Sunday, May 18, 2014

Learn The Basics Of Using Microcontrollers

This blog post is for everyone who knows or sort of knows what microcontrollers (MCU) are and wants to learn the basics of using them.

There are three essential parts to using MCUs:
  1. Connecting the hardware (the electronic and mechanical parts of your MCU project).
  2. Writing and / or loading the software to operate the MCU.
  3. Figuring out how to use the MCU to accomplish something of interest to you.
If you live in the Humboldt region of northern California, the best way to learn the basics of using microcontrollers is to come to the regular meetings of the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group every other Thursday evening from 6 to 8 PM in The Link coworking space at 1385 8th Street, Arcata, California, USA. One of the primary goals of the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group is to help people new to MCUs learn how to use them.

Regardless of where you live, below are several suggestions about resources for learning the basics of using microcontrollers. To really learn about MCUs with any of the methods listed below, you will need to buy or borrow electronic components, and you'll need to write the software (or 'firmware') programs for the MCUs.
  1. Use online video tutorials.
  2. Use 'learn Arduino' or 'learn microcontrollers' books (do web search to identify those types of basic tutorial books).
  3. Use online text tutorials.
  4. Build MCU projects, either from kits or from 'scratch.'
  5. Buy electronic and mechanical components, use books or websites to figure out how to hook the components together, and use MCU info websites and MCU online forums to help with issues you can't figure out by yourself.
  6. If your area has a makers group, library or other organization that puts on 'basics of microcontrollers' or 'basics of Arduino' classes or workshops, participate in those activities.
If you come to the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group biweekly Thursday evening meetings, learning the MCU basics will consist of:
  1. Buying the basic hardware parts (a future blog post, and a Humboldt Microcontrollers Group wiki page, will discuss what parts are needed for learning about MCUs with the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group).
  2. Watching the appropriate video tutorials for learning MCU basics (a future blog post, and a Humboldt Microcontrollers Group wiki page, will discuss what videos to watch).
  3. Doing the MCU exercises in the videos (connecting and programming the MCUs) before each biweekly Thursday meeting.
  4. At each biweekly Thursday meeting, discussing any problems or questions you had when doing the exercises for that meeting.
  5. At the Thursday meeting, also discussing any other MCU questions you have and getting help from others at the meeting to answer, or figure out how to answer, your questions.
  6. After you learn the basics of MCUs, participating in the 'non-beginners' activities of the Thursday meetings, picking a project that involves using an MCU, buying and connecting the hardware for that project, writing the MCU code and working on the project at Thursday meetings.
So now you know how to learn the basics of using microcontrollers...

If you live in Arcata, Eureka, McKinleyville, Fortuna, Trinidad, Blue Lake, Ferndale or any of the other fine parts of the Humboldt region, please consider coming to the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group activities to learn the basics of using microcontrollers. Check the Humboldt Makers Group website or the Humboldt Makers Group Facebook page to find out the date of the next meeting.

Hope to see you soon at a Thursday night meeting!


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