Week 2: Introduction to Embedded Programming

 

We started week 2 with an introduction to embedded programming and electronics. I couldn’t attend the lecture and briefing physically due to an illness but I was lucky enough because Alexandros wasn’t there either so I could join them in Skype (thanks for that).

 

And so he went trough the basics of embedded programming, which was very useful to me because my memories from high school are very faded and definitely couldn’t have been applied to a real life situation.

So briefly, Transducers read the environment – they are sensors that measure different variables. Could measure temperature, sound, heartbeat, pressure, movement and so on.

Actuators are the “result” and are activated by the presence of Transducers. They are what we sense and perceive as consumers of an electronic circuit  – could be LEDs, bulbs and so on. Sensors can be either digital(on/off; switches, buttons, game controllers, etc. ) or analogue( are continuous, measure a current state of the environment; dials, sliders, light sensors, temperature sensors, etc. ).

Micro-controllers are the brain of a circuit. They carry the algorithm which is the recipe of what we want to achieve, the instructions. Arduino is not a micro-controller, it uses micro-controllers. We tell the micro-controllers what to do using programming languages. They convert English into machine-code or in other words the language of the micro-controller.

 

The following session was an electronics workshop with Dennis Flynn. We learned how to use Arduino in order to blink a single LED and how to solder.

Our assignment for the week was to create a blinking letter – in my case an “I”.  I had several ideas of how to achieve this. The first and most ambitious one was to create an LED 8×8 matrix and to program it in such a way that it lights up different LEDs shaping the letter I in various fonts (because that’s what would integrate graphic design in the circuit). Unfortunately I gave up on this idea because of the limited time and the fact that I am a complete beginner. I had to use transistors within it and loads of programming and complex junctions.

Another thing I was thinking about was to trace the letter using LEDs. I actually started this one, and even though it sounded absolutely basic to me before I started, I found that it is not as easy as it seems and my limited knowledge in the electronics field troubles me further (I should have listened to my Physics teacher, realizing it too late though 😀 ) . So I was struggling with this one until the end of Monday and when I needed some tools I found out that it was too late and they were locked securely out of my reach 😀 )

To have something for Monday I decided to use the prototype board and make a basic “i” letter consisting of 2 columns and 7 rows and play around with code to make a funky light pattern. That one was successful though.

I do not regret the “wasted” time trying to achieve the harder options because I learned a lot during my research about what I can and what I can’t do. I think that now I would be capable of achieving a lot more in the same time boarders.

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