Microcontrollers?

Recently more than one person has suggested I try my hand at an Arduino.  I’ve got a spare Extruder Controller which happens to include an Arduino.

I rarely bother learning something new if I can help it. 1  And, I’ll actively avoid trying to learn something new if there’s not a need to learn it.

I have no doubt that once I figure out how to use an Arduino I’d enjoy it.  However, I just don’t have any ideas of what I’d want to use a microcontroller for at this time.  And, really, none of the projects I’ve seen is particularly compelling.  And, without an end goal I’m shooting for, this would just be learning something for learning’s sake.

So, here’s the question I pose to you, gentle reader:

What would you design/build if you had access to an Arduino, a Thing-O-Matic, a Cupcake, an Egg-Bot, and lots of plastic?

  1. I remember in high school that it was so much easier for me to derive Tan, Sin, Cos, rather than to actually remember the values around the unit circle.  And really, if you can derive that information quickly, why bother committing it to memory? []

12 Responses to “Microcontrollers?”

  1. whosawhatsis says:

    I learned to use Arduinos because I wanted to build a segway-style self-balancing vehicle. I decided to start small by building the controller into a small robot. Playing with the electronics design got me into electronics design using Eagle, which led to wanting a CNC mill, which led me to discover Reprap and Makerbot.

    I still have the robot, only partially working because I never finished programming it. I’ve been thinking about picking the project back up and printing a new body for it (currently I just have the motors clamped between a couple of sloppily-cut acrylic held together with zip ties).

    There are all kinds of things you can do with a microcontroller, and I’m glad I have an understanding of Arduino in my toolkit. It you already understand how to use C-like languages and have an Arduino-compatible board, there’s no reason not to at least learn to make the Leds blink in different patterns. It’s very easy to pick up, and you’ll eventually be glad to have the knowledge.

  2. MakerBlock says:

    @Whosawhatsis: Sooo… I don’t know C so I don’t know what a C-like language is. Is PHP or Javascript a C like language?

  3. whosawhatsis says:

    Yes, those are both in the “C-like” category.

  4. MakerBlock says:

    @Whosawhatsis: Sweetness. Alrighty, I’ll give this a whirl.

  5. renosis says:

    You should start off with a small easy project. A simple robot would be best. One with a servo and a couple motors. Maybe an LED or two. If you go for something super complex, you will get discouraged easy!

  6. renosis says:

    Oh yeah, and there is not much you are going to be able to do with all the things you list. Sure the Thing-O-matic could print a chassis for a robot or something. But you need like… motors, LED’s, servos, stuff like that. Vitamins I guess you could call them.

  7. MakerBlock says:

    @Renosis: Awwww… That sounds complicated. I give up.

  8. ross says:

    I think you need to wait for the right problem to fix. An arduino is overkill for most things it is used for, but that’s not a bad thing. It means that you can easily apply it to a lot of simple jobs, content with the knowledge that it will do the job.

    Do you want to make a physical email notifier? Design your own motion-activated thingy? Build an accessory to a makerbot that (heats/cools/weighs/times/lights up/broadcasts to the internet/beeps/blinks)?

    Once you have that “if only I could automate this!” moment, then I bet it will become more clear. Personally I have an idea in my head to build a foot switch to turn the sink on and off while I am doing dishes to prevent wasted water. I’m sure you’ll find your own one soon!

    ps the coolest thing about getting into microcontrollers is that it really shows you how every modern device can be broken down into little subsystems. Each one can be a fun day tinkering, be it an led, or a motor controller.

  9. MakerBlock says:

    @Ross: A point well taken. Part of the problem is that since I have no experience automating things, I don’t ever think how to automate stuff. But, after chatting with Schmarty, I think I might be interested in creating a solar powered Arduino which pushes a little bug-bot of some sort around.

  10. whosawhatsis says:

    When you’ve never used a hammer, none of your problems look like nails.

    …or something like that.

  11. MakerBlock says:

    @Whosawhatsis: Actually, you’re basically dead on. When I think about the kinds of problems I would solve, I naturally turn to web-based solutions using PHP/MySQL, the ability of said web-based methods to send e-mails and SMS messages, and to gather data from around the web using cURL or other methods. Just using these few components, you can really accomplish a lot. I guess that’s why I had a hard time thinking of a good way to use an arduino – because I can already solve a lot of problems just by using web programming + a smart phone.

    Then again, now that I think about it… I could make a pretty awesome robot if it had just a simple WiFi card slapped into it.

  12. […] really do like learning.  I’m reading “Make: Arduino Bots and Gadgets” and “Getting Started with […]