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I bought a Microcontroller Experiment Board

  1. Mar 22, 2013 #1
    Hey guys,
    I might be in over my head on this one but I was looking for an electronics project... I really just into this kind of stuff and plan on majoring in electronics engineering.

    I just purchased a Microcontroller Programmer & Experiment Board (by Velleman) at Radioshack because it looked interesting.

    Anyways, can someone explain to me what I might be able to do with such a thing. I hardly know anything about microcontrollers.
    It came with the circuit board and many small electronic components (resistors, diodes, LEDs, transistors) and more.
    Do I just put them on the board and plug it into my computer to program it. Then what can I make this microcontroller do?

    Thanks guys, I really want to increase my understanding about electronics before I dive too deep into the classes.
    Any advice would help
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2013 #2
    Finding the answers and getting this to work will be a great first step for you on the path to EE.

    Soldering it together will be good. If you don't have some experience with soldering then perhaps you can find something else to practice on first so that you can make mistakes and learn on something that can be discarded. Any junk piece of electronics with a circuit board can be a great practice project. Try removing items without overheating them until the part is dead. Then try soldering things back on. Looking for soldering tutorial videos might help you IF you can find a good one.

    Then getting the software installed will be good.

    After that there may be a tiny example program, perhaps something that uses a switch to give input to the processor and uses a LED to give output. See if you can get that tiny demo program working. That will be a great accomplishment.

    After that will probably be learning the language used to write programs for the processor. That may be assembly language or may be something like BASIC or C. If you haven't had any programming experience then this will take some study.

    There is a book, perhaps a little old by now, called "Programming Robot Controllers" that can give you lots of ideas. It uses C for a programming language and a compiler to translate the C into the binary for loading into the processor. Even if you don't use C that book might give you some ideas about what you can do. Caution: the versions of all the programs used have changed repeatedly since the book was published and you can't just blindly follow the steps to get them installed and working, but it still might give you some ideas to start. Caution: many people only use assembly language for these parts and if you ask for help and tell them you are using another language they will often reply that your first problem is you are not using their language, you are stupid, that is your problem.

    Starting with a very simple program with simple inputs and outputs is a good idea. Then making the smallest changes, seeing it often doesn't work, trying to figure out why, and making small changes until you get it right is a good strategy.
  4. Mar 24, 2013 #3
    Hey Bill, thanks for replying.
    I am starting to get excited about this... mostly for the programming part. I have no experience with soldering but I plan on researching it a bunch first. I ripped apart an old stereo system and have some broken circuit boards. Is this what you mean by a junk piece of electronics? It already has the components soldered on there so maybe I would be better off buying a small bread board to make a basic circuit on?
  5. Mar 24, 2013 #4

    Exactly. You are trying to learn the amount of heat to just make a good solder joint, but not so much that you have roasted the resistor or capacitor or LED until they are now a dead part.

    I wasn't meaning that you would use the junk board to build your new project on, just to learn how to solder and unsolder parts cleanly and gently.

    For building a circuit you might see if Radio Shack still sells project boards that you can solder onto. Or there were little white plastic boards with lots of little spring contacts hidden under the surface. For some projects that means you can just gently plug in the leads.

    Good luck on your adventure
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