NerdKits - electronics education for a digital generation

You are not logged in. [log in]

NEW: Learning electronics? Ask your questions on the new Electronics Questions & Answers site hosted by CircuitLab.

Support Forum » Need some real basic help here...

January 25, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

I have rescued a Nerdkit from a drawer in my shop where it's been sitting for several years. My son put it together some time back and got as far as trying to program it, then put it away and lost interest. I have dusted it off and redone all the wiring according to the mouse-eaten instructions that were with it, but all I get on the LCD is the two rows of black squares. Is it possible that I need to re-program the chip? Where can I find instruction on how to do that?

Thanks!

January 25, 2015
by Rick_S
Rick_S's Avatar

It is possible, depending on where your son left off. The best thing to do to get help, would be to post some photo's of what you have and close-ups of your connections. This will give you the best chance of getting a good answer.

While the forums are still here for the time being, the creators of the Nerdkit have left this community and do not participate in the forums. The kits are no longer being sold, and parts of the web site (Mainly the Library section) no longer work. However, there are still a few good people, end users like yourself, who do frequent and offer help to those with questions.

There were several variations of the Nerdkit sold with different USB/Serial adapters, and different LCD's. That is why photo's will help a lot, plus it could possibly help find a wiring error were there to be one.

Rick

January 25, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

Thanks, Rick!

Here are a couple of pictures of what I've got.

board

LCD

January 26, 2015
by Rick_S
Rick_S's Avatar

OK, the only other photo that would help, is one showing the connections between your breadboard and the LCD, with the two separate photo's, I can't trace the connections between the two.

The pattern you are seeing on the LCD is what it shows when powered up but not initialized. This could be caused by incorrect wiring, or program problems.

Have you installed the development software and connected the USB/Serial adapter (Programmer) to see if the chip responds?

January 26, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

Here you go, Rick:

alt image

No, I haven't tried the cable yet, I was trying to follow the instructions step by step and this is as far as I've gotten.

Thanks for helping me out!

tom

January 26, 2015
by scootergarrett
scootergarrett's Avatar

Well I'm not the best at looking at pictures of wires, but it looks good from what I see. here is a circuit diagram which I think is easier to follow, egnore the pin 15 and 16 on the LCD, and pin 16-19 on the MCU. So what are the chances that the last program you loaded on the NK didn't use the LCD? I think the next step would be to try to load a program, that is would be the next step anyways.

January 27, 2015
by Rick_S
Rick_S's Avatar

I agree, the connections look good from what I can see. The microcontroller may have been programmed for something without the LCD. In that circumstance, what you see on the display would be normal.

Move to the step of connecting the programmer, installing the development software, and program the temperature sensor program into the microcontroller. If successful, the LCD should display something.

January 27, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

This is Greek to me. I do not understand the instructions in the NK guide for compiling and installing programs--is there a primer somewhere to get me started on this stuff?

January 28, 2015
by Rick_S
Rick_S's Avatar

Not that I'm readily aware of. The NK guide breaks it down step by step. Do you have the development applications installed? Which step is tripping you up?

January 28, 2015
by Noter
Noter's Avatar

The Nerdkit approach to microcontroller development is quite technical in nature which makes it difficult for many new users to get started, especially if they have no prior C/C++ programming experience.

Maybe you would be happier in the Arduino environment as it is tailored more towards the beginner and is alive with a huge user base, a wealth of online resources, and many active forums.

Consider the following -

1) Buy one or two of these for ~$4 ea - eBay arduino UNO compatible

2) Go through this tutorial - The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Arduino

3) Hook up your LCD according to this tutorial - LiquidCrystal - "Hello World!"

4) You're well on your way - have fun!

Here you can make minimal additional investment and use much of your existing NK as you move forward. After you get some success and experience under your belt you can always come back to the NK way of doing things to learn more about the low level detail of programming AVR chips.

January 29, 2015
by Rick_S
Rick_S's Avatar

atmc,Noter is absolutely right, in that if you want to have the easiest and most supported by it's user base startup, then arduino may be the path you should take. I didn't bring it up mainly because it will require another small investment on your part to purchase an arduino board (probably an UNO R3 or equivalent). The Generic versions can be purchased on eBay for 10 to 15 dollars and the Authentic ones for not much more.

As the owners of the Nerdkit Company have pretty much abandoned it, at this point it seems recommending people elsewhere is probably the right thing to do. However, if you need FRIENDLY help, as long as people are here on this board you will normally get it here. While there have been a few heated debates on some technical issues and one persons preference to anothers, this has been the kindest, flame free environment I have ever been part of. So even if you do go the arduino route, you can still come here for help.

Rick

January 29, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

"...especially if they have no prior C/C++ programming experience...."

That's me. I'll check out the links that Noter posted. I don't mind spending a few bucks on new chips and stuff. I really need a very basic guide to get started.

Thanks for the guidance!

tom

January 29, 2015
by Noter
Noter's Avatar

Here's the best deal I've seen on an arduino nano 3.0 compatible for $2.88 delivered! Heck of a deal, can't even buy the raw components for anywhere near that price. I couldn't resist and ordered one just to have on hand.

eBay Nano V3.0 ATmega328P

nano

January 29, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

I ordered a couple of the $4 ones from the ebay link Noted posted. The Beginner's guide looks great, too. Thanks guys!

January 30, 2015
by Rick_S
Rick_S's Avatar

Wow, the cheap Chinese knock offs have really come down. I see they replaced the pirated FTDI chips with another (Probably pirated BigGrin_Green ) USB/Serial Chip to avoid the newer Windows drivers from disabling the FTDI. Probably helped them drop the price too. If I didn't already have more 328p based boards and standalone MCU's than I'd use in a lifetime, I'd probably be in for a few of those.

atmc, Keep us updated on your progress, and most of all, if it's something you are really interested in, don't give up. It may seem daunting at first but when that 'A-HA' moment happens, it's very rewarding.

Rick

January 30, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

Rick, to answer your earlier question, I am stuck at the Quick Command Line tutorial. I can get the command line screen to open, and I can type "dir" which shows a list of directories. Where do I go from there?

January 30, 2015
by Noter
Noter's Avatar

It's easier to watch a few videos to see the commands in action. Youtube has multiple tutorial type videos on just about anything you can think of. I did a search on "dos commands for beginners" and a bunch came up and this one looks pretty good - dos commands for beginners. If that doesn't get it find some more and watch them.

February 03, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

Hey, guys, I picked up an Arduino starter kit from Vilros and I'm working through the guide that came with the kit. I've successfully loaded and run the "blink", "potentiometer" and "rgb led" exercises. I got cocky and found a wiring diagram and sketch on the web to connect the LCD display that came with the NerdKit to the Arduino and, with some very minor debugging, I got it to work. The "Ah-Ha!" moment!

alt image text

Maybe eventually I'll work my way back to the NerdKit and try to figure out where I went wrong, but for now I'm finding the Arduino to be much more user-friendly for this newb.

Thanks for the help!

tom

February 03, 2015
by Noter
Noter's Avatar

Glad you're making progress Tom. Another thing you can do at some point for fun is put the arduino bootloader on your nerdkit chip and have a spare ready to go for your UNO. Or use it on your breadboard like the NK and still program it with the Arduino IDE. You can always put the nerdkit bootloader back on if you wish. "ArduinoISP" is the program that turns your UNO in to a ISP programmer that can put any bootloader on a chip.

February 04, 2015
by Rick_S
Rick_S's Avatar

Congratulations!! Thumbs Up It's always a good feeling when you see something you did, work as expected. I'll be honest, Most of what I tinker with nowadays is using arduino. Often it's quicker since most of the circuit is pre-wired.

Enjoy your newly discovered skill. A word of warning though, these things can be addictive. Wink

February 22, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

Rick and Noter:

Thanks again for pointing me to Arduino. I've been playing with it quite a bit (bad weather is keeping me indoors) and I've started to get the hang of finding sketches and modifying them to do more or less what I want. I bought a Tamiya tractor chassis and dual-motor transmission setup as well as a motor driver shield that I have got to work with it. Haven't figured out how I want to mount the battery box and arduino stack to it yet, but at least I have the electronics and programming working. Still waiting on my Chinese knock-offs and hope to figure out a wireless control scheme using the nRFL2401 transceivers.

You're right, this is kind of addicting!

February 23, 2015
by Noter
Noter's Avatar

You're very welcome. No doubt Arduino is a lot of fun and much easier to get going compared to the nerdkit. Here's another little Arduino that is 100% compatible with the UNO but with a much smaller footprint - Pro Mini For Arduino Compatible. And these can be bought for $2.36 on eBay, another incredible deal. But it always takes a long time to get them from China so might want to order a half dozen to have on hand. I like to prototype with the UNO but then implement with either the Pro Mini or Nano because of size and cost. Check out the Pro Mini I used in my RV fridge digital thermometer.

February 24, 2015
by Ralphxyz
Ralphxyz's Avatar

Paul did you ever get your earth temp project completed? It is still on my list of things to do.

February 24, 2015
by Noter
Noter's Avatar

Haven't finished that one yet. It has worked it's way toward the back of my bench but I still intend to finish it one day, maybe this summer. I am easily distracted by other fun things to do so progress is slow.

I have decided to implement it on Arduino because the programming is so much easier with all the libs out there. Also added a RTC to my prototype and have successfully measured 30 DS18B20 sensors on a single wire with the Arduino just as a proof of concept.

At the moment I've had to work on my PC a bit in between having fun with my Tiny10 RGB light project. I also got some parts in so I can get back to switching one of my MKII clone programmers to 8mhz and 3.3v to see if that gives greater success loading programs on the few Xmegas I have. At least I'm not bored. :-)

I remember you wishing for an IDE to use in your projects. Back then I didn't know anything about Arduino but now I know it has an IDE that works pretty good. Have you tried it?

February 27, 2015
by Ralphxyz
Ralphxyz's Avatar

Yes I have occasionally played with Arduino. I have to many other things to be doing that my electronics are falling in the todo box.

February 27, 2015
by atmc
atmc's Avatar

My Chinese Arduino knockoffs arrived yesterday. My PC wouldn't recognize them at first but after I googled the problem and installed drivers for the CH431 USB connection, they seem to work OK. Can't beat the price! Put one on my tractor chassis and it runs, but come to find out the motor driver shield (from Sainsmart, apparently an Adafruit knockoff) works better with 6V motors than the 3V ones that came with the Tamiya kit. More shopping...

Post a Reply

Please log in to post a reply.

Did you know that you can connect to certain car computers via the OBD-II port with a microcontroller? Learn more...