Saturday, 17 June 2017

Battle of the Boards

Battle of the Boards

If you have ever seen or made any project that involves an amount of electronics or logic and you are interested in maker community, almost certainly you will have heard of the words 'Arduino', 'Raspberry Pi' or possibly even 'Micro bit'. These names are associated with the popular development boards that rule the D-I-Y project empire. The problem is choosing the right one for your application as they may all be strong contenders. So in this guide I aim to give you an idea about the similarities, differences, strengths and weaknesses of these tiny boards.

Firstly, what is the difference between a micro computer (Raspberry Pi) and a micro controller (Arduino, BBC Microbit) A micro computer has an desktop interface and OS (operating system) that you can access by plugging it into a monitor or a television. A micro controller has no interface, you write a program on a computer and upload just the code to the board with the IDE (Integrated Development Environment). It is able to store and run only one program at a time, but can be programmed again and again.

The Arduino
The popular Arduino Uno
The Arduino is one of the most popular development boards around. Produced in Italy, the first board was introduced in 2005 and was designed to help students who had no previous experience in electronics or micro controller programming to create working prototypes, connecting the physical world to the digital world. You program the Arduino in the free IDE which you install to your desktop on your normal OS. The IDE requires C++/C code which may be daunting for some yet you can find various pre-written sketches. The board features header pins with a variety of functions for interfacing with different sensors and actuators at once. The Arduino has a great community around it. Cost - £18 or $23.
The Raspberry Pi 2

The Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a popular microcomputer produced in the UK by The Raspberry Pi foundation that runs a version Linux. The board was released in 2012 there have been various models since then including the Pi 2, Pi 3, Zero and more. The boards feature a HDMI output for connecting with a monitor or TV as well as several USB ports that you can connect peripherals to like a keyboard or mouse which means the Raspberry Pi can be used a small desktop! Furthermore, the official programming language of the raspberry pi is Python which is easy to learn than the Arduino's C++/C languages deeming it easier create custom programs than the Arduino. You can also use scratch GPIO edition for programming.

The BBC Microbit
The tiny BBC Microbit
The BBC Microbit is a tiny microcontroller that the BBC released last year to every year 7 student in the UK to increase the popularity of Computer Science within schools and encourage children to learn programming. The board is now available to the general public for £13 or $18. The board features a simple 5x5 LED matrix, five connection points for components (e.g temperature lights or buzzers), a compass, an accelerometer, a power connector and more. You can program the board in a block editor, python or JavaScript, making it the most basic board of the three. You upload the code to the board via the supplied micro USB cable. If you require lots of external sensors for our project it will be hard to do with the Microbit yet the board is a great resource to have and certainly perfect for beginners as of it's simplicity yet powerful capabilities for a range of creative projects.  

Find out more at:

Raspberry Pi
BBC Microbit 

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