Microcontrollers – The powerhouse of our projects

In the vast world of robotics and electronics in general, you’ll often come across the term of “microcontrollers”. If you have ever heard of them, but don’t know what they are nor how they work, then this post is for you.

microcontrollers - ATmega328P
ATmega328P microcontroller. The arduino UNO board uses this microcontroller.

What is a microcontroller?

Fist of all, a microcontroller is a small computer on a single integrated circuit (those little black chips with pins). Likewise a “computer”  it has a CPU (one or multiple processing cores) and also has RAM. What’s unique is that it has programmable input/output pins who are responsible of its peripherals controlling capabilities.

They take control over one or a couple of specific functions/operations on an embedded system. Therefore it’s really a small “brain” that controls other devices based on programmable information and some sort of data. That’s why you can see them in RC toys, remote controls, and anything that based on certain data its able of executing a certain task or workflow.

AVR microcontrollers
An AVR microcontroller controlling a 7 segment display and other components.

In Robotics used a lot and now you understand why. Just with this vague definition of a microcontroller. It’s all thanks to its ability to control different sensors, components, devices, systems, etc… through programmable source code with the purpose of executing a certain amount of tasks. Now that the definition of a microcontroller is good to go, it’s time to see some application and how we can use them in our own projects.

If you’re interested in learning more about microcontrollers.

Check this link. The article explained very well its different types and categories. Totally recommended.

Applications of microcontrollers

The Arduino Uno uses an ATmega328P microcontroller, other models of Arduino boards such as MEGA uses an ATmega2560 microcontroller. There are an infinite amount of applications for these two microcontrollers. One that I found recently and really liked was a pneumatic compressor made by AlmightyArjen (link to subscribe to his YouTube channel).

In his project, he uses Arduino to control the 4 motors, 10 pneumatic pumps and 10 air tanks required for its operation. He also uses an LCD display to print the current air pressure produced by the compressor.

Interested in building cool projects like the one above.

Click this link. I’ll guide you there on what you need to start your robotics journey as a newcomer.

Conclusion

So microcontrollers are not only to control electric devices or other electronic components. They can also interact and control mechanical devices to generate a determined amount of energy. The energy that will get something to move (work).

The applications of microcontrollers are really up to your imagination. Therefore I hope that this post has changed your vision and understanding of microcontrollers. I also hope that this post has awakened your curiosity on microcontrollers. Therefore now you can create some cool and fun projects around them.

Hope this was helpful. See you in the next post.

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