Gert van Loo is one of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s earliest volunteers. We wouldn’t have a Raspberry Pi without Gert; he did the hardware engineering for the alpha boards which turned into the eventual Raspberry Pi you’ve got on your desk/taped behind the TV/in your ping-pong robot today. Gert created the Gertboard – our favourite GPIO expansion board – shortly after we launched Raspberry Pi. Besides these personal projects he still volunteers with us: he’s a forum mod, he worked on the Raspberry Pi camera board, he’s working on kids’ electronics kits for the Pi with us, and he dropped by the other day to show me a few of his latest projects, including GertDuino.
We’re very excited about GertDuino. It’s basically an Arduino that mounts onto your Raspberry Pi, creating an all-in-one development environment – but unlike your standard Arduino, as well as having an Atmega 328 microcontroller, it also incorporates an Atmega 48 which gives you an IRDA interface, a battery backup power supply, and a high-precision real-time clock, which many of you have been asking for. The Atmega 328 is Arduino-Uno® compatible, so you can clip on shields to your heart’s content. There are push buttons, a reset button, and a spangly array of LEDs – Gert feels that where one LED is great, six is always better. We love it.
“There has been a discussion on the forum from the beginning about the partnership that a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino can have. Both have their pros and cons, but together they’re great. So I decided to combine the two. But I wanted to do more than just add a microcontroller. The idea is that Gertduino can be programmed and developed on the PI, but then unplugged and used standalone. That is why there is a second controller with real-time-clock and IRDA interface. Plug in a motor shield and you can e.g. open the door of your chicken scoop [Liz interjects: Gert's first language is not English, and I am pretty sure he means coop, not scoop, unless he's got into meat processing when we weren't looking] every morning at 8 am. Or you can point a remote control at it and close your curtains from your chair. I added the RS232 interface so you can connect two boards over a long cable. It is the combination of these individual features which makes it so powerful.”
Here’s a spot of home video that Gert shot during development, all excited because he got a motor shield working for the first time.
Of course, being Gert, he’s not stopped with the hardware: he’s made a 30-page manual available too, complete with schematics and example code.
GertDuino is currently available through Element14. You’ll find some more technical information at the link, as well as some video interviews with Gert. Thanks Gert – we’re looking forward to seeing what everybody gets up to with GertDuino!