Plug and Play Feedback Systems with Modularis

In the last meetup, Dr. Mathias Bachmayer presented his Modularis platform. Modularis is all about making control theory and feedback work. Especially, if you want to build robots or mechatronic devices, control theory will play an important role.

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According to Wikipedia, control theory “deals with the behavior of dynamical systems with inputs, and how their behavior is modified by feedback.” To simplify the development of these systems, Mathias investigated a number of patterns and electronic building blocks. This is the background of the Modularis project, which has its roots in Mathias’ dissertation research going back to 2005 (way back before Arduino became popular.)

Modularis provides a number of sensors and actuators that can be easily connected as shown below. While the early Modularis boards had rather large connectors, the newer boards became tinier and friendler for advanced integrations.

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An important feature of Modularis is the use of the I2C bus. You can easily connect sensors and actuators with ribbon cables. And, you can connect a microcontroller for system control too. Currently, Modularis supports Atmega168 and Atmega328 microcontrollers which are easy to program with the common AVR tools. Mathias is experimenting with other microcontrollers such as ARM Cortex based devices too. But contact Mathias for more information on this.

We then had an overview of common Modularis boards, such as bridges for CAN and LIN, as well as Wifi. The Modularis system also works with a Raspberry Pi. The highlight of the evening was a demo of a plotter that was built with Modularis.

After the talk, we had some discussions about differences between Modularis and Arduino. Mathias explained that while Arduino is nice for basic electronics, he thinks that Modularis provides a much better entry point for learning about control theory and systems. We are planning to have some more meetups about teaching system design with Modularis soon.

A note about getting a Modularis Kit: Mathias is still working on the online shop, opening around 1st of July at www.aevum-mechatronik.de/shop. You will be able to buy the basic module MOD000 with a USB programmer. Code and libraries will be available at Github.