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The Electronics Present

I’ve not done any kind of electronics since my secondary school days when I cobbled together some basic circuits for a lamps which would switch off after a minute once you activated the timer. To be honest, I don’t really remember how it was supposed to work as my teacher, Mr Bayliss, actually took over and designed the circuit for me. It’s quite lucky that the damned thing never worked in the first place, but I always enjoyed doing it and the concept of actually making something useful is still very appealing to me.

 

The Raspberry PI CamJam Kit

My wife, bless her, bought me a little tin of electronics called the CamJam Edukit, for my birthday. This little beauty was numbered #2 sensors and the contents of such can be seen below:

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The issue I have is that this package was bought for me in October, and I haven’t as yet even opened the thing to explore the insides. Now it is a whole month later, I thought I’d better do something with it, and so I will begin to follow some of the tutorials found on the CamJam site:

You can also buy this box here.

Bear in mind you do need a Raspberry Pi to undertake this project, so if you haven’t got one of these, I suggest that you get yourself one now. I will have a blog post later about the wonders of the Pi, as it does so many things other than being a part of an electronics, but for now, just get yourself one from the official seller here and I will return to this subject at another time.

Anyway back to the CamJam package, which upon opening, we can see the numerous components which can form the basis of a few exciting projects. The kit when laid out looks like this:

Kit Contents:

  • 1 x Breadboard
  • 1 x Immersible temperature Sensor
  • 1 x PIR Sensor
  • 1 x LDR
  • 1 x Active Buzzer
  • 1 x Red 10mm LED
  • 1 x Blue 10mm LED
  • 1 x 4.7K Resistor
  • 2 x 330 Resistor
  • 10 x M/F Jumper Wires
  • 4 x M/M Jumper Wires
  • 1 x Presentation Tin

So now, I have everything I need to start my electronics project, right? Well being the unabashed spending machine that I am, I couldn’t help but continuing to buy more things until I had absolutely everything that I needed. My thinking was that while I knew I could use a Raspberry Pi to do my programming, A lot of tutorials are geared towards using something called an Arduino board, particularly the Duo. You could read all about it here, but in short, here is a little excerpt about the Arduino:

What is Arduino?

Arduino is an open-source prototyping platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs – light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message – and turn it into an output – activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online. You can tell your board what to do by sending a set of instructions to the microcontroller on the board. To do so you use the Arduino programming language (based on Wiring), and the Arduino Software (IDE), based on Processing.

Basically the choice for me seems to be use the Raspberry Pi with its IO ports directly or use a computer with the Arduino IDE to program. I shall be trying to explore both.

Arduino and other bits

After a brief shopping foray on Amazon and eBay, I managed to get the following:

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A big bag of breadboard cables Male to Female and Male to Male

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A USB to serial converter board. You can also get drivers from here for the mac.

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A miscellaneous bag of components (resisters, leds, variable resistors, capacitors)

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An Arduino Uno Compatible Revision 3 board

Instead of buying a standard Arduino board for £17 or so, I opted for a cheap Chinese derivative for a fraction of the cost. However, I had so much trouble getting this to work on my Mac but i just didn’t know why. I tried this driver available here which was available on the Kiguino blog post, but it didn’t work for me.

It turns out it might not have been a great idea as the drivers that i need to use for this board to program it from my Mac are not fully supported, as Mac El Capitan does not allow unverified drivers. Ouch. Back to the old un-secure windows instead it seems which after installing the drivers, worked first time.

UPDATE:

There is a driver now that works with El Capitan here.

In part two, I will be trying to make a basic circuit.

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