ATMega Uploader with an LCD – Objective and Progress (Part 1)

An exciting use case for Arduino is to upload a program from an SD card to a chip using another Arduino . This would be useful for quickly updating many microcontrollers in a field, or in places where a computer is not accessible. Nick Gammon came up with a solution to this problem with his ATMega Uploader. To paraphrase from the website,

This project is intended to allow you to program your Atmega chips without having to buy a dedicated ICSP programmer. Instead, it uses a Uno (or similar) board to act as a programmer.

However, a drawback of the uploader is that it works over a serial monitor. This immediately removes the advantage of not having to carry a computer around as you update a microcontroller. I decided to try and solve this by integrating an LCD, and building a navigation interface to easily use the awesome project that Nick Gammon built over a GUI.

Now Gammon’s file uploader project includes a few different types of utilities including a board detector, a hex uploader etc. It would be convenient if there was a way to switch between these different utilities to test different things on the field. However, all the sketches don’t fit inside a single file, so there would be a need to actively switch between different sketches. I decided to try and boot different files from the SD Card for this purpose. To do this, I’m using AVR Boot.

The Objectives

  1. Create a rough interface to navigate through the ATMega File Uploader and other ATMega Utilities. Errors don’t need to be complete explanations and extensive debugging can still be done better with a computer.
  2. Use the SDFat library to move around the right files when you want to change the program being used.

Current Progress

As of writing this article, I’ve completed a rough integration of the LCD with the ATMega Hex Uploader, and begun the integration with the ATMega Board Programmer. Real-time updates can be viewed at the Github page.


The Sunrise Alarm Clock

Ever woken up in the morning, looked at your alarm clock, and wished you’d woken up about 5 hours earlier? I know I have. As one of the dreamiest sleepers in the world, I have not found a single alarm clock (or a combination of them) that has ever been loud enough to wake me up permanently. Thus, this project. This project started with an article I read about how “dawn-simulating” clocks are far more effective at waking people up than just regular alarm clocks. So I thought, why not build one? And then I got started.

Its finally done. Undoubtedly one of my most gruesome and excruciating builds, this clock put all my skills to the test and forced me to learn a lot about electronics. But at the end of it all, I think I have a decent alarm clock, that is for me, the first time I have been able to wake up on time. Check out the complete instructable here!

Update: While the alarm clock did work well, I had received some criticism that said that the project did not look very nice. A few people rightly said that the way I had painted my wood had made all the imperfections stand out in it. While experimenting with different finishes, I came across a sheet of card stock. I used this to finish my project by printing a large sheet of card stock black, and then using it as a laminate to cover all sides of my project. Unexpectedly, the LEDs turned out looking quite nice inside the card stock, and I think the entire project has an improved look. Let me know what you think!


For the extra code that I promised on my instructable, here it is!

Continue reading “The Sunrise Alarm Clock”

Descending Dreams

Air Conditioners (A/C) use roughly 1 trillion kWh of power annually. The project seeks to reduce power consumption of A/Cs. The proposal is a movable false ceiling. It will be lowered when the occupant is sleeping to reduce the volume of the room allowing the A/Cs to cool faster. The question which had to be addressed was ‘How much will reducing the volume of the room at night using a movable false roof, reduce power consumed by air conditioners?’ The hypothesis was that there was a relation between the time taken to cool the room and its volume.

The experiment tested energy savings by using a high power A/C to cool a smaller volume. Two boxes of thermocol were built, simulating a room. The first box represented the original volume of the room. The second box’s volume was adjustable. 4 tests were conducted, changing the output temperature on the A/C and the volume of the second box in each test.

All the tests pointed to two important results:

  1. The lower the volume, the greater the energy savingThere was an average power saving of 0.14 kWh/hour translating into a 14% reduction in power consumption.
  2. The lower the A/C output temperature the greater the energy saving.

Large scale implementation of such a device will result in massive energy savings worldwide. In an escalating electricity cost scenario, this device can help households to reduce power costs without compromising on comfort.

To view the entire project report, please click here. Cheers!

A Project by – Raghav Anand and Rahul GS

The Steporama (A working title)

This project evolved out of an old weak stepper motor that I had laying around. I first tried to create a robotic arm with the stepper motor. The motor was barely able to lift the arm, let alone an external load.Then I tried to build a 3d printer with the stepper. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight – the stepper couldn’t lift thermocol and I wanted it to print objects in 3D. Not too smart.

The end of this project was to attach the stepper to an ATMega328 with a ULN2003 darlington array and just keep making it spin around. I used the stock stepper code on the arduino website and used my Leonardo to program the ATMega. The only use I found for it was to create a panaroma capture device. However, as whimsical as it might sound, it genuinely does take better photos than a handheld device. Enjoy!