Cool Boards and Chips to be Aware of
This page is intended to be a knowledge base for microcontrollers, development boards, and Systems on Chip (SoCs). Since ’embedded systems’ is a broad topic, both high level boards (such as those from the Rasperry Pi family) will be included along side with low-level, single chip microcontrollers. Device families will be roughly organized from high-level to low-level. If you would like to contribute to this list, contact the community coordinator.
Note: This page is a work in progress and will be continuously edited….
Raspberry Pi Family
If running running Linux on a tiny board interests you, Raspberry Pi is a great place to start. On the down side, these won’t be as helpful if your goal is to learn low level embedded system programming.
Recommended for beginners:
Arduino Boards and Modules
Arduino boards are classic for beginners and hobbyists. There is enough documentation online to create a project from scratch with no prior background whatsoever in electrical engineering or coding. Arduinos can also be quite helpful for more experienced engineers/hobbyists who want to rapidly test out ideas.
Recently, Arduino unveiled 4 new boards that will be coming out this summer.
Adafruit Feather 32u4/M0 Boards
The Adafruit Feather is a small, lightweight board with a lot of useful features. It has the option for either an ATMega 32u4 microcontroller or an ARM Cortex M0 microcontroller. It can also be ordered with a variety of extras such as a microSD card interface, an Ethernet interface, and multiple different wireless modules for standards such as LoRa, Wifi, and Bluetooth LE.
Like Arduino, the Feather supports many different “shields” (called Wings) that add additional functionality such as GPS and relays. It can also be programmed using the Arduino IDE.
Recommended for beginners: Any of the Feather boards
ESP8266 and ESP32
The ESP8266 and ESP32 families are a great place to start if you are interested in including WiFi or BLE in your project. The ESP8266 is strictly a WiFi chip, but the ESP32 supports WiFi and BLE while boasting a 2-core processor, RTC, and secondary ULP microcontroller. This is particularly useful for IOT applications.
The ESP32 also has some Arduino support, though I recommend using ESP-IDF since some of the Arduino features are glitchy.
Recommended for beginners: ESP32 Dev Board
Recommended for non-beginners: ESP32-WROOM32
AutoConnect A very helpful library for ESP8266 on Arduino IDE. AutoConnect allows users to manually enter WiFi credentials without hardcoding the information into the firmware. In short, the ESP will start up by broadcasting its own WiFi network where users can connect and provide the system with the wireless credentials, then the ESP will try to connect to the network.
As the name suggests, ATtiny microcontrollers are tiny 8-bit AVR microcontrollers. This is a good place to start learning the basics of embedded systems since there are relatively few features to keep track of.
ATMEGAs are a popular family of microcontrollers within the AVR family. Most Arduino boards use ATMEGA chips, so this could be a natural progression from Arduino to integrating microcontrollers into your own boards.
32-bit microcontrollers/microprocessors with a wide range of peripheral capability, offered by ST. They have some pretty wide high-power applications, including Bitcraze’s Crazyflie 2.0 mini-quadcopters and OpenMV, the premium embedded computer vision board with a healthy development environment. The CoreH743I is a solid development board to begin working with the higher end STM32 microcontrollers.
Pronounced “risk five”, this new architecture has modular sets of instructions to allow lightweight or full-featured implementations depending on the desired performance, cost, and power consumption. They generally use about 30% of the power of an equivalent STM32. There is gcc support, but working examples may be few and far-between as RISC-V is only just coming into popular usage. Here are some boards that are available in the US:
Longan Nano (with OLED Display)
Polos GDV32 Alef (bare-bones breakout board)