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Arduino – Opensource Microcontroller

Today I wanted to talk about a really cool device that I plan on making into a hobby to spend some of my personal time and money into; Microcontrollers! Without going to specific on projects you can make or do, and without going into how to use them, I just wanted to talk about what inspired me to start playing with microcontrollers.

So a few months ago I was surfing a forum I frequent daily, where a user was using a microcontroller to help him display the temperature of his computer. I didn’t think much of it first, but later he asked if someone could solder up the microcontroller if he bought the parts for it. That’s when I clued in that this  was an open source device called Arduino.

First paragraph of http://arduino.cc

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.

I see that as probably not the most interesting thing to most human beings, but I was intrigued; for about 5 seconds.

It wasn’t until one night I stumbled onto a website that had a webcam and controls online for a robot they built using the Arduino platform. The site was done poorly, and i had to fight others on the web for control for the robot (essentially im guessing there were several of us clicking browsers on our web browsers to do things, and it seemed like there was almost a 10 second delay to a button press and what the robot did). Cool idea, poorly implemented.

Which is where I come in, I think it would be cool to come up with a similar robot, but screw the world wide web, i want to control my own! And as always, I’m not the first to do so: http://www.jbprojects.net/projects/wifirobot/

Way too cool! So it inspired me to go out and buy an arduino microcontroller and start playing with robots.

I ended up buying  the Arduino microcontroller from E-bay. If you plan on buying one these, I do not suggest getting one from E-bay… There are a lot of counterfeit ones sold on E-bay. I won’t go into details, but I strongly urge people to buy an arduinoi board from a licensed reseller; a list of them can be found here: http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Buy

One of the first things I purchased my girlfriend bought me for my birthday was a motor controller “Sheild” (designed to either run four dc motors, or two stepper motors, or a servo motor, or 2 dc motors and ones stepper motor…) and a LCD Display “Shield”.

Now what is a “Shield”? Shields are modular pieces of hardware designed to fit on top of the Arduino microcontroller. The microcontoller has  four banks of female pin headers and one bank of male pin headers. The various banks have pins for power, inputs, and outputs.

Now here is what I did using the LCD Display Shield:

LCD Display: All your base are belong to Randy!

Not all that fancy but you are able to draw all sorts of geometric shapes and write text.

I don’t have a picture of the motor shield, its not really as interesting. Really unless you are there in person it would be a pcb with some wires attached to two stepper motors.  Haven’t done a whole lot with these, but it seemed worth mentioning that I can now drive stepper motors!

What something cool I am working on, is hacking an R/C car.  I got an abandoned R/C car truck from the thrift store: it was missing the batter cover and remote. I didn’t plan on using the remote, and the batter cover can be remidied by using a different batter compartment, or tape; best part was it cost me less than two whole dollars to buy.

r/c truck

So I took it apart and began looking at the controller inside of it. After reading some information about the controllers for these devices, the one and only IC chip is what was used for the remote system. so after some poking and prodding I was able to determine which pins on the IC chip were design to control the vehicle. I soldered a few wires (on for left, right, forward, backwards) and now when one of these wires recieves a +5v DC signal, it causes the truck to move with out the remote :)

R/C truck internal pcb

Combine this with my arduino microcontroller, I can now essentially give the vehicle a brain. My idea is to interface the car now with my arduino and see if I can add some range detectors so I can get it not to crash into things.Just need to buy the range detectors now :

Not exactly the wireless controller RC car with a web cam, but this truck is not big enough for my actual plan… Which I hope to begin once i get a large enough truck to work with.

for now we have this:

modified truck



  1. Kerellane on Friday 3, 2010

    great blog , how are you doing now eeh?

    • fyfester on Friday 3, 2010

      Glad you enjoy.
      I am doing very well, thank you