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Microcontrollers: basic description (part 1)

Updated: Apr 12

Today we’ll talk about microcontrollers and their application.

Microcontroller is a chip to control electronic devices.

Any device, including the most basic, requires a microcontroller (MC). Any MC has an internal firmware that can be easily programmed.

1. Blinking

If you want a blinking light source (LED strip light, clusters or regular or incandescent bulbs), an МC has to be used. In order to achieve this, a frequency and the blinking time should be specified in a program. Blinking can be set at regular intervals or according to a program, such as Morse code, for instance.

2. Connecting devices

Various measuring devices (voltmeters, ammeters, thermometers, tachometers, light meters, etc.) can be connected to a microcontroller. So why connect measuring devices? A simple example: let’s say, we have a closed space, inside of which a cooler and a temperature sensor are built, both connected to a microcontroller. A temperature threshold, turning the cooler on, is programmed. Note: any device can be used instead of the cooler:

  • A bulb/diode can light up upon reaching the threshold temperature mark

  • An electromagnetic/electromechanical lock may be set off

  • A display might turn on

  • An access to another devices might get unlocked

3. Data analysis

Microcontrollers can be set to analyse the data that is being received. For example, there is a task to determine which of the connected buttons was pressed first. The MC sensitivity is programmed for 50 milliseconds; therefore it sends a signal to the buttons with programmed frequency. Then, depending on the goal, an MC can:

  • Block "loosing" button or vice versa

  • Turn on a certain led to indicate the winner

  • Display data on “speed” of the reaction

  • And much more

One more example of data analysis

MC is able to analyse the sequence of sensors triggering. A simple example: 9 buttons are connected to the MC in the circuit, and the user has to press the buttons in the correct order. If the sequence is correct, an «action» happens:

  • Turn on a certain led to indicate the winner

  • Open the lock

  • And much more

A lot of additional programmed “functions” can be added:

  • The sounds from the speakers/photodynamical may transmit sounds upon pressing the button

  • A “delay” may be programmed. After this delay is surpassed, the pressings will be cancelled

We tried to give a simplified explanation to illustrate the capabilities of the microcontrollers. We have described only a small part of the capabilities that we use in our production (constructions and props for the interactive quests).

To be continued!

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