Lady Ada motor shield and LCD

I'm currently attempting a project that requires the use of three DC motors and an LCD display. I'm all but set on using an Arduino and the motor shield from ladyada for this project, but I can't find any information on using the motor shield AND an LCD on the same Arduino board.

Does anyone out there with any motor shield experience know of an LCD that will connect to the Arduino+motor shield configuration without too much hassle?

I've searched the forum and one individual has taken to using i2c and two arduinos to achieve this goal, but I was hoping to keep cost down by using just one Arduino. Any thoughts?


I didn't think the motor shield used that many outputs from the Arduino... in which case, there is no problem running a 4-bit LCD interface.. You need about 6 pins for the LCD.. 4 for the 4-bit interface, an enable pin and an RS pin. The enable tells the LCD to listen to the data coming in and the RS selects data or command mode when it is toggled. The RW pin can just tie to ground and the rest of the pins are +5v, Gnd and a trim resistor for the LCD contrast/bias.. they don't use up any pins for those features.

Unless you modify the 4-bit library(easy to do), it is coded to use d4-d7, d8, d9, etc.. You're best to use d4-d7 for the 4-bit port as you want 4 contiguous pins for ease of coding..

The biggest issue is that some shields cover ALL of the pins on the arduino board.. so unless it has pass-thru connectors to allow you access to the unused pins, that may create a small issue trying to tie in other parts..

Look at the spec sheet for the motor shield you are using and see what features it offers/needs.

Thanks for all the good advice, dnear1. I'm totally new when it comes to the Arduino thing. I'm also asking questions before I purchase the device because I don't want to end up purchasing something that won't be able to accommodate all my needs. So when I say 'seems like it will work', I'm basing that off of online sources and not something I'm holding in my hands.

The motor shield from ladyada is located here: Motor Shield - Arduino motor/stepper/servo control and to me it looks like it frees up the digital and analog pins across the top and bottom. The LCD tutorial I was looking at (and considering using) is this one: Arduino Tutorial - connecting a parallel LCD. This tutorial incorporates a 16x2 LCD, which is a good option for me.

I believe this will work since it leaves the digital pins I need free, and I think I can get to 5V and GND terminals for the contrast and LCD power easily enough. If anyone sees any glaringly obvious reasons why it won't work, please let me know.


questions about ladyada/adafruit products should be posted to -> that way you can can get the best info :smiley:

Thanks! In the future I'll direct my ladyada related questions there.

just so you know, i was having the same issues… and there aren’t enough pins on the motor shield to run an lcd that is not i2c or serial.

I happened to have multiple arduinos on hand, and just wired it to one and connected the motorshield to another. I then use i2c to connect and send lcd commands.

See my thread here …

one needs 6 pins to control an LCD (4 bits + enable + rs) and that is certainly available as all the analog pins are unused
youll have to modify the 4bit library for those pins, tho

ahhh .. but if you are using the shield on a robot, and have any sensors like mine, the ping, three ir sensors, and two photocells, there is a problem with not having enough pins.

Don't get me wrong.. i love the motor shield. I think we need a bigger arduino... with like 10 analog and 30 digital.. that would rock.

Not to get OT, but while I love love love Arduino in so many ways, its form factor is one thing that only makes me more frustrated the more I work with it.

BoArduino (and now, iDuino) are much more convenient.

Shields would be more useful if:

  1. They were always stackable, and
  2. They clearly identified the pins they used.
  1. They were always stackable, and
  1. They clearly identified the pins they used.

Thanks for the input...seeing as I'll also be needing at least a thermister and IR rangefinder for my project, I may end up having to go the i2C route. I might also abort the LCD approach and try to find an alternate solution....perhaps just reading the data to a computer via a USB connection after the robot has performed its duties instead of writing the data to an LCD.

I'm going to show what a hardware noob I am now. Is there any type of LCD I could use that would take less than 6 pins? A 16X2 would be convenient, but I think I could away with a 16X1. Would less rows = less pins or is that just wishful thinking? In considering the sensors I need to use. I think I'm going to need at least 4 I/O pins. Seeing as I have 8 left over after the motorshield (2 digital 6 analog) and it will take 6 to control the 16x2 display, I'm going to come up just short...

I've seen some tutorials on i2C, so I think it's something I can figure out. If not, I know I can always come here if/when I get stuck :).

Thanks again, everyone.

You could always go the serial route… using a parallel lcd… via a serial backpack…

Check out modern device’s serial lcd backpack… it lets you interface a standard parallel lcd and convert it to a 3 wire (5+, Gnd, Data) via a pic chip.

Hope that helps.

Thanks for the link grinan. This looks like a good solution for me since I'm coming up just short on pins with the current setup. Also the fact that you can get it fully assembled for under $20 is a big plus as well. I'll do a little more reading on it later tonight.


Thanks for the links!! Need to use them pins…:slight_smile:

When you start running out of pins, don't forget about the Sanguino board recently developed by the RepRap people:

It can almost be thought of as Arduino's big brother. The theory is that you make some minor changes to the Arduino development environment and send the same sketch you used with the Arduino and like magic you have more pins and more space for your sketch. I haven't tried it out yet, so I don't know how hard it is to get one up and going.

24 digital i/o pins (6 PMW), 8 analog.

The kit is $25. The board does not have the USB chip on it, so don't forget to pick up a USB to TTL cable if you don't have one. ($20 at the same site)

I had seen the sanguino, and see they say it's compatible, but i wonder what changes are needed to the arduino environment to make it totally compatible.

To add a little bit of closure to this thread, I got the LCD kit from and the motor shield from Adafruit this weekend. I soldered both and got them each up and running individually using the Arduino.

The LCD kit looks and functions fantastically. Also, Paul at is a great help and answers e-mails very promptly.

When I tried to interface all three components (arduino, motor shield, and LCD kit) I got an error that my USB device was drawing too much current. This didn't really surprise me consiering how much I was trying to power of a 5V USB supply. I'll power the motorshield externally using a 12V DC supply tomorrow and see if it resolves the issue.

In short, though..check out this LCD kit if you need a pin saving solution. It's great!

haha, just checked the forum after ordering a few from moderndevice...:slight_smile:

yeah, for motors, running off Arduino power is ok for your motor to twist out its "hello world" rendition, but you need power for a real motor party!