Arduino for use in testing a Power Supply. Doable?

I work as the lead of the Power team on a student engineering team here at Auburn University. A few of the underclassmen on the project have asked to be given some design work so they can get more involved. We have tried this in the past with critical project parts, but the result was not favorable.

These guys have been helpful to the program, but when we assign them a project, they end up asking the upperclassmen so many questions about how to design it that we end up doing the design in answering the questions and it just becomes quicker for us to knock it out real fast.

I have made it clear with this new project that I am treating it as if this group of students is a design/prototyping firm and I am a customer and I plan on treating them as a design group when they come asking questions (ie, I will answer question to clarify requirements, but not on how I think the solution should be designed. If I had the time or an idea for a solution, I wouldn't be hiring them to do the design in the first place!) The goal is to get these guys to think for themselves and to try and get used to the design process, contrary to the norm of being spoon fed things in class.

To try and deal with this, I came up with the following project for them:

We currently have a power board that functions as a power supply. The next revision should have all the control circuity functional. Unfortunately, we will not have a CDH system capable of DESIGN PROOFING this EPS functionality. We require something to be built that can be used to DESIGN PROOF all aspects of the EPS board.

  • The apparatus should be built on the standard 12"x5" AubieSAT PCB.
  • The apparatus must be able to be replicated easily (ie, design must be DESIGN PROOFED and finalized).
  • The apparatus must be able to load EPS at variable levels (5v@.5A, 5v@1A, 5v@1.5A, 5v@2A, 5v@2.5A). These must be selectable by both switch and digital line controlled relay.
  • The apparatus must be able to toggle the input power on/off via switch and digital line controlled relay.
  • The apparatus must be able to be easily connected to an appropriate power supply (bench or wall wart).
  • The apparatus must allow for battery/ies to be connected if a battery board is unavailable.
  • The apparatus must be able to control any and all of the EPS control lines.
  • The apparatus must be able to interface with the ADC on the EPS and battery boards via the I2C lines in the ICD/Headers
  • The apparatus must be able to log any and all data from the ADCs and reference it to a date/time timestamp and to the control inputs selected.
  • The apparatus must provide visual confirmation of the state of the control lines and load level via LED's or some other ON BOARD display.
  • The apparatus must be able to provide real time/real time average of measurements back to a PC displayed to a GUI for use during tests.

I recommended that they consider using an Arduino for the control of this system as it seems to be an easy platform to develop on. My question is this, Are there any requirements listed that the standard Duemilanove or a Seeeduino can't do? I am not really familiar with working with Arduino's although I do have a few. I've read the features and they should be able to handle this, but I wanted to run it by people that have used these boards in the past.

The only thing that I am worried about is that I want some datalogging ability, but I was going to have them do that over SPI to a uSD card, but I don't know if that will be possible...

Any thoughts, comments, questions, concerns?

Could you say what CDH stands for?

The Arduino can certainly control a few digital outputs that could be used to switch dummy loads into the circuit. The students will need to design the interface from TTL-level pins to the high current switches. There’s a serial port, so that would be one way to do data logging, and there are six 10-bit analog input pins, which could be used for voltage monitoring. So it sounds like a quite feasible project.

CDH = Command and Data Handling

Ya, Relays should be easily control through the use of transistors to toggle the coils.

Well, I don't want to have to rely on there being a computer present to do data logging. This device needs to be as self contained as possible. I figured them SD card would be easy to implement, I've got a paper here somewhere on how yo interface it with an MSP430, so it shouldn't be too hard for them to do and I'm sure it has been done on Arduino before.

There is already a very high precision ADC on the board that this apparatus would be tested. The apparatus can check other lines if it want's to, but the power supply to be tested already has ADC's in it for use when the final system gets integrated.