Gabe Bentz wanted a robot arm that he could use for educational demonstrations and play with around the workspace. Unable to find a small robot arm that was inexpensive and easy to learn and use, he went to work building his own system. After demonstrating his arm to coworkers at Slant Robotics and area educators he decided to turn the arm into a physical product for educators and hobbyists. Bentz is currently running a successful Kickstarter campaign for LittleArm, the 3D Printed Arduino Robot Arm for Educators.
The campaign funds will be used to start an initial production run of 3D printed components and to build software and tutorials for using the arm. LittleArm is controlled by Arduino Uno and most of the open source programming was done on Python but can also be done using some graphical programming languages such as Blockly. The current GUI controller is a system of five sliders, one for each degree of freedom and one for the robot’s speed. The base, shoulder, elbow and gripper can all be controlled separately through this interface without getting into the programming of the system.
LittleArm kits come with the 6 Volt power supply, a breadboard, four MG90S micro servos with metal gears, the gripper assembly, wires for connections, the 3D printed parts, and an optional Arduino board. Several uses are demonstrated in the videos but there are many more possibilities for applications in STEM education, hobbyist and maker activities, and research.
This feels like a great project for education that is low cost and easy to use, with a huge amount of options for customization and alternate uses. Bentz says that the level of technology is geared toward and eighth grade user enjoying the robot but the team is trying to move the ease of use down to a third grade level. The project will be funded on August 19, 2016 and units are expected to ship in October and November .