Breadboarding with a ARM microcontroller

ARM

NXP’s LPC1114 ARM microcontroller is in a class all of it’s own. ARM microcontrollers are a dime a dozen, but this fabulous chip is the only one that’s housed in a hacker and breadboard friendly PDIP package. However, breadboard setups usually won’t have the luxuries of a true development platform such as flashing the part, single stepping through the code, and examining memory. [Steve] found an interesting solution to this problem that involves a Dremel and hacking up even more hardware.

[Steve] found a few LPC1769 dev boards that include a debugger and a way to program these chips. Simply by hacking off the programmer and debugger portion of this dev board with a Dremel tool, [Steve] had an easy to use interface for his breadboardable ARM.

After connecting the power rails to his breadboarded chip, [Steve] connected his programmer up and set up a gcc toolchain. For about $25, he has a breadboard friendly ARM microcontroller with full debugging capabilities.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a few people play with this DIP28 ARM chip; someone even milled this 600 mil chip down to 300 mils for even easier prototyping. Still, this is the best and cheapest way we’ve seen yet to turn this ARM into a proper prototyping platform.

The JavaScript of Things

Espruino

There are a ton of people out there that can program in JavaScript, but give them an embedded device, and they’re up the creek without a paddle. Not anymore, that is, thanks to [Gordon]‘s wonderful Espruino, a JavaScript interpreter for ARM microcontrollers. Oh, it’s also a very capable dev board that has more than enough power to turn just about any project you can imagine into reality.

On board the Espruino is an ARM Cortex M3 in the form of an STM32 chip, 256kB Flash, 48kB of RAM, and a ton of PWM and ADC pins to go along with 2 SPI ports, 2 I2C ports, and 2 DACs. It’s a very capable piece of hardware, and if you’re looking to build anything, it would be hard to pick a better general purpose dev board.

[Gordon] has put his board up on Kickstarter, and since it’s already been successfully funded, he’ll be releasing the hardware and software sources under an Open Source license. If you’ve ever wanted to run JavaScript on an ARM board, it looks like Espruino is just the ticket.

A $5 ARM development board

Most of you know that there are plenty of ARM powered development boards out there, so you may not be really sure what a new one can still bring to the table.

With a $5 price tag, the open hardware McHck (pronounced McHack) is meant for quickly building projects on a small budget. The board created by [Simon] is based on a Freescale Cortex M4 microcontroller, and can be plugged directly into one’s computer. As a Direct Firmware Update (DFU) bootloader is present on the microcontroller, there is no need for external programming equipment.

The board has unpopulated footprints that allow users to add other functionalities that may be required for their future projects: a Real Time Clock (RTC), a Boost regulator for single cell battery operation, Buck and linear regulators, a Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery charger and even an External Flash storage.

The Bill of Materials can be found on the project wiki and the McHck community will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign to send the 5th version of the board to all the hobbyists that may be interested.

And if you’re curious, you can also have a look at all the other boards that Hackaday featured these last months: the browser based IDE arm boardquad-core ARM dev board and the Matchbox ARM.

ARM dev board with USB uploading

Machbox

[George and Bogdan] wrote in to tell us about a cool Kickstarter they’ve been working on. It’s called the MatchboxARM, and like other tiny-yet-powerful ARM dev boards floating around, this one features a very fast and capable processor and more than enough pins for just about any project. One interesting feature of this board, however, makes it stand out from the pack: it has a USB mass storage-based bootloader, meaning uploading new code is as easy as a drag and drop.

This isn’t the first dev board we’ve seen to sport this feature: the Stellaris Launchpad has had this for a while and even the lowly ATtiny85, in the form of a Digispark has a mass storage-based bootloader. The MatchboxARM, though, brings this together with a very powerful ARM microcontroller with enough I/Os, ADCs, PWM pins, and I2C and SPI ports for the most complicated projects.

Bringing eLua to the mbed

lua

[Karl] loved his mbed – a tiny little ARM-powered microcontroller platform – but he wanted an interactive programming environment. BASIC just wasn’t cutting it, so he decided to bring eLua to his mbed.

When choosing an interactive development environment for microcontrollers, you generally have two choices: old or huge. Sure, there is a middle ground with Python on an ARM, but why not use something explicitly designed for microcontrollers?

To get eLua running on his mbed, [Karl] downloaded the latest version and plopped it on his mbed. The current version, 0.9, doesn’t have support for an SD card, severely limiting its usefulness. [Karl] got around this by wiring up an SD card to the mbed, giving him gigabytes of space for all his development work.

While the AVRs and PICs of the world are stuck with languages like C or worse, the new ARM boards available are more than capable of running a complete eLua development environment, with everything accessible through a terminal. [Karl] even wrote his own editor for the mbed and he’ll shortly be working on a few dozen embedded projects he has in mind.

Programming a through-hole ARM microcontroller

NXP

The age of ARM microcontrollers for the electronics hobbyist is upon us, and luckily there are a few breadboard-friendly microcontrollers available in a DIP package. One of these chips is NXP’s LPC810M021FN8 – a tiny little 8-pin DIP with 4 kB of Flash, 1 kB of SRAM, and has a clock fast enough for some really cool stuff. [Joao] needed a way to program one of these microcontrollers and came up with an easy method using only a USB/UART adapter.

The key to this build is the fact the LPC810 doesn’t need any additional components to operate; the internal oscillator means the chip will run at 30 MHz with only a power and ground attached. To program the chip, [Joao] attached the Tx and Rx lines of the chip to a USB/UART adapter (at 3.3 V, of course), and uploaded some code with Flashmagic.

We’ve seen these DIP-sized ARM chips before, but [Joao]‘s method of using off-the-shelf tools to write a blinking LED program means it’s a piece of cake to start working with these very cool and very powerful microcontrollers.

Voice controlled chess robot

voice-controlled-chess-robot

[Ben Yeh] wrote in to tell us about this voice-controlled chess robot he built along with three others as a final project for their Georgia Tech ECE 4180 Embedded Systems Design class.

To handle the speech recognition they grabbed an EasyVR board. This is a fine solution because it prevents the need for a computer to process voice commands (remember, it’s an embedded systems class). This concept breaks down when you find out that the desktop computer next to the robot is where the chess game is running. Perhaps that can be moved to a microcontroller by the next set of 4180 students.

The robot arm portion of the project is shown off well in the clip after the break. Normally we’d expect to see stepper motors driving the axes of a CNC machine but in this case they’re using servo motors with built-in encoders. The encoders are i2c devices which feed info back to the main controller. There was a parts ordering snafu and the z axis motor doesn’t have an encoder. No problem, they just added a distance sensor and a reflector to measure the up and down movement of the claw.

[Read more...]

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