In 2016 I began work on MECControl, a system that allows those new to computer control and programming to easily control devices such as motors, LEDs and buttons from their Windows PC.
There were many aspects to the MECControl project:
- Developing Arduino/Genuino firmware in C++.
- Developing Windows software in VB.Net.
- Developing a range of ‘no soldering required’ electronic components.
- Creating a website and online shop.
- Creating help documentation and video tutorials.
The MECControl system
What follows is a brief introduction to MECControl — you can find out more on the MECControl website in the Help section or by watching the tutorials and Project Spotlights in the Videos section.
MECControl works with the easy-to-use Arduino/Genuino Uno and Mega microcontroller boards which connect to a computer via a USB port and allow you to control all manner of devices.
The Arduino/Genuino Uno
For example, the Arduino/Genuino Uno has fourteen connectors which can be used as either digital inputs or digital outputs.
- As outputs, they can be connected to devices such as LEDs, motors and Meccanoid servo motors.
- As inputs, they can be connected to devices such as buttons and switches.
The Arduino/Genuino Uno also has six analogue inputs which can be connected to devices such as potentiometers.
To use MECControl you will need to download the free open-source MECControl firmware and install it onto your Arduino/Genuino Uno or Mega.
The MECControl firmware gives you the ability to control devices connected to your Arduino/Genuino Uno or Mega, either by sending commands to it directly via the USB port, or by using the MECControl software.
The MECControl software gives you an intuitive language to control the devices connected to your Arduino/Genuino Uno or Mega from your Windows PC.
Here’s what the MECControl software looks like when it first runs:
The MECControl software interface
To demonstrate how easy it is to get started with MECControl, here is a simple example that will flash the LED that is built into your Arduino/Genuino Uno or Mega:
- Connect your Arduino/Genuino Uno or Mega to any USB port on your computer using a USB lead.
- Type the following into the MECControl editor (add ‘Board Mega’ at the top if using the Arduino/Genuino Mega):
Connect Flasher LED To Pin 13
Wait For 1 Second
Light Flasher Black
Wait For 1 Second
Jump To Start
- Click on the Start button.
In additon to LEDs, you can also control devices such as motors, Meccanoid servos, stepper motors, relays and solenoids using MECControl — find out more about these on the MECControl website in the Help section.
In order to help those new to electronics I created a range electronic components for use with MECControl.
Each one came pre-wired with leads so that it could be used right away by plugging it into an Arduino/Genuino Uno or Mega — with no soldering required!
One of the MECControl components — a lead with built-in resistors for connecting Meccanoid devices to the Arduino/Genuino Uno or Mega
To help those who are starting from nothing I created a MECControl Starter Pack which contained a selection of these components and a copy of the MECControl software.
The MECControl website is partly built upon my own Content Management System (CMS), and utilises several of its features to provide an online shop and news feed:
- Online editing of static pages and news items.
- A hierarchical, searchable, product catalogue with stock control.
- Customisable rules to allow for a variety of discounts and special offers.
- Customisable rules to calculate shipping cost by order total, weight and/or location.
- Secure online ordering with PayPal or SagePay integration.
- Customisable e-mail and document templates for order notifications, invoices, labels etc.
- Automated mail-outs to subscribers featuring new products, news, etc.
The online shop
The website also has many effectively static pages, such as the homepage which introduces visitors to the MECControl system:
The website homepage
In other sections of the website visitors can download the MECControl firmware, read extensive help documentation, watch video tutorials, and see how others are using MECControl in their projects.
The videos, which I created with Adobe Premiere, are also available on the MECControl YouTube channel.
Tutorial and Project Spotlight videos