About this project
The LittleArm was a weekend project that has grown into a full-time project and business. This campaign is to get the ball rolling.
I wanted a robot arm. But even the kits are expensive, for what they deliver. So one weekend I grabbed a few high strength microservos and went to work designing the parts to have printed.
At the end of the weekend I had a couple of different versions of the robot. I took it to work and everyone loved to play with it and I soon had a couple of people ask me to print them one.
Later, I was doing some demonstrations for STEM teachers. They also loved the idea, and they asked me to make them some for their classes.
So I decided to turn my little maker project into an actual product at Slant Robotics.
This campaign is to raise funds for building software and tutorials on using the arm and to purchase several 3-D printers and other supplies in order to produce the arms in greater quantities.
The LittleArm is a completely open source project. I made it 3-D printed so that anyone can download the parts and start using it. It also ensures that the arm can be rapidly changed and developed for different applications, without being constrained by molds.
The arm is controlled entirely by an Arduino Uno. The Uno provides a decent amount of support and is very versatile. These qualities allow almost anyone to start programming the arm and add other features like sensors.
Arduino is also supported on platforms such as Blockly, so beginners can write programs graphically.
The arm is designed to have a modular gripper. While there is a servo to actuate a gripper I have also designed several rigid end-effectors for different tasks.
If you want to use the GUI or create some other complex program, you need more than the Arduino. All other software, is entirely based in Python. Python is a simple language to learn and has a large amount of support.
Most of the foundational programs have been created. Kinematics are done. We have a basic GUI. And best of all we have a "record" function so you can train the robot to perform a task and then watch it go.
That is the start, but honestly the number of programs that can be created for an arm like this is big.
We could set-up a webcam and add vision. We could have some basic sensors so that it follows a laser pointer. We could make it play with a ball. (Oh wait, we did that)
But in order to create all of those programs we need a little money and a bit of help. We would love it if anyone who is interested in the project shares their code with us on our website.
We have already created a basic website to support the arm. It started as a project blog, so it is a bit rough. But we are working on getting it upgraded.
In the future the website will contain all resources needed to build, work with, and teach with the LittleArm.
So many of the programming kits out there are just too complicated and quickly become boring. How many times does it take to make a robot follow a line before the kids decide the idea is stupid? Plus many of those "build" kits just have a bunch of pieces waiting to be lost.
This arm is a great kit that doesn't have many pieces to lose, can take a kid through every part of engineering, from design to programming, and always has something else to add.
Imagine a class project where kids have to create an assembly line with their robot arms. Or they create a small group of synchronized dancing robots. Maybe they train the robot to feed the science class lizard. While this arm is simple it can do a ton of stuff.
There are a lot of hobby arms out there. But they are all expensive, and they are really not very helpful because they depend on a 'community' to make it interesting.
This arm is so basic that anyone with a any kind of experience can easily create programs from scratch. And while we like and want a community, it is not a necessity to use this arm.
Yes, that is what was just said. This arm can be used for a number of different research purposes. In fact I am working on a small project in deep learning right now with the arm. It is a whole lot easier to test software on this arm than on a large industrial robot. And since deep learning requires data, it is a lot cheaper to get 100 of these arms to provide data than a single industrial arm.
But that is all nerd stuff. No one really cares about that.
Actual Home Use
Have you ever forgotten to feed the fish. This arm could be programmed to do it. Maybe someone at the table needs a mint. This arm could broach the subject. Maybe it could scratch your cat's belly. Maybe it could put the sugar in your coffee. Maybe you need a Rube Goldberg method of turning on a light.
We don't expect anyone to make these an official part of their home. This section is just an excuse to present some other ideas.
What is Included in a Kit
- 4 MG90S metal-geared microservos
- 1 Arduino Uno (unless ordering Brainless)
- All required fasteners and connectors
- 1 6V power supply
- 1 mini breadboard
- All 3D printed components (colors vary)
- 1 actuated gripper assembly
- 1 pen-holding gripper
- Connector wires for breadboard
Build the Uprising T-Shirt
Risks and challenges
I have been working in robotics for nearly ten years. This project is basic.
I have already sourced all the materials and resources and am ready to upload the files to the printer to start making preorders. Additionally since it is being supported by Slant Robotics there are a lot of resources and talent to draw from within the business.
The largest challenge will be creating enough tutorials and software to make this robot easy and fun to learn on. That will be an ongoing process but the architecture has been laid out and a lot of those resources have already been created. Right now an eighth grade kid could learn to use what we have available. We're trying to get it down to a 3rd grade kid, or lower.
We have detailed how to use Blockly for the robot and are creating web interfaces to eliminate the need for configuring python on the computer. And there is a small online video class in the works to walk anyone through the entire robot.
The largest challenge on the hardware side is printing the arms in quantity. Printing can be unreliable. But we have designed several new methodologies for ensuring quality prints most of the time. This ensures that we can use printing at a greater scale.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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