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News Bus: January to December, 2014 Archive

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Dateline: 23 Dec, 2014:   Smart Skin

Checkout this article on aircraft getting smart skin:
Click here for Skin article.

Aircraft will soon be sporting a skin with tiny sensors on the surface that will detect damage and measure physical parameters in realtime.

Dateline: 20 Nov, 2014:   New Cool Arduino Shields

Checkout Adafruit's Ultimate GPS and Logging Shield:
Click here for GPS shield.

and Circuits@Home's USB Host Shield:
Click here for USB Host shield.

So what's so cool about the GPS board? In a very small footprint you have the GPS receiver that is typical of the small, powerful GPS devices that really works well plus a real time clock (battery backup) and a SD card data logger all in one board. The Library that comes with it provides everything you need to post super accurate time stamps for any project, but here the GPS positions are timestamped and logged all by them selves. If you add sensor circuits to the 11x14 0.1 centered proto area, you have a remote platform that can log important info on any sensor reading you might be working with. Stack a wireless or Bluetooth shield and you're really in business.

The USB Host Shield may sound innocent, but here's the story. It can interface anything with a USB cable that plugs into it. So what? Consider this: If you place a BT4.0 dongle in the USB port provided, you can sync up to a PS3 or 4 Playstation controller. The shield is directly connected to your Arduino underneath, so you can use all those juicy PS buttons and joysticks in any sketch you write for the Arduino - REMOTELY. Let that sink in. Now add a motor controller shield or outboard circuit and you have a robot platform that is much easier to reach than trying to emulate the power inside the PS like interial axes, trigger speed controls, joysticks for cameras, etc., and a bunch of buttons with sloppy breadboard circuits. Every project can have this stack as the basline. Enjoy.

Dateline: 27 Oct, 2014:   STEM Needs to Change

Checkout this controversial article. Click here.

The debate goes on whether engineers should be taught problem solving or simulation solving to face the complexities of today's engineering challenges. What do you think?

After you read this article, you will be fired up on how to face the future that requires super-techs to deal with the complexities. Question is, how does the new engineer learn enough in a lifetime to contribute to progress or even hold down a job in the current world of engineering. And as educators, how does one develop a curriculum to meet the challenges?

Dateline: 20 Oct., 2014:   MatLab Supports Arduino

Checkout the latest from MatLab. Click here.

Joe Sears, a member of the Robotics Group at National University, pointed out a great article from MatLab (see above link).

As you should know, MatLab is the premiere engineering software used to solve and simulate complex math problems. They now include language support within MatLab that talks directly to the Arduino Uno, Mega, and Due via USB from your computer. It might be better to say the Arduino now supports MatLab to do fun projects.

The great thing about this union is if you are learning MatLab, the Arduino can provide live input from sensors and control various devices connected to the Arduino using MatLab code. When you get into more complex closed loop problems, the Arduino is not up to doing real time loops, but just shy of that, the Arduino is a great input source for MatLab.

Dateline: 16 Oct, 2014:   Brain-like Computing and Self-driving Autos

Checkout the event at Qualcomm to find out about the latest in robotics.

Michael Campos, PhD, and former instructor at both Harvard and Caltech, will describe two active projects that Qualcomm is working on to create this future: emerging research in training robots to 'think and learn' like humans and a more recent effort to enable autonomous automobiles.

Click Here for detail of where and how much...

Dateline: 2014:10:16-16:00hrs      National University Starts a Robotics Group

Back in September a couple of meetings took place at the engineering building at the Aero Court facility to set up and after-hours group to study the principles surrounding robotics. Now the group is officially recognized by the university, but is open to anyone that wants to learn more about physical computing, aka robotics.

The principal instructor for the sessions, or master of ceremony, is adjunct professor John Wolf. John is a electrical engineer by education and has many years experience in the design and aerospace industries, now retired, has delved into the science of what makes robotics tick.

The sessions are using a book authored by Jeremy Blum called "Exploring Arduino" as a text to provide a road map through the basics. Later the group will use the skills learned to build a competing entry into activities planned by the university to show off that they are active and NU students are involved in this most important vocational area for the future.

Come join us and exercise your brain in electronic, mechanical, and software engineering to create practical applications and can actually do something. Apps on a screen are great, but watching a robotic or automation machine move and interact with the environment is much more interesting.

The RGNU meets the third Friday of each month at 5p.m. in the Engineering Bldg. at the Aero Court facility. See you there. The next meeting is tomorrow, 17 October, 2014.

Dateline: 2014:08:13-12:00hrs      New Age of Robotic Innovation

QualComm hosted a major event last evening and their headquarters facility on Morehouse Street. The program was presented by CommNexus in conjunction with four speakers that were there to update the public on the latest activities in the world of robotics. The dean, Albert Pisano, PhD, of Jacobs School of Engineering (UCSD) describe the field of robotics and the engineering opportunities. Tim McConnell from 3D Robotics focused the discussion on their products and the near future of drones. Dr. Eugene Izhikevich told us about the incredible research and recent successes in mapping the human brain and building model to describe how the system of neurons and connective structure of the brain is now understood and we now have models to further test and understand how robotics might be made more autonomous and begin learned behavior. Finally, Thomas Bewley from UCSD gave us a quick time line of progress in the hardware currently being used in robotics focused on computing power. He demonstrated several bots and showed video of many successful models and some that have become commercial available as toys.

CommNexus Crowd

The event opened with a social gathering and hors devours. It was the largest turn-out yet for the CommNexus events. Several companies and university labs demo-ed projects and commercially available bots of various types.

UCSD Flow Lab

There was a panel discussion with the speakers after the presentation that was very informative. The key points were, San Diego is poised on the edge of becoming an important hub for robotics and robotics study. Technology is rapidly advancing and it wouldn't be long until we see bots that can learn tasks and become ubiquitous in handle repetitive and even dangerous tasks.


Source: CommNexus

Dateline: 2014:06:19-11:00hrs      TTL is Fifty Years Old

Checkout the source link to Embedded Newsletter for a great historical article about the coming of transistor-to-transistor logic.

Apollo Guidance Computer IC

I remember those days vividly. The TI Data book shown at the end of the article was my bible. As a (relatively) young design engineer, I worked at Texas Instruments(TI) trying to wade through the maze of design ideas to place zillions of these new chips onto boards to perform digital logic. Many of these boards had point-to-point wiring on the backside. This was before printed circuits or was a hold-over technique from the first digital computers. We used these chips to debounce switches, turn dials into digital output, do BIT tests on systems, count and register data, encode/decode transmissions, on-and-on. A BIT test is a built-in-test that presents signals or data to each subsystem to see if it performed correctly. Each project had a BIT spec that had to be built into the design. Circuit boards were typically 6"x8" or larger. No one could conceive of the microscopic circuits of today's cell phones.

What blows me away is, here after all these years, the dual-inline-package(DIP) components are still with us. TTL chips were the original "bug" before it became a term for a software fault. They are about an inch long with metal legs to solder into holes in a printed-circuit-board(PCB). You can buy all the old chips for bread-boarding logic design in a world where one IC the size of a corn flake would be equivalent to hundreds of these old DIP packages and run millions of times faster. I'm old enough to know where the term breadboarding a circuit comes from. Literally, one would take a board, drive nails into it and run wires between the nails to put together a circuit. People used to have a tin bread box to keep bread fresh with a board nearby to cut bread on that was a similar size, so the phrase made sense at the time. I, for one, am glad the hobbyist's enthusiasm to learn about digital logic has kept the flames burning. I just wish I still had my old TTL Logic Data Book.

Check out what this is all about at the Source link below.

Source: Embedded Newsletter

Dateline: 2014:06:02-11:00hrs      Pi Town Meets MindStorms

There's a new kid in town - BrickPi. This is a product from Kickstarter that is now readily available. It takes a Raspberry-Pi microcontroller and turns it into a LEGO MindStorms robot. It fundamentally replaces the usual NXT brick (computer module) that comes with the MindStorms kit with one that is interfaced to the Raspberry-Pi and has the usual ports MindStorms use (3 motors, 4 sensors) and ups the ante by giving you one more port for motors and one more for sensors. It is build and distributed by Dexter Industries from Stafford, VA.

Dexter also sells several sensor packages that adapted to Arduino or BrickPi. The Pi runs Python, but can be adapted to use C-code from the Arduino environment. Once you visit their site, you can peruse through all the options and check out the many videos showing their stuff in action.

BrickPi caught my eye, because I have an avid MindStorms building grandson that is just now getting into programming, and I like what you can do with Python. The two together seem like a great way to play around with fun projects that LEGO makes easy to build and learn more Python applications.

Check out what this is all about at the Source link below.

Source: Dexter Industries

Dateline: 2014:03:09-16:00hrs      Tech Tip - LED Droop

Frankly, I didn't know LEDs could droop, but check out this article. According to a Naval Research Lab disclosure, LED suffer from an internal power and efficiency issues that now have a solution.

Other interesting news: One of the most exciting areas of embedded design is using the Android phones for application programming interfaces (API), but there are snags. The OS is really not an OS - that's ok. And the timing for embedded real-time systems, well there isn't one - Say Whaat! Still not a big problem. Lots of people are blacksmithing this device into a lucky horseshoe. Check out this article.

One thing for sure, don't get rid of and old iPhone if you are a robotics hobbyist. The amount of cool sensors and video processing power is unmatched if you tried to duplicate that power with piece parts. Instead, use the whole phone in your next bot. With GPS, a camera, accelerometers, and built-in processor that's accessible via a USB port, you are in business.

Source: Embedded Newsletter

Dateline: 2014:03:05-10:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - Next Meeting: 12 March at the Garage

RC logoAre you ready for some head scratching? The next PQRC meeting we stare the code in the face and say, "What the fungus is this stuff doing?" We want to be able to have the coding muscle power so that we can make these microcontrollers dance and that means expanding our tool kit to include Classes, functions, and maybe a little code styling using advanced measures. I sent out a reference to an article that Jameco Supply Co. posted that is very leading edge. This fellow Phil Kane explains how you can go about creating a whole new way to look at code for even simple devices like the Arduino that creates modules of functions that are interconnected with self-defined channels. This makes the code look like plug-and-play and not even see the normal code statements associated with a typical project. Why bother? This approach opens your mind to a broad range of possibilities beyond wiring up a simple project and provide a view into how you might approach a system of software controlled devices. For now it's a curiosity, because we have enough to learn about using C++ Classes to organize our code into something that can be ported to other projects and maybe become a library that others can use. It's also a view into how these libraries provided by lots and lots of people we will be using to tell us how they did it. It will provide us with the knowledge to crack open other people's code and understand what's going on.

So next Wednesday night we will see a simple example of how to write a Class to control an Arduino circuit that beeps out Morse Code. Then we will develop a more complex Class that uses the Serial Interface so we can type in a message, hit send, and have the code beep out, light a LED, and print out the code symbols and the letters of what the code says. All of this is options in the Class.

From there, it's up to you to find an use for Classes in your code. So you need to come up with a project to use the Arduino to do something under Class control to simplify the main program and be something you can use over and over again in other projects.

Our next tour is set for Friday, 14 March to go see Solid Concepts in Scripps Industrial Park area. They are a multi-million dollar producer of prototype models of everything from medical machines, NASA space suits, costumes for movies like the Ironman series, to a printed 45 caliber handgun that's not a toy or backyard project, but is the real thing. It should be interresting. We do have to sign a non-disclosure agreement that we won't blab any of there trade secrets, but being able to even see this stuff should spark our imaginations for projects we can get into. I find the biggest hurdle to working in this hobby is what the heck can I do for a project. We can always follow a cookbook, and that is useful, but the fun of this is doing something for yourself like a home security system, automated garden monitor, or maybe a Internet webpage controlled project...

When I get the time for the tour, I'll post that right away. I think it will be late morning after staff meetings. By the way, this Phil Kane guy has an interesting book and legacy in the software development world. Check out his book on Amazon called "Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction."

Source: John Wolf

Dateline: 2014:03:03-14:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - Travel: Robo3D Printers

RC logoFour PQRC members descended upon the Robo3D Printer Company for a tour last Friday. We were greeted by Braydon Moreno and his staff. Robo3D is a startup company with one product for now and that is a 3D printer that does an admirable job of printing plastic objects.

Their strong suit is great software that runs the CNC machine to deposit the plastic, but more than that, it handles all the prep-work of steps that produces G-code for the machine. It has an intuitive feel and was developed just for Robo3D.

We chatted about 3D printing for about two hours and we want to thank Braydon for a great insight to this important new technology.

Our next tour is set for 14 March to go visit Solid Concepts, a major player in the 3D world of products.

Source: John Wolf

Dateline: 2014:02:15-14:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - Meeting at Jack's Garage

RC logoThe club will have its first official meeting on Wednesday evening at 6:30pm on 19 February at Jack's garage. Be there or B-square. There will be equipment demo'd, future field trip planning, but bring your own folding chair. I only have four.

You are welcome to bring show-and-tell items, but we have a full schedule. Bring any items/articles you found of interest for the group. See you next week.

Until the 19th, Go Forth and Compute.

Source: John Wolf

Dateline: 2014:02:6-14:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - 5 Minutes from 1st meeting at the library

RC logoWe had 10 people (to include myself) at our first meeting of the PQRC. Another was in exile on a business trip. This was a general meeting to discuss the direction and areas the club wants to pursue. Introductions were made of the "members" and we talked about areas each person was interested in. The most important outcome of the meeting is location and frequency of club meetings. We concluded that the next meeting would be in my garage on 19 Feb at 6:30pm. Contact me by email for details of the location. Thereafter, we will decide on monthly or bimonthly gatherings.

There is a wide degree of interests, which is to be expected, but we will start in the direction of controlling motors, lighting, etc., with the Arduino family of microcontrollers. There is a strong interest in remote control, so we will need to get into XBee, WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth to satisfy those interests, which can be applied to any project. We need to work as a group and draw on our joint talents to share what we know or just learned about yesterday to made the club a success. I think this group has great potential, and since we will be working out of a California garage maybe the next great thing will emerge.

There is an interest in analog circuits. This is a wise area to know something about, since the whole world out there is analog. Being able to take analog sensor data and process it into something that's converted into digital data is a fundamental skill we will pursue. Since there are a lot of microcontroller platforms out there, we will no doubt intersect with those devices in the mix.

At the next meeting I will demo a complex DTMF application of using a phone line to turn on and off circuits, DC motor control basics, and LED magic using a TI MSP430 LaunchPad board.

There is a homework assignment to bring in items, articles, etc., from Internet surfing or otherwise of electronic projects others are doing that might be something we can present and learn about in the club meetings.

Until the 19th, Go Forth and Compute.

Source: John Wolf

Dateline: 2014:02:2-13:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - 4 First Meeting Slides

RC logoHere are the slides I will present on Wednesday, 5 Feb, at 6:30pm at the PQ Library on Salmon River Ave. Click Here.

Source: John Wolf

Dateline:2014:01:28-16:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - 3

RC logoWe now have a date, time, and place for our first meeting. It will be at the PQ Library in the big room at 6:30pm on Wednesday, 5 February. I'll post an agenda and PowerPoint slides in a couple of days. If you have any suggestions, please send them to johnwolf.lobo@gmail.com. See you there.

Otherwise, Go forth and compute.

Source: John Wolf

Dateline:2014:01:28-10:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - 2

RC logoHere's were we are currently in establishing a meeting place for the PQ Robotics Club. I'm hoping to have the initial gathering at the PQ Library next week either Tuesday or Wednesday at 6:30pm. This date is not set yet. I'm working on it. This will give us a chance to get to know the people wanting to join up.

Food for thought, this is what I visualize the meetings to be like once we are organized: Instructive topic - continuing basis; current events - what's cool; build issues discussion; open floor discussions of who we are and where we want to go. I would hope we can do field trips to places like the Maker Shed down in Mission Valley, the Fab Lab in Mira Mesa, and hopefully some of the aerospace companies around here that do UAVs. We also have the 8020 Supply in Poway - a very cool place. We have Solid Concepts near there as well that 3D prints everything under the sun. We have 3D Robotics who build killer quadcopters, etc. in Clairmont.

I would hope various members will take on the main topic to lead the discussion time. Since software is central to all these projects, we will spend a lot time discussing this either in conjunction with someone's project or in general.

If the group shows and interest in general electronics or how processors work inside, we can pursue that as well. I personally enjoy learning about how the hardware functions as much as how to program a controller to use it. There is the mechanical side as well. The MEs in the group can certainly help define how best to tactle fabrication of subassemblies, etc.

I would like to assign homework in the form of Internet research on hot topics, other groups and organization, scoping a source of supply of parts that we are having a hard time locating, and maybe tell us about your secret junk yard you go to.

Already we have a noteworthy connection that could be exactly what some of the group is looking for. Vic Wintriss contacted me to tell be about his software training school in Carmel Mountain. If you want to become skilled with Java programming his Wintriss Technical School is the place to go. If you are interested, contract Vic at 858-481-2100.

Otherwise, Go forth and compute.

Source: John Wolf

Dateline:2014:01:24-14:00hrs      PQ Robotics Club - 1

RC logoToday I sent out a message to my neighbors in the Ranch Penasquitos area (PQ) in search for fellow geeks to explore the world of robotics with me. I haven't been able to find a MeetUp group or club that matches my interests in robotics or better yet physical computing. There are some great groups, but they are either a zillion miles away or concentrate on Legos or focus on kids interests. The hard core hackers are typically introverts lost in their own world, live in their own mind for the most part, or work 70 hours a week for some aerospace company and don't have any time.

I know there are a lot of people out there like me, love technology, need someone to converse with, probably retired, already are into an electronics or web-app project that would like to meet on common ground and develop fun projects and learn more. Well, the best way to get what you want is build it yourself, so I present the PQ Robotics Club. In fact, I'd like to dedicate the future of this site to this club.

So what's our charter?

  1. Electronics is a pretty large scope - so let's include all of that.
  2. Let's be microcontroller centric - Arduino, LaunchPad, Raspberry Pi, and Beaglebone Black.
  3. We can share-ride to conferences - like the electronics show at Anaheim each year.
  4. We will cover concepts and application of electronic circuits, microcontrollers and the software to run them.
  5. Build stuff - vehicles, security systems, aircraft, sensor interfaces, bots, fabrication, and not lets forget things that make noise.

So how would a typical meeting go?

  1. Have a presentation/discussion on a relevant topic
  2. Open the floor to what each person is doing or topic they would like to know more about
  3. Socialized and gaze upon other's projects for show and tell

So who should join?

  1. I don't preceive an lower age limit, but we will focus on beyond beginners - must read well, have some science schooling.
  2. Love to waste money on an electronics based hobby
  3. Be willing to share in your knowledge and skills - we honor the open-source Maker Movement

So there it is. Contact me and let me know if you can participate. We will work on the time and place as we communicate our various schedules and availablities. I only have two restrictions - Monday evenings and Saturday afternoons. All other times - day or night - work. Be aware that if we are large (more than five or six) we will probably have to collect a fee to secure a meeting place. If anyone is 501(c) that would be great, because we could approach the PQ library for a slot.

Otherwise, Go forth and compute.

Source: John Wolf

Dateline:2014:01:08-20:00hrs      The Basics for the Newbie

How does one start delving into all this high tech arena that everyone says is the wave of the future. Future! It's here how. Parents, who are not the most tech savvy people around, can see clearly their youngster needs to be involved. It's the best insurance I know of for a future high paying job. So this article is written to provide some semblance of what's out there and a few options for getting started. Think of this way: To become a great musician or sports figure, you have to start young and you keep at it, put in your 10,000 hours like the experts say. And like music, this hobby can provide a lifetime of fun for you and your family. It's not like this hi-tech stuff is going away tomorrow. Enjoy.

There are some proclivities one should look for. Do you really like technical things? Are you fascinated with science? There has to be a tipping point away from things like sports, the great outdoors, etc. not meaning you totally have to give up all thing non-geek, but at least be willing to put in the time to learn how these sorts of things work.

Most guys are accustom to knowing how a car works, well until they became so complex a set of wrenches just became dead weight in the trunk. When you go out for football, there are rules, there are game plans, and you don't just go out to win against a polished team without knowledge of the game. Becoming a knowledgeable player in technology takes the same exercise, discipline, and attention to detail. Oh, and watch your backs, boys, the girls are very savvy to this tech stuff. Don't kid yourself. So what do you need to know?

Here's a breakdown of topics that involve the digital world. There are many other areas such as MIDI that musicians use, RF that Ham radio operators are into, Video, audio mixing…on-and-on. So to scope this discussion, I will focus on what is known as "physical computing."

1. Microprocessors: Prepare to be blown away. Check out: List_of_common_microcontrollers

2. Practical Contenders found on boards or modules

3. Selection Criteria
Old or has unique coding (Stamp, Pic, AVR)
Well developed (All the TI processors MSP430, C2000, Stelaris, Hercules…many more)
Ease of use (Arduino)
Maximum potential (Beaglebone)

What is a "robot" anyway? In the context of physical computing it is any electro-mechanical device that does a process or action via a program running on a microcontroller chip. That could be and automatic phone service, a 3D printer, a remote controlled vehicle or airplane, a data gathering device or network of sensors passing data into some sort of record keeping scheme, or any number of things from security systems to automated gardening. One of the hardest tasks in this engineering endeavor is figuring out what to build.

4. Programming options – there are a few flavors here: Operation Systems (OS), Application S/W like C, C++, various editors or IDEs (Integrated Development Environment), and APIs or Application Programming Interface(API).

Yes, this discipline reeks with acronyms and compound buzzwords. APIs, for instance, are chunks of software(S/W) that allows one application to be able to talk to another also called a driver or interface app. Check out some geek glossary of terms. Radio Shack used to have one. There is never an end to new terms.

Now is a good time for a promo: Try to get yourself to support Wikipedia. It really is a wonderful thing and an extremely valuable resource no matter what the late night TV dorks might say. It's so effective, Encyclopedia Britannica, for all its years as the end-to-end-all reference books, are now like last year's Farmer's Almanac. Technology moves much faster than the printed book can.

5. Lets make some choices so we can get a better idea of how to proceed. We can change horses anytime or jump of a cliff and pursue a narrow path in one direction, but it's all good. We just need to get started. Currently, one of most successful and useful processor families is the Arduino made in Italy. I have an intro on the Electronics page of this website. Let's grab one of those…which one?

There is a bunch of support information, project examples, many libraries for unique functionality and compatible hardware and software for the originals: Arduino Uno and Arduino Mega 2560. There are several other products in this line, but wait. That's for later. Check out Arduino.cc. Yes, that's a real URL.

Let's use an Arduino Uno. Easy to obtain through SparkFun.com or Arduino directly.

How do you program it? Here is where the open source community has graced us all. Real hard work went into developing support software for the Arduino: Arduino IDE, Processing, Eagle CAD, and Fritzing project layout software. Processing is probable the worst name for an app ever, but it is really fun to use.

Go to each of those sites and check them out. For now, just be familiar with what they do. We'll talk later.

Buy one of the experimenter kits that includes a breadboard to place components, an Arduino Uno, and a collection of parts to play with. There is ample instructions on SparkFun's site for all the equipment they sell including spec sheets, videos about and how to build things, along with a total immersion in general electronics by way of organized lessons – soldering, kit builds, lessons learned, tips, and references.

Buy Jeremy Blum's book "Exploring Arduino – tools and techniques for engineering wizardry." This book was written by a recent Cornell graduate that was recognized as a bright shining star and a major electronics supply house gave him nearly all the popular hobby electronics products they sell and said, "Go build something and make videos." And he did. I believe there are 17 tutorials on YouTube from the very first experiment that always starts with – blinking an LED – and proceeds to some real fun and challenging projects. The book is a good reference for those times when you need to jog your memory.

6. Programming these things. The Arduino responds to the C++ language, but what I call relaxed C++. The IDE comes with a built in compiler, so write away and the IDE turns it into executable code and downloads it into the Arduino too. What's a compiler? This takes your source code or the set of instruction written in a language (C++) that humans can relate to and turns it into ones and zeros this particular processor needs to run the program. So that implies compiler have to be tuned to the particular processor you want to use. Yes.

C++ is an all encompassing giant player in the world of programming. To learn it all from scratch is a long haul and quite complex, but there is a bright spot. It can also be boiled down to some essentials that can do 99.9% of what a hobbyist would ever need to run these projects. In the Arduino world, many wonderful people have constructed libraries of C++ Classes that do all the heavy lifting. You learn a few commands to put into your code and you can interface with GPS, Ethernet, SPI busses, I2C busses, load data on an SD chip, operate just about every sensor on the market, talk over RF devices like XBee, BlueTooth, WiFi…you name it and there's a library for it. There are also add-on boards called shields that plug directly on top of the Arduino that provied a zillion more things to learn and do. Check out this extensive shield list.

This simplicity is not found in most other microcontrollers. They are simply too complex for an easy set up. They require a initializing sequences of APIs and many are written in "formal" C++ and require an extensive familiarity with the language along with a dozen others like Linux, Unix, Python, Ruby on Rails, Eclipse…all of which are not trivial to learn. This is why I support the Arduino choice for the beginner. There are many geeks that understand totally these other rather daunting languages and OSs, and that's great. If you are at that level, then don't let me cast dispersions on your efforts. In fact, if you can make a Beaglebone Black board dance, you really are doing something. You are beyond the newie beginer, but the newbie to robotics and the like will probably fall on their sword and become discouraged and drift back to playing video games in a basement for the rest of their lives if they jump into the deep end on day one.

This is just a glimpse of which way to take the first step. Like all big topics when you first run into them in a dark alley, you have to research your butt off to get up on the learning curve far enough to see this is really a lot of fun. The more you do, the more you learn. In this endeavor, you learn from your mistakes, seeing how other do it, trying every combination until your eureka moment arrives. The beauty is it's all low voltage, so the smoke and sparks are usually small enough not to burn your house down, but never turn you back on electricity. Just like a cobra, first you hear a hiss and then boom it bites you. If all else fails, follow instructions applies here.

Let me know your questions. There are no dumb questions. You can't build the next Enterprise warp speed controller until you get a lot of ducks inline Tell me what you want me to dig up and put in another article.

Go forth and compute.

Source: John Wolf


3D Printers uses are expanding fast. Maker Movement is following the popular 3D explosion. Check out the December issue of Maker Magazine at www.Makezine.com for a complete review of all currently available 3D printers aimed at hobbyists and commercial use as well. Startling new development is printing bio-materials as well as metal parts. Experimental rocket nozzles printed using high-temp materials being tested now.

TeVido BioDevices, for example, is bio-printing living human cells for use as implants or skin grafts targeting use in reconstructive surgery and wound care. Then there's printing meat to be in burgers - yikes.

Musical instruments are being printed out all over the world not. Can't wait to hear classical music played on plastic violins.

Until completely banned, guns are being printed. Solid Concepts has a $12,000 dollar one made with metal printing and is beautiful.

Hobbyiest are printing parts for quadcopters, robots of all sorts, and getting into the business of printing parts for broken commercial items like stove or washer knobs that are hard to find or no longer in supply.

Source: EDN Newsletter, 2013 Stories and Maker Magazine

2013 Archive

This website opened in late 2013 in hopes of supporting those interested in electronics and a hobby and a profession.