an intuitive tabbed interface that logically groups the
different operations that you would want to perform with
Firing up the application, we were happy to see that it
recognized our I/O Explorer upon connecting it to the
computer via the provided retractable USB cable. But
beyond seeing that an “ioexp” was connected, we really
couldn’t do anything with the Adept software. The board
was never able to initialize while using the Adept
application. We were stunned that we were running into
problems so soon, but then we did what any wise tinkerer
would do in the first place and took a penetrating look at
the reference manual (which is available on the Digilent
The Adept software application is not designed to work
with the I/O Explorer. The I/O Explorer is based on AVR
microcontrollers, the in-system programming for which is
SPI based. This is not a cause for alarm, because the folks
at Digilent have created a vast library of API sets to help
users take full advantage of the impressive capabilities of
the I/O Explorer. Instead of using the Adept application,
users must simply write applications that run on the
computer and use the I/O Explorer as an input device.
Before we got too deep into programming, we wanted to
take a moment to review the impressive array of sensors
and other inputs on the board.
The I/O Explorer itself is a sleek and polished unit, with
a plethora of components sitting atop a cool blue PCB.
Immediately apparent are sets of switches and LEDs. A row
of 16 LEDs sits above a row of eight toggle switches. Next
to the switches are a set of four pushbuttons. In addition to
the tactile, the I/O Explorer covers your auditory senses by
including a buzzer near the center of the board. Rising up
from the board like majestic skyscrapers above a PCB city
are two encoder knobs with built-in pushbuttons. There are
two 10-bit analog-to-digital inputs and four 12-bit digital-to-analog outputs. The board even contains eight ports for
connecting RC servos. Finally, lining the edge of the board
are six Pmod connectors (five 12-pin and one six-pin). The
Pmods are peripheral modules that add functionality to the
board, but before looking at those there was still plenty to
do with the stock device.
Are You Smarter Than a PhD
Candidate in Computer Science?
Even though the I/O Explorer does not work with the
Adept software application, it is compatible with the Adept
Software Development Kit available on the Digilent website.
The Adept SDK is a bundle of sample codes and
documentation that offer plenty of guidance accessible
even to instrumental programmers like ourselves. That
being said, the I/O Explorer is not exactly designed for
programming novices. We had a difficult time ourselves
getting started with the device, but that was partly from a
misunderstanding engendered by a far too cursory reading
of the reference manual. We are used to projects with
THE ADEPT INTERFACE.
EIGHT LED PMOD.
THE CON3 PMOD FOR ATTACHING SERVOS.
SERVO 11.2011 69