the electronics by placing the circuit board on top of the main chassis and under a transparent ‘bug’ shell. This design provides an excellent and easy to use chassis for a much smarter bug. Disassembly is fairly easy, but does require some soldering skills. A new circuit board with a Microchip PIC microcomputer can then replace the stock board and be programmed to match the Bug’s original, simple reflex behavior.

(It might not seem cost effective to add $25 of controller electronics to a $10 robot, but that’s the wrong perspective- How about building a $25 robot controller board and being able to get a $10 pre-built robot chassis for it?)

Now the real fun begins. Even though the Hexbug’s motion is limited, with the addition of a few simple sensors and some clever programming, it can do remarkable things. For example, a right turn (the only direction the Bug can turn) is accomplished by doing a reverse turn for about 2 seconds. How can it make a left turn? Simply do a right turn for 6 seconds - 3 right turns equal one left turn.

(Solving these types of problems- finding functional solutions using very limited resources- are the sort of challenges NASA has had to face when thing go wrong with distant space craft. The only thing that can be done to solve the problem is to upload new control software.)

With these small additions, the Bug can now be programmed with new, additional behaviors. Some possibilities:


  • The Bug could periodically ‘sleep’ instead of just marching along, avoiding obstacles until it’s switched off. While the microcomputer is in ‘SLEEP’ mode, almost no power is used. The Bug could be active for 30 second, and then sleep for 2 minutes. The Wake/Sleep periods could be made random to give it behaviors closer to a real ‘bug’.

  • The Bug could be given programming to use a piezo-buzzer to make sounds as it explores. This would definitely give it a ‘Personality. (What would Scrat be without all his funny sounds?)

  • The Bug could be programmed with a musical scale and could ‘sing’ for special occasions: Happy Birthday, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Who Let The ‘Bugs’ Out....

  • The Bug could monitor its own battery voltage, and ‘Cry’ for new batteries when its power gets low.

  • The Bug could be given a light detector, and be programmed to seek the brightest place in its environment.

  • The Bug could ‘go to sleep’ when it’s dark, and be randomly active when it is light.

  • The Bug could be equipped with rechargeable batteries and solar cells. With a light detector modification, it would look for a bright place to recharge when it detects its batteries are getting low.

  • The Bug could be equipped with an IR-control module and programming to read the signals from a TV remote. This could provide direct remote control, or a means to remotely program a ‘behavior’ (explore/march/dance) into it.

  • The Bug could be programmed to seek out a ‘charging station’ that uses an IR transmitter similar to the TV remote to park and recharge its batteries.

  • The Bug could be equipped with a microphone and tone decoder and software so it could be controlled using a tone generator, and could also ‘talk’ to other Bugs with the same type programming.

  • The Bug could be equipped with IR Proximity sensors to detect the edge of the desk/table it’s walking on. Two would be needed: center front and rear-left. There is the chance that the Bug could walk up to a corner, with the edge of the desk/table on its left. A left-reverse turn would but it over the edge. It would have to detect this condition, and then ‘cry’ for help.

  • The Bug could be equipped with an Electronic Compass for navigation. (Distance traveled would still be ‘open loop’.)

1]The micro-robotic Hexbug is the result of collaboration between Ignition (Plano, TX; www.ignition.com), an industrial design and development firm, and Innovation First Inc. (Greenville, TX; www.innovationfirst.com), a product engineering company. RadioShack is the exclusive North American retailer of the Hexbug. Bandai, the leading toy manufacturer in Japan, also recently signed a deal for global distribution rights, with plans for other products to follow. “We had a rough idea for this product, but Ignition brought it to life,” says Joel Carter, VP of marketing at Innovation First. “They transformed our concept into a viable market-ready product and helped us to create an entirely new product category.”


We believe we have the highest quality kits in the “kit” industry (read our testimonials). Unlike most electronic kits, all our kits include a schematic, detailed printed instructions, and teaching material explaining the why and how things work. Our Hands-on Electronics Courses (LED Scope) take students from no knowledge into the college level and prepares them for a basic Electronics Technician job or Technical Career. Our hands-on kits and courses are self-instructional (homeschool moms do not need to learn electronics), but can be used individually, in classrooms,  or homeschool co-ops.

                     2021 EVENTS

SC - March 18 - 20 -  GHC Greenville
NY - Aug. 5 - 7 GHC Rochester

OH - Aug. 12-13 GHC  Cincinnati               
VA - On-Line - HEAV, Richmond              
PA - Deciding CHAP

Hope to see you there. If you have an event you would like us to consider, e-mail us at: Info@appliedinspirations.com

Applied Inspirations, LLC

Bethlehem, CT 06751

           WARNING: All our products  contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information go to www.P65Warnings.ca.gov
(Our items were manufactured prior to August 31st, 2018)

As of August 2018 the State of California has changed the requirements of the “Prop 65” law. We now must list on our website any possible chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive problem.

As an example:
   ABS Plastic contains styrene
   PVC wire insulation can contain Ki(2-ethythexl)phthalate (DEHP)
   electrolytic capacitors can contain Ethlene glycol
   Brass can contain Lead
   Flame retardant pc boards can contain Tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA)
   Aluminum alloys can contain Chromium

To put it simply, we are a small company and do not have the resources to test every single part, so we list every thing as hazardous. Please recycle all electronic parts responsibly and under no circumstance eat, drink, or smoke these parts and wash your hands after touching!