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Topic: "Electronic Bricks" Sensors, Outputs, more... (Read 3672 times) previous topic - next topic

Terry King

Hi,
I've been looking for low-cost sources for my Arduino workshops and students, and that has grown into an online store:

http://www.arduino-direct.com/sunshop/

I have been working on Educational materials for Arduino and that is the main website: http://yourduino.com

YourDuino is the creation of Terry King and Jun Peng. This is a partnership and collaboration between two friends: An old Engineer from the USA, now living in Saudi Arabia, and a young man from China who is contributing his energy and his knowledge of the Chinese markets to bring you interesting, high-quality products at low cost.  We'll have more news as we get going more, but a first emphasis has been on Electronic Bricks because I find them so useful in Workshops/Classes where we want to concentrate on ideas and code rather than whether the right connections are working on 8 breadboards at once...  And we have fortunately found the originator of Electronic Bricks in Beijing and he is collaborating with us on getting good documentation and examples on out site. This is a work in progress and I have lots more to do on that.

"Electronic Bricks" for Arduino are quite small circuit boards with various components like pushbuttons, sensors for light, sound, infrared signals, temperature, etc. or output devices like LEDs, beepers and more. Bricks have a connector for low-cost cables (15 cents each) that can plug right into an Arduino via a "Sensor Shield".   Take a look here: http://yourduino.com/ElectronicBricks1.htm


Electronic Bricks are especially good for beginners and class situations where you'd like to be really sure about your connections and concentrate on designing software sketches and higher-
level systems.  There are over 40 types of bricks available, and you can see many examples here:

http://arduino-direct.com/sunshop/index.php?l=product_list&c=5

There are also high-function bricks like an Ethernet interface, clock-calendar, motion-detector, audio playback, EEPROM and SD Card storage and various wireless communications modules.  A starter set of 12 bricks is shown here:  http://arduino-direct.com/sunshop/index.php?l=product_detail&p=148

More bricks are being designed and there is a prototype brick to help you make your own..  Please email me with suggestions for future bricks or similar products.

Regards, Terry King

Regards, Terry King  ..On the Red Sea at KAUST.edu.sa
terry@yourduino.com  LEARN! DO! (Arduino Boards, Sensors, Parts @ http://yourduino.com

Graynomad

Hi Terry,

I gather that all the 3-pin bricks use the GVS pinout but I guess the data type on S is different because they are not smart sensors/actuators. Presumably then there will be a library to drive the bricks. Although many are so simple a few lines of example code would do I guess.

What about the higher function bricks? Is there any standard for 4- or 5-pin interfaces or is it more reasonable to add as many GVS cable as required (as the joystick does). This does mean a lot of redundant cables but it's simple and standardised.

Just thinking loud. 4 pins is good for say i2c, serial, or RS485. 5 pins good for SPI. Running 4-5 cables is probably a bit much so maybe there is an argument for 4 and 5-pin "standards". If so the first 3 pins should be GVS, then S2 and S3. Or should V still be in the centre to keep the PIB feature, in which case S2-G-V-S-S3 would keep compatibility and be plug in backwards resistant.

This would allow 3, 4 or 5 pin bricks to plug into the same header.

As for brick ideas. I see there is an RS-485 brick, how about proper RS-232.

______
Rob



Rob Gray aka the GRAYnomad www.robgray.com

draythomp

Great shop and I'm considering ordering a few items to experiment with.  The problem I see at this early stage is a lack of basic schematics for the various devices.  I'm very interested in the 5100 module and a couple of others and would like more detail, especially pinouts of the bricks.  Sample code isn't as important to me as what connections are used and available.  The sensor shield looks like a great item, does it include a 3V power supply to run a bunch of 3v devices?  If it doesn't that would be a great addition for those projects that exceed the tiny supply on the arduino.

See what some people are looking for?  It's annoying to wait a couple of weeks for a device and then find out it won't work because you didn't have enough information to begin with and ordered it hoping it would do the job.  Some minimal documentation would go a long way to solving that problem.  Initially, you don't have to go nuts with this, begin by telling us what pins do what, need what voltage, supply what signals, etc.

Also, it would be great if you carried backlit serial LCD displays in various colors.  I'm particularly fond of the backlit white on black display.  These things are legible across the room and don't keep you awake at night.  This item in your store is another example where more information would be great.  Does it support large characters?  Are custom characters possible?  What are the command sequences necessary to clear the display, change the baud rate, position the cursor.  Does it even have a cursor?

Us tinkerers love to experiment with devices and do fun stuff with them, but we get tired of using a magnifying glass and following traces to find out what a pin is for, and once we figure one device out, will stick with it forever when we move on to another project.  I have a whole box full of devices that either didn't work as described or I couldn't figure out how to use them.  I'm starting to get smarter in this area though and pass up devices that could be great but I'd have to guess too many things to use them.
Trying to keep my house under control http://www.desert-home.com/

retrolefty


Great shop and I'm considering ordering a few items to experiment with.  The problem I see at this early stage is a lack of basic schematics for the various devices.  I'm very interested in the 5100 module and a couple of others and would like more detail, especially pinouts of the bricks.  Sample code isn't as important to me as what connections are used and available.  The sensor shield looks like a great item, does it include a 3V power supply to run a bunch of 3v devices?  If it doesn't that would be a great addition for those projects that exceed the tiny supply on the arduino.

See what some people are looking for?  It's annoying to wait a couple of weeks for a device and then find out it won't work because you didn't have enough information to begin with and ordered it hoping it would do the job.  Some minimal documentation would go a long way to solving that problem.  Initially, you don't have to go nuts with this, begin by telling us what pins do what, need what voltage, supply what signals, etc.

Also, it would be great if you carried backlit serial LCD displays in various colors.  I'm particularly fond of the backlit white on black display.  These things are legible across the room and don't keep you awake at night.  This item in your store is another example where more information would be great.  Does it support large characters?  Are custom characters possible?  What are the command sequences necessary to clear the display, change the baud rate, position the cursor.  Does it even have a cursor?

Us tinkerers love to experiment with devices and do fun stuff with them, but we get tired of using a magnifying glass and following traces to find out what a pin is for, and once we figure one device out, will stick with it forever when we move on to another project.  I have a whole box full of devices that either didn't work as described or I couldn't figure out how to use them.  I'm starting to get smarter in this area though and pass up devices that could be great but I'd have to guess too many things to use them.


That's basically my experience with the various brick modules I have obtained. While I think the basic concept is very good the lack of even minimum documentation for the modules makes selecting and using them a frustrating problem in my opinion.

Lefty

draythomp

Hmmm, doesn't a good set of documentation on a particular device sound like a good extra-credit project for a student starting out in this field?  And you're an instructor.....(wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
Trying to keep my house under control http://www.desert-home.com/

Terry King

Yes, Right! and Absolutely Right...

I'll be working on those issues every day for "A While!".. 

Thanks for the specific feedback and suggestions..

If you have items you'd like to prioritize I'll try to work that in.. 

If I could read Chinese, I'd be ahead of the game.. But I'm getting pretty good at Chinglish  :)  (I can joke about this with Peng because I edited 1 1/2 of his books so far...)

I'll try to get the 5100 Brick info out there soon....

I appreciate your feedback.
Regards, Terry King  ..On the Red Sea at KAUST.edu.sa
terry@yourduino.com  LEARN! DO! (Arduino Boards, Sensors, Parts @ http://yourduino.com

liudr

Terry,

I've purchased a few of these electric bricks from SeeedStudio. They're pretty useful for beginners to explore as much as they can. If they become really interested in electronics, I would hand them breadboards and jumper wires with components, loose sensors and ICs so they can build something of their own. My Phi shields are along that line, beginner/intermediate level and you get to hear some buzzes and see some LED flashes and play with more than a dozen project codes. Then you can do more with breadboards and shields.

I hope you have good success with your business and keep price reasonable (unlike some US distributors).

Terry King

That's a good point: There is / should be a progression from more integrated plug-and-play of bricks and Sketch examples to breadboards, individually-accomplished connections and prototyping of more permanent function. 

In software I take more of that approach; after a few rounds of Bricks and Example sketches, I have students start with a Blank editor, type in just:

Quote

void setup() 
{

}

void loop()   
{

}



And go from there...

I need to think more and more about their perception and experience as they encounter this Arduino world.

You have a lot of teaching experience and I appreciate your comments and direction on this.
Regards, Terry King  ..On the Red Sea at KAUST.edu.sa
terry@yourduino.com  LEARN! DO! (Arduino Boards, Sensors, Parts @ http://yourduino.com

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