Raspberry Pi project boards pt.3 – Gertboard

11Jan13

In earlier posts of this series I’ve looked at ladder board and Quick2Wire’s boards. This post is about the official expansion project board for the Raspberry Pi, named after its creator Gert van Loo, the Gertboard.

gertboardConstruction

Like the other boards I’ve looked at Gertboard comes as a kit of parts. The two things that are unlike the other boards are that there are a *lot* of parts in the kit, and some of them are surface mount components.

Soldering SMT

Surface Mount Technology is designed for machines not people, and in most cases kits aimed at hobbyists come with any SMT bits already in place. Not the Gertboard though. It is possible to solder SMT by hand, at least with simple components like resistors and capacitors, it’s just a bit tricky. If you’re thinking of building a Gertboard then I have two pieces of advice for you :

  1. Don’t work over a carpet.
  2. Clean the floor before you start, because at some stage you’ll be looking for a capacitor the size of a bread crumb, and you don’t want to be dealing with actual bread crumbs.

My daughter’s young eyes and hands turned out to be very helpful, but even with that assistance we had a few cases of hunt the component after something had pinged out of the needle nose tweezers I was using to hold things in place.

Soldering the rest

The through pin parts of the Gertboard are as easy as any of the other boards I’ve worked with. There’s just a lot of them, so reckon on an entire afternoon to put the whole thing together.

Capabilities

Gertboard does a lot of different things (and has to be configured with various jumpers and jump leads for whatever pieces of functionality you’re after). It has buttons, LEDs, ADCs, DACs, motor controllers and more. It even has its own computer – the same Microcontroller (ATmega328) as used on many Arduino boards.

There’s a lot more functionality than I can really do justice to here, so I’d suggest a read of TechFruits’ ‘Getting to Know Your Gertboard’.

In use

I’ve not really done much with my Gertboard yet past running some rudimentary GPIO examples that use the push buttons and LEDs – stuff that would work just as well on the ladder board. So far its enormous potential has exceeded my ability to think up any cool projects for it. As the motor controller is something that I don’t have with other Raspberry Pi boards (or any of the other dev boards I use) then that’s the most likely area I’ll exploit.

Conclusion

Gertboard is the mother of all project boards for the Raspberry Pi. Just putting it together feels like a major accomplishment. I look forward to having the time and a bright idea for doing something really cool with it.

 



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