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Offline StrongLifterTopic starter

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Recommend Me a microcontroller
« on: February 27, 2010, 03:21:12 PM »
I was going to order the Cerebellum, but that is not around anymore. For now I'm just following the build your first robot tutorial.
 I have about 100-150 to spend on a MC.
I know how to program in C++/Java, the usual 1 year course at a university.
I want to build stuff like micromouse later on.
Which Augmented MC shd I start off?

Thanks for the noob support.

Offline RobotBits

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2010, 03:59:55 PM »
One of the most widely used microcontrollers in robotics is the AVR ATmega series from Atmel - This micro is used in the SOR $50 robot tutorial.

An easy way to get started is to buy a controller board with integrated microcontroller, power supply, etc. There a quite a few around including "Arduino" which is ATmega based and will do everything you need to build a micro-mouse robot.
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Offline StrongLifterTopic starter

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2010, 04:25:29 PM »
Figuring out exactly what to buy the first time is tough...

Offline vinito

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2010, 04:47:54 PM »
Quote
Figuring out exactly what to buy the first time is tough...

In that case, go cheap.
Arduino is cheap, easy and popular (i.e. lots of help available from others). Programs via USB so no programmer unit to buy.
The Arduino software is a Java thing, and the code you write for the chip is a flavor of C.

Arduino is a pretty self-contained thing that provides what you need to easily wire things up and get it going.

Another system that looks good to me is the Teensy (Link). It is not Arduino, but the guy wrote a plugin which enables you to use the Arduino software to program it if you want. It has USB built in as well (no programmer to buy), and has a bunch more IO pins to hook up more "stuff" to it, though at first you likely don't need to consider that much. It's the same or maybe cheaper than Arduino, but you'll want to add a breadboard to connect things up.

Worth considering depending on your ilk: if you fry the chip (not common but it happens) on a Teensy, you're pretty much stuck with buying a new one or soldering those itty surface-mount toes. With Arduino you can just slip the DIP chip out and plug in a replacement if you need (or want) to.

To me, both of these seem like pretty good options for starting with. Both are tons less than $150 too.
Things have come a long way since the Basic Stamp. And cheaper too.

Offline RobotBits

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2010, 05:39:10 PM »
Another advantage of Arduino is the wide variety of "shields" that are available.

Shields are application specific daughter boards that allow you to easily add on other hardware such as Motor Controllers by simply plugging them on top.

Because the hardware (as well as the software) is open source, loads of people have published opened designs and offer low cost kits.

A great way to get started ...
RobotBits - Robot kits and components for fun and learning!
http://www.RobotBits.co.uk

Offline Admin

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Offline HyperNerd

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2010, 04:48:39 AM »
+1 for buying an Arduino ;)

They are really cheap, easy to learn and program, and have good expandability thanks to I2C and UART.

For a micromouse bot, an Arduino is perfect. The small size of the board means you have more room for sensors/controllers/batteries etc.

 -HyperNerd
There are 10 types of people in the world - those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Offline KurtEck

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2010, 09:48:58 AM »
I totally agree with Admin, that trying to say what is the best Microcontroller is like saying what is the best car.  Likewise for what is the best language to use...  I find that I have a couple of different personalities when it comes to this.

For whatever reason I have never done much at all with pics.  I enjoy working with AVR processors in C.  As many have mentioned Arduino are a nice starting point, but for me, I can never have enough IO ports and UARTS and so I really like the Axon2.  If I were designing my own, would it be exactly like the Axon2, No but probably pretty close!

But now for a different personality ;D  There are many people who believe that the learning curve for programming in C is very high and for them Basic is a nice starting point.  A lot of these people start of with something like a BasicStamp which I are nice but I find most are very limited.  However there are a few versions that are pretty nice. 

Also since I enjoy the robots and parts from Lynxmotion and since all of their projects currently use Microcontrollers (Basic Atom Pros) from Basic Micro: (http://www.basicmicro.com/), I have adapted.   What is nice about these controllers is that they are based on the Renesas H8 microcontrollers which are really nice (includes 32 bit math...) and the basic allows you to get to all of the underlying hardware and allows you to put inline assembly code.  Their is also the GNU toolchain (C/C++) installed as part of the IDE, but unfortunately I don't know of any nice support libraries like webbotlib.

So what is the best microcontroller?  For me it depends on what I am doing and who I am interacting with.

Kurt

Offline Daanii

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2010, 12:09:25 PM »
Good comments from everyone.

My own recommendation: If you are stronger in hardware, go with PICs. If you are stronger in software, go with AVRs, and start with the Arduino.

Offline vinito

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2010, 01:24:59 PM »
Long story alert!

I first picked up an Arduino, what was it....two years ago now? Wow time flies.
A year or two before that I picked up a Basic Stamp kit. The stamp kit was fun and it got my feet wet. I could have gone much farther with it, but things came up and I didn't touch it for a while. When I wanted to get back to it, I got on the net and discovered that the cost of the stamps was sky high for whatever reason. This was just the stamp module, not the dev board. Such is often the case when something becomes obsolete. Parallax's newer offerings were more powerful for less money, but Arduino was making a splash on the world at this time and it kept coming up in my searches. I eventually went that route instead. PICs came up too, but folks seemed to like the consistency of language throughout the AVR product line and the lower cost of programming interfaces. I'm not trying to argue for or against any company though I know it can't help but sound that way. I'm just spouting off things based solely on my perspective, which is of course specific to my own place in life. Your mileage may (and likely will) vary. I can say that I really like that AVR isn't the only game in town. The fact that Parallax and Microchip are out there and have enthusiastic following is good for us AVR leaners too.

Seems to me that any dev board is essentially somebody's concept of connecting different things to the legs of a chip. The Axon looks pretty cool and I may have to try one someday. For now I'm so green that my needs are basic, so all I need is a fairly basic board. I'm learning and experimenting, so simple has worked just fine for me. I'm on the cusp of needing more I/O than Arduino provides, so I'll be on the lookout for the next thing soon enough. And that brings me to a good point. When most folks are asking the "which microcontroller" question, they are asking in the first place because they are like me - green. Often they will ask the question then provide a list of what they want to do with their robot. This will often be "everything but land on the moon", which would take more than Arduino of course. That's OK - some folks just have a knack and will successfully reach their goal despite the fact that it "cant be done", so enthusiasm is great. Some folks just adjust their wants as they go along and just enjoy the ride (I hope) like me. And I'm a fairly smart feller, but I just have only so much time to fiddle with this stuff.

So anyways, getting back to my point. I am a proponent of getting the dev board which will suit your today's needs. Especially if it's pretty cheap anyway. Play with it and learn some stuff. It took me over a year to outgrow Arduino and I'm not actually there yet, though most folks should expect to accomplish more in less time. When the time comes to expand, buy that step-up board at that time. You'll have a much better idea what you'll need, want and use once you have been into it for a while. If you're asking this question and just starting into the venture, chances are you won't go wrong just getting a more basic board like Arduino and just learning with it for a while. Because even if you outgrow it in a month, you obviously packed tons of hours into a short span and got your money's worth I'd say.

It didn't take long before I was mixing the Arduino up. I learned about ISP programming and picked up an AVR programmer. Now I can use the Arduino IDE or AVR studio, program in GCC or Assembly. I say I can program in assembly because this is possible if I learn how. I have yet to try assembly programming. I want to though since I understand that even though it's more complex, you can make things more efficient and less buggy. Then I'd be familiar with two languages and that would be cool. So yea, I could spend yet another year with the Arduino board if I wanted to, all because of the simple additional purchase of an AVR programmer. The list goes on.

I guess I went off on this treatise because when the OP stated that "Figuring out exactly what to buy the first time is tough", I figure he is likely to be at a knowledge level that is a pretty good fit for Arduino. We all have been through the phenomenon of wanting the slick, expensive item whether it be a dev board, a pair of shoes or a car, etc. But boil all that yearning off and things become clearer. I could be wrong and I'd be happy to be corrected (I'd learn sumthin' new!) but it seems that there just isn't anything out there right now quite like the Arduino phenomenon. It's a darn good bet for a beginner. It's working pretty well for me still over a year later.

Disclaimer: I just got done telling you how green I am, so you should assume I don't know much and could very well be wrong about several things I just said. I did the best that I can. At least my intentions are sincere.
After all that, I can't help but admit that I think I want an AxonII. It's tasty, sexy, and helps to support the forum I think.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2010, 02:02:29 PM by vinito »

Offline Soeren

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2010, 04:30:50 PM »
Hi,


Often they will ask the question then provide a list of what they want to do with their robot. This will often be "everything but land on the moon", which would take more than Arduino of course.
Not really - The Eagle (Apollo 11 LM) computer had 2048 words of RAM and 36,864 words of ROM.
It could handle about 85,000 instructions per second (~85 kips not Mips).
It measured 24" x 12.5" x 6", weighed slightly above 70 lbs and took 2.5A at 28VDC.
An arduino would have done fine... And saved a bunch of money propelling it up there.
Regards,
Søren

A rather fast and fairly heavy robot with quite large wheels needs what? A lot of power?
Please remember...
Engineering is based on numbers - not adjectives

Offline Admin

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Re: Recommend Me a microcontroller
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2010, 06:08:40 AM »
Yeap, the Axon *can* put someone on the moon:
http://www.societyofrobots.com/robotforum/index.php?topic=7479.0

 


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