Creativity Emerges At Arduino Microcontroller Class

Dave Pelowitz shows the class a microcontroller project using a LCD display. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

By GREG KENDALL
Los Alamos Daily Post

During May, The Hive held a free class for those interested in learning how to build projects using the Arduino Microcontroller kit. 

Dave Pelowitz provided each student with an Arduino kit and explained how to use it. John Battle gave the class enough electronic and programming background to start a basic Arduino project with an example software program that was modified by each student to change the behavior of the Arduino’s hardware.

Microprocessors are simple computer systems that run a single program to accomplish a limited type of task such as sensing a temperature and turning on a fan. 

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors and other actuators. 

Arduino, and other new hardware projects, have made microprogramming systems accessible and popular with do-it-yourself fans and hobbyists. It is now practical for those with very basic electronic and programming knowledge to build fairly sophisticated devices.  Many interesting project can be found online with parts lists and detailed instructions on how to put projects together. Arduino project examples can be found on Youtube and many other sources. The Los Alamos Radio Shack store now carries many Arduino parts and books.

One student described the desire to create a water temperature sensor that would control a water pump to cool a tank filled with Tilapia at his family’s southern New Mexico Tilapia fish farm.

The Arduino class was held over two nights and was crammed with enough information to give students a start in building and programming simple Arduino projects. The students were able to build a project that could blink LEDs in a specific sequence and then modify the Arduino program to change the sequence. 

The class cramed a lot into two nights, but the students seem to enjoy the experience and many expressed interest in other opportunities at The Hive to continue learning about Arduino projects. To satisfy the growing interest in DIY microprocessor projects, the Hive has announced a free Robot Battles class.

Robot Battles

The Hive plans a “Robot Battle” bot construction class using Arduino microprocessors. A series of classes in June and July will conclude with an actual Robot Battle competition. Here are the details:

What: Mini-Sumo robot construction and class ending in a mini-sumo tournament. General contest rules are available at http://www.robotroom.com/SumoRules.html. Specific rules or variations for this contest will be posted at www.pelowitz.com/contest.

Who: Anyone interested – the construction class is free and the competition is free, but you must purchase and/or build a robot (see recommendation below).

Where: At the HIVE in White Rock – location may need to change so watch www.pelowitz.com/contest for last minute changes.

When:
Class Sessions are 6:30-9 p.m. June 20, 27 and July 11.
Competition Day is Saturday, July 13.
Competition is open to all mini-sumos, even if you don’t attend the class.
Individual testing/tuning on the competition field
10 a.m. to Noon.
Registration including adherence to the rules 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Competition begins at 12:30 p.m. and concludes when there is a winner.

Class will be limited to no more than 20 participants. Register via email with Dave Jones (ferljones@yahoo.com) soon.

Requirements/Suggestions from the class announcement:

  • A mini-Sumo robot kit must be purchased by the class participant and brought to the first class. We’ll be helping with every step of the construction. The kit we will be using in the class can be purchased at https://solarbotics.com/product/bass/. Some upgrade components are available at http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/189. Look near the bottom of the page for expansion capabilities. This pololu web page shows a robot identical to the one we’ll be building in the class with the exception that the one we will build is Arduino based, thus allowing for lots of other fun and useful applications. The mini-sumo on the pololu web page is a good alternative to what the class will be using if you aren’t interested in using the Arduino. Get your on-line orders in early to be sure they get here in time for the first class session. WE MAY BE ABLE TO PURCHASE THE KITS AT A DISCOUNT IF WE ALL PURCHASE TOGETHER. Contact Dave Jones (ferljones@yahoo.com) no later than the 10th to get your order in. We don’t know yet how much they’ll discount the kit.
     
  • Class participants should have basic mechanical skills including some soldering experience. We’ll help with the soldering and the construction.
     
  • No programming skills are required, but we will be discussing the programming. Some C language knowledge will be very helpful.
     
  • Teaming with friends is encouraged. We recommend teams no larger than two or three. Individual participation is also encouraged.
     
  • In the first session, we’ll start construction of the robot. If you have a 25w or lower soldering iron available, please bring it. We’ll have extras available and they are available at our local RadioShack. You should also bring a small Phillips screwdriver #1-2, small needle nose pliers, small flush cutting wire cutters. Solder will be provided. Your kit doesn’t include batteries, so it would be wise to bring 6 or more AA batteries. A laptop will be useful for loading the software and testing your robot. So that we don’t waste class time PLEASE try to load the Arduino software and drivers on your laptop before the class. The Arduino software is available to download from arduino.cc/en/Main/Software. If you have problems loading the software please show up for the first class a little early and we’ll get you going. Summary of things to bring to class: you, your robot kit, soldering iron, safety glasses, tools, laptop, AA batteries.
     
  • First place competition winner will be awarded a kit of 37 sensors usable with the Arduino micro-controller boards — a $70 value.

Anyone willing to help the participants with construction, soldering, programming, and judging the contest, contact Dave Jones at ferljones@yahoo.com.

An Arduino microcontroller is seen at left. The Arduino is connected with a USB cable to a computer for programming. The Arduino is connect with jumper cables to a breadboard where wires and resisters allow LED lights to flash in sequence. A computer fan is connected and can be controlled by the Arduino microcontroller. Photo by Greg kendall/ladailypost.com

Students attended the class in the large conference room at The Hive in White Rock. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com
John Battles explains basic electric circuits to the class. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

The Hive in White Rock has office space for incubator businesses. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

Students toured The Hive machine shop. There are an extensive number of machine tools available for use by members of The Hive. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

A large drill press found in The Hive’s machine shop is available for use by Hive members. Photo by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com

Find out more about The Hive by clicking HERE.

Find out more about Arduino by clicking HERE.

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