Monthly Archives: March 2015

Herts BCS meeting, March 2015

My son Tom and I attended the monthly BCS meeting last week in the Lindop building at the University of Hertfordshire; a fantastic session entitled “Kit Computer: Talk, Build and Program” presented by Mr Stephan Barnard of Noble Touch Ltd. The talk covered the design and build of a simple computer based around the ATmega328 microcontroller – the heart of the Arduino hobby kit, –  and programming it as a lightmeter, among other things.

It was probably the best attended of the BCS meetings I have been to in Hatfield; at least 80 people, many of them students. no surprise really as it was a practical session, with a free kit computer.  The slides, such as they were, are here. It was however very much a practical session. We were given a small bag of components, some instructions, and then left to get on with it.

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Stephan talked around the subject while we worked, explaining what the components were for (for instance, the crystal oscillator is used to provide a faster clock signal than the mega will if left to its own devices) and other things you can do with the chip – for example have a look at the self-balancing two wheel robot, here.

After 90 minutes, we had a working light meter, that also functions as a disco light system for small woodland creatures.

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This picture is quite bright.

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This picture is not. Putting the photoresistor next to an LED is possibly a design flaw.

We also knew a lot more than previously about how to pulse LEDs so that they can be driven at higher than recommended voltages, the dangers of ordering a few gross of short wires from Ali Baba and how to use software to emulate a 50 kilo-ohm resistor. Let’s face it, we knew nothing about any of these things to start so it wasn’t hard to come away enlightened.

The lad found all this very impressive; our Arduino clones are on order, due to arrive next week, and luckily, so we don’t have to scratch around wondering what to do with them, we’ve been asked to write a review of “Python Programming for Arduino” for Packt. Which is nice.

Anyone casting about looking for a potential speaker or activity for a meeting, say, could do very much worse than speak to Mr Barnard. I can thoroughly recommend him for providing an engaging and interesting evening, and the small flashing souvenir is very Mr Benn. The next BCS Herts meeting is on 16th April at the Steria Campus in Hemel Hempstead. It’s entitled “The Origin of British Computers” and is presented by Alan Wray, late of this parish; it may therefore be of particular interest to older Hertfordshire employees; I’ll probably not take the boy. http://www.herts.bcs.org/future.htm

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