I am trying to control this OWI Robotic Arm using the Arduino's digital outputs (I am using pins 12 & 13).

If I wire up the wires to ground and 5V it goes one way, if I switch the wires, it goes the other way. However when I have the pins wired up to the digital pins, it does not work, but the on-board LED does blink.

The code:

int a = 12;
int b = 13;

void setup() {
  // put your setup code here, to run once:
  pinMode(a, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(b, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
  digitalWrite(a, LOW);
  digitalWrite(b, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(LED_BUILTIN, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(b, LOW);
  digitalWrite(a, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(LED_BUILTIN, LOW);
  • 3
    Why do you think that the pins can supply anywhere near what current the arm requires? – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Aug 9 '17 at 20:28
  • Honestly, I have no idea what I am doing, but I assume the pins can be as powerful as the 5V pin on the Arduino, and that was enough to drive the motor. – Graic Aug 9 '17 at 21:41
  • Do the datasheet and specifications back up your assumptions? – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Aug 9 '17 at 21:43
  • Assumption IS the mother of all screw ups. In this business you NEVER assume. You read and check and find out. You may have burned up your Arduino by now. – Delta_G Aug 10 '17 at 0:34

The problem you are seeing here is that the Arduino can provide nowhere near as much current through I/O pins as it can power. Quoting from the Arduino website:

DC Current per I/O Pin: 40 mA

This means that each pin can power maybe a couple of LEDs, and that's it. Additionally, motors provide "back-EMF": When opening (cutting power) an inductive load (e.g. a motor), the current wants to keep going. This will damage whatever just opened unless protection is used. So, I wouldn't be surprised if you damaged your Arduino by attempting to drive a motor with it.

So, what can you do? Use an H-Bridge. This circuit will allow you to easily control a motor & its direction. Many circuits can be found online, but an easy solution is a cheap L298N module, which can be as cheap as $3 a piece. This will safely & easily control the arm. Connecting your Arduino with the following circuit & using your existing sketch will make it work.


simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

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