What is a Microcontroller?


Below is an image of the Arduino. Its actually an Arduino MEGA – the big brother of the Arduino Family.
This Arduino and its Arduino brothers and sisters are all Micro-controllers.

What do you think that word Micro-controller might mean?
Break it down into its two parts – what do they mean individually?

Share your ideas with the people around you – were there different ideas? 

IMG_1047IMG_1048Electronics often look so complicated and we see them around us so much that we often just stop looking at them closely. The same goes for computer code – its complicated so our brains tend to just jump over it looking for things they already understand.

If we force ourselves to look a little closer we might discover ways of thinking about and working with the electronics rather than just skipping over the detail.

Lets have a close look and try and work out what the little bits and pieces might do and what the little bits of text printed on the arduino might tell us about.


Can you identify the Brain of this little controller?
How do we know it is the controllers brain?
What do our brains do actually?
What are the similarities between our brains and this one?

Our brains are connected to our senses via our nervous system. Can you see what  is connected to the Arduino’s brain and how…

Our brains process signals from outside – we learn to process these signals via biology and experience (we learn). That is: we have developed a set of instructions that tells us what to do when we see a door or some food.

What ways might your Arduino get signals from outside?
Look carefully at the printed text on the board for clues?

Are there any plugs or other elements that you recognise?
What are those plugs use for elsewhere? What do you think they might be used for here?

If we have experience that tells us how to respond to things we see, hear, taste how does the Arduino get its instructions and where do they live?