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Smart People Build Robots

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Image by Discount Supervillain. Used with permission.

So your resident smart guy is already bespectacled, a master chess player, and fluent in Latin. How else can you show how brilliant he is? Why, by having him build robots of course! May be justified (said smart guy has a formal education in an appropriate branch of engineering, is a self-taught Gadgeteer Genius, etc.) or not (said smart guy is a teenager who just happens to, among his many other skills, be able to create from scratch a fully functional robot). A lonely or isolated creator might create a robot for the sake of having a friend or a lover.

This may be because all nerds are good with technology, so building robots is the next logical step. In Sci-Fi stories, expect the creation to be an Artificially Intelligent anthropomorphic Robot Buddy. Or Evil.

The smart guy could use his robot to battle the robots of other smart guys, destroy giant monsters, or do his chores.

Compare and Contrast the Robot Master, who does this sort of thing for a living, rather than just as a hobby between many other non-robot related science projects.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dr. Slump: The only reason (aside from Rule of Funny) why Senbei even tried to build a Ridiculously Human Robot in the first place was probably to invoke this trope. However, since Senbei is not that smart, he created Arale, an extremely ditzy Cloud Cuckoolander with flawed-eyesight, and accidentally made her absurdly powerful. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Chao Lingshen and Satomi Hakase are the #1 and #2 smartest students in the grade respectively and are both part of the Robot Engineering Research Club. To add to this further, they actually built Chachamaru Karakuri, one of their classmates.
  • The Professor in Nichijou is age eight and has built a perfectly functional, sentient robot she named Nano. Outside of this achievement, however, she spends about 95% of her time on typical eight-year-old activities like coloring books.
  • Clemont from Pokémon the Series: XY built a robot named Clembot to manage his gym while he and his sister travel with Ash.
  • In Ratman, Dr. Hironobu Andou He built Roiko... apparently just because he could.
  • Tiger & Bunny: Word Of God has it that Barnaby would've gone on to become a robotics engineer had his parents not been killed.
  • Chigara from Sunrider is smart enough to build two Ryders by herself and singlehandedly maintain and upgrade an entire squadron of them.
  • In Tamagotchi, series protagonist Mametchi, who has an IQ of 250, loves to invent stuff and is seen on multiple occasions building his own robots. When he goes to Dream School in Yume Kira Dream, he takes the Robotics class.

    Comic Books 
  • Henry Pym is an Omnidisciplinary Scientist who builds robots in his spare time. Unfortunately, his main creation is Ultron, a genocidal robot obsessed with wiping all living beings out.
  • The Fantastic Four's leader Mister Fantastic is considerably smarter than Henry Pym, and he constantly builds all kinds of robots. Unfortunately, his just tend to just hang around as background detail. Well, he did build both his assistant bot(s) H.E.R.B.I.E. and the F.F.'s robot secretary Roberta — but just how sentient those two are is a major case of Depending on the Writer, though.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark is kidnapped while visiting Vietnam (Afghanistan in the film version) and ordered to help develop weapons for his captors. But instead of rigging a MacGyver-style escape plan, he uses the equipment he's given to build a suit of Powered Armor and break out. He also once built a giant robot named Red Ronin to fight Godzilla — can't forget that!
    • In the film version, he also has a couple of robot arms in his workspace that he built himself, who he refers to as "Dummy" and "You". It's implied that he built Dummy back when he was a kid.
  • In the Silver Age, both Superman and Supergirl had Super-Intelligence, and they pumped out and repaired humanoid robots quickly and constantly. Their android-making skills were toned down during the Bronze Age and ditched in the 1986 reboot, but before the '90s were over Superman was again building robotic doppelgangers.
  • Red Skull is a repulsive monster but he's hardly illiterate, and he learned how to design and program autonomous military drones in a few years' time.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Byrna Brilyant is a brilliant scientist, who has made groundbreaking advancements in chemistry, built her own Powered Armor, created a Freeze Ray, and also built a veritable army of robots that look identical to her powered armor.
  • The Incredible Hulk: Bruce Banner once built a nifty little flying assistant robot named the Recordasphere. It tagged along on a couple of adventures... and then fell in love with him, tried to kill his girlfriend in a jealous rage, and then sacrificed itself to save his life. Because that's just the way Bruce's life goes.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Contraptionology!: This happens a few times as the science-crazed Ponyvillians start getting hostile, but Twilight Sparkle takes the cake. In a bid to achieve immortality, she constructs a liquid-metal robot body to transplant her brain into. To up the ante further, she decides to test the robot to ensure that her magic will still work, so she loads it with all her magic capability and a programmed personality based on Trixie, her rival who hates her. And in case that wasn't enough goading fate, she then tells Robo-Trixie that she'll wipe her personality once the tests are done.

    Films — Animated 
  • Tadashi and Hiro Hamada from Big Hero 6 as two smart siblings. The former built Baymax, a robotic healthcare assistant, and the latter is incredibly good at building battle-bots.
  • In the TV movie High School U.S.A., the two nerds built their own robot that responded to voice commands.
  • Averted with Megamind, who stops short at mere Motion-Capture Mecha instead, and a Powered Armor for his assistant Minion (who depends on it, being a limbless talking fish.) He also has those flying drones that act like dogs. He ends up blowing up some of them ("Daddy's sorry") when pretending to be Bernard, but later reveals he has hundreds more. Played straight in the follow-up short "The Button of Doom", where it's revealed that Megamind programmed his personality into a giant robot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Nathan from Ex Machina is a computer genius who left search engine development behind and moved on to create Ridiculously Human Robots who are able to pass the Turing Test.
  • Robin Williams in Flubber has two, a butler named Webber and a secretary named Weebo. He's also built a machine with the sole purpose of making him breakfast- forget a coffee maker, his is a pancake maker.
  • Dr. Morbius in Forbidden Planet. Justified since his intellect was enhanced by alien technology.
  • In High School U.S.A., Otto Lipton is a genius who has created a robot that he believes to be capable of going into space, and which accompanies him everywhere.
  • Iron Man, as mentioned in the Comic Books section.
  • Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace is shown to have a preternatural talent for all things mechanical, in particular robots. Used not so much to show smartness per se, but rather cleverness and precociousness.
  • Averted big time in Real Steel, where practically anyone with just enough smarts can build robots from scrap.
  • Revenge of the Nerds: the Nerds have a robot they use as an occasional butler.

  • This is pretty much the beginning of Andy Buckets Robots.
  • In the CHERUB Series book People's Republic, Ethan is a geek who is into chess and building robotics, though given that he is a kid and it is not a Science Fiction series, these are relatively simple robots and do not incorporate things like human-like Artificial Intelligence and speech.
  • Rama II: Have you met Puck, Bottom, or Joan of Arc yet? They are incredibly lifelike and can relay messages, as well as play Shakespeare, and in Bottoms case, shapeshift smoothly. They're the hobby of one of the astronauts.
  • Ungifted: The Academy for Scholastic Distinction has a robotics class, which Donovan joins.
  • Kyoko Mori from Space Pirate Captain MacTaggart is the Typhoon's lead engineer. When she's not at work, she can usually be seen playing with her "toys" and building automatons.
  • In Henry and the Paper Route, we are immediately told that Murph is a Teen Genius when he reveals that he builds robots in his spare time.
  • Nerdycorn: On the second page of the book, Fern is seen building a robot with the help of a machine.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard, construct a robot named M.O.N.T.E. for the Southern California Robot Fighting League Round Robin Invitational, though end up battling Barty Kripke's robot "the Krippler" in a street fight. Lampshaded: There were a few jokes about them being defensive about how nerdy they were perceived by Penny, all the while doing the most geeky thing Penny could possibly imagine. Averted; Howard, who has a Master's degree in engineering, was the one who did most of the work. The other three didn't even know how to open the toolbox.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Being the Smart Girl of the Scoobies, Willow apparently has enough knowledge of robotics to fiddle around with the various Ridiculously Human Robots they encounter, modifying the Buffybot for their use.
  • In Season 8 of Degrassi KC, Connor, Alli, and Clare are part of a school team for a robotics competition modeled after FIRST.
  • Steve Urkel from Family Matters built a robot or two.
  • Leverage: Resident hacker and electronic wizard Hardison builds Parker, the team's expert thief, a robot he names after her which can crack a safe even faster than she can. She's resistant to the gift at first, but after he explains it was inspired *by* her, she embraces it and tells him she's going to rename it "Hardy" after him.
  • Joel Robinson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can't control when the movies begin or end, because he used those special parts to make his robot friends!note 
  • On MythBusters, Grant, who formerly built robots for BattleBots, is lampshaded as this type of The Smart Guy by the others as a Running Gag.
  • Odd Squad:
    • Oscar, the Lab Director of Precinct 13579's lab in Season 1, has his own twenty-five Oscarbots, Ridiculously Human Robots whose initial sole duty is to make the perfect juice box for Oprah. They can also transform into a Combining Mecha form for combat use, which Oscar activates on two occasions: to show Oprah (who welcomes another chance to fight something after her karate practice session), and to train Olive upon her promotion to Odd Squad Director of the precinct in the next town over. In addition, they also have chainsaws and the ability to fire laser beams for times when they're not in the Combining Mecha form.
    • Season 2 introduces Oonabots, which are the Ridiculously Human Robots that Oona, Oscar's eventual replacement, builds. Although they're directly inspired by the Oscarbots, there are vast differences — she only builds three robots, their sole duty is to assist Oona around the lab with various tasks (and also dance with people), and they require more manual input, needing a person to type specific directions on where to go versus simply pressing a button on a remote.
  • Some of The Smart Guys of Power Rangers have an affinity for robotics. The blue ranger Billy never built one himself but did build a flying car known as the "RADBUG", wrist communicators that allowed the team to contact Zordon, and occasionally did maintenance and repairs on Zordon's assistant Alpha 5. Trip has Circuit, an owl Robot Buddy that he built. Andrew Hartford built himself a Ridiculously Human Robot son. Antonio reverse-engineered his Ranger gear by studying a Robot Buddy he was given and was often put to work by the team repairing and completing their other mecha. Nate has probably built the most Robot Buddies of anyone in the series, with three of them being the operating systems for the Zords, and a fourth ending up becoming a Ranger, as well as his brother.
  • Riptide (TV Adventure series, not the novel): Gadgeteer Genius sometimes-helper Murray "Boz" Bozinsky has a robot he calls the RoBoz.
  • Screech in Saved by the Bell had his own robot that just hung around his bedroom.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place's smart guy Justin Russo builds a working robot out of household items... so he could dance with it in a "big synchronized robot event".
  • In the Nick Verse show Zoey 101, Zoey and her friends construct a robot to battle against a group of Insufferable Geniuses' robots.

  • "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton has the speaker building a robot army among other random acts of genius. It ends badly.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism, per the Talmudic legend of the Golem. Judaism is rife with stories of wise Rabbis capable of creating artificial life out of clay, a robot in all but name.

  • Invoked in Star Wars Episode I; as Anakin Skywalker, the player can obtain various rewards by building C-3PO.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Ivy is granted a superpower that allows her brief bursts of mechanical genius. When it first manifests, she's able to repurpose her computer into a flying drone with rudimentary A.I. She then calls it Ziz and has it serve as her companion.

    Tabletop Games 
  • d20 Modern has the Techie advanced class, which is most easily reached through the Smart Hero class and can eventually learn to build small assisting robots. They're remote-controlled drones with very limited capabilities, mostly to let Techies use certain skills without putting themselves in direct danger.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • Urza and Mishra, the warring brothers who would spend much of the latter's life ravaging Dominaria with their mechanical armies. Urza, the "victor" of the apocalyptic conflict, would also create Karn, the silver golem, although being something of an Omnidisciplinary Scientist, his eventual weapons against Phyrexia were bioengineered warriors known as "Metathran".
    • Tezzeret, the Seeker is one of the cleverest people in the series, and has a penchant for building automota, golems, and clockwork constructs, among other things. His cards can even turn your artifacts into robots to fight for you!
    • Saheeli Rai is a technological genius from the plane of Kaladesh. Following the loss of her spark after "March of the Machine", she's settled down with her girlfriend Huatli, who she builds robot dinosaurs for as a kind of love language (a talent that greatly interests the Sun Empire government).
  • Pathfinder: One of the talents characters can choose is to craft constructs (essentially magic robots). And typically, magical crafting is done by wizards, the local smart guys.
  • Members of the Adeptus Mechanicus from War Hammer 40000 sometimes build Cyber-Altered Task units, which are very simple robots used for routine tasks. They say they're a practical application of theological principles, but to outsiders, they seem suspiciously like pets.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse has Unity, a techno path whose deck revolves around making combat robots. Her masterpiece, a robotic dinosaur called Mr. Chompy, has a plushy version that was part of the top-tier kickstarter that helped fund the game. Similarly, archvillain and Dr. Doom/Lex Luthor expy Baron Blade has quite a few robots that pop up in his Luminary deck.

  • Gogo's Crazy Bones Megatrip: Stein, an inventor and a reference to the real-life Albert Einstein, built Gosuke, a bio-android who is a Gogo in his own right.

    Video Games 
  • Gaige from The Mechromancer DLC for Borderlands 2 built her Robot Buddy Deathtrap in her garage, intending to enter it in the school science fair as a bodyguard drone. The local Alpha Bitch built a Shoddy Knockoff and bribed all the judges so she'd win instead, and gave Gaige a push when she "won", and Deathtrap squished her (she's said to have "exploded") while trying to restrain her for assault. This led Gaige to leg it for Pandora. Deathtrap can be upgraded with all sorts of goodies depending on what perks Gaige's player takes.
  • In Chrono Trigger, smart girl Lucca has built at least one robot before she joins the party, and the skills and knowledge necessary to repair and reprogram a robot from the distant future to be her friend and party member. This was likely a lot easier because it was left there to be repaired by humans so it could be a spy for the main computer. Still impressive considering the era she grew up in was in a late middle-ages technology level.
  • Jennifer in Disgaea built Thursday at an early age.
  • Nepgear of the Neptunia series loves her robots and tinkering with stuff with general.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: Tails, especially in Tails Adventure where he's been shown to have a little robot buddy called T-Pup. T-Pup later made the jump to Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) where he became Tails's Do-Anything Robot sidekick.
  • Stardew Valley: Maru's ten-heart event involves her unveiling her biggest project yet, a robot helper named "MarILDA". MarILDA promptly decides she wants to determine her own life and flies off to explore outer space.
  • Pascal in Tales of Graces built mechanized versions of Asbel and Sophie in certain skits and can use them in her artes.
  • Undertale: Doctor Alphys is the Royal Scientist of the Underground, famous for creating the entertainment robot known as Mettaton. However, It's later revealed that Mettaton is a ghost monster and Alphys simply created a robotic shell for her friend.

  • Inverted with Ctrl+Alt+Del, where Ethan somehow manages to make his X-Box and Gamecube into sentient Robots. Ethan is eventually explicitly made out to be a Genius Ditz, capable of focusing for seven seconds a day on doing things the collective efforts of humanity fail to do.
  • Kimiko of Dresden Codak; why wait for someone to come along and say We Can Rebuild Her when you could just do it yourself?
  • In Girl Genius, the title character has a particular aptitude for steampunk robots. As do many other Sparks in their world, though some prefer biology.
  • Kat in Gunnerkrigg Court. Annie also does it at first, but she just pieced together parts of a disassembled robot.
  • Subverted in Homestuck: Equius is the resident robotics expert yet he doesn't seem to be particularly bright. Played straight, however, with Dirk.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! resident supergenius Molly likes to build robots. The only one who became sentient was made out of a milking machine. The robot lion was given the brain of a Colecovision. Another two were steam-powered and made of snow (they melted).
  • Sean 'Dark Smoke Puncher' McNinja is the family computer nerd and fills his free time by building robot super animals. His father does not approve unless the robots hurt someone.
  • In Nukees, Plasma Physics major Danny built a giant, robotic, nuclear-powered ant for the government, though Gav tends to borrow it for rampages against Greenies. Gav on the other hand is more inclined towards software, such as Teri the Turing-grade calculator pet that escaped into the internet and infected most of the world.
  • In O Human Star, this shows up a lot, seeing as every character so far is a robot, a roboticist, or both.

    Web Original 
  • Linkara of Atop the Fourth Wall has a side hobby of building several robots of various types, and artificial intelligence to go with them. He directly lampshades this during a battle with Lord Vyce, noting that “There is something I have a special talent for: I am very good at building robots.”
    • Doctor Linksano also counts, as he was the one who created the Cybermats that serve as Comicron One’s security force.
  • Danny from Bravest Warriors builds a robot version of Chris in season 2. Justified in that he's the group's tech guy.
  • Doctor Steel, building an army of giant robots to take over the world.
  • The mysterious John M. Shea from Shea Scientific Films was a prolific mid-century inventor, with one of his creations being an underwater ROV that was in use by the early 1960s.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius covered this trope a couple times.
  • The Brain from Arthur has been shown to occasionally build robots.
  • Code Lyoko: Jeremie Belpois, The Smart Guy and Mission Control of the Lyoko Warriors, is a Teen Genius with a preference for computers and robotics. A couple of episodes have had him creating robots as a solution to an obstacle, and the reason why he became involved in the whole mess (and dragged his future Fire-Forged Friends into it) was that he reactivated the supercomputer that held Lyoko (and XANA and his future friend Aelita) when he was looking for parts to use for his robotics projects on the abandoned factory near his school.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog: In "Courage VS Mecha-Courage", Di Lung builds the episode's titular Mecha-Courage; he then proceeds to incredibly-arrogantly boast about how easily said machine can beat Courage in a fight...and largely isn't wrong, except for the fact that he apparently forgot to give it enough battery life to enable it to live long enough to be able to actually kill someone who is as physically durable as Courage.
  • Dexter of Dexter's Laboratory does a lot of advanced robotics. One of his specialties is giant fighting robots.
  • In Kim Possible, all the smart guys build robots and battle them at a place called "the Robot Rumble".
  • Buckwheat in The Little Rascals often builds robots using Bamboo Technology. One was designed to clean Waldo's yacht, and another was Buckwheat's project for the school science fair.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Max, the local Teen Genius, has somehow built himself a hovering, sapient Robot Buddy.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls the Professor builds the Dynamic Nanotronic Monobot for the girls to battle a giant fish. Despite the fact that the resulting damage is no worse than any other time the girls save the city, the Mayor tells him to never use it again. The only other appearance of the Dynamo is when the Mayor himself accidentally pilots it and destroys the city.
  • Jet from Ready Jet Go! is quite the child prodigy himself, and is already handy with tools, but he eventually builds his own robot clone called 'Jet 2'. This inspires Sydney to do the same later on. Also, Sydney's mom is a robotics engineer.
  • In Rick and Morty, Rick Sanchez builds a small robot for the sake of passing him the butter on the dinner table. The robot is also smart enough to have an existential crisis upon realizing that its only purpose is to pass butter for Rick.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Inverted in one episode. Homer & Bart try to build a robot for the Show Within a Show "Robot Rumble". But they can't get it to work, so Homer makes a "robot" that's just him in a metal suit. They make it to the finals, where they're matched up against five-time returning champs Professor Frink and son. Bart & Homer, being dumb, can't build a functioning robot.
    • Played straight with the Frinks, who built a kickass fighting robot.
    • Homer once did throw out a half-finished robot he built. It could talk and had brooms for arms. The robot looked very sad.
    • Lisa built a robot called Linguo for her school science fair. He was designed to correct grammar.
    • In one episode depicting the future, Martin Prince built himself a robot who went to a prom with him. When Martin got too friendly, the robot felt Driven to Suicide and auto-destructed himself.
  • Played straight and inverted in Sonic Boom. Tails and Dr. Eggman both create robots for a robot fighting tournament. The inversion is when Knuckles, who is dimmer in this continuity compared to the others, makes his own robot to enter. Tails and Eggman's robots look like something you'd expect from a prodigy and a 300 IQ scientist. Knuckles' robot is a cardboard box with wheels and vacuum cleaner parts attached to it.
  • In the Steven Universe episode Back to the Barn, Pearl and Peridot try to settle a dispute over who is a better engineer (and therefore who should lead their latest project), by building and dueling in their own robots made from spare parts found in the Universe' family barn.
  • Superbook (2011): Professor Quantum builds Gizmo, the Do-Anything Robot who accompanies and assists Chris and Joy during their time-travelling adventures.
  • High schoolers Roland, Martin, and Elise in the infamous Transformers episode "B.O.T."
  • Toby, WordGirl's most intelligent Arch-Enemy (not that there's a lot of competition for the title), builds giant robots to carry out his Evil Plans.
  • Played with in Xiaolin Showdown. Jack Spicer is very vocal about being an evil genius and builds robots for a variety of tasks including combat. However, he is also the most incompetent villain in the series and is ridiculed by everyone, making him a definite Butt-Monkey and an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Gratuitous Robot Building


Rick & Morty: You pass butter

Here's Rick building and programming a robot to pass the butter plate. That's it, nothing else. (Contains two clips)

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (26 votes)

Example of:

Main / MundaneUtility

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