Robot Arm 2020

UQ MARS will be holding a series of sessions this semester focused around designing and building a simple robotic arm. This page contains all the info you need to know what’s happening, and when.

When Is It Happening?

The project will be held across four sessions. Each session will be focussed around a particular aspect of the arm design, as outlined below:

  • Session 1 – PCB Design: Monday, 7 September (Week 6) at 6pm. Held on Zoom
  • Session 2 – CAD Modelling: Monday, 14 September (Week 7) at 6pm. Held on Zoom
  • Session 3 – Build & Code: Monday: 19 October (Week 11) at 6pm. Location: 50-N304.
  • Session 4 – Foosbal Game Night: Monday, 26 October (Week 12) at 6pm. Location: 50-N304.

If you miss a session or two, don’t worry. The project is designed to be modular, so anything you make in one session should fit with the example build.

What Are We Building?

The construction of the robotic arm will involve designing a circuit board (PCB) to power the servo motors, modelling the mechanical links of the arm for 3D printing, and coding the arm to respond to control input. This will all come together into a relatively small tabletop arm which will be used to play foosbal at the end of the project.

Software used will include KiCad for PCB design, Autodesk Inventor for CAD modelling and Atmel Studio for programming. We recommend that you install each of these before the respective sessions. All of these are available for free (Inventor is available under an education license to UQ students)

We will be providing you with a circuit schematic of pre-selected electronic components, while you will have the chance to design the PCB layout. If you’re keen to use your own schematic, feel free to, however beware that you will need to find your own components if you branch from those we use in the example. The PCBs will be submitted for order at the end of Week 6, so you’ll have a few days to play with your design, too.

The microcontroller chip we will be using will be an ATtiny4313. If you’ve never worked with one before, don’t worry. We’ll be covering how to use one in the Build & Code session.

Why Should I Do It?

Building a robotic arm is a great introduction to mechatronics – covering all your basics in mechanical, electrical and software principles. The project gives you the opportunity to have a go at all areas, rather than just being “the software guy” or “the circuit girl” as often happens in the Team Project courses, without the huge time commitment of doing the project yourself. You can also jump on at any point in the project, which is designed to be flexible.

How Do I Sign Up?

You can purchase tickets for the project with the button below. We’re charging $20 (which you pay once for all four sessions), but we’ll be supplying components, ordering PCBs and 3D printing your designs for you.

Other FAQ

How will soldering the PCBs work with COVID-19 restrictions?

The UQ MARS Executives will be offering to solder PCBs before arranging collection. If you have access to a soldering iron, or want to try by yourself in the UQ facilities, you’ll have the option to do it yourself, too.

Is this in groups?

No, but you’re welcome to work in one if you want to. The work involved is easily doable by one person, though.

How many degrees-of-freedom will the arm be?

The example arm will have three degrees-of-freedom. You’re welcome to add more but this will require modifying the supplied circuit schematic.

Still Got Questions?

If you have any other questions about the project, feel free to shoot us a message on one of our contact channels!