From jobseekers to hobbyists, familiarizing yourself with the workings of microcontrollers, workforce development, and development boards is well worth your time and energy. They’re educational and your knowledge of them could prove to be of great technical assistance to members of the local business community and local workforce boards alike. That being said, what exactly is a development board? Better yet: How does it work?
What are development boards?
A development board is a circuit board that has been printed with circuitry and hardware. Unlike home computers, these don’t include a processor like Raspberry Pi and are more friendly to analog inputs and assembly. Yep, that means no wifi or long-range connections here. They are generally designed to be used with microcontrollers. Workforce development boards often streamline the microcontroller assembly process. Instead of handling every aspect of microcontroller circuitry and connectivity, a development board speeds things up.
These devices save you the time and frustration of having to set up all the circuitry and hardware each time you want to do something different. They often include a power circuit that runs off a 9V power supply, a programming interface that will allow you to program it from your computer, buttons for input,
RGB LED lights for output, and I/0 pins, which will allow you to work motors, RGB sensors, screens, and more. This does, however, mean there is no USB port connectivity. If you need USB ports or an integrated processor, or you simply don’t enjoy analog inputs, you may want to experiment elsewhere.
Some of the most common examples are the Feather board, LoRa, Arduino or the Arduino IDE software that connects. The LoRa and Arduino boards are simpler to use and are very beginner-friendly. If you’re just getting started and don’t know how to navigate a debugger, actuators, pinout setups, or long-range wifi connectivity,
Arduino is always a safe bet. By using the Arduino IDE software, it can integrate with any Arduino board. You’re even able to use Arduino IDE with Raspberry PI, though the installation process is a little more complex. This is where the aforementioned debugger knowledge might come in handy.
Uses of development boards
There is a nearly endless range of experiments you can conduct with the help of a development board. Often, they’re used for IoT project prototyping, pinout testing, and even firmware testing. While they can’t necessarily talk to your system, per se, they can help you fire off messages and spot test performance, as long as your system doesn’t rely on a custom I/O framework.
You can also use an ethernet-to-wifi configuration or a Bluetooth low energy board for testing. It’s important to specify because if you need a Bluetooth low-energy setup, you need a development board that can handle these capabilities.
There are even open-source Python codes for use in conjunction with these boards. Chances are, no matter your exact project or developmental needs, there’s a board configuration that will fit your specifications. Ultimately, it comes down to you deciding whether or not you want to buy a pre-fabricated board or craft your own. It’s often recommended to use a solderless board if you’re a beginner since it requires less complex wiring and circuitry.
If you’re really looking to gain a fundamental understanding of how these boards work, however, you’re likely going to want to invest some time in doing research into pre-fab boards. They’re not very pricey and they save a lot of time in the setup phase as there’s no arrangement to consider ahead of time.
Regardless of your needs, development boards are excellent educational tools and are a worthy investment for beginners and veterans alike.