MeArm Pi - Robot Arm for Raspberry Pi
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.
Please note: This kit only works with any Raspberry Pi that has a 40-pin GPIO header, although it will fit best on a Pi3 Model B. A Raspberry Pi is not included in this kit.
Here's what's included:
- Plastic parts for the structure of the arm
- Socket head screws for easy assembling
- Hex key so you don‚Äôt need your own tools
- 4 Metal gear servos
- A Raspberry Pi HAT with two on-board joysticks
The big benefit of being integrated with the Pi is the access to all of the great programming languages that already run on it. A lot of effort has been put 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 built HAT. This means that any programming language that is able to control the pins on the Pi can be used to control it. It works 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)
The technical bit
A huge effort was made 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 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.