VernierI have been teaching with Vernier hardware for at least 10 years, so it is great to see them supporting work on the Arduino platform (another passion of mine). I’ll keep an eye out for the Sparkfun boards this fall, this is a great way to get more sensors available for use in our electronics class projects.

They have a very nice guide to interfacing with their sensors:

And more announcements in the newsletter:

Vernier + Arduino

TI Launchpad vs. Arduino

I was excited to see the TI Launchpad platform, especially given the low price ($4.30). Unfortunately, there are two troubling statements in their wiki… these are dealbreakers for a growing number of hobbyists:

“There is currently no official support for the Linux operating system.”

“There is currently no official support for the Mac OS X operating system”

While windows is still dominant in the electronics profession, the hobby crowd is much more varied. These issues will make it hard for the launchpad to compete with Arduino. I’ll probably order one to play with, but when I already have a dozen Arduinos (Arduini?) lying around, and the latest IDE on each of my computers (linux & mac alike) it is hard to imagine going through much trouble just for a cheaper board. For me, the value of Arduino is in the community resources that are already out there. The codebase is huge, you can find thousands of great examples and tweak them to your particular use: search google or youtube for what you want to make, upload the code to arduino and you are done.

Programming Arduino is like plugging in to the matrix… a few clicks and keystrokes and suddenly “I know kung fu”

Computer controlled RGB LED mixer

I’ve been working on some interactive color-mixing exhibits and pulled together a fun system using an arduino, processing code, and computer control. The video above shows a demo of the mouse-controlled RGB color mixer. The idea was to create an interactive exploration of the color gamut (range of colors that can be created by mixing a given set of three colored lights). Code and more details are given below:
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Twitter to LCD – with scrolling text

I’ve been having some fun with a Sparkfun Serial-enabled LCD screen (LCD-09393, $24.95). This little package will write out whatever you send along a serial data line. So this means you can add an LCD to a project with only three wires:  +V, GND, and RX (serial receive). In the real world, I’m hoping to use these LCDs in some lab instruments that we’ll be building in the spring semester. In particular, I’m looking at an arduino-based frequency counter. I also want to explore an arduino-based PID controller for various lab projects (temp. control, etc.).

My first test, however, was just getting the LCD to work. And then, I wanted to make it show my Twitter status. I’ve been using twitter (DrDawes) to post my office status and give students updates as to where I am or when I may be around again. This has been helpful since my research lab is in another building and I tend to be available but it may not look like it since I’m not in the physics building. This way if I want to step over to the lab, I can simply send an update, and save people the trouble of tracking me down. The rub is that not everyone has twitter, and sometimes people just come to my office anyway. That said, my goal is to post a 16×2 LCD screen on my door so that my availability status (formerly written on a whiteboard, or post-it) can be more 21st century.

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Teaching with Arduino


I’ve decided to use the Arduino in my electronics class this fall. The Arduino is an “open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software.” Even from the description it sounds like just what an electronics course needs. I finally had some time to tinker with it today, and after a few minutes I had it’s LED blinking away, and then after another few minutes it was an oscilloscope. A few minutes later it was playing a pulse-width-modulated (PWM) melody. Not bad for an hour’s work.

With a little inspiration, and my new-found confidence, I took to my first project in hopes of having a little demo to show the intro students to recruit them for my class in the fall. An hour and a half later (including fielding questions about homework and our exam tomorrow) I had a photo-resistor theramin up and running. Continue reading