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Author Topic: Investigating project feasibilty - a question on shields  (Read 734 times)
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Hi All,

I'm new to electronics & arduino and I want to get into robotics. I've bought a mega board and lots of bits and pieces, what I'm wondering is is there a way to temporarily add shields to an arduino?

To explain -

I've blown my budget for the next month or two on books, the board, multimeter, soldering iron and basic components. I'd like to both work on a robot and teach myself general electronics with the arduino. I'm worried that soldering a motor shield onto my arduino will limit the amount of electronics work I can do with the board.

I'm aiming towards creating a simple wheeled robot which uses a genetic algorithm and artificial neural network to evolve a pathfinding algorithm using feedback from various sensors for my college final year project next year (I can already program, don't worry  smiley-wink )

At this stage I'm exploring whether this is feasible or not so I need to experiment with sensors, feeding data to and from the arduino, motors and of course the optimal representation for the chromosomes which will involve a good understanding of the various electronic "variables" (how the motor / sensors work at a current switching level).

1. Will soldering on a shield preclude experimenting with some of the other areas mentioned or have I misunderstood the whole concept?

2. If it will preclude this is there any way to have the shield so that it is not soldered but drops into the arduino like a daughter board? (I'm thinking of something like a SCSI or IDE connector here, they seem similar enough to arduino pins)

Thanks a million in advance
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Massachusetts, USA
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In general a 'shield' is designed to plug into the Arduino's headers and can be pulled off as needed.  If you build your shield with stacking headers (male on the bottom, female on the top) you can stack shields as long as there are no pin conflicts.
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Thanks for that John,

After reading your comments I went back and looked again and figured out that I missed the part where this was being soldered onto the shield plugs placed on the arduino and not soldered directly to the board as I had thought. ( http://www.ladyada.net/make/mshield/solder.html )

So in order to stack this board I should solder on headers instead of directly to the board as shown and avoid reusing any pins that are used by the motor shield?
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So in order to stack this board I should solder on headers instead of directly to the board as shown and avoid reusing any pins that are used by the motor shield?

The instructions show male header pins.  These are soldered to the bottom of the motor shield with the male pins pointing down.  The male pins plug into the female headers on the Arduino.

If, instead, you get stacking headers (http://www.adafruit.com/products/85) and solder them to the motor shield with the male pins sticking down you will still be able to plug the male pins into the Arduino and plug another shield into the female headers on the motor shield.

If the second shield conflicts with the first shield you will have to kludge some connections by cutting or bending pins and soldering wires.
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One of the success reasons of arduino is the factor that you can unplug it from any project and use it on another for research/tests, etc. That and the fact you dont really need to worry about learning a lot of electronics theory due to the existence of shields ( and also breakout boards for smd components) you can buy for the most favourite purposes ( games, lcd, midi, mp3, etc).
Allied to the fact that the IDE also cut short a lot of the work needed to program and compile a program(aka sketch), which allows even 12 years old to get the gist of it quite quick.
Plus the best of it all- ITS OPEN SOURCE !!!
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I was looking for something to power a stepper motor and came across the same article

http://www.ladyada.net/make/mshield/solder.html

It seems as though the shield covers the whole board, in my case apart from the one stepper motor I have another 3 Inputs and 2 Outputs, since the shield covers the whole board I cant use the I/O ports? Did I get that right?
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Shields normally cover the arduino, for space limitations. Some shields have headers on only one side, so they can be used as a "wing", where the shield sits alongside (and above) the arduino. The header's pins form a serial pass through for the pins below. So if you cover pin 8 (for example) on the arduino, plug your component into pin 8 on the shield and you still have connectivity.
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The instructions show male header pins.  These are soldered to the bottom of the motor shield with the male pins pointing down.  The male pins plug into the female headers on the Arduino.

If, instead, you get stacking headers (http://www.adafruit.com/products/85) and solder them to the motor shield with the male pins sticking down you will still be able to plug the male pins into the Arduino and plug another shield into the female headers on the motor shield.

If the second shield conflicts with the first shield you will have to kludge some connections by cutting or bending pins and soldering wires.

That's great John, thanks for the help I really appreciate it. I've ordered a motor shield kit and I'll replace the header pins with the stacking headers you recommended. I'll post a small how-to if all goes well.
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