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As the name implies, the OSEP STEM board is an embedded project board primarily aimed at education. You use jumper wires to connect components and a visual block coding language to make it go.

I have fond memories of kits from companies like Radio Shack that had dozens of parts on a board, with spring terminals to connect them with jumper wires. Advertised with clickbait titles like “200 in 1”, you’d get a book showing how to wire the parts to make a radio, or an alarm, or a light blinker, or whatever.

The STEM Kit 1 is sort of a modern arduino-powered version of these kits. The board hosts a stand-alone Arduino UNO clone (included with the kit) and also has a host of things you might want to hook to it. Things like the speakers and stepper motors have drivers on board so you can easily drive them from the arduino. You get a bunch of jumper wires to make the connections, too. Most things that need to be connected to something permanently (like ground) are prewired on the PCB. The other connections use a single pin. You can see this arrangement with the three rotary pots which have a single pin next to the label (“POT1”, etc.).

I’m a sucker for a sale, so when I saw a local store had OSEPP’s STEM board for about $30, I had to pick one up. The suggested price for these boards is $150, but most of the time I see them listed for about $100. At the deeply discounted price I couldn’t resist checking it out.

So does an embedded many-in-one project kit like this one live up to that legacy? I spent some time with the board. Bottom line, if you can find a deal on the price I think it’s worth it. At full price, perhaps not. Join me after the break as I walk through what the OSEPP has to offer.

What’s Onboard?

There are plenty of input and output devices:

  • 7 Push Buttons
  • Potentiometers (3 rotary and 1 slide)
  • Passive Infrared Sensor (PIR)
  • Light Sensor
  • Sound Sensor
  • LM35 Temperature Sensor
  • 10 LEDs (various colors)
  • Servo Motor
  • Stepper Motor
  • DC Motor
  • LCD Display
  • Buzzer
  • Speaker
  • RGB LED

In addition, the kit comes with an ultrasonic distance sensor in a little bracket that can connect to the stepper motor. That’s the only part that needs power and ground that isn’t already wired up.

Because the heart of the board is an Arduino UNO clone, you can do anything you like to program it. However, OSEPP touts their visual block diagram language that is basically Scratch. You can use it for free on most platforms and there is even a Web-based version although it can’t download code. It looks like Scratch or other block-oriented systems you’ve seen before.

I’m not usually fond of the visual block languages, but this one at least shows you the actual Arduino code it generates, so that isn’t bad. But you can still use any other method you like such as the standard IDE or PlatformIO.

You can see a video about the board, below.

The Good and the Bad

The board feels substantial and able to withstand a good bit of abuse. There’s a good range of components, and I like that the arduino is a real daughter board and not just built onto the PCB. Despite using the block language, I do like the tutorial booklet. It is very slick and has projects ranging from an IR doorbell to a mini piano. You can see a page below — very colorful and clear.

Of course, the suggested retail price of $150 is a bit offputting. You might think a breadboard with a handful of LEDs and other parts would be a much lower-cost option but just look around for arduino kits for beginners and you’ll find prices are all over the place. On the other hand, with a parts kit you would have to know how to wire up things like stepper motors or DC motors, so there is some value to having it already done for you. There’s also value in not having a bag of parts to misplace.

The jumper wires in the kit have pins on one side and sockets on the other. The pins go into the Arduino’s connector and the sockets go over pins on the components. These aren’t quite as reliable as a spring clip and not as versatile either.

In my mind the worst part of the kit design is that the pins are right next to each of the components. That’s good for understanding, but it makes a mess of wiring. For instance, there are ten LEDs, and connecting them all means stretching jumper wires to both edges of the board The jumpers aren’t very long either, so any complex project is going to have wires crisscrossing the sensors and LCD.

Granted, in this image I could have removed some of the wires from the bundles but that wouldn’t help that much, either. If you need to hook up more than a few of the available components you will have a mess. I would have put some sort of spring clip or even screw terminals and put them all on the top and bottom of the board with clear color-coded marking about where they connect. Then the wiring would all be out of the way. There are probably a few other ways they could have gone, and at this price, they could afford the few extra inches on the PCB.

There are a few other things that would have been nice touches to finish off this kit. I would have enjoyed a short chapter in the booklet about using the Arduino IDE directly so that people know it exists. And having even a small breadboard attached for your own exploration would make sense, but would then call for a different type of jumper wire.

Short Example Using the Distance Sensor

I wanted to do something with the board so I decided to play with the distance sensor and the servo. The distance sensor is a bit annoying both because you have to wire it all up and it has a tendency to fall off when you transport the board.

The demo (you can find it online) won’t win any originality prizes. The program moves the servo to scan from 0 to 180 degrees in 5 degree increments. It measures the distance of what’s in front of it. When it completes a scan, if it saw something close (you could adjust the sensitivity), it moves the sensor back to that position and waits 30 seconds. Otherwise, it keeps scanning.

Really, this is no different from any other Arduino program. That’s kind of the point. Despite the emphasis in the book on the point-and-click language, this is really just an Arduino.

In Summary

For the deep sale price I found, the board will work well for its intended audience of students or anyone starting out with Arduino or microcontrollers. Even a more advanced audience who just wants a way to hammer out a quick prototype might find it worth the $30 or $40 you can sometimes pay. But at full price, it is hard to imagine this makes sense because of the mess of wire routing and limited expansion options.

cattreat01

The Hummingbird by BirdBrain Technologies is an Arduino AtHeart microcontroller designed to enable beginners to create robots from craft materials. Hummingbird kits include LEDs, motors, and sensors that connect directly to the board. This eliminates the need for soldering or breadboarding and ensures that users have the parts they need to build their first robots. All of the components are reusable, so the same kit can be used to build many different robots.

In addition, the Hummingbird supports a variety of programming options, making it appropriate for beginning programmers as well as those who are more advanced. Some programming languages, such as Scratch and Snap!, can only be used when the board is connected to the computer. We will concentrate here on programming alternatives that enable users to upload a program onto the board’s Arduino.

Classrooms all over the world have used the Hummingbird from elementary to high school for projects ranging from Shakespeare dioramas to the physics of amusement park rides. In the following project, the BirdBrain Technologies team will show how they used the Hummingbird to build an automatic cat treat dispenser and demonstrate how the Hummingbird can be utilized to construct robots from everyday materials.

Building with the Hummingbird
Beginners can easily get started building Hummingbird robots with cardboard and craft materials. Motors, sensors, and LEDs can be connected directly to the Hummingbird board, and these elements can be added to the robot with hot glue. Hot glue peels off the components so that they can later be reused.

The example project uses one servo motor, one single color LED, and a light sensor. The dispenser consists of a servo motor attached to craft sticks that block the bottom of a chute containing cat treats. The position of the servo motor can be changed in software to release treats.

To receive a treat, the cat must cover a light sensor in front of the chute. When the cat covers the sensor, the servo motor briefly moves to open the chute and dispense a treat. The LED was included to show our test cat the location of the light sensor.

cattreat02

Programming with the Hummingbird
One unique feature of the Hummingbird is that it supports three different programming options for producing an Arduino program. These options provide steps of increasing difficulty to support learners as they transition from programming novices to Arduino experts.

Beginners can start with the CREATE Lab Visual Programmer. This software option is based on storyboarding. Users can select the motors and LEDs that they are using on a schematic of the Hummingbird board. Then they can create expressions by using sliders to set the values of these outputs. The expression below sets a servo motor to 100°.

cattreat03

Expressions can be combined to create sequences. For example, the sequence below controls our automatic cat treat dispenser. This sequence is controlled by a sensor block. If the light level is low, the three expressions on the left are executed. If the light level is high, the three expressions on the right are executed. The user can then convert this sequence to an Arduino program by simply clicking the “Export Sequence” button (shown outlined in red). The Hummingbird can then be placed into Arduino mode and the program uploaded to the microcontroller.

cattreat04

Another option for beginners is ArduBlock, which provides a visual introduction to the Arduino language. The Hummingbird extension for ArduBlock includes a block for each Hummingbird component. A program in ArduBlock to control the treat dispenser is shown below. This program is equivalent to the CREATE Lab Visual Programmer sequence shown above.

cattreat05

The Arduino code generated by this ArduBlock program is shown below. Individuals moving from the CREATE Lab Visual Programmer or ArduBlock to Arduino can start by modifying the generated code. For example, in the video we modified the commands inside the else to make the LED blink to attract the cat’s attention.

cattreat06

Once individuals are comfortable with the Arduino programming language, they can create more complex programs in Arduino. For instance, the video shows how we modified our robot and our code to incorporate three lights and three sensors. To get a treat, the cat must cover the sensor when the corresponding light is on.

The cat treat dispenser is only one example of a Hummingbird robot using the power of the Arduino at its core. The parts can be used and reused to construct an unlimited number of robots with low-cost materials such as cardboard, pipe cleaners, recycled materials, and even paper mache!

mbloc

It’s cute, it’s fun and easy to assemble, it’s mBot by Makebloc, the new educational robot joining Arduino AtHeart program!

mBot it’s an all-in-one solution for kids and beginners to enjoy the hands-on experience about robotics, programming, and electronics.

You can program it with drag-and-drop graphical programming software based on Scratch 2.0 and the magic happens: the robots can follow lines, kick balls and push objects, avoid walls and more. You can also switch from graphical to text-based programming in Arduino mode as it can be coded with Arduino IDE environment.

Watch the video of their successful Kickstarter campaign:

mBot supports wireless communication, standard Arduino boards like Arduino Uno, Leonardo boards, Arduino Nano, Arduino Mega 2560, Makeblock mCore (based on Arduino Uno).

The main control board’s design, mCore of mBot, is based on Arduino UNO: with intuitional color labels and easy-to-use RJ25 connectors, the board can get wired easily so students can then get more time to focus on creating all kinds of interactive stories and projects.

To help teachers, parents, and kids get started easier and faster the robot kit has two free tutorial e-books and online manuals are provided and increasing continually.

Take a look at mBot on Makeblock website and discover how to use 2.4GHz wireless module and Bluetooth module with mBot:

mblocTeamBanzi

Massimo Banzi with Makeblock team

owatch

Omkar is a special 8 years old who created a wearable device called O Watch: an Arduino Zero-based smartwatch kit for kids. The project, recently kickstarted, allows young people to learn programming, 3D printing and a bit of craft while making their own smartwatch and customizing it. The kit will be released with a series of learning tools including a kid-friendly website with easy tutorials, examples and a community to share creations.

He’s not new to DIY tech and learning as he’s been doing a few workshops to teach Arduino to other kids and likes it when they get excited about making Arduino projects. Omkar told us:

I was first interested in robots. But my dad got me started with projects that light up LEDs that were easier to learn and code myself. (ps: my dad did not let me get a robot kit at first :).

I decided to do a wearable project because there were many of them I saw in the news and I thought they were cool. I wanted to make a smartwatch so that I could wear it myself and share my project with my friends in school.

If you are a kid and are new to making, O Watch could be a great starting point as you’ll learn about coding, 3d printing, craft and also sharing. The Arduino IDE will be your  primary programming tool for the watch, the case can be 3D printed in a color of your choice and you’ll experiment on how to knot yourself a cool band to wear it.

owatch2

What are you waiting for? You have just a few days to back the project on Kickstarter and have an O Watch delivered to your home!

Lug
28

Autodesk teams up with Arduino to electrify creativity and coding

123D Circuit, Announcements, arduino, autodesk, Basic Kit, education, Featured, kit, Project Ignite Commenti disabilitati su Autodesk teams up with Arduino to electrify creativity and coding 

basic-kit

We are excited to introduce our new collaboration with Autodesk, launching with us the Arduino Basic Kit in the US! Starting today we are bringing creativity and electronics to everyone wanting to get started with more than 30 components added into the 123D Circuits simulator and 15 step-by-step tutorials available through the Project Ignite learning platform.

With the Arduino Basic Kit you’ll be able to access digital simulations for a unique experience of engagement with the kit, understanding and tapping right away into the power of smart objects.

“Arduino is creating new opportunities for makers and educators to get hands on with coding and electronics,” said Samir Hanna, vice president and general manager, Consumer and 3D Printing, Autodesk. “Our collaboration with Arduino will enable our passionate community of users to unlock their creativity while building the skills to succeed in a technologically-focused world.”

“By collaborating with Autodesk on the Arduino Basic Kit we are showing that designing electronics is a great educational area for teachers,” said Massimo Banzi, co-founder of Arduino. “By offering our tutorials in digital format instructors can involve students of all ages on interactive projects within Project Ignite platform.”

Autodesk recently launched Project Ignite during the White House National Week of Making to provide a free and open learning platform that builds the skills of young learners through creative, hands-on design experiences focused on the latest technology trends like 3D printing and electronics. Through these efforts, Autodesk aims to empower the next generation of innovators with the tools and confidently enter this new future of making things.

basic-kit2

 

What’s in the Arduino Basic Kit:

  • All the physical and digital components you need to build simple projects and learn how to turn an idea into reality using Arduino and Autodesk 123D Circuits.
  • The digital simulations in 123D Circuits provide a unique experience to engage and learn about the power of smart objects .
  • Exclusive online access to 15 step-by-step tutorials, through the Project Ignite learning platform, to make simple projects using components that let you control the physical world.

Projects include:

  • Get to know your tools: An introduction to the concepts you need to know to advance
  • Love-O-Meter to measure how hot-blooded you are
  • Zoetrope to create a mechanical animation you can play forward or reverse
  • Knock Lock to tap a secret code and open the door

Get your kit today, exclusively at www.autodesk.com/arduino for $84.00.

Join the conversation on the Arduino Forum.

 

Introduction

Every month Australian electronics magazine Silicon Chip publishes a variety of projects, and in February 1994 they published the “90 Second Digital Message Recorder” project. That was a long time ago, however you can still find the kit today at Altronics (and at the time of writing, on sale for AU$26), and thus the subject of our review.

The kit offers a simple method of recording and playing back 90 seconds of audio, captured with an electret microphone. When mounted in a suitable enclosure it will make a neat way of leaving messages or instructions for others at home.

Assembly

The kit arrives in typical Altronics fashion:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit package

… and includes everything required including IC sockets for the ISD2590 and the audio amplifier:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit inclusions

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit components

The PCB missed out on silk-screening – which is a pity:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit instructions PCB front

however it is from an original design from twenty years ago. The solder mask is neat and helps prevent against lazy soldering mistakes:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit PCB back

Finally the detailed instructions including component layout and the handy Altronics reference guide are also included. After checking and ordering the resistors, they were installed first along with the links:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit construction

 If you have your own kit, there is a small error in the instructions. The resistor between the 2k2 and the 10uF electrolytic at the top of the board is 10k0 not 2k2. Moving on, these followed by the capacitors and other low-profile components:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit construction 4

The rest of the components went in without any fuss, and frankly it’s a very easy kit to assemble:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit finished

 The required power supply is 6V, and a power switch and 4 x AA cell holder is included however were omitted for the review.

How it works

Instead of some fancy microcontrollers, the kit uses an ISD2590P single chip voice recording and playback IC:

Altronics K9570 90 second message recorder kit ISD2590

It’s a neat part that takes care of most of the required functions including microphone preamp, automatic gain control, and an EEPROM to store the analogue voltage levels that make up the voice sample. The ISD2590 samples audio at 5.3 kHz which isn’t CD quality, but enough for its intended purpose.

Apart from some passive components for power filtering, controls and a speaker amplifier there isn’t much else to say. Download the ISD2590 data sheet (pdf), which is incredibly detailed including some example circuits.

Operation

Once you apply power it’s a simple matter of setting the toggle switch on the PCB down for record, or up for playback. You can record in more than one session, and each session is recorded in order until the memory is full. Then the sounds can be played back without any fuss.

The kit is supplied with the generic 0.25W speaker which is perhaps a little weak for the amplifier circuit in the kit, however by turning down the volume a little the sound is adequate. In this video you can see (and hear) a quick recording and playback session.

Conclusion

This kit could be the base for convenient message system – and much more interesting than just scribbling notes for each other. Or you could built it into a toy and have it play various tunes or speech to amuse children. And for the price it’s great value to experiment with an ISD2590 – just use an IC socket. Or just have some fun  – we did.  Full-sized images are available on flickr

And if you enjoyed this article, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop”.

visit tronixlabs.com

Have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our forum – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.
Nov
22

Old Kit Review – Silicon Chip Mini Stereo Amplifier

amplifier, dick, DSE, Electronics, k5008, kit, kit review, review, smith, stereo, stmicro, TDA2822, tronixstuff Commenti disabilitati su Old Kit Review – Silicon Chip Mini Stereo Amplifier 

Introduction

In this review of an older kit we examine the aptly-named “Mini Stereo Amplifier” from Dick Smith Electronics (catalogue number K5008), based on the article published in the October 1992 issue of Silicon Chip magazine.

The purpose of the kit is to offer a stereo 1W+1W amplifier for use with portable audio devices that only used headphones, such as the typical portable tape players or newly available portable CD players. I feel old just writing that. At the time it would have been quite a useful kit, paired with some inexpensive speakers the end user would have a neat and portable sound solution. So let’s get started.

Assembly

Larger kits like this one that couldn’t be retailed on hanger cards shipped in corrugated cardboard boxes that were glued shut. They looked good but as soon as a sneaky customer tore one open “to have a look” it was ruined and hard to sell:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit box

The amplifier kit was from the time when DSE still cared about kits, so you received the sixteen page “Guide to Kit Construction” plus the kit instructions, nasty red disclaimer sheet, feedback card, plus all the required components and the obligatory coil of solder that was usually rubbish:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit all contents

However the completeness of the kit is outstanding, everything is included for completion including an enclosure and handy front panel sticker:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit enclosure face sticker

… all the sockets, plenty of jumper wire and even the rubber feet:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit components

The PCB is from the old-school of design – without any silk-screening or solder mask:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB front

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB rear

However the instructions are quite clear so you can figure out the component placement easily. Which brings us to that point – all the components went in with ease:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB partial assembly

… then it was a matter of wiring in the sockets, volume potentiometer and power switch:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit socket wiring

Instead of using a 3.5mm phono socket for power input, I used a 9V battery snap instead. The amplifier can run on voltages down to 1.8V so it will do for the limited use I have in mind for the amplifier. However in the excitement of assembly I forgot the power switch:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB forgot the switch

However it wasn’t any effort to rectify that. You will also notice three links on the PCB, which I fitted instead of making coils (more on this later). So at that point the soldering work is finished:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit PCB finished

Now to drill out the holes on the faceplate. Instead of tapering out the slots on the side of the housing, I just drilled all the holes on the front panel:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit panel

Turns out the adhesive on the front panel sticker had lost its mojo, so I might head off and get some white-on-black tape for the label maker. However in the meanwhile we have one finished mini stereo amplifier, which reminds me of an old grade seven electronics project:

Dick Smith Electronics K5008 Stereo Amplifier Kit finished

How it works

The amplifier is based on the STMicro TDA2822M (data sheet .pdf) dual low-voltage amplifier IC. In fact the circuit is a slight modification of the stereo example in the data sheet. As mentioned earlier, the benefit of this IC is that it can operate on voltates down to 1.8V, however to reach the maximum power output of 1W per channel into 8Ω loads you need a 9V supply. The output will drop to around 300 mW at 6V.

Finally the Silicon Chip design calls for a triplet of coils, one each on the stereo input wires – used to prevent the RF signal being “shunted away” from the amplifier inputs. The idea behind that was some portable radios used the headphones as an antenna, however we’ll use it with the audio out from a mobile phone so it was easier to skip hand-winding the coils and just put links in the PCB.

Using the Amplifier

The purpose of this kit was to have some sound while working in the garage, so I’ve fitted a pair of cheap 1W 8Ω speakers each to a length of wire and a 3.5mm plug as shown in the image above. And for that purpose, it works very well.

Conclusion

Another kit review over. This is a genuinely useful kit and a real shame you can’t buy one today. And again – to those who have been asking me privately, no I don’t have a secret line to some underground warehouse of old kits – just keep an eye out on ebay as they pop up now and again. Full-sized images and much more information about the kit are available on flickr.

And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

The post Old Kit Review – Silicon Chip Mini Stereo Amplifier appeared first on tronixstuff.

Nov
18

Kit Review – Altronics 3 Digit Counter Module

4029, 4511, altronics, CMOS, counter, digit, digital, Electronics, K2505, kit, kit review, LED, review, three, tronixstuff Commenti disabilitati su Kit Review – Altronics 3 Digit Counter Module 

Introduction

In this review we examine the three digit counter module kit from Altronics. The purpose of this kit is to allow you to … count things. You feed it a pulse, which it counts on the rising edge of the signal. You can have it count up or down, and each kit includes three digits.

You can add more digits, in groups of three with a maximum of thirty digits. Plus it’s based on simple digital electronics (no microcontrollers here) so there’s some learning afoot as well. Designed by Graham Cattley the kit was first described in the now-defunct (thanks Graham) January 1998 issue of Electronics Australia magazine.

Assembly

The kit arrives in the typical retail fashion:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

And includes the magazine article reprint along with Altronics’ “electronics reference sheet” which covers many useful topics such as resistor colour codes, various formulae, PCB track widths, pinouts and more. There is also a small addendum which uses two extra (and included) diodes for input protection on the clock signal:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit instructions

The counter is ideally designed to be mounted inside an enclosure of your own choosing, so everything required to build a working counter is included however that’s it:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit parts

No IC sockets, however I decided to live dangerously and not use them – the ICs are common and easily found. The PCBs have a good solder mask and silk screen:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit PCBs

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit PCBs rear

With four PCBs (one each for a digit control and one for the displays) the best way to start was to get the common parts out of the way and fitted, such as the current-limiting resistors, links, ICs, capacitors and the display module. The supplied current-limiting resistors are for use with a 9V DC supply, however details for other values are provided in the instructions:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

At this point you put one of the control boards aside, and then start fitting the other two to the display board. This involves holding the two at ninety degrees then soldering the PCB pads to the SIL pins on the back of the display board. Starting with the control board for the hundreds digit first:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

… at this stage you can power the board for a quick test:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

… then fit the other control board for the tens digit and repeat:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

Now it’s time to work with the third control board. This one looks after the one’s column and also a few features of the board. Several functions such as display blanking, latch (freeze the display while still counting) and gate (start or stop counting) can be controlled and require resistors fitted to this board which are detailed in the instructions.

Finally, several lengths of wire (included) are soldered to this board so that they can run through the other two to carry signals such as 5V, GND, latch, reset, gate and so on:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

These wires can then be pulled through and soldered to the matching pads once the last board has been soldered to the display board:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

 You also need to run separate wires between the carry-out and clock-in pins between the digit control boards (the curved ones between the PCBs):

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

For real-life use you also need some robust connections for the power, clock, reset lines, etc., however for demonstration use I just used alligator clips. Once completed a quick power-up showed the LEDs all working:

Altronics K2505 Counter Module Kit

How it works

Each digit is driven by a common IC pairing – the  4029 (data sheet) is a presettable up/down counter with a BCD (binary-coded decimal) output which feeds a 4511 (data sheet) that converts the BCD signal into outputs for a 7-segment LED display. You can count at any readable speed, and I threw a 2 kHz square-wave at the counter and it didn’t miss a beat. By default the units count upwards, however by setting one pin on the board LOW you can count downwards.

Operation

Using the counters is a simple matter of connecting power, the signal to count and deciding upon display blanking and the direction of counting. Here’s a quick video of counting up, and here it is counting back down.

Conclusion

This is a neat kit that can be used to count pulses from almost anything. Although some care needs to be taken when soldering, this isn’t anything that cannot be overcome without a little patience and diligence. So if you need to count something, get one ore more of these kits from Altronics. Full-sized images are available on flickr. And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press – also shortly available from Altronics.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

The post Kit Review – Altronics 3 Digit Counter Module appeared first on tronixstuff.

Nov
10

Old Kit Review – Diesel Sound Simulator for Model Railroads

1992, chip, december, dick, diesel, DSE, Electronics, K3030, kit, kit review, model railway, review, silicon, simulator, smith, sound, tronixstuff Commenti disabilitati su Old Kit Review – Diesel Sound Simulator for Model Railroads 

Introduction

In this review of an older kit (circa 1993~1997) we examine the Diesel Sound Simulator for Model Railroads kit from (the now defunct) Dick Smith Electronics, based on the article published in the December 1992 issue of Silicon Chip magazine.

The purpose of this kit is to give you a small circuit which can fit in a HO scale (or larger) locomotive, or hidden underneath the layout – that can emulate the rumbling of a diesel-electric locomotive to increase the realism of a train. However the kit is designed for use with a PWM train controller (also devised by Silicon Chip!) so not for the simple direct-DC drive layouts.

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit

Assembly

The diesel sound kit was from the time when DSE still cared about kits, so you received the sixteen page “Guide to Kit Construction” plus the kit instructions, nasty red disclaimer sheet, feedback card, plus all the required components and the obligatory coil of solder that was usually rubbish:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit contents

Everything required to get going is included, except IC sockets. My theory is it’s cheaper to use your own sockets than source older CMOS/TTL later on if you want to reuse the ICs, so sockets are now mandatory here:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit parts

The PCB is from the old school of “figure-it-out-yourself”, no fancy silk-screening here:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit PCB

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit PCB bottom

Notice the five horizontal pads between the two ICs – these were for wire bridges in case you needed to break the PCB in two to fit inside your locomotive.

Actual assembly was straight-forward, all the components went in without any issues. Having two links under IC2 was a little annoying, however a short while later the PCB was finished and the speaker attached:

K3030 diesel sound simulator kit finished

How it works

As mentioned earlier this diesel sound kit was designed for use with the Silicon Chip train PWM controller, so the design is a little different than expected. It can handle a voltage of around 20 V, and the sound is determined by the speed of the locomotive.

The speed is determined by the back EMF measured from the motor – and (from the manual) this is the voltage produced by the motor which opposes the current flow through it and this voltage is directly proportional to speed.

Not having a 20V DC PWM supply laying about I knocked up an Arduino to PWM a 20V DC supply via an N-MOSFET module and experimented with the duty cycle to see what sort of noises could be possible. The output was affected somewhat by the supply voltage, however seemed a little higher in pitch than expected.

You can listen to the results in the following video:

I reckon the sound from around the twenty second mark isn’t a bad idle noise, however in general not that great. The results will ultimately be a function of a lower duty-cycle than I could create at the time and the values of R1 and R2 used in the kit.

 Conclusion

Another kit review over. With some time spent experimenting you could generate the required diesel sounds, a Paxman-Valenta it isn’t… but it was a fun kit and I’m sure it was well-received at the time. To those who have been asking me privately, no I don’t have a secret line to some underground warehouse of old kits – just keep an eye out on ebay and they pop up now and again. Full-sized images and much more information about the kit are available on flickr.

And while you’re here – are you interested in Arduino? Check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

The post Old Kit Review – Diesel Sound Simulator for Model Railroads appeared first on tronixstuff.

Nov
09

Project – LED Cube Spectrum Analyzer

analyzer, arduino, com-10468, cube, CUBE4, freetronics, kit, LED, MSGEQ7, project, projects, RGB, RGB LED, spectrum, tronixstuff, tutorial Commenti disabilitati su Project – LED Cube Spectrum Analyzer 

Introduction

A few weeks ago I was asked about creating a musical-effect display with an RGB LED cube kit from our friends over at Freetronics, and with a little work this was certainly possible using the MSGEQ7 spectrum analyzer IC. In this project we’ll create a small add-on PCB containing the spectrum analyzer circuit and show how it can drive the RGB LED cube kit.

Freetronics CUBE4 RGB LED cube kit

Assumed knowledge

To save repeating myself, please familiarise yourself with the MSGEQ7 spectrum analyzer IC in Chapter 48 of our Arduino tutorials. And learn more about the LED cube from our review and the product page.

You can get the bare MSGEQ7 ICs from Sparkfun and the other usual suspects. It never hurts to have a spare one, so order two and matching IC sockets. Finally you should be able to translate a simple circuit to prototyping board.

The circuit

The LED cube already has an Arduino Leonardo-compatible built in to the main PCB, so all you need to do is build a small circuit that contains the spectrum analyzer which connects to the I/O pins on the cube PCB and also has audio input and output connections. First, consider the schematic:

MSGEQ7 CUBE4 spectrum analyser schematic

For the purposes of this project our spectrum analyzer will only display the results from one channel of audio – if you want stereo, you’ll need two! And note that the strobe, reset and DCOUT pins on the MSGEQ7 are labelled with the connections to the cube PCB. Furthermore the pinouts for the MSGEQ7 don’t match the physical reality – here are the pinouts from the MSGEQ7 data sheet (.pdf):

MSGEQ7 pinouts

The circuit itself will be quite small and fit on a small amount of stripboard or veroboard. There is plenty of room underneath the cube to fit the circuit if so desired:

MSGEQ7 LED cube

With a few moments you should be able to trace out your circuit to match the board type you have, remember to double-check before soldering. You will also need to connect the audio in point after the 1000 pF capacitor to a source of audio, and also pass it through so you can connect powered speakers, headphones, etc.

One method of doing so would be to cut up a male-female audio extension lead, and connect the shield to the GND of the circuit, and the signal line to the audio input on the circuit. Or if you have the parts handy and some shielded cable, just make your own input and output leads:

MSGEQ7 input output leads

Be sure to test for shorts between the signal and shield before soldering to the circuit board. When finished, you should have something neat that you can hide under the cube or elsewhere:

MSGEQ7 RGB cube LED spectrum analyzer board

Double-check your soldering for shorts and your board plan, then fit to the cube along with the audio source and speakers (etc).

Arduino Sketch

The sketch has two main functions – the first is to capture the levels from the MSGEQ7 and put the values for each frequency band into an array, and the second function is to turn on LEDs that represent the level for each band. If you’ve been paying attention you may be wondering how we can represent seven frequency bands with a 4x4x4 LED cube. Simple – by rotating the cube 45 degrees you can see seven vertical columns of LEDs:

MSGEQ7 LED cube spectrum analyzer columns

So when looking from the angle as shown above, you have seven vertical columns, each with four levels of LEDs. Thus the strength of each frequency can be broken down into four levels, and then the appropriate LEDs turned on.

After this is done for each band, all the LEDs are turned off and the process repeats. For the sake of simplicity I’ve used the cube’s Arduino library to activate the LEDs, which also makes the sketch easier to fathom. The first example sketch only uses one colour:

// Freetronics CUBE4: and MSGEQ7 spectrum analyser
// MSGEQ7 strobe on A4, reset on D5, signal into A0

#include "SPI.h"
#include "Cube.h"
Cube cube;

int res = 5; // reset pins on D5
int left[7]; // store band values in these arrays
int band;

void setup()
{
  pinMode(res, OUTPUT); // reset
  pinMode(A4, OUTPUT); // strobe
  digitalWrite(res,LOW); 
  digitalWrite(A4,HIGH); 
  cube.begin(-1, 115200);
  Serial.begin(9600);
}

void readMSGEQ7()
// Function to read 7 band equalizers
{
  digitalWrite(res, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(res, LOW);
  for(band=0; band <7; band++)
  {
    digitalWrite(A4,LOW); // strobe pin on the shield - kicks the IC up to the next band 
    delayMicroseconds(30); // 
    left[band] = analogRead(0); // store band reading
    digitalWrite(A4,HIGH); 
  }
}

void loop()
{
  readMSGEQ7();

  for (band = 0; band < 7; band++)
  {
    // div each band strength into four layers, each band then one of the odd diagonals 

    // band one ~ 63 Hz
    if (left[0]>=768) { 
      cube.set(3,3,3, BLUE); 
    } 
    else       
      if (left[0]>=512) { 
      cube.set(3,3,2, BLUE); 
    } 
    else   
      if (left[0]>=256) { 
      cube.set(3,3,1, BLUE); 
    } 
    else       
      if (left[0]>=0) { 
      cube.set(3,3,0, BLUE); 
    } 

    // band two ~ 160 Hz
    if (left[1]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(3,2,3, BLUE); 
      cube.set(2,3,3, BLUE);      
    }  
    else
      if (left[1]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,2,2, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,3,2, BLUE);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[1]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,2,1, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,3,1, BLUE);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[1]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,2,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,3,0, BLUE);      
      } 

    // band three ~ 400 Hz
    if (left[2]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(3,1,3, BLUE); 
      cube.set(2,2,3, BLUE);      
      cube.set(1,3,3, BLUE);            
    }  
    else
      if (left[2]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,1,2, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,2,2, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,3,2, BLUE);            
      } 
      else   
        if (left[2]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,1,1, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,2,1, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,3,1, BLUE);            
      } 
      else   
        if (left[2]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,1,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,2,0, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,3,0, BLUE);            
      } 

    // band four ~ 1 kHz
    if (left[3]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(3,0,3, BLUE); 
      cube.set(2,1,3, BLUE);      
      cube.set(1,2,3, BLUE);            
      cube.set(0,3,3, BLUE);                  
    }  
    else
      if (left[3]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,0,2, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,1,2, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,2,2, BLUE);            
        cube.set(0,3,2, BLUE);                        
      } 
      else   
        if (left[3]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,0,1, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,1,1, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,2,1, BLUE);      
        cube.set(0,3,1, BLUE);                        
      } 
      else   
        if (left[3]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,0,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,1,0, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,2,0, BLUE);            
        cube.set(0,3,0, BLUE);                        
      } 

    // band five  ~ 2.5 kHz
    if (left[4]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(2,0,3, BLUE); 
      cube.set(1,1,3, BLUE);      
      cube.set(0,2,3, BLUE);            
    }  
    else
      if (left[4]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(2,0,2, BLUE); 
        cube.set(1,1,2, BLUE);      
        cube.set(0,2,2, BLUE);            
      } 
      else   
        if (left[4]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(2,0,1, BLUE); 
        cube.set(1,1,1, BLUE);      
        cube.set(0,2,1, BLUE);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[4]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(2,0,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(1,1,0, BLUE);      
        cube.set(0,2,0, BLUE);            
      } 

    // band six   ~ 6.25 kHz
    if (left[5]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(1,0,3, BLUE); 
      cube.set(0,1,3, BLUE);      
    }  
    else
      if (left[5]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(1,0,2, BLUE); 
        cube.set(0,1,2, BLUE);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[5]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(1,0,1, BLUE); 
        cube.set(0,1,1, BLUE);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[5]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(1,0,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(0,1,0, BLUE);      
      } 

    // band seven  ~ 16 kHz
    if (left[6]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(0,0,3, BLUE); 
    }  
    else
      if (left[6]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(0,0,2, BLUE); 
      } 
      else   
        if (left[6]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(0,0,1, BLUE); 
      } 
      else   
        if (left[6]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(0,0,0, BLUE); 
      } 
  }
  // now clear the CUBE, or if that's too slow - repeat the process but turn LEDs off
  cube.all(BLACK);
}

… and a quick video demonstration:

For a second example, we’ve used various colours:

// Freetronics CUBE4: and MSGEQ7 spectrum analyser
// MSGEQ7 strobe on A4, reset on D5, signal into A0
// now in colour!

#include "SPI.h"
#include "Cube.h"
Cube cube;

int res = 5; // reset pins on D5
int left[7]; // store band values in these arrays
int band;
int additional=0;

void setup()
{
  pinMode(res, OUTPUT); // reset
  pinMode(A4, OUTPUT); // strobe
  digitalWrite(res,LOW); 
  digitalWrite(A4,HIGH); 
  cube.begin(-1, 115200);
  Serial.begin(9600);
}

void readMSGEQ7()
// Function to read 7 band equalizers
{
  digitalWrite(res, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(res, LOW);
  for(band=0; band <7; band++)
  {
    digitalWrite(A4,LOW); // strobe pin on the shield - kicks the IC up to the next band 
    delayMicroseconds(30); // 
    left[band] = analogRead(0) + additional; // store band reading
    digitalWrite(A4,HIGH); 
  }
}

void loop()
{
  readMSGEQ7();

  for (band = 0; band < 7; band++)
  {
    // div each band strength into four layers, each band then one of the odd diagonals 

    // band one ~ 63 Hz
    if (left[0]>=768) { 
      cube.set(3,3,3, RED); 
    } 
    else       
      if (left[0]>=512) { 
      cube.set(3,3,2, YELLOW); 
    } 
    else   
      if (left[0]>=256) { 
      cube.set(3,3,1, YELLOW); 
    } 
    else       
      if (left[0]>=0) { 
      cube.set(3,3,0, BLUE); 
    } 

    // band two ~ 160 Hz
    if (left[1]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(3,2,3, RED); 
      cube.set(2,3,3, RED);      
    }  
    else
      if (left[1]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,2,2, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(2,3,2, YELLOW);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[1]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,2,1, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(2,3,1, YELLOW);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[1]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,2,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,3,0, BLUE);      
      } 

    // band three ~ 400 Hz
    if (left[2]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(3,1,3, RED); 
      cube.set(2,2,3, RED);      
      cube.set(1,3,3, RED);            
    }  
    else
      if (left[2]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,1,2, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(2,2,2, YELLOW);      
        cube.set(1,3,2, YELLOW);            
      } 
      else   
        if (left[2]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,1,1, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(2,2,1, YELLOW);      
        cube.set(1,3,1, YELLOW);            
      } 
      else   
        if (left[2]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,1,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,2,0, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,3,0, BLUE);            
      } 

    // band four ~ 1 kHz
    if (left[3]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(3,0,3, RED); 
      cube.set(2,1,3, RED);      
      cube.set(1,2,3, RED);            
      cube.set(0,3,3, RED);                  
    }  
    else
      if (left[3]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,0,2, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(2,1,2, YELLOW);      
        cube.set(1,2,2, YELLOW);            
        cube.set(0,3,2, YELLOW);                        
      } 
      else   
        if (left[3]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,0,1, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(2,1,1, YELLOW);      
        cube.set(1,2,1, YELLOW);      
        cube.set(0,3,1, YELLOW);                        
      } 
      else   
        if (left[3]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(3,0,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(2,1,0, BLUE);      
        cube.set(1,2,0, BLUE);            
        cube.set(0,3,0, BLUE);                        
      } 

    // band five  ~ 2.5 kHz
    if (left[4]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(2,0,3, RED); 
      cube.set(1,1,3, RED);      
      cube.set(0,2,3, RED);            
    }  
    else
      if (left[4]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(2,0,2, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(1,1,2, YELLOW);      
        cube.set(0,2,2, YELLOW);            
      } 
      else   
        if (left[4]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(2,0,1, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(1,1,1, YELLOW);      
        cube.set(0,2,1, YELLOW);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[4]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(2,0,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(1,1,0, BLUE);      
        cube.set(0,2,0, BLUE);            
      } 

    // band six   ~ 6.25 kHz
    if (left[5]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(1,0,3, RED); 
      cube.set(0,1,3, RED);      
    }  
    else
      if (left[5]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(1,0,2, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(0,1,2, YELLOW);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[5]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(1,0,1, YELLOW); 
        cube.set(0,1,1, YELLOW);      
      } 
      else   
        if (left[5]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(1,0,0, BLUE); 
        cube.set(0,1,0, BLUE);      
      } 

    // band seven  ~ 16 kHz
    if (left[6]>=768) 
    { 
      cube.set(0,0,3, RED); 
    }  
    else
      if (left[6]>=512) 
      { 
        cube.set(0,0,2, YELLOW); 
      } 
      else   
        if (left[6]>=256) 
      { 
        cube.set(0,0,1, YELLOW); 
      } 
      else   
        if (left[6]>=0) 
      { 
        cube.set(0,0,0, BLUE); 
      } 
  }
  // now clear the CUBE, or if that's too slow - repeat the process but turn LEDs off
  cube.all(BLACK);
}

… and the second video demonstration:

A little bit of noise comes through into the spectrum analyzer, most likely due to the fact that the entire thing is unshielded. The previous prototype used the Arduino shield from the tutorial which didn’t have this problem, so if you’re keen perhaps make your own custom PCB for this project.

Conclusion

Well that was something different and I hope you enjoyed it, and can find use for the circuit. That MSGEQ7 is a handy IC and with some imagination you can create a variety of musically-influenced displays. And while you’re here – are you interested in learning more about Arduino? Then order my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

The post Project – LED Cube Spectrum Analyzer appeared first on tronixstuff.



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