What are Microcontrollers Used for in Robotics?

Did you know that microcontrollers are important elements for the development of projects in the field of robotics? 

Here, we explain what this component is, how it differs from microprocessors, and what are its characteristics in two development platforms widely used for teaching programming, Arduino and Micro: Bit. 

Check it out!

What is a microcontroller?

The microcontroller is a special type of integrated circuit that can be programmed to perform specific functions in a simple way – almost like a small computer. 

These devices are normally used to control things from information that is passed to them.

In a robot, for example, the microcontroller can start or stop an engine as soon as it receives a command from a keyboard or control.

Different types of microcontroller

Microcontrollers are interesting choices when you want to capture information about the outside world, checking and storing data about things like air humidity, the incidence of light, or the temperature of the environment, for example. 

Through programming, it is possible to process this data and, subsequently, establish an action in response, such as turning on lights or moving a device.

Microcontrollers are also very economical

Its consumption is extremely low, around the milliwatts, and the device is able to enter sleep or wait mode while waiting to be interrupted by an external event, such as pressing a key. 

In this waiting state, consumption is even lower, in the case of nanowatts, which makes it a differential for projects that depend on low energy consumption.

Arduino

Created in 2005 by a group of researchers, the Arduino is considered a cheap, functional, and easy to be programmed device, ideal for students, interested in the universe of programming or makers who are developing their own projects. 

The device follows the concept of free hardware, which means that it can be assembled, modified, or customized by its users.

In general, the Arduino also acts as a small computer, interpreting the inputs and controlling the outputs to create an automatic system. 

For it to work, you need to program it in an Integrated Development Environment, popularly known by the acronym IDE.

When programmed, the Arduino can be used independently and allows the programmer to control a robot or turn on and off the lighting of a room, for example. 

One of the Arduino’s differentials are its different modules, which can be interconnected to further expand the possibilities!

Micro:bit

Launched a few years ago, micro: bit is a technology considered innovative for teaching programming, especially for children and adolescents. 

The device is the result of an initiative by the BBC, a British broadcaster that, for years has been dedicated to providing greater access to computers and learning to program. 

From his partnership with large technology companies, the plaque was born that surprises everyone.

With a small size, the Micro: bit is smaller than a credit card. Its goal is to be an easy, fast, and simple platform for programming – features that would allow it to be used in classrooms around the world. 

Like the Arduino, this device also includes a microcontroller between its components, and the piece acts as the “brain” of the small plate. 

The Micro: bit carries a 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 microcontroller, which operates at 16 MHz.

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