Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Meet the Arduino Electronic Brick

I've been working with Mindstorms NXT robots for a few years now and I'm just getting into the Arduino open source microprocessor platform. Trying to learn all about it has been exciting as well as confusing will plenty of forehead slapping moments of DUH! its a lot easier than I thought.

With the Lego Mindstorms NXT you had one software package (well there are a few other ones available) and the familiar Lego building system to work with and it was available from a single manufacturer. Even the prices of the hardware seems to be fixed in stone.

The challenge of Arduino is that it is an open source platform which means that any one can design their own version of the product. So there are official versions and tons of modified versions of the main processing board as well as a ton of things called "shields".

Shields are basically add on boards that help to interface with the Arduino boards. There are all kinds of them, prototyping shields, robotic shields, Ethernet shields. Each adds features to help out with various projects. But you still have to jump into the electronics workbench type stuff like soldering or using solderless breadboards. Believe me this is the path I started down, collecting a bunch of stuff for my workbench until I found a shield that makes working with Arduino a lot like the plug and play sensors and motors of the Lego NXT world.

The Electronic Brick Sensor Shield attaches to the Arduinio board and provides jacks for a series of Electronic Brick components. They simply plug in without breadboards or soldering.

"By using electronic bricks, you may connect Arduino compatible boards easily with various digital, analog and I2C/Uart interfaces. These the breadboard-less firm connection are prepared to extensive modules like poteniometers, sensors, relays, servos...even buttons, just plug and play.

Each terminal module has buckled port with VCC, GND and Output, which has corresponding port on the sensing board, with a plain 2.54mm dual-female cable you may start playing already. Buckled brick cables are like cement for bricks, make the connections easier, secure and more professional looking."

The Electronic Brick, an Arduino sensor shield for an easier Arduino hardware interface for beginners and even old pros.

This is great for beginners or kids learning to put together Arduino projects. It simplifies the hardware end of things but will raise the costs of the project. The Sensor Shield sells for $20 and the individual components cost more than loose parts would but they can easily be reused like the parts in the Lego NXT robotic kits. Perfect for schools or workshops.

There are a wide range of sensors and components (leds, push buttons) available including:

Sharp distance measuring sensor(Analog)
PIR motion sensor(digital)
Multi Rotary sensor(analog)
Temperature sensor(Analog)
Mercury tilt switch(digital)
Light sensor(Analog)
Playstation2 analog joystick(Analog)
Lighting Emitting Diode(A/D)
Small push button
Large push button
Capacitive Touch module
Sound module (microphone with amp)

2pin plugable terminal module(digital) This brick is a simple plugable terminal module, you can easily plug some other stuff into this wiitout connect the wire to the terminal every time.

ADXL330 Acceleration sensor(analog)
Carbon monoxide Sensor(MQ7)
Electricity meter(Analog)
Gas sensor(MQ5)
Rotary angle sensor (Analog)
Smoke sensor(MQ2)

5V Relay module (digital) - This Brick uses Omron G5AL relay module to control high-votage elecrical devices. (maximum 250V).

Magnetism switch(Digital)

Lots more than what is available on the NXT plus you can add more sensors to the Arduino and the Arduino is cheaper than the NXT. With Arduino you can afford to build standalone projects and not have to take them apart.

I found my Electronic Bricks on Ebay (seller "pokaralake" also known as Robot Cart) and from

The Electronic Brick series comes from FlamingoEDA

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