picXplorer is a prototyping and modelling system for developing PIC based control systems aimed at educational users. The versatility and low cost of PICs have transformed the nature of electronics in schools very much in the way that controllers generally have transformed the nature of industrial electronics. This change has been facilitated by the availability of programming systems such as PIC Logicator (now Logicator for PICs), PICAXE, eChip, Flowol and Circuit Wizard (also known as Genie). These systems provide students with the programming tools to implement PIC based electronic systems without having to understand and use the more complex programming tools used by engineers; such as C and assembler.
The obvious advantage of using PICs as the processing element in an electronic system is that the required hardware for any given solution is usually very much simpler that its discrete logic based counterpart. This make designing and making a printed circuit board much simpler. But it does add an extra dimension, that of writing and debugging the control programme. Students designing, making and programming a PIC based control system face quite a challenge at the final testing stage. What do they do when they have finished assembling their project, download the PIC programme . . . and then it does not work? Designing and making PIC systems needs a strategic approach that students can follow - especially in the current climate of controlled assessment at key stage 4 (in the UK).
picXplorer has been developed to help students be independent in the design and implementation of their PIC based control systems by:
|¡||providing a comprehensive set of input and output modules that can be quickly plugged into a PIC motherboard; to give students a feel for what components are required for a given system, how they might fit the project context, and a means of checking that their chosen modules will do the required job.|
|¡||working hardware on which the project software can be developed, tested and completed.|
|¡||ready drawn sub-circuits that can be cut and pasted together (in Circuit Wizard) for simulating the final project and for designing the PCB.|
|¡||ready drawn sub-system blocks in Seetrax XL Designer for creating PCB designs from block diagrams.|
picXplorer provides tools for the systematic design and make of PIC based electronic systems and a means for students to check for themselves whether malfunctioning projects are due to faulty hardware or faulty software.