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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chipKIT-core v1.3.0 and v1.3.1 Released and Clicker 2 Support

Clicker 2 for PIC32MX

The chipKIT development team is happy to announce the chipKIT-core releases: v1.3.0 and v1.3.1, the former being the main release, with the latter simply updating the compiler from v1.40 to v1.42.

These two new releases don’t necessarily add any enormous new features, but they do have several nice bug fixes and some good improvements in the functionality available to a sketch. One noteworthy fix in v1.3.0 is the update to the bootloader host application “pic32prog” to support MikroElektronika’s Clicker 2 for PIC32MX. This amazing board provides two mikroBUS sockets for click boards — MikroE’s little peripheral add-on boards — providing for an endless range of project possibilities. Check out the release notes for all the details.

You can obtain the release of your choice in a couple of different ways depending on how you’ve installed chipKIT core in the past. You can either use the Boards Manager inside the Arduino IDE, or you can download the zip file for your platform (Arm Linux, Linux32, Linux64, MacOSX or Windows).

We hope you benefit greatly from these updates!

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chipKIT QuickIO Shield

chipKIT QuickIO Shield

Have you ever wanted to test something out very quickly, but dread pulling out the breadboard and wires? If you’ve ever needed a QuickIO Shield, it’s here! Majenko Technologies—creator of UECIDE and the chipKIT Lenny—has released this new shield.

This incredibly useful accessory snaps right onto your Arduino or chipKIT board, instantly giving you all the handy IO you need, as the name says, quickly. With four pushbuttons, two 10KΩ potentiometers, and eight LEDs, there is no more messing around with a breadboard and wires just to add a couple of buttons to your design. Plus, using a potentiometer for a variable-voltage analog input has never been easier; and with LEDs nicely arranged as a bar-graph, you can create simple visual feedback in seconds.

The QuickIO Shield is truly an essential component of every Arduino user’s kit. For more information on this neat board, check out the QuickIO Shield Product Page on Majenko’s website!

Happy IOing!

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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 Lenny: Sneak Preview

chipKIT Lenny Development Board

If you saw our post about the new chipKIT Lenny, and you’re totally excited, we have more news for you! In advance of the production release, Majenko Technologies, originator and designer of the Lenny, is offering early access to this new board. You can purchase a limited edition, sneak preview of the Lenny before the production boards roll out. These boards are production-ready, just without the packaging. So get yours today!

For all the details, see Majenko Technologies’ chipKIT Lenny page.

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Timer Interrupts on the chipKIT DP32

Timer Interrupts on the chipKIT DP32
Timer Interrupts on the chipKIT DP32

Have you ever needed your code to run repeatedly after a very precise amount of time?

In this tutorial, Jay explains how to accomplish this task by setting up a timer and connecting an interrupt to it. This project utilizes a chipKIT DP32, but a WF32 or uC32 would work as well.

See all the details on the Instructables tutorial.

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Using a chipKIT WF32 and a Raspberry Pi to set up fan control for XBOX

Fan Control Using WF32 and Raspberry Pi
Fan Control Using WF32 and Raspberry Pi

Has your XBOX ever overheated due to excessive use? If so, have you ever wondered what you can do to stop it?

In a fan-control project–developed by Austin Stanton after his XBOX 360 died–this is exactly the issue he is trying to correct. Once he finished grieving for his lost gaming system, Austin was able to focus on how to fix the problem so that his next system doesn’t die. After doing some research, he suspected his entertainment system was the culprit, not allowing enough heat to escape.

Austin decided that the best way to regulate the temperature was to regulate the airflow, which he achieves by using two fans and a servo; the servo was positioned so it would open a door (to increase airflow). A chipKIT WF32 monitors temperature and operates the fans, while a Raspberry Pi was controls the WF32 over Wi-Fi by means of two switches.

Pretty good sleuthing on Austin’s part, I’d say! You can check out the details on the Digilent blog, where his project is broken down into two posts. The first one describes how to set up fan control using LabVIEW, and the second one describes how to add a Raspberry Pi to the whole thing.

Good luck with all your DIY life hacks!

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Trophy for chipKIT WF32 Controlled iPad Mount for the Sight Impaired!

chipKIT Controlled iPad Mount for the Sight Impaired
chipKIT WF32 Controlled iPad Mount

In a Digilent-sponsored senior design competition, Kaitlyn Franz’s team won a second place trophy for their project. The team created a Wi-Fi controlled iPad mount for assisting the sight impaired to find lost items. To accomplish this, the team utilized a chipKIT WF32, which has a Wi-Fi capable PIC32 microcontroller on board.

To check out more details, head over to Digilent’s Blog.

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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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