my research / news / teaching & learning

Microcontrollers and Apps: guest post from Dr Christoff Garet!

mobile appsI have recently been struck by the rich electronic resources packed into today’s smart phones.  Because it is my business to educate students about “embedded systems” through the use of microcontrollers I wondered how easy it would be to connect a mobile to a microcontroller.  A quick scan via Google revealed so much material on connecting “this” to “that” and how to do it that I knew it was possible.  The big question was, given my day job, could I do it?  The answer was yes!  I borrowed a Samsung Galaxy S2 and bought an Arduino BT (Bluetooth) board and completed my first “app” that controlled a very simple robot within about a month of starting – I suppose I put in about 20 to 30 hours to reach this point.  Since then I have developed more capability and am now able to write simple apps that use a variety of buttons and sliders (Android widgets) to turn things on and off (eg motors and LED’s) and control servos as well as gather information from the Arduino inputs.  I am continuing to reflect on this experience which was a revelation to me.  Due to  my age and background I have been “trained” that one must be taught principles first and then use them and yet my experience with “apps” seemed to be the opposite, I didn’t know Java, phones, BlueTooth or Arduino and yet cobbled together something that worked using internet resources only vaguely understanding what I was doing (although I have a pretty good background in microcontrollers and specific kinds of programming paradigms).  With subsequent practice I feel I am beginning to understand what I did at first but am a long way away from the kind of facility needed for professional “app” development.  I have found the whole thing really interesting and am still trying to figure out what it all means for education!

Dr Christoff Garet!

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