When I started working at Digilent as a technical writer in 2012, I had no background in electronics or engineering. I spent my first couple of weeks here learning basics of electronics so that I could better write about what we do. I was handed an Analog Discovery and a chipKIT Uno32 to use and do some basic projects. Since it was one of the first Digilent products I used, it holds a special place in my esteem. What makes it so special?
As you probably know, one of Digilent’s major focuses is producing FPGA (field programmable gate array) boards and educating the public on FPGA design. One of the classes I was in last semester focused on FGPA design. This class is EE324 at WSU, which is taught by Digilent’s own Clint Cole. He gave a background lecture on the History of FPGA chips. Not only was it an extremely interesting lecture, but it also helped me understand the huge leaps in logic design that have been made since the 1960s. This is the history that led to the development of FPGA chips. The chips are the parts that Xilinx makes that we use on our FPGA boards.
Our new product, the Nexys4 DDR, is now available for sale! We have been anxiously awaiting this board’s release ever since we received an end-of-life notice from Micron (our memory provider) about cellular RAM that we had been using on all of our Nexys-class products. Rather than strip features off the current Nexys4, we decided to evolve the product line to accept DDR Memory. Check it out now!
When working with microcontrollers, it’s pretty straightforward to have your system board “listen” for an input that you would give it and have it do some sort of action to show that it noticed your input, such as pressing a button to light up an LED. Listening to a set of inputs and then comparing them to a predetermined set, like in the Simon Says game, is a little more involved but definitely doable. But what if we did not compare to any internal values and the system board has no idea how many inputs we might provide?
It’s time for another Pmod feature! Today, we’re going to check out the Connector Pmods. Rather than just being strictly limited to a pure input Pmod or pure output Pmod, all of these Pmods are able to easily communicate with the system board in both directions. Although many of these Pmods might be chalked up to simple “pass-through” modules, I certainly wouldn’t label them that way. These Pmods offer some invaluable features that are otherwise not so easily obtained.
Today we’re going to compare two different ways of increasing the functionality of a system board: Pmods and shields. Those of you have that have been following the Digilent Blog know that Pmods are Digilent’s series of peripheral modules with 6-12 pins that can easily be connected to appropriate pins on a system board to provide extra functionality and include audio amplifiers, GPS receivers, USB to UART interface, seven-segment displays, accelerometers, H-bridges with input feedback, analog-to-digital converters, and much more. For the rest of you who have been in this sector of the electronics industry, you know that shields are a type of board that you can plug directly on top of your microcontroller in a nice pin-to-pin fashion for expanded functionality. Although you might suspect which of these two items I prefer, we’ll check out the advantages of both of them.
In the not too distant past, we made a couple of posts on Pmods that can help drive motors as well as a post on stepper motors. Today, we’re going to check out running multiple servo motors on a chipKIT board. Why would we want to do this? Well, aside from the nice feeling that comes from successfully doing some extreme multitasking, we’d also be able to run some super cool mechatronics projects, such as a robot arm!
Here at Digilent we have a ton of products with a large amount of documentation and examples (like our Learn site and our Instructables page) letting you know how you can use our products. Within all of these, there are statements about what each product is (and is not) capable of in addition to the recommended operating condition. Some of you may be wondering, “How do we know these things?” Much of the information presented is determined from a datasheet. But where do we find this sort of information in the datasheet, or how do we even read a datasheet? Let’s find out.
Computers have several difference ways of keeping track of the information that it is given. Most people in the world, which included myself until recently, might think there are only two kinds of memory: the “random access memory” (RAM) that computers have, and the flash memory that you can put on a thumb drive and carry around in your backpack without an issue. However, despite knowing that these two types of memory are not the whole picture, it was my personal experience that trying to learn more usually resulted in my eyes instantly glazing over; this is rather unhelpful in terms of actually learning something. Keeping this in mind, we’re going to do a broad overview of the different types of RAM, hopefully without the glazing over effect.
Today, we’re going to check out the last chunk of the input Pmods™ that Digilent offers. This set of inputs are slightly different than the inherent sensors that we saw last time. Although these Pmods are designed to give the system board information about the outside world, but this time you are their whole world. These tactile Pmods are designed so that they respond when you physically interact with them. It’s kinda like playing outside…in the comfort of your own home.
It is time to check out another set of the Digilent Pmods! Last time, we looked at a subset of the input focused Pmods, the analog-to-digital converters. Today, we’re going to take a look at more of the input Pmods, most of which incorporate ADCs into their design structure. These ten peripheral modules are all inherent sensors, reporting the temperature, location, light level, or movement without the user needing to physically interact with them.
I really enjoy what I do here at Digilent. I get to work with some of the best tools available for students, professionals, and hobbyists alike. One of the things I like most is how easy it is to get your hands on a good quality microcontroller board, like the chipKIT Uno32. But even once you get a good board, it will still need to be programmed.
As many of you know, it is possible with many types of displays, such as LCDs and LED displays, to create your own custom characters and, naturally, display them. However, to create your own characters, you need to be able to create a bitmap of how your character (or characters) look. We will be working with the PmodOLED and it’s corresponding library to create our own characters.
When using a microcontroller or FPGA, or any electronic component for that matter, you will need access to a source of power. However, when you check out our numerous microcontroller and FPGA projects on our Learn site and Instructables, you’ll notice that most of them use our programming USB cable connected to our computer as a source of power. But what if we wanted to use our chipKIT project somewhere else besides next to the computer? Can we use any source of power? Let’s find out.
We here at Digilent Inc. are proud to be a leading hardware provider for educators, students, professionals, hobbyists, and hackers alike. We have developed numerous devices to help with every stage of developing projects, from learning the basics to prototyping to finished projects. If you can think of it, we have the hardware to help you build it. So it should come as no surprise that we have a few options to choose from should you decide you want a parts kit to go along with your new Electronics Explorer Board or chipKIT Max32. So, which kit is right for you? Well I’m here to help make that decision a little easier. I will be discussing three kits that we offer: the chipKIT Starter Kit, the Analog Parts Kit, and the TI myParts kit.
As we continue on with our exploration of the Pmods, after checking out some of the Output Pmods like the DAC, Audio, and Visual Pmods, we find ourselves at the final set (at least for now) of output Pmods. These five Pmods all drive different types of motors including servo, DC, and stepper motors. Through these Pmods, you can get your project on the move, whether its a robot arm, a box monster, or a line-following robot.