The Brain

The brain is where all the other modules come together. Physically the brain is mostly a couple of little boards and a lot of wires. Structurally, the brain has two parts to it. There is the microcontroller, and there is the local circuit.

The microcontroller we are using in this project is an Arduino board. The microcontroller is essentially a little computer with a lot of places to plug things in (like sensors, etc.).

The local circuit is actually the back end for each of the other modules. Each module has a local circuit component. So the actual layout for the local circuit in your own GardenBot will be specific to your particular installation. To see what the local circuit is for each module, you will have to go to the page for that specific module.

The main idea is that you have a board where you can put the "local circuit" part of each module. This will make it easy for you to plug each module into the brain (and even rearrange or add new modules later if you need to).


Supplies:
(see the parts page)
  • Arduino board
  • USB cable
  • jumper wires / lead wires
  • bread-board / proto-board
  • all parts for the local circuit for each of the modules
  • the GardenBot software package



The hardware side of the brain


Creating the local circuit board

Here you will be creating a circuit board where you can mount the local circuit portion of each of the other modules. You will probably want to have a couple of breadboards side by side to create one giant breadboard to work out this portion of the brain.

Let's take a look at a potential setup with an Arduino board and a couple of breadboards.


image created in Fritzing

We start off by running the two power wires -- ground (0v) shown in black, and source (5v) shown in red.  This way our bread-board has power for easy access during development.

From here you can build the local circuit for a particular module, and then use jumper wires to connect that circuit to the Arduino board. If you are not familiar with reading circuit diagrams, you will need to study up on that -- I do not tutorials on that specifically. There are many good resources online for learning how to read circuit diagrams.

For the specific circuit diagram relating to a particular module, you will need to visit the page for that module.

Isolated power supply option

Alternately, you can isolate the power supply, leaving only the ground connected to the Arduino board. This will allow you to shield your sensor readings from any noisy devices such as a motor, or and LCD.

We use a standard 5v regulator (looks like a transistor) which will allow us to use any wall-wart with the appropriate specs (see power supplies) -- so you can buy a plug from a thrift-store and use it to power projects. The red LED is an indicator light to tell you the power is on.


image created in Fritzing


Moving to a proto-board

Eventually, if when you find that the local circuit board is not changing much, you will want to migrate it to a proto-board -- it will make all the connections permanent, and you get your bread-boards back (see bread-boards/proto-boards).






The software side of the brain


Things are very rough still

So, the local circuit board is one part of the brain, and the Arduino is the other. Since the Arduino is a little computer, everything on the Arduino side is done with code.

The next version of GardenBot will be built upon AutoTalk and will be much more flexible and easy to modify. Go to the AutoTalk project page for more info.

There is a software package that I developed as I was learning. I do not think it functions very well -- I am a self-taught programmer, and GardenBot was one of my first Arduino projects. My appologies. If you would like to see it, you can download the old GardenBot software package from the parts page.



 
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