Quickly, easily, and securely connect your Arduino Unos, Leonardos, Dues, and Megas (and their chipKIT counterparts) to the outside world without having to solder any of those pesky wires!
Even better, in the spirit of the Arduino community, our Proto-Shield will be Open Source! Once this Kickstarter project is completed, we will release the design files for anyone to download under an Open Source license.
What is a Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield?
The great thing about Arduinos is that they are so easy to interface to the outside world – to monitor the state of sensors and to control actuators and make things happen. As part of this, you often need to add a few components or circuits of your own, and the best way to do this is by means of a prototyping (proto) shield. Unfortunately, most proto-shields don’t make it particularly easy to actually connect wires to and from the outside world. The Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino – which works with Uno, Leonardo, Due, and Mega Arduinos (and also their chipKIT counterparts) – addresses this issue by means of its easy-to-use screw-block terminals.
The Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino features two
boards as shown below (note that the final boards may be a different
color and there may be minor engineering “tweaks” and differences to the
prototypes shown here).
The Master Board on the left works with Arduino Unos and Leonardos. If you are using a Due or a Mega, you will also require the Expansion Board on the right.
Below we see what a fully-assembled Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield Master Board will look like with an Arduino Uno (an Arduino is not included with the Proto-Shield system). On the left we see the two boards on their own; on the right we see two views of the Master Shield plugged into the Arduino Uno.
Below we see what a fully-assembled Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield Master and Expansion Board combo will look like with an Arduino Mega (an Arduino is not included with the Proto-Shield system). At the bottom we see two views of the Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield Master and Expansion Board combo plugged into the Arduino Mega.
How Does it Work?The screw-block terminals featured on the Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino make it easy-peasy to connect your Arduino to the outside world.
Of particular interest is the capriciously cunning dual-pad system employed by our Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shields. The few existing screw-block proto-shields that do exist typically have each screw-block terminal directly connected to its associated header pin and a single pad in the prototyping area as illustrated below. The problem is that sometimes you want a screw-block terminal to be connected to its header pin, but sometimes you don’t. For example, you might want to insert some components between the terminal and the header pin. In the case of our Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shields, each screw-block terminal and associated header pin are connected to two separate pads. If you want the terminal to be wired directly to the header pin, you can easily connect the two pads together; otherwise, you can easily connect the pads into the prototyping area.
If you are anything like us, you will have a number of Arduino-based projects on the go at the same time. Depending on your mood, you might start working on one, then swap over to another, and swap back again later. The real hassle comes when you have to unplug lots of external sensors and actuators and other devices. Many people end up purchasing multiple Arduinos to get around this issue.
This is where the Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino is worth its weight in gold. If you create each project on its own Proto-Shield, then you can use a single Arduino – all you have to do is quickly and easily swap your Proto-Shields in and out. These shields are also great for educational users – students can implement their projects on their own proto-shields and then share a common Arduino.
The Answer to Your I2C Hassles!
Some shields communicate with the Arduino using the 2-pin I2C interface; the problem is that the various Arduinos use different pins to support the I2C interface. Below we see a typical scenario from one of Max's real-world hobby projects. Max is using a Mega, but the I2C-based LCD display was originally designed for use with an Arduino Uno. The result is that the boards have to be connected using flying leads.
Happily, the Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino allows I2C-based Uno shields to work with the other types of Arduino. Below we see the LCD shield on the top, the Ardunio Mega at the bottom, and the Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield Master and Expansion Board combo in the middle. The yellow and green wires connect the Arduino's Mega's I2C pins to their corresponding locations on the Arduino Uno.
Now, using the Arduino-Proto-Shield-LCD sandwich, the LCD shield can be added to the stack without the need for any flying wires as shown below:
The Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System also allows I2C-based Arduino Uno shields to work with Arduino Leonardos and Dues. Don’t worry if any of this is confusing, because the documentation supplied with Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield system will explain everything in excruciating detail.
In addition to authoring well-known books on electronics and computing, Max is a renowned EETimes editor specializing in Microcontrollers, Circuit Boards, Programmable Logic, and Prototyping. Duane is the marketing manager and blog author at Screaming Circuits, which specializes in assembling prototype and short-run circuit boards. In their spare time, Max and Duane design and construct all sorts of electronic and computing “stuff,” from brainwave amplifiers to telepresence robot avatars (be afraid, be very afraid).
One of Max’s current hobby projects is a Pedagogical and Phantasmagorical Inamorata Prognostication Engine (don’t ask). This little beauty features a cornucopia of antique switches, knobs, dials, and meters, all controlled by an Arduino Mega plus a collection of shields. There were two problems with the original design: existing Mega proto-shields don’t include screw-block terminals and I2C-based Uno shields cannot easily be plugged into a Mega. Max talked to his chum Duane, a robotics expert who designs his own circuit boards. Between them, Max and Duane came up with the galaxy’s most Universal Proto-Shield System – anyone working with an Arduino (or a chipKIT equivalent) needs one of these little beauties.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can simply purchase a bare (unpopulated) Master Board or Master-Expansion Board combo, and then source the other components – headers, screw terminal blocks, and reset switch – yourself (we'll provide details as to these components and some suppliers in the documentation accompanying the boards). Alternatively, you can purchase complete kits that include all of the components.
Of course, you'll still need solder and a soldering iron but we'll talk about these in the instructions, and we'll also point you towards some online soldering tutorials if you need them.
In addition to detailing how to assemble the boards, the documentation accompanying your Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino will also cover how to use them to make I2C-based shields designed for use with Arduino Unos work with Arduino Leonardos, Dues, and Megas (and their chipKIT equivalents).
Production plan (or "How we learned to stop worrying and love the board"). The Internet doesn't have a "do what I'm thinking button" yet, so we had to actually plan this out.
Step 1: The idea Completed, otherwise we wouldn't be here.
Step 2: Design the first prototype Completed. In fact, we've made, ordered, received, and are currently using three revisions of the design already.
Step 3: Complete the Kickstarter application Completed. The Kickstarter process is well thought out and educational. It does a great job of getting everything in focus before a project is launched.
Step 4: Find sources and quote the materials Completed. We have two options for sourcing the PCBs (and others as backups). Also, all of the components have been quoted in multiple different quantity levels.
Step 5: The Kickstarter campaign itself In progress. Assuming a start date of 3/27/14, and running for 30 days, the campaign will end 4/26/14.
Step 6: Ordering the materials Depending on the end volume, PCBs will be ordered on either a three or a four week lead time. That can be a painfully long time to wait, but it's what makes this project affordable.
The components are coming from three different suppliers. They'll arrive about three weeks after placing the orders.
Other supplies (e.g., mailing envelopes, shipping labels, parts bags) will, again, be ordered from multiple suppliers. Shipping lead times on these items will vary from one to three weeks.
All of the orders will be placed immediately at the end of the campaign. We anticipate being in possession of all of the items toward the end of May.
Step 7: Fulfilling the Early Bird awards The Early Bird awards are PC boards only. The boards are dependent upon fewer suppliers, which will make fulfillment quicker. We'll ship the 100 Early Birds as soon as we receive the boards, so they should be winging their way before the end of May.
Step 8: Fulfilling the remaining awards We will package and ship these immediately following the Early Birds. Depending on the final volume, this could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
We anticipate that all of the rewards, except the Monty awards, will be fulfilled during the month of June. We will start fulfilling the Monty awards immediately following fulfillment of the Early Bird, Snoozy Bird, and Whole Shebang awards.
Risks and challenges
Design engineers typically like to pretend that there aren't any risks, but there always are. For example, asteroids from outer space could land on our garages, crushing our trucks, which would make it more difficult for us to get to the post office to ship your Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System to you.
What's really important, however, is risk mitigation, so let us tell you about that. First, we no longer park our trucks in our garages, thereby eliminating the possibility of a garage-based "asteroid incident."
We already have a PCB vendor selected. Of course, it is always possible for a PCB vendor to change prices or go out of business. However, we also have a large number of alternates to choose from (we could list ten without blinking).
The same could happen with the suppliers of the headers and screw terminal blocks. Fortunately, none of this is sole-sourced. The biggest risk is that a supplier promises and then fails to deliver. If that happens, again, we have backup suppliers. The worst outcome of parts supplier shenanigans would be a short delay, of which – of course – we would keep you fully informed.
Over-pledged? Being significantly over-pledged has destroyed Kickstarter projects in the past because their founders could not handle the unexpected manufacturing logistics and demands. Fortunately, this project requires limited outside resources. Any required labor can be easily scaled without the need to change the business model. If the volume becomes too high for one supplier, we can easily use multiple suppliers.
Duane has been in the business of seeing products successfully designed and manufactured for more than twenty years. That experience, combined with Max's understanding of the market, makes Max & Duane Galactic Enterprises ideally-suited to bring this project to a successful conclusion.
EARLY BIRD MASTER (Board Only): Be the first. Be the fastest. Get one, count 'em one, early-bird-price Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield for Arduino Master Board. This includes the Master Proto-Shield board for use with an Arduino Uno or Leonardo; you'll supply the rest of the parts yourself. But wait, there's more! Also provided is documentation covering both assembly and usage (in softcopy form that you download from the MDGalactic.com website), personally written by Clive "Max the Magnificent" Maxfield.
SNOOZY BIRD MASTER (Board Only): Get your quantity-one, Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield for Arduino Master Board. This includes the Master Proto-Shield board for use with an Arduino Uno or Leonardo; you'll supply the rest of the parts yourself. Also provided is a link to documentation covering both assembly and usage (in softcopy form that you download from the MDGalactic.com website). You supply the soldering iron-singed finger tips.
WHOLE SHEBANG MASTER: This reward gets you one Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield for Arduino Master Board for use with an Arduino Uno or Leonardo. We'll also include all of the additional components you'll require (headers, screw terminal blocks, and reset switch). Also provided will be the link to outstanding documentation set (in softcopy form that you download from the MDGalactic.com website) covering both assembly and usage that will set the standard for others to follow.
EARLY BIRD COMBO (Boards Only): Get your complete early-bird-price Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield for Arduino Master and Expansion Board combo before anybody else (except that one guy). This includes one set of Master and Expansion Proto-Shield boards that can be used with Arduino Unos, Leonardos, Dues, and Megas; you'll supply the rest of the parts yourself. And Hey! Not only are you the first, your downloadable documentation (covering assembly and usage) will be personally created by Clive "Max the Magnificent" Maxfield in his own fair hand.
SNOOZY BIRD COMBO (Boards Only): Once the early birds have retired to their nests chuckling to themselves, this reward will get you one complete Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield for Arduino Master and Expansion Board combo. This includes the Master and Expansion Proto-Shield boards that can be used with Arduino Unos, Leonardos, Dues, and Megas; you'll supply the rest of the parts yourself. But wait, there's more, because we'll also provide a link to assembly and usage documentation (in softcopy form that you download from the MDGalactic.com website) of such quality it will bring tears (of joy) to your eyes.
WHOLE SHEBANG COMBO: It doesn’t get much better than this! You get everything required to make a complete Bodacious Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino that will work with Arduino Unos, Leonardos, Dues, and Megas. That's everything included in the THE WHOLE SHEBANG MASTER, plus the expansion board and its associated headers and screw terminal blocks, and reset switch). And, of course, also provided will be a link to the assembly and usage documentation (in softcopy form that you download from the MDGalactic.com website) for you to peruse, ponder, and gloat over
FULL MONTY COMBO: This is the one that will make you the envy of your family, friends, and colleagues. You get everything required to make ten (count them, ten) complete Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield Systems for Arduino that will work with Arduino Unos, Leonardos, Dues, and Megas. This includes ten Master Boards and ten Expansion boards, along with all of the extra components (headers, screw terminal blocks, and reset switches) and a printed copy of the documentation (covering assembly and usage). But wait, there's more, because we'll include your name (or a name and/or message of your choice) in the silkscreen on the back of the board (e.g., "Hand-crafted for Cuthbert"). And if that wasn't enough, in addition to having your hardcopy documentation personally autographed by Max, one of us will personally hand-deliver the kits to your home or office (so long as you live near Duane in Canby, Oregon, or near Max in Huntsville, Alabama).
FULL MONTY COMBO ON STEROIDS: This includes everything in the FULL MONTY COMBO, plus you get to pick the color of your boards (black, white, yellow, blue, green, purple available), plus either Duane or Max will personally hand-deliver your Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield Systems for Arduino to your home anywhere within the Continental USA and Hawaii. As a special service we offer, we'll also help you quaff all of the beer in your fridge (quaffing is similar to regular drinking, except you tend to spill more down your chest).
GALACTIC MONTY COMBO WITH WHIPPED CREAM: This includes everything in the FULL MONTY COMBO ON STEROIDS, plus either Duane or Max will personally hand-deliver your Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield Systems for Arduino to your home anywhere in the world (excluding countries currently undergoing a revolution, countries with which the USA and/or UK are currently at war, and France). As a special one-time offer, we'll even supply the libations and snacks.