Tuesday, 7 April 2020

The micro:bit is talking to the VL53L0X ToF sensors!

This chip is no more :(
This morning I got my Arduino sensor driver talking to a micro:bit using SPI.

The Arduino Uno runs at 5 volts, and the micro:bit works at 3v3, so I used a level shifter to connect the two.

My first attempt failed disastrously.

The level shifter I used was based on the TI TXB0108.
I managed to connect the 5v power and inputs to the 3v3 side, and I fear the magic smoke has left the chip.

It's a shame, as the board was my first attempt at soldering SMD devices. It's been sitting unused in my bits box for a few years, though, so it's not the end of the world.

Fortunately I had an Adafruit level shifter breakout based on the same IC. It's well laid out with very clear pin markings and I managed to connect it correctly.

The replacement worked perfectly and the micro:bit MicroPython code was very straightforward. I've listed it below, and it's with the other code on GitHub.

from microbit import *
import struct
from time import sleep


def spi_read(sensor):
    pin16.write_digital(0)  # Chip select
    ibuffer = struct.pack('<B', sensor)
    result =
    pin16.write_digital(1)  # Chip select off
    return result

while True:
    for i in [0, 1]:
        print(i, ord(spi_read(i)))

The technology is working. The next step is to build a compact version for Anastasia. I'll report on progress.

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