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Hey there everyone.  Im wanting to build an animated suit for haloween next year and wanted to get somebadvice on hardware.  I did some programming years ago and am looking forward to getting back into it.  Im wanting to be able to control different patterns while out and about.  I have an idea about what im goingbto do cosmetic wise but how to control it is my challenge.  After reading different sites about microcontrollers this one seems to be the best selection for my requirements.  My main questions are which arduino would be best to use.  The UNO readily available but i know there are other types.  Second question is whats a good rescource for programming?  I have a year to experiment and figure it out. Hahaha

Thanks for any suggestions.   
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It depends on what you want to do with the costume.  For wearable costumes, the Lilypad (http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardLilyPad) might be the ticket since it was designed to be small, and sewn into fabric.

If you don't need that many pins, there are various small Arduino boards that can be soldered onto small boards.  For example, when it was a kickstarter project, I bought 3 digisparks, that I'm hoping will come before January (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/digistump/digispark-the-tiny-arduino-enabled-usb-dev-board).  After they satisfy all of the kickstarter backers, I imagine they will sell them retail.  There is also the Teensy boards (http://www.pjrc.com/teensy/index.html), including the Arm based Teensy 3.0 that was just shipped to kickstarter backers (I have this also).

If you need a lot of pins to control various things, there is the Mega and the new Due.

I would say, given you have a year, don't make the decision on the final form factor now.  Buy a development board like the Uno/Mega/Due now, and iterate on what you want.  When you know exactly what you want, and how many pins/memory/etc. it has, you can look for a board with a smaller footprint.

In terms of power, you should obviously test what you have well in advance and make sure you have more than enough power with a margin in your batteries.  For my Uno, I prefer to use a battery like the EZOPower 5000maH battery with 2 5volt/1amp outputs.  I let my Uno run for a 3-4 days straight running blink before the unit ran out of power: http://www.amazon.com/EZOPower-External-Portable-Rechargeable-Emergency/dp/B0043622O4/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1351701776&sr=8-2&keywords=ezo+power+charger

You want to make sure all connections are secure, since costumes can endure a lot of movement.  I still tend to have at least one thing fall off everytime I go out with my steampunk camera setup, and I have only done some minor stuff with the Arduino.

If you are going outside, you need to think about weather sealing.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 11:55:50 am by MichaelMeissner » Logged

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You want to make sure all connections are secure, since costumes can endure a lot of movement.

As far as secure connections, you can sometimes get away with using modular connectors, i.e. the connectors used for telephone and network cabling.  They are cheap and widely available, but can still be pulled loose under some circumstances.  Free hanging JST type connectors normally hold better and can be found various pin counts.  In-line banana plugs and jacks are also possible, but can be rather bulky.  The most secure option (and usually water resistant as well) would be to use circular connectors with an interlocking threaded shroud like this, but not only is it more expensive once you get above a few pins per connector they become awkward to use on most garments/costumes.  Finally, if you are using conductive thread in a larger section of fabric it's possible to use clothing snaps as a secure connector.
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I was having my electrical panel reworked during Hurricane Sandy to allow more of the house to be powered via generator (last year when we lost power during Irene, we discovered the thermostat wasn't powered, so we had no heat, even though the boiler/water pump were powered).

Anyway, the electrician got a call from one of his other clients, and mentioned something about a military grade RJ-45 setup (RJ-45 is the cat 5/6 cables used for ethernet cables).  I asked him what was a military grade RJ-45, and he said you could pick up your whole computer while it was dangling on the RJ-45 cable.  I would imagine that is secure.
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Anyway, the electrician got a call from one of his other clients, and mentioned something about a military grade RJ-45 setup (RJ-45 is the cat 5/6 cables used for ethernet cables).  I asked him what was a military grade RJ-45, and he said you could pick up your whole computer while it was dangling on the RJ-45 cable.  I would imagine that is secure.

Of course, I meant the type of RJ series connectors you could pick-up at your local store (Radio Shack, hardware store, etc...). smiley-razz  I can believe that the military-grade connectors of any type are more robust and physically secure, but I doubt they'd be as hobbyist budget-friendly as other connectors I mentioned.  Unless you happen to be lucky enough to find some at a surplus store...

Edit: I don't think this is quite what your electrician was referring to, but here's the datasheet for Amphenol's "Ethernet Connection System for Harsh Environment".  It's a set of accessories to harden the ends of an existing standard RJ-45 cable, but you could easily get a couple hundred sets of normal RJ-45 connectors for the price of a mated pair of the most inexpensive options in this product line. smiley 
« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 01:07:35 pm by Far-seeker » Logged

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Wow that was a quick reply..  hahaha. What im doing is using el wire, el pads and some leds.  I really am looking to be able to set up a few basic pattern like having rings going up and down my legs and so fourth.  I did a rough count and come up with 20 independent channels ill need to be able to toggle on and off.  As farbas being able to select how i do it while out is further down the road.  Power wise i have about 10 usb portable usp power packs.  I ran a usb notebook lite for about 20 hours off of one.  That will be the powersource for the arduino.  To power the el wire and pads, im working on using lipo packs for each limb tobmaintain steadypower and not deal with power draining cauging a dimming effect.  I have worked with el wire and pads for auto mobile applications and have had great luck with cat5e wire and connections. Higher voltage and low current.  Im probably going to go ahead and buy a development board and start tinkering.  I see the uno boards all over the place like on ebay and other sites.  Anything i need to stay away from or gravitate toward?
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You are more advanced than I thought from the original post.

If you know you are going to need 20 different actions, you might be heading into Mega/Due territory.  There are ways to do 20 different things with a single Uno, but they are more complex.  An alternative is to have multiple low cost chips, each of which just controls a few actions.

I would say for now, just start with an Uno class machine.  If you go with an arduino 'compatible' board, I would look towards comments about how compatible it is.  If you are going to an official Arduino Uno, I would say make sure it is R3, as it doesn't need a separate FDTI programmer, it can be programmed via normal USB.

I would suggest doing something I didn't do when I bought my Uno with a vendor supplied starter kit.  I just bought the first one that fit in my budget range, and just got a bag of stuff and everything was in a plastic bag, unlabelled.  Instead go to the seller, and see if they have howtos for the  parts you are going to buy.  That way you can get going quicker, and you are also helping vendors who take a little more time to help people get started.  Given you are used to El-wire, you may not need the starter bits most us of start with.  There is now an official Arduino starter kit, but for my money, it is a little pricey.

The vendors that do have good howto's, etc. that I've bought from include:

« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 02:15:11 pm by MichaelMeissner » Logged

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About 16 years ago i was into programming and so fourth so that part im a little backdated on.  Other than that im good with the mechanics part and design.  Im actually going to be using a set of shoulder pads like for football to hold controller, assembly, solidstate relay array and so fourth.  Its the prgramming part im nervous about.  I use to write in basic, a little c+.  I was one of those guys who had his feelings hurt when my last commodore 64 died and they stopped making them.   smiley
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In watching this forum for a couple months now, most of the people are in 4 categories:

  • People who know electronics but are weak on programming;
  • People who know programming but need to be reminded which end of the soldering iron to hold (I am in this category, since I work as a programmer);
  • People trying to learn both concepts at the same time;
  • Masters who know both sides.

Obviously the 3rd set is the hardest since you have to learn 2 different things at the same time.

Just remember, when doing programming, have an idea where you want to end up, but structure your project so it has several intermediate steps, such as adding one effect at a time.  A sure route to frustration is trying to get everything done all at once in a short time period.  It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account, it is going to take longer.

Even if you eventually are going to need the Mega, I would say start with the Uno, as a lot of people have it, and also it isn't as much money spent if you eventually decide to change gears.  The idea is to learn the programming side.  Remember, even the hotshot programmers did not start out knowing everything, and take time to learn the concepts of what you are doing, ie don't just copy examples and modify them without knowing why you are doing it.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2012, 02:27:32 pm by MichaelMeissner » Logged

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Mega is overkill - something  in '1284 familywill do 32 IO and exist already in small form factor.
Scroll down to 3rd board here
http://www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17/  Can send you a bare board for $3. Build up as  you need. Connect an FTDI Basic or FTDI Cable to download a sketch after bootloading, or just program via ICSP & skip bootloader.

Can assemble with right angle connectors & easily plug on crimp terminated wires from pololu.com
I/O pin & ground located around the whole board.
Examples
http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/1906 
http://www.pololu.com/catalog/product/2000
pick a width for the # of pins used - maybe just 2 pins ever to go off to each wiring seciton.
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Designing & building electrical circuits for over 25 years. Check out the ATMega1284P based Bobuino and other '328P & '1284P creations & offerings at  www.crossroadsfencing.com/BobuinoRev17.
Arduino for Teens available at Amazon.com.

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Patience is one thing i do have.  Thankfully that will not hurt me too bad.  I figure ill start with the simple stuff first.  Making the whole thing come on and turn off..  i figure my first big task will be a slow fade on and off..  From there if i can learn how to make it do tricks then it will be even better.  I know where i would like to end up and its pretty advanced.  If i can make it that far i would be suprised.  Another question that i have is about some terminology.  What is a "shield" when they reference like a touch screen display and so fourth?
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Shield is a card that plugs on top of an Uno to provide more functionality.
See shieldlist.org for a whole list of possibilities.
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Arduino for Teens available at Amazon.com.

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A shield fits on top of standard boards like the Uno.  Some shields just give the pins used in a more convenient layout, such as sensor shields which gives you all pins with 5v and ground together so you can use a cable with 3 wires in it, or a screw shield that you can connect wires via screw terminals instead of soldering or just using a female header.  Some shields provide specific devices, such as an LCD screen or networking.   Basically it is an extension board.
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Thanks a lot for all of your help and suggestions.  I think im going to have to sit down one night with a bottle of wine and just go through this forum for hours reading abou different things with these circuits.  Im sure ill be bothering yall more further down the road.   smiley-grin
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I think im going to have to sit down one night with a bottle of wine and just go through this forum for hours reading abou different things with these circuits.

Just as a little Public Service Announcement, drink that bottle slowly...  Drunk posting is never a good idea! smiley
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