I am currently planning the series of articles (and videos hopefully) on interfacing MMF2 with electronics, which I mentioned on my first news post .
Currently I am aiming to try and keep the materials cost as low as possible for two reasons : it's a hobby for fun and secondly if people do not enjoy electronics I do not wish cost to be a significant burden. Hence I am trying to maximise the number of things people can build with a fixed set of parts.
Each article will build upon the previous one in terms of complexity, leading up to some hopefully pretty cool projects
1) What you need, Microcontrollers, The Arduino and a blinky "hello world"
2) Basic communication to the PC, reading sensors and displaying data
3) Basic analogue components and their uses: diodes, resistors, capacitors and NPN transistors.
4) A simple temperature monitoring device.
5) A programmable persistence of vision "wand", with patterns programmable in MMF2
6) Pulse width modulation and motor control
7) A low cost light based Theremin using MMF2 with pitch and volume control.
If anyone has any projects they would really like to see, please chip in .
* USB control - without installing any extra interface cards in the computer (or any extra software beyond a .dll file),
* Perhaps eventually Bluetooth control (I believe the interface cards are still too pricey to use in my project),
* Control of multiple servo motors - including winch servos with continuous rotation,
* Control of RE-380 / RS-550 class electric motors, via an electronic speed controller.
If I'm honest, the other stuff doesn't really interest me, as I have no practical application for it.
The little projects are really aimed at teaching people a bit of electronics, whilst building something moderately fun and cheap. I want to keep the course simple, but not too simple that it merely becomes a parrot fashion experience i.e. repeat what I do and all will be fine, this seems to be the way things are going elsewhere and I dislike it!
I have looked at the Pololu servo controller. I would much rather people used an Arduino to be honest. There is lots of support, daughter boards (shields in arduino speak) and projects already out there for people to try after the course. Also the arduino uses C, with simplified initialisation and IO functions. The Pololu thing looks a mix of BASIC & Forth (both of which IMO should no longer exist!). Being able to program in C is a good transferable skill to have, where as the scripting language for the Pololu is a dead end in terms of transferable skills.
Anyway in answer to the original questions:
* All you will need is a USB A to B lead, the type used on printers and scanners. You will need the FT232 driver, although windows 7 and Ubuntu have these inbuilt (well they set it up automatically for me with no problems). Control will be done using an MMF2 extension and nothing else .
* Bluetooth modules can be brought for respectable money now (I brought one years ago for about £50!)
Tempted to have a go at doing some basic rf control
* I have some servos somewhere, some I have already modified for continuous rotation (wondering if I have any standard ones spare). The PWM motor control aims to cover controlling servos and plain vanilla DC motors.
* I have no ESC controllers (I used to race petrol remote control cars, not much use for them!). Such devices should accept a standard 50 Hz servo PWM signal. If we can control a servo, we can control a bigger motor via an ESC.