Turn an RC car into a floor sweeper!

RCSweeper - 7

What’s fun, cheap, good looking, and cleans a hardwood floor with an advanced search and navigation algorithm?

An electrostatic dust mop attached to a radio-controlled car. Vroom!

This combination has some things in common with a Roomba, but is arguably less expensive. It’s quick and fun to build, and quick and fun to operate.

RCSweeper - 1Our starting point was a $15 radio controlled Lamborghini Gallardo from our local (and strangely enough, haunted) toysaurus. (Speaking of which, isn’t this a great looking police car? )

The second major component is the business end of an electrostatic dust mop, such as a Swiffer, or the equivalent model from 3M that we’re using here.

Construction is pretty straightforward: Figure out a way to attach the dust mop to the car!

RCSweeper - 2   RCSweeper - 3

Let’s get started by taking the body off of the car. Thankfully, everything is held together by screws. After removing the body, take a look at the front end of the chassis (the right side in the photos) and try to find a place where we can begin to attach a mount to the dust mop end.

It turns out that there’s a neat little ledge– with a screw hole even– right by the front bumper. So, we’ll build a little plank to hold the dust mop that attaches to that screw hole.

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I built the mop-support plank from a blank printed circuit board. (You can use a piece of metal or plastic for this, but I happen to have these lying around!) Blank PCBs are a good construction material because they are (1) cheap, (2) very strong and light fiberglass-epoxy composite, (3) flame retardant, (4) easy to cut to shape, (5) often supplied with holes in them, and (6) ready to be soldered.

I added one hole to match the screw hole on the ledge, as well as six holes to mount the mop end. I also had to trim the outline a bit to fit the plank onto the ledge. (Your car may vary.)

Later, once you’ve tested the working RC dust mop and are sure that the plank is in the correct location, you can add additional screws and/or superglue to hold it in place more securely.

RCSweeper - 5   RCSweeper - 6

Put the body of the car back on the chassis, and attach the mop end. I used a pair of cable ties to attach the short mop handle to the circuit-board plank. To adjust the height, I put in a little balsa wood spacer beneath the mop handle.

Okay, so let’s try it out!

As you can see in the video, it’s very fast, but the steering is awkward. Fixing that is a matter of adjusting the position of the mop face so that it drags on the ground a little more evenly.


And does it work, i.e., does it clean up the dust on the floor? Hell yeah!

Here is the Dust collection apparatus with some of the dust that it’s collected, shown with one of the common varieties of artificial artificial intelligence control system that we use to control the RC car. This particular variety of control system has considerably more processing power and memory than most presently-available microcontrollers, and is somewhat easier to program.

28 thoughts on “Turn an RC car into a floor sweeper!

    1. You can save some money by running one of these on NiMH’s.

      Funny you should mention cats. I actually started a project a month ago
      about attaching a string to a tiny (four-inch long) RC car, which you can drag
      around the corner for the cats. It seemed to work great at first. But,
      when I was trying to get pictures of the cat chasing the string, I accidentally
      freaked out her out by driving it towards her. Now she’s scared of the
      noise of the RC car, so no project. =(

      Windell H. Oskay

    2. In the time it’d take to steer the car back and forth I could have swept the floor myself!

      I want something that saves time, not wastes it. Who wants to take 30 minutes to swiffer a floor with a R/C car when you can do it manually in 3 minutes?

      Now a R/C lawnmower, that would be something! Or even better, R/C Snow Blower! What fun would that be! Sitting inside, nice and warm, watching it clear your driveway!

      Come on evil scientist, make us something useful already

      1. First of all, this is a 5 minute project, not a 30 minute project.

        And yes, it’s faster for me to sweep the floor than for me to build that.
        But, that isn’t the point at all: The entire point of this project is that it
        takes a dull task and makes almost fun. If I ask my kid to sweep the
        kitchen floor, it’s going to take 20 minutes no matter what tools are
        — whether it’s pushing the dust mop manually or with the car.
        What I’ve built is a means of helping kids to do chores
        cheerfully. THAT makes my life better.

        You can already get RC lawnmowers. And, now that I live in California
        and don’t have any snow, my motivation to make a snow blower has
        gone away as well. Apparently, you’ve got some, so why don’t you show
        us how it’s done? =)

        Windell H. Oskay

  1. It might work a little better on turns and in corners if there was some way to hook up to the back of the vehicle. The arc of turns would be much tighter (of the mop end). Think of a forklift truck where the steering is to the rear. It might help with the problems of adjustment in turns. In long travels it would be less strain on everything by pulling. You can hang alot of weight from a string but it takes a much stronger object to hold up the same weight. Pulling is much more efficient than pushing.

    1. That’s true, and it’s a very good point.

      However, the argument for putting it on the front is that when you’re going
      forwards, you prevent dust– and hair in particular– from getting caught in
      the wheels.

      Windell H. Oskay

  2. Could you attach some sort of dustbuster vacuum to one of those strong off-road RC cars to vacuum carpets? Roomba, eat your heart out. :)

    1. Yes you could. However, vacuums typically require a lot of power to
      operate; dust mops need none. If you started out with a heavier or wider
      RC vehicle, you might be able to put a decent lead-acid battery in it to
      power the vacuum, or you could directly use a dustbuster.

      This is actually one of the very clever things that the Roombas have: a
      moderately heavy, wide and stable platform to support a little vacuum

      Windell H. Oskay

      1. Growing up, we had one of those early programmable robot vehicles that I totally didn’t appreciate at the time. 6 wheels, independent suspension, 4WD, keypad on top … basically all you could do was tell it to travel X many vehicle lengths, turn Y many degrees, and so forth … plus flash a little LED intended as a fake laser beam, complete with sound effects. (It’s cooler when you recognize how little robot toys have progressed in 20 years!) I’m just thinking that an updated version would be the ideal platform for one of these. Of course, you’d still have to program it manually. Bah, humbug.

        — Dave

      1. My son already invented this type of device though not exactly the same. He did it for a school "invention convention" in 5th or 6th grade. He attached a small dustbuster to the chassis and tilted it so that it picked up debris. Yes this was before Roomba hit the market.

        1. I made something similar to this for a 7th grade science fair back in the early 90’s. Won 3rd prize while the idiot with the spud gun won first… *sigh*

          Given a little understanding of robotics back then and I could’ve invented the roomba myself

  3. ya, it’s always works like that though. Someone invents or does a small project, but then one person takes it to the next level and makes money off it – if only we all thought of it like that! RC cars are getting pretty cool now, hopefully they can invent some sort of RC vehicle that runs errands for you too! :)

  4. That is a very cool way to make work fun, I can’t help but wonder what’s next?

    I have often thought about converting a Traxxas RC Truck into a lawn mower, but it seems like it would simply be too expensive and difficult to use.

    Anyone have any other cool RC conversions to help you get work done?

  5. There are RC forklifts. Maybe attaching the swifter to that would work wonders plus there could be many other uses for the forklift. Just google RC forklifts to see what they look like.

  6. i put a swiffer onto the back, ani yes the back so no more steering problems of a tiny rc monster truck i got for 20 dollars at toysrus. my car is a really crappy ford f150 and i chose a ford because fords are crappy anyways. the truck can fit on top of your head but not with a swiffer on its ass. and i did have to make mods so that the swiffer can sit on the ground and not hang high on the truck’s ass. cuz its a monster truck so duh…

  7. i did a mod to a 1/10 new bright rc dodge police car where i made a pepper spray cannon and cut a hole into the top. i made the pepperspray cannon to go up down spin left and right. the car’s remote got hacked by adding a seperate control panel onto it. the cannon was adjusted so it’s radio waves can be recieved at the max distance of the car. same thing with the cannon controls. I made the cannon so it can go at an angle that it can spray a person’s eye. the spray comes out very powerfully so thats how it can be so low and hit a persons eye. i gave the instructions to the local police and then they all went to toysrus and home depot and various places and came back with like 50 of each material needed. cool.

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