UQ MARS Robot Arm Project

September – October, 2020 | University of Queensland

Semester 2 of 2020 saw members participating in the Robot Arm Foosball Project, a spin on designing a classic robotic arm. Club members were led through three technical workshops to design and manufacture their own arms, capable of playing “robot foosball” together. 

Six fully assembled arms, designed over a month and assembled during the final workshop.

The arm was specified to have three degrees of freedom. Three servo motors provided motion in different directions, and a pre-designed paddle attachment allowed the arm to serve as a player in a game of tabletop foosball. The design also featured a Bluetooth module for wireless control. With the preparation for the project done and members keen to participate, there was only one catch. Due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, holding in-person events had proved to be quite challenging.

So the UQMARS team had to get a bit creative!

The first two workshops were held online over Zoom, where members participated from around the globe, locally or internationally. The first workshop was an introduction to PCB design and manufacture led by UQ MARS President Cameron Stroud. Club members were first given an overview presentation on printed circuit boards and their uses in robotics. There was then a demonstration on how to use KiCAD, a PCB design tool, for members who were unfamiliar with the program, then participants were given free reign to design their own boards.

The second workshop covered CAD modelling. Konrad Born led the workshop, extending from the clubs online CAD tutorial released earlier in the semester, and demonstrated how to build upon basic tools to create more complex designs for 3D printing. Members were given an example design to base their approaches on, and were encouraged to be creative within the constraints given. Through Zoom, the UQ MARS team looked at members’ individual products and helped solve any problems.

Soldering of the prototype PCB in preparation for the first project workshop.

The third workshop, with attendees assembling 3D printed components together.

Local members were invited to join the UQ MARS executive team for the final session, held in-person at UQs St Lucia campus. The third workshop, a build and code night, was where the arms finally came together. Members assembled the 3D prints they had designed, and powered their arms using the PCBs they had commissioned. There was a lot of fun had comparing the merits of different designs, and how everyone interpreted the task. 

A close-up of one of the finished arms.

The project was a fun opportunity to engage with club members despite an unusual delivery. We wanted to thank all members for attending the online workshops and being so enthusiastic to participate – the UQMARS executive team can’t wait to see all who participated at an in-person event next year!

Written by Nicole Harding - UQ MARS Secretary 2021

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