The Arduino prototyping platform has created numerous opportunities for both electronics enthusiasts and serious designers. And Arduino Mega boards are quickly taking projects to a new level.
Basically, harnessing the power of Arduino is an inexpensive way to build your knowledge of microcontroller electronics. And have fun at the same time.
Because it utilises an open-source platform there’s plenty of shared programmes (or sketches as they’re known) available. Indeed, the Arduino community is rapidly multiplying which means there’s always plenty of advice and help at hand.
Building something big
Arduino Mega boards are the largest in the family, eclipsing the Uno, Diecimila, Duemilanove and Pro Mini variants.
Users simply plug in specially adapted modules, or ‘shields’, into the board to perform desired functions. These could include connecting to the internet and creating your own flashing LED show.
Naturally, with a name like Mega there are an increased number of shields that this particular type can accommodate.
In fact, an Arduino Mega board has 54 digital input/output pins. In comparison, an Uno board only offers 14 digital pins.
If you want to build something big, a Mega board is an appropriate choice. The vast number of pins (including 14 that can be used as PWM outputs) mean they’re mainly geared towards larger projects that require a lot of I/O. The simple fact is they have more of everything.
Mega size but same Arduino functionality
Despite its increased size, the Mega board still hasn’t lost any of the functionality that has made Arduino so popular.
Most of the shields built for smaller boards will still work on the Mega. And you still only have to plug the microcontroller into your computer with a USB cable or power it with an AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get everything going.
One of the other major features prototypers enjoy when working with Arduino products is their smart organisation.
I/O are handily grouped by their special functions (PWM, Communication, Digital Analog, Power) in a simple to understand layout.
Room for expansion
For beginners, it’s probably wise to stick with space-constrained projects on a smaller Uno board. Again, you’ll receive the same Arduino functionality but without the need for the much larger Mega variety.
Still, that’s not to say that your initial idea won’t grow and expand its scope. And that’s where the Arduino family and Mega boards can come to your rescue.
A Mega board has a greater memory capacity and can handle more code than the Uno. But here’s the best part: you can transfer projects between Arduino hardware and even to custom-built PCBs!
That’s right. If your project outgrows a smaller board you can simply move it onto a larger one.
For projects that require enhanced functionality, the Arduino Mega board provides a powerful prototyping platform. Its increased number of digital pins and I/O mean that bigger ideas can come to fruition. For instance, a Mega board is ideal if working on a robotics project.
Furthermore, with so many ideas and sketches being published, you’re never likely to be short of inspiration.
About the Author:
Robert Brost is an online freelance copywriter who has covered a number of subjects relating to Arduino Mega boards and the Arduino platform.