There have been many instances where 3D printing technology has stepped up to give a hand to the manufacturing of robotic arms (pun slightly intended). Whether that robotic device was designed to assist with stroke rehabilitation or the 3D printing process itself, humanity is becoming increasingly dependent on automated robotic systems as a tool for both physical and educational assistance. There’s no denying the critical role that robotics will play in the many facets of our future, and therefore, it’s important that the students of today become familiar with the production and training of these robot arms.
One Nampa, Idaho-based startup, Slant Concepts, is looking to connect robotics directly to STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) with the LittleArm, a robotic arm kit created to help both students and hobbyists learn about programming and robotics. After finding that many of these existing educationally-driven robot kits were either too expensive or difficult to get ahold of, Slant Concepts’ founder, Gabe Bentz, decided to turn to 3D printing technology to help prototype his own robot kit, which led to the creation of the LittleArm.
“I just needed a versatile kit to experiment with the Arduino, but the kits that are out there are very limited and very expensive,” said Bentz. “It really took on a life of its own. Apparently many people have a craving for a simple robot.”
The startup hosted an extremely successful crowdfunding campaign for the LittleArm on Kickstarter back in August, achieving 230% of the funding that they originally set out to raise. Needless to say, the LittleArm robot kit has gotten off to a promising start. Currently, Slant Concepts has an entire wall of 3D printers working 24/7 to create the parts for their robotic arm kit. They’ve already fulfilled over half of their Kickstarter orders, many of which were made by educators and schools around the United States, such as the Boise, Idaho-based STEMBus, which is a high-tech, 60-foot interactive bus that hosts summer camps and educational demonstrations.
The LittleArm robotic arm is actuated with four servos and is controlled by an Arduino Uno. To use and train the robot arm, users must simply download the desktop application, which enables them to program the motions that they’d like the robot to perform, hit go, and then watch the LittleArm recite the preset sequence. The LittleArm website provides students with video tutorials and code downloads to help build and program the robot. In the near future, Bentz plans to enhance the capabilities of the robotic arm, creating more gripper options and also creating a smartphone app as well.
Although the popular crowdfunding campaign has ended, the full LittleArm robot kit can still be purchased through its website or on Amazon for around $78. Schools that wish to implement the LittleArm into their STEM curriculum will receive discounts on bulk purchases. Discuss further in the 3D Printed LittleArm forum over at 3DPB.com.
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