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Friday, 16 April 2010

Arduino on a budget - part 1

Readers will know that I'm a fan of the Arduino, as is my daughter Alex. We currently share an Arduino board. I'm in the middle of a lengthy project, and I don't want to delay her access to the board.

The obvious solution is to get a second Arduino. An Arduino Duemilanove board costs about £25 in the UK , and I'd prefer not to spend that much.

Luckily the Arduino is open source, so lots of companies have developed their own versions.

One popular alternative is the Boarduino from Adafruit, shown above. It's an Arduino clone with a much smaller footprint. You can't use standard Arduino Shields, but you can plug it into a breadboard - hence the name.

If you're based in the UK .:Oomlout:. currently offer the Boarduino for £13.50. I'd willingly spend that much, but a quick web search turned up two even cheaper possibilities; the Paperduino and the Stripboard Arduino.

The Paperduino is a cool idea, but I'm looking for something a bit more robust, and the ability to plug an Arduino clone into a breadboard is attractive. I thought I had all the components for the Stripboard Arduino already, so I started building. It turns out that I have plenty of Atmel™ Mega8s, 16s, and 32s, but not a single 328 - not even a 168.

So I am modifying the design slightly to use an Atmel Mega8; I'll also add a bridge rectifier for polarity protection. It's all too easy to use the wrong polarity wall wart; without some form of protection you can easily destroy the Atmel micro-controller that forms the heart of the Arduino.