Something of a prospective big stepbrother to Arduino, BoardX is a new DIY electronics kit dreamt up by robotics enthusiast turned entrepreneur, Kevin Green. Like Arduino, BoardX is a customizable and expandable motherboard that forms a base, schematically and structurally, to whatever electronics wizardry the end user has in mind. What separates BoardX from Arduino is its larger physical size, greater current-carrying capacity, and the fact that the board does not come with an integrated processor. Users must select their own.
At 97 x 87.6 mm (3.8 x 3.4-inch), BoardX's footprint is significantly greater than the 75 x 53 mm (2.95 x 2.1-inch ) of the comparable Arduino Uno board, but Green sees his creation as a space-saver when it comes to add-ons. Thanks to its numerous sockets, with 6 add-ons BoardX stands at a height of approximately three inches. An equivalent Arduino stack would reach a foot tall, according to Green. The specs additionally claim BoardX can carry a current of 3,000 mA which would seem to dwarf Aruidno's 40 mA per I/O pin, of which it has 14. However, it would be misleading to think of this as a limit to Arduino's power capacity, though it may be that BoardX lends itself to higher-powered applications without the need for expansion. That being the case, BoardX may make a compelling contender for homebrew projects that require a little more juice.
Yet this is a project very much in its infancy. Borne out of frustration at what Green saw as the limitations of existing products, Arduino and Beagle, he went about creating his own board for a solar-powered robot under development by his team of roboticists at Virginia Tech. With the addition of a breadboard (another feature in common with its rival), his team could quickly and easily reconfigure third party components.
Taking the inspiration to be bold, he says, from Captain Kirk, Green decided to expand the idea into an open source electronics outfit. Why open source? By publishing and sharing his component designs and code examples under a Creative Commons 3.0 share-alike license, Green hopes to build a community around the BoardX. It's perhaps for this reason that BoardX also works out of the box with Arduino's open source Processing-based software development kit.
At the moment BoardX is a pricier alternative to Arduino, and it's cost that is the primary reason that Green is seeking funding: to the tune of $20,000. This, he says, will enable him to price kits as affordably, and free him from the burden of having to assemble boards by hand. Currently a BoardX motherboard will set you back $59 whereas an Arduino Uno, with processor included let's not forget, can be obtained for $25. Green has set a deadline of December 16 to reach his target. At the time of writing, there are still $13,692 to go.
Contributors to the BoardX cause receive more than a smug sense of self-satisfaction. For $25 backers will have their name on the project website (smug satisfaction is more fun when broadcast, after all), while for $32 and more backers will receive various BoardX gear, some at discounted rates.
At the moment, with an uncertain future and a limited choice of add-ons available, BoardX may best be left to dedicated electronics gurus willing to assemble add-ons of their own. But we admire Green's entrepreneurial spirit and hope BoardX prospers. The world of homebrew electronics will be richer for its presence.