As you are probably aware, I'm spending a lot of my free time creating Arduino-based projects, such as my Inamorata Prognostication Engine, my BADASS Display, and my Vetinari Clock.
Some of these projects involve the use of shields, which are boards that can be plugged on top of the Arduino in order to extend its capabilities. The thing is that you can quickly end up with a stack of shields performing tasks like motor control, sound effects generation, a real-time clock (RTC), and all sorts of other things.
Every now and again, you run into a situation whereby things arenít working quite as expected. You arenít sure exactly what's going wrong, and it can be really difficult to diagnose the problem. As discussed in this column, Guido Bonelli ran into this type of problem while creating an Arduino-based piece of abstract art called Orbis. His solution was to create a board he calls Dr. Duino.
You can tell that Guido has put a lot of thought into this. If you plug the Dr. Duino onto the top of your Arduino Uno (as shown in the image below) or as the uppermost board on the top of a stack of shields, then the large hole in the middle of the Dr. Duino provides you with full access to the board directly underneath.
Alternatively, you can sandwich your Dr. Duino between two of the boards in the stack. Now, this is the clever bit. Although it's not immediately obvious from the image above, the header pins sticking out of the bottom of the Dr. Duino (the ones that plug into the board above) and the corresponding headers sticking out of the top of the Dr. Duino (the ones into which the board above will be connected) are offset. By means of jumpers on the Dr. Duino, you can either pass the signal directly through from the board below to the board above (and vice versa, of course), or you can break the connection between the adjacent boards and route the signal to one of the components on the Dr. Duino.
Speaking of which, the Dr. Duino comes complete with test points, LEDs, switches, potentiometers, a piezo buzzer, an RS-232 interface, and an external reset switch that will not be blocked by any shields above it.
Any shield that uses the standard Arduino Uno footprint can benefit, including the chipKIT Uno32 from Digilent. Just yesterday as I pen these words, Guido launched his Dr. Duino Kickstarter project. Personally -- knowing how much things cost from our own Screw-Block Proto-Shield for Arduino Kickstarter project -- I think the Dr. Duino kit is an amazing bargain at only $36.
My next trick -- once his current Dr. Duino Kickstarter project has successfully concluded -- will be to persuade Guido to create a version that will work with my Arduino Mega and chipKIT Max32 boards. In the meantime, what do you think about Dr. Duino? Is this something you could use? Is there anything you would add for the Mega/Max32 version?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting