HelveKit Robot: A chipKIT Robot Design

HelveKit Robot

There are plenty of “how to design a robot” tutorials out there; this is not one of them. Why is this one different? Because the author, GastonLagaffe, doesn’t want to tell you what to do, as he doesn’t want to limit your creativity. 🙂 His personal goals for this robot were for it to be small, autonomous, cheap, easy to solder, easy to program, with plenty of holes, and swarm capable, and although the journey to get from concept to implementation took him 12 months, he learned a lot along the way.

So if you want to make a robot, why not dream big as you read about how Gaston took what started as a small wish and made it a reality, Gaston-style. To see his journey, check out this HelveKit Robot Design Journey on Instructables. You may smile as you see his approach and decide you would have done it differently, but that’s exactly what Gaston would want you to do!

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Meet the chipKIT uC32

chipkit-uc32-01

The chipKIT uC32 has been around a while, but Fábio Souza at Embarcados has just published a brand new Overview which is worth a look. The article is written in Portuguese; you should be able to use the “Translate” option in your browser to get the English version if needed.

Fábio’s article borrows some diagrams from Digilent’s excellent Resource Center, and also explains how to load chipKIT-core into the Arduino Boards Manager.

Thanks Fábio!

Note: The chipKIT uC32 is our full-featured, Uno-style board with 512K of Flash, 32K of RAM and 47 available I/O lines. It’s fully compatible with Arduino IDE and MPLAB X IDE.

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chipKIT Drum Set with MikroE Clicks

chipKIT: TouchClamp Click Drum Machine

Drum sets are fun to play! Now you can make your very own noise (or shall we say ‘music’) maker, and all without soldering a thing. All you need are a handful of bottles and cans (which will act as the drum pads) with some alligator clip wires (clips on both ends) connected to a chipKIT Uno32 via an Arduino Uno click shield and two MikroElektronika click boards with audio and touch sense capabilities. The TouchClamp click acts as the input for the drumming, and the MP3 click provides the audio for each “drum.” A clever little idea, we thought.

Why not make some noise with your own drum set. For all the details, check out the chipKIT drum set tutorial!

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chipKIT Attends Arduino Developer Summit 2016

Arduino Developer Summit 2016 - Mont Blanc
Arduino Developer Summit 2016

The first ever Arduino Developer Summit took place last week, Thursday, June 30th and Friday, July 1st, 2016 in the gorgeous Italian Alps at Skyway Monte Bianco. Top developers from the open-source community all over the world met to discuss greater collaboration in their effort to continue enhancing the support and solutions they provide to the ever-growing Maker community. Check out the program for the lineup of speakers.

Representing the chipKIT platform was Microchip’s Guy McCarthy, who presented an intro to the chipKIT platform, discussions about extending the Arduino system, lessons learned, and what’s coming soon to chipKIT! Check out his presentation–Arduino Developer Summit 2016 – chipKIT Runtime Evolution–for more information.

We hope this year is the first of many summits to come!

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Coming Soon: chipKIT Lenny!

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The new chipKIT Lenny!

We have some great news for USB lovers! A new board, chipKIT Lenny, is in final prototype stages and preparing for production. If you haven’t already guessed, the chipKIT Lenny is the PIC32 equivalent of the Arduino Leonardo, only considerably advanced, with more peripherals and overall power.

The Lenny features a direct USB connection that provides a separate USB serial connection in addition to the two UART serial connections provided on the GPIO headers. Advanced users can use the Microchip Harmony framework in MPLAB X IDE to emulate further USB devices such as HID keyboards and mice. For chipKIT core users, enhanced support for emulation is being actively worked on and can be previewed by using the Harmony USB core in UECIDE.

The PIC32 microcontroller on the chipKIT Lenny is a PIC32MX270F256D MCU at 40 MHZ with 256K of Flash and 64K of RAM. This board features the following, and much more!

  • Two I2S/SPI modules for Codec and serial communications
  • Parallel Master Port (PMP) for graphics interfaces
  • Charge Time Measurement Unit (CTMU)
  • Two UART and I2C™ modules
  • Five 16-bit Timers/Counters (two 16-bit pairs combine to create two 32-bit timers)
  • Five Capture inputs and Five Compare/PWM output

Keep your eyes peeled for the chipKIT Lenny release, coming soon!

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P-P-PIC up a TFT with chipKIT and DisplayCore

Did you know that chipKIT boards are probably the best choice for controlling a TFT screen?… Considerably better than most Arduino boards, that is for sure! I say that with confidence for three reasons:

  1. chipKIT boards typically have far more memory and computing power than many Arduino boards, and as a result, they are so much better at manipulating graphics and data for display.
  2. chipKIT boards can get the data out to the TFT screen so much faster though high-speed interfaces, so less time is spent redrawing things on the screen. You’ll find that images appear instantly, as opposed to being drawn out slowly.
  3. Finally my favourite reason: professional-grade library support. I say it’s my favourite because I designed and wrote the library myself, but I’ll tell you more about that journey later on.

First let me introduce you to a little friend of mine:

picadillo

This here is the Picadillo-35T developed by 4D Systems in Australia (also available from microchipDIRECT). The Picadillo is essentially a chipKIT MAX32 board with a nice, high-resolution TFT touch-screen strapped to the back. The meaty PIC32MX795F512L chip (also used on the MAX32) boasts plenty of RAM (128KB) and Flash (512KB) and all the other bells and whistles you have come to expect from chipKIT boards. The board also has the same connectors as the popular chipKIT Uno32, uC32, WF32 etc., so all your shields should just plug in and work. You also get sound thrown in to the mix with an on-board speaker, and of course you get an SD card slot–what self respecting board would be without one these days anyway?!

Ok, enough said about that. The main reason I write this post is to tell you of the most useful part of this Picadillo board: the TFT touch-screen. And let me tell you, it’s not just any TFT screen. It’s an above-average 3.5″, 320×480 resolution, crisp-image delivering screen. Not only that, but the way the TFT is wired to the PIC32 chip is also “above average.” The TFT connection boasts a 16-bit parallel interface, not the normal slow SPI interface that most cheap Arduino TFT screens give you–meaning that it takes one bus clock operation to output a pixel as opposed to 16 (a considerable speed increase!).

But that’s still not all! (I’m starting to sound like a TV salesman now. “Buy now and we’ll throw in this amazing clock radio and set of saucepans absolutely free!”). The TFT’s 16-bit interface has been directly connected to the “Parallel Master Port” (PMP) of the PIC32. The PMP is a bit like the old internal bus of early computers; you get an address bus, a data bus, and a bunch of control signals, meaning there’s no messy twiddling of GPIO pins with the likes of digitalWrite() (or even direct port manipulation using registers). Writing data to the screen takes just one instruction. That’s right – ONE instruction. And that means even greater speed. But wait, there’s more! (Here comes the gold-plated nose-hair trimmer…) It’s called DMA: Direct Memory Access. Guess what that can do! DMA can send data through PMP, and this essentially allows for direct communication with the TFT display, all without the MIPS CPU’s involvement! In effect, you can be outputting data to the screen whilst doing other things! All-in-all it’s really a thing of beauty… if you like that kind of thing, of course.

So what does all that mean to the layman? It means you have a well-designed, well-built bit of kit in a nice compact package with all the power you could ever want to make your perfect user interface. But isn’t programming user interfaces and drawing graphics on a TFT screen a hard job? Isn’t it fairly skilled and in-depth? Don’t you have to write reams and reams of code just to get it to print “Hello World”? Well, yes, you do. However I have already done all that for you. And that is where the journey to the core begins.

Continue reading P-P-PIC up a TFT with chipKIT and DisplayCore

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New FAT File System in chipKIT-core

microSD cards are supported on several chipKIT boards
microSD cards are supported on several chipKIT boards
Did you know that a robust FAT file system is now available in chipKIT-core? Keith Vogel of Digilent recently ported the file system library by ChaN at elm-chan.org. You can use this library to create and access files on microSD cards, as shown in the photo above.

But wait… what is a FAT file system, anyway?

FAT stands for File Allocation Table. It’s a method of organizing data on disk drives. Designed way back in 1977, FAT was the standard file system used on disk drives for at least two decades. While modern computers now use more sophisticated systems, FAT is still the standard for USB sticks, Flash drives and solid-state memory cards.
DSDVOL example in Arduino IDE
DSDVOL example in Arduino IDE


Several chipKIT boards (such as the FubarinoSD, WF32, Wi-FIRE, and WiFi Shield) include a microSD card slot where a solid-state memory card can be inserted. The new library allows your sketch to create and access files stored on the memory card. Files can be used for serving up web pages, storing large amounts of data collected from sensors, or anything else you can think of.

chipKIT-core combines the FAT file system with improvements to the DSPI and SoftSPI libraries. (DSPI uses the hardware SPI ports, while SoftSPI uses any combination of unused I/O pins to create a virtual SPI port.) When a microSD card is inserted, your sketch can easily mount it as a disk volume to access files. An example sketch is included with chipKIT-core, and appears as DSDVOL under the File:Examples menu item. Here is a snippet of code from DSDVOL:
Mounting a volume using the new FAT file system
Mounting a volume using the new FAT file system
Up to 5 volumes can be mounted and used at the same time. While most chipKIT boards have only one microSD card slot, virtual disk volumes in RAM or MCU Flash will be supported soon.
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chipKIT-core is released for use in Arduino IDE

How to use your chipKIT board in Arduino IDE

Did you ever wish you could program your chipKIT board in Arduino IDE? Well, your prayers have been answered! The chipKIT development team is very excited to announce the release of v1.1.0 of the chipKIT-core software! This is the latest version of the chipKIT software, and it has support for all existing chipKIT boards. It is installed into the Arduino 1.6.7+ IDE, just like any of the other available cores.

Kudos to everyone who helped make this possible!

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chipKIT Wi-FIRE: An EDN Hot 100 Product of 2015

EDN's Hot 100 Products for 2015

Extra extra! Read all about it! The EDN online community has named chipKIT Wi-FIRE one of their Hot 100 Products of 2015 in their Wireless and Networking category! Although they had posted a glowing review of the chipKIT Wi-FIRE back in February, we were pleasantly surprised to have stayed in their good graces. They said, and we quote “Digilent’s chipKIT WiFire board is an awesome little beastie. Powered by Microchip’s latest 32-bit 200 MHz MCU, the Wi-Fi equipped Arduino-compatible platform has been paired with Imagination Technologies’ Flow Cloud service development tools in an effort to make creating cloud-powered embedded applications practical for the average developer.”

Check it all out on the EDN Hot 100 Wireless and Networking Products of 2015!

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