The OWI Robotic Edge Arm is a cheap and terrific 5-degree-of-freedom robotic arm that just costs $37. It's a great kit to build with a kid and won't take more than a couple hours to finish. Out of the box, it can only be controlled manually with a remote control. You can buy a USB control interface for it, but it's a waste of $27. It just lets you add a series of timed moves, but it's not really scriptable, you can't have it loop and because it just uses timing, there's no reliable repeatability.

What you want is real computer control, with closed-loop feedback for precision. Good news: it's super easy to connect an Arduino board to the OWI arm and let it do all the work! You won't even have to take the OWI arm apart or damage it.

Here's a video showing it in action, under fully autonomous Arduino control:

Here's what you'll need.

1) OWI Robot Edge Arm ($37)
2) An Arduino Uno board ($30)
3) An Adafruit Motor Shield ($19.50)
4) One potentiometer and at least three little trimpots ($5)
5) Some perfboard to mount the pots ($5)
6) Some jumper wires ($6) and pin headers ($7.50)

The total should be around $100. But you may have some of this already, and if not, you'll be able to reuse these boards and other parts for countless other projects.

Step 1: Connecting the motors

Since the Adafruit Motor Shield only has four motor drivers, we're only going to connect the four OWI Arm joints (not the "fingers"). If you want to control the fingers, too, you can attach a relay to one of the digital outputs on the shield and put microswitches on the fingers to mark "open" and "closed". But I couldn't be bothered myself--the fingers aren't that important.

Just use a little solid (not stranded) wire to attach each OWI motor connector to a Motor Shield output. Strip a quarter inch at each end and plug one end into the OWI Robot Arm motor connectors and screw down the other ends in the Adafruit Motor Shield connectors, as shown here.

About This Instructable


138 favorites


Bio: Founder of DIY Drones and 3D Robotics. Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, author of the books "The Long Tail", "Free", and the forthcoming "Makers ... More »
More by zlite: Control an OWI Robotic Arm with Arduino
Add instructable to: