Today we are going to look at another Arduino protoshield kit, this time one manufactured for Sparkfun. The reason to use such a thing is to enable extra hardware of your choice to be connected easily to your Arduino board. In the past I have detailed other shields, for example an LCD module, a real-time clock, and a microSD shield. However now I have another brand of shield, so let’s take it for a drive and see what happens.
Once again, this shield is a product of the minimalist-packaging school – arriving in just a plastic bag:
These days that is perfectly acceptable, as long as something is safe there’s no need for overpackaging. Not a slip of instructions were to be found, and a quick look at the website only had a link to a third-party tutorial and the shield schematic (pdf). The circuitry is quite simple so nothing more is necessary for construction. So with the schematic on the screen it was time to solder. First thing is to match the included parts with the schematic:
Considering the price of this kit, I would have expected some pins as well as header sockets – not everyone wants to stack another shield on top. However the PCB is the thickest I have ever seen. The first thing to solder in were the buttons:
Next were the three resistors. There are two 330 ohm to reduce the current to the LEDs and one 10k ohm for the button. The silk-screening has the values on the board, so you can place them effortlessly:
Next are the two 0.1uF ceramic capacitors – they act to smooth the power supply. They are not marked on the board, only little rectangles. So here is a photo of where they should be:
And finally the LEDs. Make sure to line up the flat edge of the LED (the cathode) with the image of the LED on the board. Try and get the LED flush with the PCB, and bend the legs in alternate directions to keep the LED flush while you are soldering it:
The included LEDs are 5mm yellow, so you have the opportunity to change the colour if need be. If you are going to add your own circuitry, you might want to do that before soldering in the header sockets. You could also drop in a micro-breadboard instead. When it comes time to solder in the stacking headers – insert them into your shield, put another shield on top to keep the sockets aligned, then solder them in:
However at the end of the day it works:
There you have it – one Arduino protoshield ready for action. If you look at the top-right of the board, you will notice pinouts that are custom-made for the Bluesmirf wireless serial bluetooth devices.
In general this shield is adequate. There is room for a few improvements, for example nothing on the bottom is labelled, which can be an issue if your eyesight or memory is poor. And considering the price of the board (US$16.95++) it should have included both header pins and sockets, and perhaps even have been assembled except for the headers. But thankfully there are other options to select from. Compared to my personal preference (the Freetronics protoshield), this protoshield from Sparkfun could use some improvement. Perhaps version three ? Only time will tell. And if you made it this far – check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.
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