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?: Perhaps the Arduino Uno R#, although the whole point of the Mega is that it has more pins, more memory, etc.
What were the biggest problems encountered?: My personal circumstances.
First, I owe a huge apology to Element 14 and the Element 14 Community. I realize this report is a few years late, but I wanted to hang in there and complete it, regardless of my personal challenges. Shortly after receiving my Arduino Mega for Road testing, several unforseen circumstances kept me from completing my road test including the weather (the rage of hurricanes we had at the time), an extended illness, and accident, and surgery. I am happy to report that I have made a full recovery, and because of that I was able to finish working on my road test. The road test I evisioned wasn't so much of a test this time, but more of a project,l from a DIY/Maker/Hobbyist perspective. I have a portable hot tub that currently resides within my Gazeebo; in my back yard. The project was to create a "control" center that could be operated from the within the Gazeebo (and even while in the hot tub if necessary) that would control, decorative LEDs for night time lighting, security lights placed on the perimeter of the Gazeebo along with a PIR sensor, inside spot lights (brighter then the decorative lights for the purpose of being able to see to perform tasks), provide the current time and date setting, and monitor the outdoor temperature and humidity. All of this would be created with only components that I have in my own stock, and using my Lulzbot Taz5 3D printer. The power for this project would be provided by solar panels attached to the roof of my house (the Gazeebo is under tree cover) and a Radio Shack 12V 5Ah battery. The Arduino Mega seemed appropriate because of the number of I/O pins required for switches, controls, and devices and the extended memory (as compared to an Arduino Uno for example) for programming purposes. As far as the performance of the Arduino Mega is concerned, what can be said? An excellent microcontroller which has literally changed the electronics hobby field is difficult to find fault with. As a result, must of the remainder of my Road Test will describe the actual project itself.
Unboxing: The unit arrived in perfect condition; the shipping box was well prepared and the Arduiono Mega had no physical issues. (Photos UB4 and UB5).
Solar Cells: The solar cells were harvested from a variety of devices which were no longer in operation. I designed a case to hold the solar cells which would be mounted on the roof of my house. The case, as well as any other items created for this project, was printed in ABS plastic with my 3D printer. The top of the case was covered with clear plexiglass. The case was sealed air tight, and using a pump, I extracted the ambient air from the case (to help prevent condensation and fogging in the future). The solar cells were connected in parallel and series to achieve a maximum charging rate of approximately 16.5 volts (photo SP2) with approximately a total of .25 Amps (photo SP1). The charger control was created from passive components (breadboarding picture SC1) with an LM317T adjustable voltage regulator as the key component. Although the charger has built in over-chrage protection, I also created a circuit that monitored the battery using a simple voltage splitter so the Arduiono could determine voltage, and should the charger fail to work diverting the solar charge to prevent over charging, the charge circuit was connected to a simp[le Latching Relay connected to the Arduino to disconnect the charging circuit in case of failure. I have included pictures of the Gazeebo and house, Roof (Roof1 and RoofClose) showing the mounted solar cells and the wiring (WireGutter). The decorative LEDs were already in place and were originally s tore bought strand that included a small solar cell and battery. I spliced 2 sets together and attached them to the control mechanism with extra Cat5E type solid core wire that I had kept from anopther earlier project(DecLED).
Component Construction: I designed the lights, battery box, control box, PIR mount, etc. using my 3D printer and ABS filament. The following images include captures of component construction. (Printer) of course, is a photo of my printer printihng a light receptacle. Once printed, the receptacle's interior was smoothed with sand paper, following an Acetone smoothing procedcure (Light). The final product was spray painted with several coats of metallic spray paint to achieve a relfective surface for the receptacle and 5 LEDs for each receptacle (Light2). I also created a battery box with thick (5mm) walls to hold and protect the battery, and the console itself. Total components created included: One PIR sensor enclosure/mount, 3 Security Lights, 2 "Inside" lights, a holder for the DHT11 temperature/humidity sensor, and an additonal container for mounting the accompanying PCB boards. I created the PCB boards from scratch, using Eagle to design them, and the dry film prototyping method to create the boards.
Summary: This undertaking was far beyond what I expected. It took plenty of time to CAD design all parts for printing, print the parts, design the PCB circuits, and assemble everything together. None-the-less, the project is completed and the Arduino Mega is doing well. Since the project included using an LCD1602 and all the other extermal connections, as stated earlier, the pin count for what initially appeared to be a fairly simple project was actually rather high. In all over 23 IO pins were used on the Arduino Mega, notincluding connections to the 5V and GND pins. The low voltage (12V Battery) source provides plenty of power to produce the proper brightness of lighting, and has the convenience of being mounted within arms reach so that the control panel can be accessed while standing in the hot tub. I had no issues with the Arduino Mega (as I said in the begfinning, an already time-tested instrument) and it is working well today. Once agin, I apologize for the extreme delay, but due to unusual circumstances, I was "out of action" for quite some time. I'm back now and I thank Randall Scasny and Element14 and the Element14 Community for their patience. I am currently in the process of creating a hobbyist web site where this and many more projects will be highlighted. Currently it is under construction, but check it soon for more details at seniorhobbynerd.com.