STM Discovery Board for Makers - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: STM Discovery Board for Makers

Author: dirceumuller

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: I would compare to Raspberry Pi or other devboards.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: The LCD stopped working. Little documentation available.

Detailed Review:

I was hoping to tinker the devboard with my daughters, but after two weeks the lcd stopped working. As soon as the screen stopped working, they totally lost interest. The board itself seems to keep running. It is possible to program the LEDs, and command the bus.

The problem started when we tried to create a "hello world" displayed on the lcd based on examples found on the mbedOS website. Probably the example we used was from some board from the same manufacturer, but another model.

As my tinkering experience was fundamentally based on computers with OS written in ROM (Sinclair Spectrum), I had not taken any special precautions, hoping that a simple reset would leave the board operational again if I'd made a mistake in the compilation. I am particularly adept at "trial and error" with science. Well, reset did not work.

I started looking for the specific board documentation, but nothing I found seemed to relate to possible solutions, and seemed sparse. The children became disinterested in a few minutes while I researched similar situations to try to reverse the problem.

My eldest daughter still paid attention to some programming fundamentals and binary numbers, by similarity to some school content, but not for long.

When I was a kid, it used to take 20-30 minutes to load a single program into Sinclair's memory from a tape. There were few programs available, so it was almost obvious that it was worth learning to program BASIC just to use the computer quickly. I had a small collection of "one-" and "two-liners" printed. Simple games were programmed with 60-80 lines of code, and this took few minutes to type. If any mistake was made, it was enough to turn the computer off and on again, so that it was functioning properly again. The manual had all the commands, and the computer bus schema.

Today, computers, tablets and mobile phones load content almost instantaneously. There are a multitude of apps, videos, music, etc. available. No need for doing it just for doing.

Nostalgia is no match against the internet.

Thus, the board is not, at the moment, a suitable tool to start children in programming and robotics. It has not been evaluated, in this review, for adolescents, nor for people with more advanced training and experience than my own.

As for me, I still have not given up doing something more interesting with the board. I continue using some of my spare time to find more information about the board. As an adult who works full time and enjoys spending time with family, unfortunately this time is limited. Considering this will probably be seen by someone at STMicroelectronics, I hope I'll be receiving a link with more detailed info about it.

In order to broaden the target public, it would be useful to provide a wider technical reference, or, if it already exists, make it simpler to find. I also consider that a simple method of resetting the board to the factory status would be nice.

The demo content demonstrates how versatile the board is. There is some lag in the touchscreen response, so this needs to be taken into account when setting the purpose of the application (games?). Most of the demos embeded on this board are functional.

One of the non-functional demos suggests using this devboard to control a washing machine. My knowledge of electronics is sufficient only to know that it is not possible to connect the board directly to the high voltage parts, but to relays that would control the motor's on-off, valves, pumps and heater. Once the sample program was included, I would suggest including the example of the electronic schema as well.

Anonymous
  • After the substitution of the STI discovery LCD library, it works again. Some restrictions, however, as it's not possible to switch to portrait orientation. Doing so makes the LCD turn off. Even if you code to return to landscape, you'll need to cold boot the board in order to the LCD turn on.

  • {gallery} STM discovery board

    IMAGE TITLE: Unpacking day

    System info.

    IMAGE TITLE: Unpacking day

    Demo running.

    IMAGE TITLE: Unpacking day

    Front side, capacitive touchscreen display, some programmable leds.

    IMAGE TITLE: Unpacking day

    Back side, lots of connectors, easy access.

    IMAGE TITLE: Unpacking day

    Nice sturdy package, inside a bubble envelope, inside a cardboard box.

    Accompanying leaflet.

  • Mmm... I understand. That's because my primary objective was to introduce my children to electronics and programming. So, I wrote about this. I am not a experienced developer, neither an engineer. When I applied, I made it clear, and someone thougth that my project was worth a try. It didn't worked out so well, and I can see it may not be what most of you wanted to read. Wesley Gardner commented somewhere above regarding this devboard not being exactly friendly. It's true. For someone like me, just a fresh amateur, it shouldn't be a starting point. I'd recomend it to people well above my level. I don't think it should be labelled a failure, however. Considering what was planned, it got at least half the way along.

  • And here I thought a microwave was just something to warm my food, how could I have been so wrong... Oh well I've learned the errors of my ways.

     

    K

  • Thanks for the information, but I feel I'm reading more about you and the children, than the product. I expected a product review.

    The pictures would be great if you get around to it. I'm hoping some useful diagrams/photos could help if you feel you have nothing further to write about the product.

  • You nailed it, man. Are you a clairvoyant? </ironic>

  • I've learned a lot in a time when almost anything wasn't programmed yet, so it would drive us (there was a small bunch of kids messing with simple computers) to develop it ourselves. My children have access to cell phones, tablets, computers and internet. If there is something they would lack, they simply don't give it a second thought, because the next second they are already watching another and another video.

     

    So, for my children, they don't feel the need to do it. I was exposing my frustration. As for pictures of the devboard, unpacking and the demos, the other reviews have done it. I have some pictures, however. I'll see later if I can add those.

  • Valid point. The project was starting my children to it, and solving problems is a way too. It kind of turned into a personal challenge, instead of just for the kids. A few weeks more isn't too much, however. I feel comfortable at writing that "Support materials were available" deserves only a "2" because I've looked for such references at least 2 or 3 times a week since then.

  • Jenn-Air stoves and microwaves if you look at their new gui it will tell the story.  lol