Electronic Product Design

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 00:00 Written by

circuit board fisheye 200Those First Moments

For an area of continued growth, exploration and of some excitement for future generations of electrical engineers, look no further than the humble Arduino. Comprised of a single-board microcontroller, the Arduino project was breathed into life as a 2005 project for several students at the Interaction Design Insitute Ivrea, Italy. Initial units cost around $100 to manufacture, an outlay deemed too expensive for students.

One of the students involved in the project, Hernando Barragán, evolved the project into his hardware thesis, culminating in the Wiring open source prototyping platform. This platform, designed for rapid protyping between developers of all knowledge ranges, allowed a team to work on reducing the size, weight and cost of the initial board into the $20-27 Arduino home development kit on offer today.

The Arduino board is designed to be integrated into an electrical circuit and is programmed in Java, though Arduino programs are in fact written in C or C++. A key feature of the Arduino board is the range of standardised connectors enabling connection to a CPU board via an add-on shield. Shield is a coverall name for the range of Arduino add-on modules, many of which can be stacked to increase the functionality of the Arduino board.

With all the potential available for the Arduino board at your disposal, you could be forgiven for struggling to consider your genesis project. The Arduino site suggests developing ‘an ever blinking LED light’ to ease yourself into C, C++ and handling electronics hardware. There a number of other outstanding suggestions that will begin to tax your electronics knowledge, teach or update your coding knowledge and provide an engaging experience:

Whilst these projects may seem like small, indulgent pieces of frippery, for those just embarking on an electronics design and programming journey of discovery being able to physically design, build, alter and code their own device can be compelling. We have written previously in this blog about inspiring a new generation of engineers, where traditional schooling does not engage critical thought processes, that a generation or more of young people will be denied access to engaging DIY electronics projects exactly like this.

And, unless more can be done to entice young minds to a lifetime of engineering, of critical thought, of tinkering with mechanical objects, then yes, there will certainly be an electronic engineer skill gap in this country.

Making those first moments with an Arduino engaging does not have to be difficult – nor does progressing your own achievements months down the line. The ready availability of online resources and a wider electronic engineering community provides an outstanding background for transforming the electronic engineering landscape from the bottom up.

 

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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