I recently got some very exciting news. The Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield System for Arduino designed by EE Times blogger Duane Benson and yours truly has just faced its first real-world action and come through with flying colours.
I posted my first blog on this project about several weeks ago. Almost as soon as that column appeared, I started receiving emails from readers saying this like "This looks great! Will you be making these shields available to other Arduino enthusiasts?"
In fact, we've decided to launch a Kickstarter project around this, but that's a story for another day. The first person to email me "by a nose" was Bruce LaVigne, whose son Andrew is working on a robotics project. This is Andrew's first foray into his local STEM competition (where STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). There are a number of categories available, and Andrew is entering the robotics group.
The school Andrew attends has teamed up with the STEM expo, so not only can he enter the competition at the expo, but he also gets graded on presenting his project to his eighth grade class next week (good luck Andrew!).
Andrew's robot, aptly named "Robo," has the ability to move forward, backward, left, and right at various speeds. It has ultrasonic sensors front and back so that it will stop rather than impacting an object. The thing is that Bruce and Andrew were working with an Arduino Mega, and they had run into the same problems that I had encountered—in particular, that it was a pain connecting external sensors and actuators to traditional proto-shields requiring soldered connections.
In order to verify our board design, Duane had already ordered a small panel comprising three of our Universal Screw-Block Proto-Shield board combos. One was for Duane, one was for me, and the third was uncommitted. Duane and I decided that it would be a good idea to bring smiles to Bruce and Andrew's faces, so we told Bruce that we would donate the uncommitted board combo to Andrew's project. The photo below shows Bruce and Andrew holding the unpopulated proto-shield boards just after they'd arrived.
Hurray, the proto-shield boards have arrived!
Just this morning as I pen these words, I received a follow-up email from Bruce saying "Max and Duane, thanks so much again for the proto boards! Here are some photos of my son Andrew working on his STEM project, which uses them. We just finished it this evening!"
Adding screw-block connectors and headers to the proto-shield boards.
Working on the robot.
The assembled proto-shield boards.
In his email, Bruce told us that this has been a great learning experience for Andrew and a great bonding time for both of them. He says that our proto-shield system was put to good use by providing a convenient place to mount the additional components (bypass capacitors, power switch, infrared receiver, etc.), as well as the screw terminals making connections to the various other components much simpler!
Duane and I are delighted that our proto-shields have proved to be so useful. We are both using ours on our own projects, but it's wonderful to have confirmation from someone else that our design is as useful as we think it is. Also, on a personal note, I think it's wonderful that Andrew has such a great dad with whom he can work on this sort of thing. I can't wait to hear how well Andrew does in the STEM competition, and I'm also looking forward to hearing how his project presentation to his 8th grade class goes next week. I'm sure he will take the class by storm!