If you have put off educating yourself about using a microcontroller in mechatronics projects, Renesas offers a way to get started with a free 2-by-2-inch microcontroller board that connects to a host PC via a USB cable. The board includes a 20-pin 16-bit MCU in the Renesas R8C/M12A family and debug circuit that lets you take advantage of the capabilities of software to download and test software as well as monitor code operations. Software includes a free C compiler (24 Kbyte code limit) that operates with the Renesas High-performance Embedded Workshop (HEW) software, which is also free. (Evaluation software might have a time limit.)
“But wait,” you might say, “what can I do with only 20 pins?” Plenty. The MCU provides as many as 17 I/O pins, low-power operating modes, counters and timers, comparators and a 6-channel 10-bit analog-to-digital converter. You’ll need some strips of header pins–not included with the board–if you want to breadboard circuits. The board has plated-through holes for such strips; you just need a soldering iron and some solder.
If you choose, you can purchase the board from a Renesas distributor. One distributor I checked charges $US 65, but had only a handful in stock. The board has Renesas part number: R0K502M12S000BE.
One caution: You can find additional software for an R8C/M12A MCU and other Renesas devices on the community-supported Renesas Rulz web site at: http://renesasrulz.com/index.jspa. As far as I can tell, Renesas itself does not provide a hands-on tutorial or “experiments” specifically for the free evaluation board. I found only one entry in the Renesas Rulz forum for the R8C/M12 MCU. –Jon Titus
Register for a free board at: https://update.renesas.com/registration/CampSem.do?CampaignID=R8C_M12A_RPB&language=en®ion=na&TOPIC=rxstick&referer=Renesas
Information about the board: http://am.renesas.com/products/tools/introductory_evaluation_tools/renesas_starter_kits/rpb_r8cm12a/rpb_r8cm12a.jsp.
Information about the R3C/M12A MCU: http://am.renesas.com/products/mpumcu/r8c/r8cmx/r8cm12a/r8cm12a_root.jsp