About this project
The MeArm Pi is an award winning robotic arm kit that’s simple enough for a child to assemble.
Take control of the world around you.
The MeArm Pi is an easy-to-build robot arm kit that's designed to get children (and adults!) learning about technology, engineering and programming. It's been expressly designed to be easy to build (age 11+) and use. At its heart is the Raspberry Pi, a low cost computer that has been developed to make learning about computing accessible and fun. The MeArm Pi can be controlled directly through the on-board joysticks, or you can learn to code by making it move using one of the many programming languages run on the Raspberry Pi. All of the software is free and covers a wide range of skill levels, from absolute beginner to experienced programmer. To make things even easier, it can all be controlled straight from your web browser, with no need to buy additional hardware like monitor, keyboard and mouse.
The MeArm Pi has been designed from the ground up to be easy to assemble. Children can build it themselves and we suspect adults may be able to build it unaided too. The only tool you'll need to build it is a hex key, and we include one in the box!
Here's a more detailed build video if you'd like to follow the process:
People ask how old children have to be to build this kit and of course it depends on the particular abilities of the child but 11+ is our estimate of a reasonable build age. Of course some 9 year olds will be wondering what all the fuss is about! If you're uncertain as to suitability, check out the build video above to see exactly what's involved or get in touch and we'll be happy to advide.
Everything you need to use it! We offer two types of kit, one with the Pi included and the other for those who want to use their own.
Here's what's included:
- Plastic parts for the structure of the arm
- Socket head screws for easy assembling
- Hex key so you don’t need your own tools
- 4 Metal gear servos
- A Raspberry Pi HAT with two on-board joysticks
The MeArm comes in both blue and orange and you'll be able to choose which colour you'd like once we send out our survey.
If you order the kit that comes with a Raspberry Pi, you'll also get:
- A Raspberry Pi 3 (with integrated WiFi for easy connectivity)
- An official Raspberry Pi Universal Power Supply (interchangeable plugs for different countries)
- An 8GB SD Card with software pre-loaded and ready to roll
By ordering the MeArm Pi with the Raspberry Pi you can be confident that you have everything you need to build and use your MeArm Pi. No messing!
The big benefit of being integrated with the Pi is the access to all of the great programming languages that already run on it. We've put a lot of effort into making it simple to start programming your MeArm as soon as you've got it built. Here's a quick video demo of some of the ways of programming it:
There are two approaches to programming it; on-board programming and in-browser programming
The MeArm is controlled directly from the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi via the custom HAT we’ve built. This means that any programming language that is able to control the pins on the Pi can be used to control it. We’ve already had it working with Node.js, Python and Ruby but because it’s all open and documented it’s easy to get other languages controlling it too (Scratch, Perl, Java and Basic should all run with no problems)
Here's a breakdown of the rewards at the different backer levels:
This version is the first fruit of the partnership between Ben Pirt and Ben Gray and has been completely redesigned, eliminating 2/3 of the screws and using new fixings which make it way easier for the young to build. The servos are now sent out pre-calibrated so all you have to do is slot them into place, which removes one of the trickiest bits of the build from previous versions.
Absolutely! We’ve always been big believers in the power of open source, particularly when it comes to being able to learn about technology. All previous versions of MeArm have been 100% open source in both hardware and software and this model is no exception.
We’ve tried to keep the workings of the MeArm Pi as straightforward as possible. The servos are driven directly from the GPIO pins so you can access them easily. The joysticks need an ADC to convert their input so we’ve used an I2C ADC that the Pi can communicate directly with. There’s an on-board RGB LED we use to show status and this too is driven directly from the GPIO pins so that if you want to play around with it (and learn!) you can. For power, we’ve found that the standard 2A Raspberry Pi power supplies work without any issues. If you're plugging more things in to it you might want to use the 2.5A supply. The HAT has a micro USB power input the same as the Pi so you can just switch the power over and the same power supply will power both the arm and the Pi. The HAT follows the reference design for Pi HATs to the letter.
Software-wise, there’s a Node.js app we’ve written which can do a few key things:
- Control the servos in the arm via the GPIO pins
- Read the state of the joysticks via the ADC so you can control it directly
- Has a WebSocket based API for control of the Pi over the network
- Serves out some local web pages which run apps that communicate over the WebSocket API
The neat thing about this is that you can run the arm without having to plug it into a monitor and keyboard and control everything through your web browser.
As it's just a Node.js library it will run on any OS that supports Node. We've been using it on the stock Raspbian.
It’s all open source (of course!) and we’ll be continuing to develop this and add features based on your feedback.
Which model Raspberry Pi?
The HAT is designed to be compatible with B+ form factor models (those that have 40 pin GPIO headers). It works equally well with the Raspberry Pi 2, 3 and Zero W. Unfortunately it won't work with the early model Raspberry Pi's that had fewer GPIO pins as the HAT won't fit.
Mime Industries is a new company founded by Ben Pirt of Mirobot and Ben Gray of MeArm. (Mi and Me - get it?). We realised we were both building the same company in parallel so decided to join forces for world domination. Between us we’ve successfully run three Kickstarters previously - two for Mirobot and one for MeArm. We know exactly what it takes to fulfil a Kickstarter now and have both spent the last couple of years manufacturing and shipping thousands of robot kits to people in over 60 countries around the world. This is just the first in the lineup of products we have up our sleeve. Stay tuned!
Risks and challenges
We've each been designing and manufacturing robot kits full time for the past few years and have our supply chain and manufacturing pretty well sorted now. This product fits right in with the construction techniques we're already comfortable with.
This will be our fourth Kickstarter between us and we fully understand the risks associated and have always delivered on time to happy customers.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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