The TiLDA Mkπ

ST at Electromagnetic Field 2016 : MCU And Sensors in the Most Interactive of Badges

Application Examples, Events, Our products 1 Comment

Electromagnetic Field 2016 is a non-profit camping festival that took place last weekend, from August 5 to August 7, in Guildford, United Kingdom. This self-described “temporary village for those with an inquisitive mind or an interest in making things: hackers, artists, geeks, crafters, scientists, and engineers”, was attended by over 1000 people. It was a wonderful place to share and learn about new technologies through workshops, talks, and demonstrations.

One of the main attractions of the camp was the attendees’ badge: a system with a microcontroller (MCU), an LCD screen, and a wireless module. It became a supporting tool in some programming classes and allowed participants to experiment. At the heart of this year’s badge, named TiLDA Mkπ or Mk3, was an STM32 L4 MCU, an ARM® Cortex®-M4 core architecture chip that offers an FPU, the ST ART Accelerator, and runs at 80 MHz.

Electromagnetic Field 2016

Electromagnetic Field 2016

An STM32 L4 to Drive Electromagnetic Field 2016

The TiLDA Mkπ's interface

The TiLDA Mkπ’s interface

As we’ve previously explained when we talked about the SPEEDY Board, the ST ART Accelerator improves the efficiency of the ARM® Cortex®-M4 architecture by allowing instructions to be executed in the internal flash memory to reduce bottlenecks and improve performance. Hence, the system doesn’t have to wait idly for the instruction to be fetched and placed in SRAM before it can be processed. This is made possible because of the way the STM32 L4 organizes its flash memory into 128-bit chunks.

The presence of a single precision Floating Point Unit (FPU) also means that developers have access to powerful instructions that will enable them to create great data and signal processing applications. All of this is contained in an ultra low-power MCU that consumes as little as 8 nA in its ultra-low-power mode. It is also a very affordable component that was available during a not for profit camp festival put together by volunteers motivated by their passion for new technologies.

Sensors as the Badge’s Arms and Legs

TiLDA Mkπ a Electromagnetic Field 2016

TiLDA Mkπ at Electromagnetic Field 2016

The TiLDA Mkπ also featured the LSM6DS3, a 3D digital accelerometer and 3D digital gyroscope that only requires 1.25 mA max in its high-performance mode and can go as low as 0.9 mA. This component enables the system to detect orientation to adjust what appears on-screen as a consequence of the position of the badge. The presence of the LSM6DS3 also means that the Mkπ can become a pedometer or a little gaming machine that uses tilt and movement to control objects on the screen. Not only does the sensor enhance usability, it turns an unusual badge into a fantastic development platform opened to a wide array of easy and fun experiments.

The badge also included the LIS3MDL, a 3-axis magnetometer, which is quite indispensable when the name of your camp is “Electromagnetic Field”. Its sensor can measure the strength of a magnetic field using a user-selectable scale that goes from ±4 gauss to ±16 gauss with intervals of ±4 gauss. With the data from LIS3MDL, the badge can become a compass or a magnetometer. It also becomes easier to teach or experiment with devices that rely on electromagnetic fields.

We would like to congratulate the organizers and attendees of Electromagnetic Field 2016 for another successful camp and we know greater things await in 2018, year of the next festival. The code for the badge’s firmware and the MKπ server is available on GitHub. ST was glad to sponsor such a fantastic event and looks forward to seeing the innovation and creativity of the brilliant minds that relied on our products to satisfy their thirst for knowledge and curiosity. For more insight on the badge definition and production process see Jonty Wareing: The EMF 2016 Badge.