The Solar Power Expert Blog

Free Charge Controller Kit – Part 1 – Setting Up the Arduino

by Chris - June 29th, 2012.
Filed under: Charge Controller.

This is the first part of a multipart series of articles describing how I constructed the v4 Free Charge Controller kit from Jameco.

I’ve been working with Jameco to develop a kit based on Tim Nolan’s MPPT charge controller design. Jameco sent me the first kit and I took pictures of the assembly process as it progressed. This first article describes how I installed the Arduino software and programmed an Arduino Uno. I wanted to verify that the Arduino was working properly before I did too much soldering. That way, if I run into problems, I know it’s not the Arduino.

Getting the LED to Blink

The first place I started was just getting the Arduino plugged into my netbook, installing the Arduino software, and programming the Arduino with some example code that makes its LED blink.

The first step was to open the kit and ensure that no parts were left out. I went through the parts list, line by line, to ensure that I didn’t have any missing parts.

The first thing to start attacking with the soldering iron is the Arduino prototyping board. I attached the header pins and reset switch, but that was it. I wanted make sure the Arduino Uno would power and and program with the shield installed. The Arduino Uno schematic is located here.

Arduino connected to the Netbook

After the shield headers were soldered, I installed the Arduino development software on my netbook. Once installed, I was able to connect the Arduino and the drivers loaded automatically. After opening the Arduino programming software, I was able to navigate to the examples directory and open the Blink program. Here is what my screen looked like:

Arduino example program - Blink

Once the Arduino is programmed, it will start blinking it’s orange LED at a rate of 0.5 Hz (one second on, one second off):

'Blink' program flashes orange LED (in back)

Now that I verified that the Arduino can be powered on and programmed, I’m ready to start building some circuitry!

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