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Alice Mini

A low cost, high performance
UNO compatible breadboard
with ESP8266 Wi-Fi
Great for learning Arduino
Great for ESP8266 development.
Great for senior design projects.
 

 

Alice Mini main features:

  • Atmega328P in DIP, upgradeable to the Atmega1284P in DIP.
  • Two pushbuttons.
  • Two user LEDs.
  • FET buffered D13 LED.
  • MicroSD memory card holder.
  • I2C interface for 0.96" OLED, 128x64 graphic display or 2x16 character LCD.
  • Accepts TFT 2.2" adapter ( the adapter is not included, but open source through hole PCB is available at Oshpark).
  • A complete ESP8266 development board, works like SparkFun ESP8266 thing, directly supported by Arduino IDE, no extra installation needed.
  • Easy to program ESP-01, works as a NodeMCU. Auto programming without pushing a button or change a jumper.
  • Supports multi-processor applications using I2C communication between 328P and ESP8266
  • Solderless breadboard included. Less wires and neater prototyping.
  • External power supply using a smart phone charger.
  • 3.3V 1A regulator for ESP8266 web applications.
  • Works as a 3.3V/5V 1A FTDI cable for your target board.
  • Reverse polarity protection diode and resettable fuse.
  • Accepts all shields for Arduino UNO, except the Ethernet shield, because the ISP header is moved to a new location.
  • 4 rubber feet to prevent from scratching your table.
  • Compact design, PCB size: 3.84" x 2.48", or 97.6mm x 63.0mm.

Schematic and BOM

Alice Mini incorporates some features that make it a high perfomance UNO compatible board

1. Like the UNO, the 328P comes in the DIP package. When it's burnt, just replace it with a new one. When your sketch reaches memory size limit, just replace it with a 1284P.

2. All components should not be located under breadboard are placed near PCB edges, like LEDs and pushbuttons.
For a better reliability, the voltage regulator is placed at an edge as well, so heat won't be trapped under the breadboard.

3. Built-in SD memory card holder for data logger applications.
4. WiFi and OLED applications.
5. ISP header accessible.
6. Four mounting holes.

Function-wise, the Alice Mini = UNO + Sparkfun's ESP8266 thing + OLED shield + SD shield + pushbutton_LED shield + High power FTDI cable + breadboard + Breadboard_UNO holder combined into one board.

Its value=$25+$15+$5+$8+$5+$8+$5+$4=$75 if you buy them separately. It will be more if shipping costs are added to.

 

Operating Instructions:

Assuming that you have already known how to use a UNO.  If you haven't and are without any guidance, you better buy an official UNO to start your Arduino learning process.  If you are a new student, your teacher can help you start. 

Mode1: 
Use it as a UNO, 100% Arduino software compatible

     
             
1.  Place 2 jumpers over 4 lower pins on the J4, so the FT231XS will talk to the Atmega328P.   2.  Remove the jumper on J2, so the 328P will be out of reset.
 
  3.  No ESP-01 module is plugged on the H3.

 

  4.  Connect a MicroUSB cable from the upper MicroUSB jack to a PC USB port.
 

5.  With above settings, the Alice Mini works just like a UNO. 
6.  Invoke Arduino IDE, click Tools->Board->Arduino UNO, click Tools->Port->COMx and use it as a UNO. 

      

Mode2:
Use the Atmega328P to interface ESP8266 via AT commands.
This is not the preferred method because there is no standard for AT commend set, but it's great for the purpose of education.
See Roger Scheafer's finding

     
             
1.  Place 2 jumpers over 4 lower pins on the J4, so the FT231XS will talk to the Atmega328P.
 
  2.  Remove the jumper on J2, so the 328P will be out of reset.

 
  3.  Plug in an ESP-01 module onto the H3, connect D3 to RX of ESP-01, D2 to TX of ESP-01 as shown above.
 
  4.  Connect a MicroUSB cable from the upper MicroUSB jack to a PC USB port. 
 

5.  Invoke Arduino IDE, click Tools->Board->Arduino UNO, click tools->Port->COMx and use it as a UNO.
      
 

Mode 3: 
Use it as an ESP8266 standalone development board without the Atmega328P
This is the preferred method of developing ESP8266 sketches.           

     
             
1.  Place 2 jumpers over 4 upper pins on the J4, so the FT231XS will talk to the ESP-01.

 

  2.  Place a jumper on J2,  the J2 jumper will put the 328P in reset.


 

  3.  Plug an ESP-01 module onto the H3.

 

 

  4.  Connect a MicroUSB cable from the upper MicroUSB jack to a PC USB port.

 

5.  Invoke Arduino IDE, click Tools->Board->Generic ESP8266 Module, click Tools->Port->COMx

6.  Once you clicked the ESP8266 module as the board type, then you re-click the Tools, more selections will show up,
     select  the 'nodemcu'  as the Reset Method, the upload speed is 115200.

 

Mode 4:  
Use it as a 5V 1A or 3.3V 1A FTDI cable.

     
             
1.  Place a jumper on J2,  the J2 jumper will put the 328P in reset.
 

 

  2.  No ESP-01 module is plugged on the H3.
 

 

  3.  Select voltage for your target, place a jumper on the J7, upper position for 5V.
 
  4.  Select voltage for your target, place a jumper on the J7, lower position for 3.3V.

 
  5.  Regardless of the positions of 2 jumpers on the J4, the FT231XS will talk to the target board.

6.  Connect a MicroUSB cable from upper MicroUSB jack to a PC USB port. 

     
  7.  It uses USB 5V as the power source for your target board, it is limited to 0.5A.  To get 1A output to your target, you need to add more 5V power source  to the lower MicroUSB jack as shown on the picture at the left. A smart phone's 1A charger may be what you need to add. Most FTDI cables can only provide 0.5A, sometime you may need more. So this feature is handy.
   

 

  8.  Connect 6 DuPont wires from the 6-pin yellow header to the FTDI header of your target board.
     


Sample Programs:

We will post some sample programs in the future.  Since the Alice Mini is fully compatible to the Arduino UNO, so for the time being you can treat it as a UNO to run all sample sketches for the UNO.  If you cover it and a UNO with newspaper, you won't know which one is which when developing sketches.  All sketches work for the UNO will work for the Alice Mini without any modifications. 

For example, to blink the D13 LED, invoke Arduino IDE, click File->Examples->Basics->Blink, the Blink sketch will be displayed, then click the Upload button '->' to compile, upload and run the Blink sketch.

 

2.2" TFT display via a small shield
The shield is available at Oshpark
https://www.oshpark.com/profiles/firebirduino 
The SD card contains the bitmap file for the logo

With an ATMEGA1284P
The SD card contains the bitmap file for the logo

 

 

Thanks to Adafruit for the SSD1306 driver on the I2C 0.96" OLED.

Thanks for Roger Scheafer's help in software and beta testing. All sample programs for the Alice Mini are written by him.