An educational platform designed for the Texas Instruments LaunchPad ecosystem with particular emphasis on the MSP430 LaunchPad
An educational platform designed for the Texas Instruments LaunchPad ecosystem with particular emphasis on the MSP430 LaunchPad Read more
About this project
The LaunchPad Explorer by Simply Embedded is an all-in-one BoosterPack designed with the Texas Instruments MSP-EXP430G2 LaunchPad in mind, yet suitable for use with other LaunchPad boards. It has everything needed to learn the fundamentals of embedded systems and get started on your own projects! Using the LaunchPad Explorer in conjunction with the free tutorials at our website, simplyembedded.org, you will learn a broad range of topics in the domain of embedded systems. Both the hardware and software will be released as open source, so you can take the design and use it as a reference for your own projects. Check out our existing tutorials to see what we’re all about and be sure to take a look at the comments sections as well.
What is Simply Embedded?
Simply Embedded has been around for over year and a half as a free resource for learning embedded systems. Conceived initially with a software only focus, we quickly realized that in order to provide quality tutorials, we needed an appropriate hardware platform to teach from. We are two professional engineers from Canada - one hardware and the other software. Together we have over 20 years of experience with embedded systems. We believe there is a big gap in knowledge between the hobbyist and professional, and this is what we are aiming to fill. Simply Embedded has been featured on TI’s E2E community webinar series and have also made TI’s Community Highlight of the month in December 2015.
So what exactly is the LaunchPad Explorer and what can it do?
The goal is to provide access to all the most common microcontroller peripherals with a set of devices/circuitry on one board. We’ve tried to pack as much functionality onto one board as possible while keeping size and cost in mind. It includes:
- SPI NOR flash (16Mbit - 2MByte)
- I2C EEPROM (2Kbit)
- I2C Temperature Sensor
- Dual 7-segment displays (4 digits total with decimals)
- Two (2) I2C IO expanders (one for dedicated control of some LPEx features, the other for general use on a 10 pin expansion header)
- Two (2) instrumentation amplifiers with selectable gain and calibration
- DAC circuitry for PWM based signal generation and control of a current source
With all this one one board, we are able to teach topics like:
- I2C vs SPI, the pros and cons of each and their applications
- Interfacing with and writing drivers for I2C and SPI devices
- Saving microcontroller resources by using a single bus for both I2C and SPI
- Different types of memory and how to choose the right one for your application
- Storing different types of data in non-volatile memory
- Saving pins by using SPI and shift registers to drive 7-segment displays
- Create multi-digit displays that look smooth by rapidly interleaving digits
- Calibrating analog hardware, understanding offsets and applying them to ADC calculations
- Using hardware timers to generate PWM outputs
- Generating waveforms using duty-cycle modulated PWM signals
- Understanding filters and amplifiers and how they impact your software implementation
- And much more...
All these are real world applications that will be valuable to anyone looking to get into the embedded space. Throughout the entire design process, hackability has always been important to us. We have tried to use parts that are that have footprint compatible alternatives, and also easy to solder footprints. Particularly on the analog side, there is the ability for application specific adjustments and calibration, both of which will be explained in the tutorials. The second I2C IO expander allows you connect with other devices, and since the board is in line with TI’s BoosterPack pinout standards, you can stack it with other BoosterPacks.
The current status
We have manufactured several prototype boards which are being used to verify and improve the design. Each of the digital peripherals have been tested for connectivity and functionality. The analog circuitry has been characterized and we are in the process of simulating improvements in the design. We may make some adjustments to the layout, and adjust some values to tune the analog section. In addition we have plans to include some low risk additional features.
The project is funded, what's next?
Once the project is funded, the first step will be to complete he hardware verification. We will prototype all changes and update the schematics and layout. Then we will begin procurement and send out the completed design to several potential manufacturers for quotes. We expect production to take a few weeks (for PCB fabrication and assembly). In parallel, we will begin writing new tutorials and start development of the software support for the LaunchPad Explorer. We will also order packing materials required for shipping. The assembled board will be shipped back to us, where will we individually inspect, test and package each device for shipment to you.
Risks and challenges
As we have done extensive simulation, prototyping and verification, there is low risk from the design standpoint. Procurement and manufacturing are therefore the biggest risk.
Procurement: There is always the possibility that some components may become obsoleted, out of stock or back ordered. Also, pricing can vary based on market situation. We have tried to source parts which are readily available from multiple suppliers, or have footprint compatible alternatives available for a similar price. This should limit any risk in procurement.
PCB fabrication and assembly: The production boards will be manufactured and assembled in a factory that has a good reputation. However, there is always a risk of delays in manufacturing so we must work closely with our contract manufacturer to ensure the schedule does not slip.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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