The chipKit’s uC32 board’s shape and size may make it look like another Arduino clone but it has a lot more power and possibility. Five times as fast, with more than double the I/O pins of an Arduino Uno, the uC32 would be a great board for the maker with an ambitious project in mind.

While most boards in the Arduino community use AVR and more recently Arm chips, the uC32 has a Microchip Pic32 microcontroller at its core. In the past, PIC microcontrollers have often been a challenge for intermediate and beginner electronics makers, requiring expensive or complicated development environments. This is not the case with chipKITs boards. You can use the standard Arduino development environment. From inside the Arduino software you will need to install the additional chipKIT boards, much the same way you might for Adafruit for Sparkfun boards.

ChipKIT has done a good job laying out the board and labeling pins to match the standard Arduino layout. This means you can run many standard Arduino examples and libraries without any tweaks. The additional pins on the uC32 have been set just inside the standard pins of the Arduino. Labeling is tight on a board with so much going on but relatively clear.

This board is probably best for a maker with some experience. In addition to installing new boards in the Arduino environment, you will need to use a number of jumpers to change how the pins operate. For instance, to run a sketch with I2C communication you will need to switch those pins from operating as analog inputs to I2C clock and signal.

The uC32 could serve a variety of needs — its speed and 12 analog inputs might make a great choice for an audio project. Its two serial buses could allow you to use it as the middleman between older and newer hardware. ChipKIT also sells several shields for their line of boards allowing for Wi-Fi, motor control, or easier I/O. If you’re interested in exploring PIC microcontrollers this might be a great way to start; You can swap the Arduino environment for Microchip’s MPLAB X IDE which allows for more advance features like debugging. You will need an additional programmer to use the MPLAB with the uC32.

The uC32 is a powerful board that would serve an advanced maker well.