The LittleArm Educational Robot Kit and the Mearm Robot kits have a lot of similarities. The they are both small robot arms designed to be programmable and help kids learn about STEM. They are both arduino robot kits. But beyond that these robotics kits are very different.
The first LittleArm was created in the fall of 2016. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter soon after. The second arm, which is now the standard was created in the Spring of 2017.
The LittleArm 2C has only 31 parts in the entire kit. This was intentional as it was meant to the be simplest robot arm kit for beginners out there. This was possible because all of the primary parts for the 2C are 3D printed. 3D printing allows parts to snap together and have geometries that eliminate screws.
In addition to a very good mechanical design the 2C ha great electronics that also ease the introduction to robotics. The primary board is an Arduino nano that is seated in the custom circuit board that allows easy connection to servos, Bluetooth, and other sensors. Since each lead is labeled with its function kids can see where they can add expansions without being distracted by minutiae like the difference between an analog and digital pin. The kit also is entirely plug and play. There is no soldering or other specific skills needed to put it together.
Once built the arm can be trained, just like industrial robot arms, to perform repetitive tasks by using the Android phone app for the Windows Desktop app. This really helps to detail how real-world arms operate. Out side of the normal training code there are tutorials and code examples that hobbyists can expand on.
One disadvantage of the LittleArm is that sometimes the pieces can be difficult for younger ages to press together. Think of two Legos stuck together. They might need a little adult help to do it.
But overall the LittleArm was designed to eliminate complexity in getting started with and building robots. It is a clean sleek kit that eliminates many stumbling blocks in understanding the main concepts of robot arms.
The MeArm was created by Benjamin Gray and was launched on Kickstarter in December 2014. It was funded successfully and has been the lone DIY robot arm in the world until the Littlearm was made.
The MeArm is made from lasercut components that are screwed together to create the small robot arm. Laser-cut components allowed the MeArm to be manufactured very affordably, so it could grow and gain audience organically. But Lasercut components result in many pieces to have to assemble. A MeArm kit has near 100 pieces.
The MeArm has the same basic structure at the LittleArm. It has four joints that are controlled by an arduino board. But the MeArm uses a parallel arm design, which ensures that the gripper is always horizontal.
The electronics of the MeArm vary from one kit to the next. The 100 dollar kit includes all of the components necessary to make a MeArm work. The most common package is an Arduino Nano and some button-based control board (buttons or joystick variations). These must be assembled with jumper wires based on included wiring diagrams. Some kits to need a little soldering, but this is not common. Newer MeArms have improved labeling of leads but they are not quite as good as the LittleArm labeling.
Since is has existed for longer the MeArm does have a wide support base. There are many tutorials and resources and code examples. But these can be disjointed. Beginners can have trouble getting started. The MeArm is also not always compatible with the apps that exist for it.
Overall the MeArm, is a good kit for experienced hobbyists. But is can be intimidating to very young builders who are not familiar with all of the electronics and hardware. But it's greater software base does help with expansion.
Price-wise the two kits are the same. Either one, with all of the control boards and components needed to make a working arm, are around 100 dollars.
It is hard to find educational robotics kits for kids. But if you are looking for an robot arm kit for your child or your student the Littlearm and the MeArm are the best choices out there. It is your choice which you think would be more appropriate.
Here is the wiring diagram for setting up line following on the LittleBot (Walter). All the code can be found on the Downloads page (littlebot_line_follow)
There are a lot of walking robot kits out there. But most of them are complicated and challenging to beginners. We decided to create a walking robot that was good for beginners. Something that people could experiment with and learn from without worrying about endangering the robot.
So we created the Critter Crawling robot kit. The Critter is entirely 3D printed and based on the Arduino, so anyone, anywhere can find the resources to create him.
The Critter is currently taking preorders on Kickstarter and will begin deliveries in November of 2017.
Robot kits are a great way for kids to be exposed to all aspects of engineering and STEM in general. Programming, mechanics, even biology, they are can be present in a robot kit as a child build it. And with STEM related jobs growing at 17% per year it is a great field for for eventualy job-holders to be exposed to.
A robot is also a great thing to build because it gives a child a true sense of accomplishment as they see their create move around or grab something for the first time. This drive to create something will help them as they move ahead in any career in the future.
1. LittleArm 2C Arduino Robot Kit
The LittleArm 2C is the second generation of 3D printed LittleArm Robot kits. The design of the arm makes it simple to assemble using only a screwdriver. The electronics are clear and easy to plug together and they few screws there are are simple to put in. Kids as young as 8 can assemble the kit with some adult help.
Once assembled the arm can be controlled and trained with either the free bluetooth app or Windows software. Using these tools kids get train the kit to perform different tasks just like real industrial robot arms.
The Littlearm robot kit is also based entirely on arduino and the code is all available so that it can be reprogrammed from scratch by using the www.arduino.cc/en/Main/SoftwareArduino IDE or tools such as Blockly.
The mBot is another Arduino Robot Kit. It can be controlled with an app and reprogrammed with the mBot scratch interface.
While the kit has a lot of fasteners it is fairly esay to build and contains many sensors for kits to work with and learn from. Overall it is a good beginner to mid-level robot kit.
If you have legos laying around, this is the robot kit for you. It includes multiple sensor, motor, and microprocessor bricks that allow you to bring old legos to life. The only problem with the kit is that is can be difficult to keep kids directed since there are so many directions they can go with the kit. But if they can stay focused it is a fun robot kit.
The LittleBot is an extremely simple robot kit for young kids. With only 3 screws in the entire kit it can be built by anyone in about 20 minutes. Once built it can be controlled with the Android App. When kids want to dig deeper they can reprogram the LittleBot using Arduino. Since the LittleBot is a simple demonstration of nearly every component of robotics, it is ideal for beginner builders.
The LittleBot is a simple beginner arduino robotics kit. This robot kit is fully 3D printed and can be assembled in a matter of minutes. It can be played with quickly by using the LittleBot Android app. But it can also be reprogrammed with Scratch, Blockly, or using the normal Arduino IDE. We also have many sample programs that can be uploaded or built upon to control the LittleBot
Below are multiple resources to help with the assembly and use of the LittleBot robotics kit.
Arduino Code for the LittleBot Arduino Robotics Kit
This post should detail some of the most stumbling blocks in building and using any of the LittleBots.
Bluetooth or USB not connecting
With the LittleArm Big, and all of our robots, the Bluetooth and the USB cord cannot be connected simultaneously. Since they both use the Serial port of the Arduino their signals effectively cancel each other. If you wish to control the arm with Bluetooth ensure that it is not connected via USB and vice versa.
Driver Issue with Arduino
The Atmega chips used in all of our robots are Arduino Clones, as such a certain driver error can arise when attempting to flash them using the Arduino IDE, if it is not appropriately updated. This is easily remedied by following this instructable about adding the necessary drivers to your computer.
3D printing can occasionally leave a little residue behind. This can sometimes be due to poor retraction, or intentional in order to gain something somewhere else in the design. This residue can sometime block or impede insertion of components. If you find/print a piece with this slight defect simply use some needle-nosed pliers, a razor, or a small file to pluck or smooth out the problem. This is a very minor side effect and is easy to remedy.
3D Printing the Arm
All 3D printed parts for the LittleBots are designed to be Sliced with CURA. Using other softwares can sometimes result in incorrect slicing of the parts. While we work to make sure that our files are compatible with all 3D printing slicers we do not always succeed and are constantly updating the files to extend their compatibility.
One last consideration. We designed the LittleBots to be printed with our printers. That is the only reference that we have. Since many of the kits are "snap together" tolerances are fairly tight for 3D printing. Many desktop 3D printers are not tuned or maintained well enough to hit our tolerances. Generally this can be fixed by scaling parts to 101% of their original size. This typically increases the margins enough for servos to slide into to lower-tolerance slots, without causing other assembly difficulties.
If you have trouble with one of your LittleBots please let us know and we will work to help you as much as possible.
Here is the wiring diagram for the servos of the LittleArm Big Arduino Robot kit. Here is the link to full assembly instructions.
Here is the LittleArm Big arduino code that corresponds to these connections.
Here is a diagram showing the connection locations for all of the components and expansions for the Littlebot 3d printed arduino robot.
In this post is all the software for the Littlearm Big arduino desktop robot arm. The Python File, Arduino Sketch, Android Application and Compiled Windows Application. All software is functional but still in beta. Please let us know if there are any problems.
Please note the speech recognition capabilities of the software are limited by the speed of your internet connection. Also, during compilation of the Windows file the speech capabilities seemed to be limited in some way. We are searching for the bug. But the general control and recording are perfectly alright to use. Enjoy your Littlearm Big
We just wanted to announce that we will be at the Bay Area Maker Faire this week with all of the 3D printed Littlebots and Littlearms. Come on by and see what we have been working on. We are very excited to be a part of Maker Faire for the first time this year.
See you all there.