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Robotic Arm Edge Review by Kathy and Ryan Gelzer

OWI Inc.
17141 Kingsview Ave.
Carson, CA 90746

Robotic Arm is a wired control robotic arm kit. It is designed for kids who are ages 10 and up and who have "some experience in assembling kits with small parts." Assembly requires a penknife, a file, long-nose pliers, a diagonal cutter (wire cutter or scissors), and a Phillips screwdriver. The robot requires four "D" batteries, which are not included. It retails for $53.95.

The two-tone blue on white 33-page assembly and instruction manual includes a parts list with prices and order form for spare parts. There are helpful hints and a trouble-shooting guide. The instructions are almost completely visual, similar to Lego booklets.

My 12-year-old assembled the Robotic Arm in an afternoon and was able to do it independently. He liked the way the plastic pieces fit together very accurately with screws and nuts, but some of the nuts had to be placed at a precise angle and inserted with needle-nose pliers, which was difficult. For some of the gear boxes, the colors of the wires didn't correspond to the colors stated in the manual.

The finished product is 9 x 6.3 x 15 inches. It has a stable base, five switches controlling five motors and joints, similar to a human arm-0 to 1.77" gripper, 120 degree wrist motion, 300 degree elbow motion, and two types of base or "shoulder" motion: 270 degree base rotation and 180 degree base pivot motion.

The "two-finger" gripper can more easily grab objects that are in an upright, vertical position. Since the grabber only operates at a horizontal angle, it would be preferred if a later model could grab objects at any angle by the use of a gliding rotational motion. Or at least have the grabber operable in a vertical angle so it can pick up horizontal, flat-like objects.

The Robotic Arm also has a small LED searchlight between the two grabber fingers, so your target is illuminated. This feature facilitates nighttime use.

Suggested "after-completion" activities would be a fun addition to the manual. Targeting games, accuracy charts, and challenging maneuvers are some ideas. Once completed, the Robotic Arm is an enjoyable product with smooth mechanical motion and quick responsiveness.

Product review by: Kathy and Ryan Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008