MAKE Controller Kit
See our projects list below for some ideas on how to use the MAKE Controller.
Wide-ranging fields have been revolutionized ó or even made possible ó by microcontrollers, including industrial robotics, automotive engineering, special F/X, irrigation, interactive exhibits, motor control, and all kinds of research. For a long time these powerful chips, and the tools required to use them, were so specialized that few people could explore their potential without a formal background in electronics and software engineering.
Thatís changing, but the effort required to program a chip and design a circuit is still a barrier that excludes countless creative, imaginative people. Fortunately, new software and tool communities are making microcontroller programming easier and cheaper. Meanwhile, the chips themselves have reached a new level of power, 32-bit designs with built-in networking capabilities. All the elements are in place for the next revolution in general-purpose controller boards: a flexible design that takes advantage of the latest chips but is easier to work with. A controller kit thatís fully programmable, and a great platform for shared code, but that's also fun and configurable right out of the box, without any programming. An open source hardware standard thatís visible enough to attract a healthy developer community, and inspiring enough to make it grow.
The MAKE Controller Kit
Last year, MAKE magazine approached MakingThings to create the MAKE Controller Kit, a next-generation family of modular, programmable controller boards.
We are very pleased with the way the MAKE Controller Kit has turned out. It is an absolute delight to program, and connecting real devices to it is very simple. For the future we look forward to programming more and more functionality into the platform, and seeing what others think of to do with it. Further, we hope the kit attracts a whole new audience to microcontroller programming, and to an overall greater understanding of electronics and engineering.
General Architecture/Processing Power
All schematics freely available.
Atmel SAM7X processor, ARM7, 32-bit, 256K Flash, 64K SRAM, up to 55MHz and 48 MIPS — 10x performance increase over most competitors
Two-board layout—general Controller board plugs into specific Application board.
Controller board makes almost all signals from the chip available.
- 256K EEPROM for additional onboard storage (logging, etc.)
- Ethernet PHY for easy connection to Ethernet jack
- CAN Transceiver for board-to-board communication
- Application board has application specific hardware (motor control, networking (Ethernet/USB/CAN/Serial/SPI), circuit protection.
- If a project does not require all the features of the Application board, users can buy just the Controller board, and design their own Application board, including only the features they need. Otherwise, the MAKE Application board allows users to interface directly to relevant devices (sensors, high current outputs for motors, etc.) and not worry that they're going to break the delicate Controller board.
- Controller board makes almost all signals from the chip available.
Cross Platform—Windows, Mac, Linux. All source provided.
Works as an interface to the PC when connected by Ethernet or USB
- Software to use the board as an I/O interface directly from .Net, Processing & Java, Max & Pd, Flash, C/C++.
Can be programmed to run standalone programs
- Simplified API available to program the board in C—uses operating system (freeRTOS) so that most difficult aspects of microcontroller programming (interrupts, etc.) are taken care of for less experienced users. Otherwise, full access to the chip is available for experienced coders.
- Easily download finished programs developed and shared by others onto your board, no coding required.
- Eventually provide further simplified programming environment similar to Wiring/Arduino.
JTAG connector for fast code download and debug.
Several boards can be networked together (CAN) to create more complex devices with more I/O.
LabView routines from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Polarity protection on power supply circuit
8 10-bit analog inputs with op amp unity gain buffer protection.
8 digital outputs through 2 Half H drivers—high current (1A per coil). Drive 2 unipolar stepper motors, 4 DC motors, or 8 individual outputs (solenoids). Output protection circuit to prevent power spikes from noisy output devices affecting the processor. Driver chips are socketed for easy replacement in case they burn, and replacement chips are cheap ($1 each).
4 standard servo connectors
4 LEDs for program feedback
8 position DIP switch for easy configuration
trimpot for easy parameter modification
Self contained unit—ready to connect to sensors, motors, etc. straight out of the box. No additional hardware needed. Comes with simple/common functions pre-programmed on chip for immediate experimentation. Download free software from MakingThings to begin programming/interfacing.