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It’s not just code…

I’m not sure how many people are aware that Code Club also has regular sessions downstairs, that focus more on hardware than software. These are much less structured than the formal lessons going on upstairs, but there is still plenty of learning and exchange of ideas going on!

Last Saturday was world Arduino day, so we though we’d better show off a little of what the Arduino can do. Before too long, we had the obligatory array of flashing lights, and our younger members soon had messages scrolling across an 8×8 matrix of LEDs. Another person was learning how to read inputs from a button, and then control an output when it was pressed.

Dylan brought in a project he’d designed and made after being knocked of his bike – a very bright set of red lights controlled by a microcontroller very similar to the type used in an Arduino. These make a great way to control lights efficiently using Pulse Width Modulation which doesn’t waste power like using a resistor can. We were also treated to a demonstration of a Digital Storage Oscilloscope which can capture digital pulses on a screen for subsequent analysis, and makes fault finding in fast digital electronics so much easier!

A few Raspberry Pi’s also put in an appearance. One of these was the media centre we had built last week, which had stopped working. It seems that the YouTube app has been removed from the Raspbmc software we installed. We couldn’t find a way to put it back…

As well as the hardware tinkering going on, we had some great conversations too. Topics ranged from how to design PCBs on a computer and then get them manufactured, through to the benefits of using interrupts instead of loops in time-critical software applications. We also heard how FPGAs work, and Dylan has used these to make Ethernet interfaces for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. We watched a video of a multiplayer LAN game running on these venerable machines!

If you want to learn a particular skill, or you have something you’ve built which you’d like to show off, then make sure you call in to see us soon!

In the meantime, here are some photos from Isle of Man Code Club Arduino Day:

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