Panda data-acquisition and FPGA dev board

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Amateur scientists and other home experimenters often have difficulty finding data-acquisition (DAQ) hardware meeting their needs at reasonable cost. PC sound-card I/O is sometimes adequate; otherwise, commercial DAQ offerings in the sub-$200 range are quite limited. (In my case, the immediate motivation for this project is data collection from a magnetometer observing solar-activity-induced disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field.)

The Pandaboard is ideal for this application because it is inexpensive, low-power, portable, runs Linux, and offers easy high-bandwidth expansion through the GPMC bus. I propose designing an expansion board with

       * multiple 16-bit A/D and D/A channels
       * extra digital I/O
       * programmable logic for timer/counter functions and periodic sampling
       * GPS for mobile data-logging, timestamping, and oscillator calibration
       * McSPI and GPMC bus interfaces at the Pandaboard expansion connectors 

A Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA will bridge the various functions with the Pandaboard interfaces. The design will be modular, such that the A/D, D/A, and GPS can be omitted, resulting in a board very similar to Eric Brombaugh's Beagleboard Tracker. Thus, this project will serve double-duty as a Tracker refresh for the Pandaboard.

Time frame

Three months to a working hardware platform.

A draft schematic is ready. After a few weeks of refinement and peer review, PCB layout can begin next month. FPGA and software development for the GPMC interface may extend out to six months, depending on community involvement.

Background & work by project submitter

I've been using Linux on PCs since 1994, and on ARM for about three years.

My first DAQ project was an 8-bit A/D and D/A plus dedicated timer chip, hand-wired on an ISA-bus prototyping card in high school. I enjoy dabbling with embedded microcontroller projects and building scientific instruments, like this aurora detector. I can hand-solder QFP packages. I also have a PhD in EE with an emphasis in signal processing.

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Contact information


Black Market Winner -- 3/14/11 - 3/18/11 event
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