Arduino boards are very helpful and powerful tools to help connect the electronics world to the real world around us. Like I said in Part 1 of my Learning Arduino Series, they can read inputs and control outputs very quickly; faster than any human can do manually. With that said, an Arduino board, such as my handy UNO R3, can only do so much. After an “Arduinonian” has experimented with all the things in their beginners pack, they often want to venture out to more complex and demanding projects. Want to drive more than one motor? Want to drive two DC motors and 2-3 Servos? Want to connect your board to the internet or save data and images to an SD card? There’s a shield for that!
Shields are commonly made for microprocessors like the Arduino UNO R3 to inject it with extra functionality. They are designed to piggyback directly on top of your logic board, through the use of stacking headers, which can allow the use of pins not already in use by the shield itself. Some shields allow programmers to pull more amperage for driving bigger, hungrier motors while others add GPS or Bluetooth capabilities. There are WAY too many shields out there to describe in one post, so i will share with you some of the ones I have used and some that I plan to use in the near future.
1) Arduino Motor Shield R3
The important thing about shields is that you want to make sure they are stackable with your specific board. For example this motor shield is called R3 because it fits perfectly on top of the UNO R3 but wouldn’t fit on the earlier R2. I bought this motor shield to do a few different projects that required me to use much stronger motors than the UNO R3 can handle. With the shield installed, a programmer can pull up to 4A, 2A per channel, safely with operating voltages up to 12V. It’s designed to drive relays, solenoids, DC motors, and stepper motors. In fact, it can drive two DC motors independently or one stepper motor with speed and direction control for either case. The shield can be powered by the same power supplied to the logic board (i.e UNO R3) or it can be powered by an external source through the VIN and GND terminals on the shield.
I found this shield to be very easy to use especially with everything already soldered on, even the headers. Working with the supplied library was also a breeze and allowed me to get my projects up and running in no time. I would totally recommend this shield for a beginner or even a professional looking to power up to 12V motors for its low price and easy implementation.
Click here for more info on this shield.
2) PowerBoost 500 Shield
This shield is the latest shield I have worked with. I soldered up the headers and the on and off switch just yesterday! This shield by Adafruit is potentially going to be used in our Senior Project design granted it performs well in testing. The idea behind this shield is to take a single cell battery outputting 3.7V and boost the potential to 5V. This allows a single cell battery to power up your 5V Arduino project on the go! It also has a recharging circuit built in so that the LiPo battery can be charged via microUSB. All the indicators for ON, Charging, Done, and LOW are there to let you know that state of the battery. Another major plus is that depending on the size of the battery, it can fit nicely within the width and height of the stacking headers! So far testing has turned out great with 5V being supplied to my project with the use of only a single cell 3.7V 2,000mAh battery. This will save us plenty of space and take care of charging in one small stack-able package. Like most shields out there this one needed to be soldered before use and for that reason, I would recommend this shield to anyone as long as they can solder or know someone who can.
Click here for more information about this Adafruit shield.
3) Shields I want to use in the near future
Long story short…any of these!
The link above lists some cool shields to get you all started but don’t be afraid to look around for new and unique shields. Sparkfun, Adafruit, and other suppliers are constantly coming out with new stuff. To be honest, the possibilities of what you can do with an Arduino are endless especially when shields can be stacked on each other! Look out for my next Learning Arduino post about breakout boards and things I have needed to collect since starting this hobby!
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Until next time…