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Arduino Esplora: ATmega32U4, Sensors, Linear Pot, Stick, Buttons US$58.93

Arduino Esplora: ATmega32U4, Sensors, Linear Pot, Stick, Buttons

The Arduino Esplora is a microcontroller board derived from the Arduino Leonardo. The Esplora differs from all preceding Arduino boards in that it provides a number of built-in, ready-to-use sensors for interaction. It's designed for people who want to get up and running with Arduino without having to learn about the electronics first.

For inputs there's a joystick, four buttons, a light sensor, a slider, a microphone, a temperature sensor, and a 3-axis accelerometer. For outputs there's a buzzer and a three-color LED. At first glance, the Esplora looks like a videogame controller. In fact, it comes with a game controller script already loaded and a micro-USB cable, so you can play with it right out of the box.

It also has the potential to expand its capabilities with two TinkerKit-compatible input and output connectors, and a socket for a color TFT LCD screen (which you can add as an option at the bottom of this page). With the LCD added, you'll be able to create original games on your very own open-source console. The TFT LCD socket alternatively could be used for other devices that use the SPI protocol.

In the upper left corner of the board, there is a reset pushbutton that you can use to restart the board. There are four status LEDs: ON (green) indicates the board is powered; L (yellow) is connected directly to the microcontroller and is accessible through pin 13; RX and TX (yellow) indicate data receipt and transmission via USB.

Like the Leonardo board, the Esplora uses an ATmega32U4 AVR microcontroller with 16 MHz crystal oscillator and a micro-USB connection which allows for serial (CDC) communication over USB so it appears as a virtual com port to software on the computer. The chip also acts as a full-speed USB 2.0 device, using standard USB COM drivers. It requires no drivers to be installed for Linux or Mac (for Windows a .inf file is included with the Arduino IDE software). The Esplora thus can appear as a generic keyboard and mouse, and can be programmed to control these input devices using the Arduino Keyboard and Mouse libraries.

The ATmega32U4 has 32KB of Flash memory (with 4KB used for the bootloader). It also has 2.5KB of SRAM and 1KB of EEPROM (which can be read and written with the EEPROM Library). It operates at 5V.

The Esplora can be programmed with the Arduino software (download below). Select Arduino Esplora from the Tools → Board menu. For details, see the Getting Started Page (link below).

The ATmega32U4 on the Arduino Esplora comes pre-burned with a bootloader that allows you to upload new code to it without the use of an external hardware programmer. It communicates using the AVR109 protocol. Advanced users can bypass the bootloader and program the microcontroller through the ICSP (In-Circuit Serial Programming) header.

To facilitate writing sketches for the Esplora, there is a dedicated library that contains methods for reading the sensors and writing to the outputs on board. The library offers high-level methods which provide pre-processed data, like degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius from the temperature sensor. It also enables easy access to the outputs, like writing values to the RGB LED.

Rather than requiring a physical press of the reset button before an upload, the Esplora is designed in a way that allows it to be reset by software running on a connected computer. The reset is triggered when the Esplora's virtual (CDC) serial / COM port is opened at 1200 baud and then closed. When this happens, the processor will reset, breaking the USB connection to the computer (meaning that the virtual serial / COM port will disappear). After the processor resets, the bootloader starts, remaining active for about eight seconds. The bootloader can also be initiated by pressing the reset button on the Esplora. Note that when the board first powers up, it will jump straight to the user sketch, if present, rather than initiating the bootloader.

Because of the way the Esplora handles reset, it's best to let the Arduino software try to initiate the reset before uploading, especially if you are in the habit of pressing the reset button before uploading on other boards. If the software can't reset the board, you can always start the bootloader by pressing the reset button on the board.

The Esplora has a resettable polyfuse that protects your computer's USB ports from shorts and overcurrent. Although most computers provide their own internal protection, this fuse provides an extra layer of protection. If more than 500mA is applied to the USB port, the fuse will automatically break the connection until the short or overload is removed.

Dimensions of the Esplora PCB (i.e. not counting the USB and TinkerKit connectors) are 6.5 2.4 inches. The board has four screw holes for mounting purposes.

About Arduino

Arduino is an open-source platform based on boards featuring an Atmel AVR microcontroller with a pre-programmed bootloader and a development environment that implements the Processing / Wiring language. Arduino can be used to develop stand-alone interactive objects or can be connected to software on your computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP). The open-source IDE can be downloaded for free (currently for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux).

Arduino Esplora Resources

Optional Recommended Products for this Item
Arduino TFT LCD Screen: 1.77+ US$28.57

This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 27 August, 2013.


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