Introducing Digilent’s newest addition to the Basys family! The Basys MX3 is a true MCU trainer board designed from the ground up around the teaching experience. We’re especially excited about this board as it was born out of direct feedback from our customers!
Time and time again, we heard from instructors that despite the number of microcontroller boards out there, it still feels like the majority of them are made as a vehicle for the silicon rather than a true tool for teaching and learning embedded systems. We heard that message and decided to build a board that would solve this problem. Even down to the clarity of the silk screen, we thought long and hard about the little details that would make a difference to students and instructors.
Basys MX3 features the PIC32MX370 from Microchip and was designed to be used with the MPLAB X IDE. As shown in the above image, we’ve included an exhaustive set of peripherals that were chosen to give students exposure to a wide range of embedded systems related concepts, while also providing instructors with flexibility in curriculum design.
Some key features not apparent in the above images are:
- Processor/IC: Microchip PIC32MX370F512L Microcontroller
- MIPS32® M4K® core runs up to 96 MHz using onboard 8 MHz oscillator
- 512 KB of Program Flash Memory, 12KB of Boot Flash Memory
- 128 KB of SRAM
- Four Direct Memory Access (DMA) Modules
- Two SPI, Two I²C, and Five UART serial interfaces
- Parallel Master Port (PMP) for graphics interfaces
- Five 16-bit Timers/Counters
- Five Input Capture Modules, five Output Compare Modules
- 85 I/O pins
- 54 pins support Peripheral Pin Select (PPS) for function remapping
- Three analog capable pins available via Pmod ports
- Program/debug the board directly from MPLAB X IDE without the need for an external programmer/debugger
The Development Environment
At Digilent, we’ve always believed that students need to get their hands on professional grade tools right from the start. That’s why we used the PIC32MX370 32-bit microcontroller, programmable with MPLAB X IDE. MPLAB X IDE is free software that allows the students to program the board directly in C, rather than some form of abstracted C such as is seen with the Arduino IDE and MPIDE, which are not as often used in industry. In addition, MPLAB X IDE will run on Windows, Mac OS and Linux, and has a very useful getting started training for beginners to get up and running with the feature rich tool outside of the classroom.
Free and Open-Source Coursework
Basys MX3 is the first Basys board to also come with a complete set of coursework designed to give teaching professionals flexibility in designing embedded systems and other microprocessor courses. With almost 300 pages of material, “Embedded Systems Basys MX3 and PIC32MX370” covers topics from toggling LED’s to motor control and introduction to digital signal processing. Although the board itself could be used to teach a range of microprocessor courses, the coursework was written to target the sophomore/junior level embedded systems courses. Topics of the coursework include:
- Microprocessor IO
- Elements of Real-Time Systems
- Parallel IO and Handshaking for LCD Control
- Communications – Serial Protocols
- IrDA Communications Protocols
- Analog IO and Process Control
- Audio Signal Processing
It is important to note that the coursework is completely free and open-source. Therefore, instructors are encouraged to use it however they see fit, including reposting content anywhere they like without the need to credit Digilent. We know how hard it can be to update course material and we want to make it easy!
If following along with the coursework exactly as we’ve written it, you will need a few hardware add-ons including a Digilent DC Motor, Digilent Stepper Motor, external power supply and some jumper wires. These will be available in an additional Lab Bundle coming soon. Users will be able to get both the Basys MX3 and the additional Lab Bundle for a total of 150$!
Please stay tuned for more information coming out about this new and exciting product! If you have any questions, please visit the Digilent Forum or comment below!