Hobbyist trying to get started / Getting started / Looking for advice for starting

Thread Starter


Joined Mar 27, 2011

I realize I am out of my league here, but I thought I would pose a question to see if my goal is achievable.

I am working on a model rocket and I need a mechanism that would release the parachute. I had some electronics training a long time ago, but I am rusty and have a lot of new things to learn. I have had some experience programming in visual basic and assembly language. I feel confident I could pick up C programming with a little effort.

I would like to design an inexpensive, programmable circuit using one of the PIC controllers that would allow me to control a small, RC servo, and trigger its motion based on a number of inputs including time, altitude sensor, magnetic anomaly detector, etc. Based on time would be my first objective. The servo would be my actuator for releasing the parachute.

I realize I have a lot to learn, but would like to find out if my goal is realistic before I wade into this project. I will need to buy a solderless breadboard for protyping, jumper wires, battery holder, resistors, capacitors, inductors, a microprocessor, EEPROM, and a way to connect to my computer to use Microchip's programming IDE.


1) Is there an inexpensive kit I could purchase that would allow me to jumpstart my effort? I would want one that could handle a number of sensors and would specifically be able to control a small servo.

2) Any recommendations on the type of programmable microcontroller to start with? Other equipment or supplies I should purchase to get started?

3) Recommendations on an existing project someone has documented that I could follow to get started?

Many thanks for any help you can provide!

-- Tom


Joined Apr 20, 2004
Can you give some idea of the volume available for this instrumentation? And what extra mass can be lofted? All this stuff needs power, so you face a battery or two plus the instrument package (to be pretty sturdy in case the 'chute streamers or fails to deploy).


Joined Jul 7, 2009
Last month I went through a learning experience with PIC processors. A friend visited and bought a bunch of different kits. I think the best value is to get the PICDEM Lab for around $125. It provides a selection of PIC processors and a number of electronic parts. The unit is a PC board that holds different PIC processors, supplies power, and has a prototyping area on it. There are a number of projects that you build such as a temperature sensor that controls the frequency of sound emitted by a small speaker on the board. It also comes with the PICkit 2 programmer, which is a nice tool.

It's about the price of an overpriced college textbook and will allow you to fool around building circuits and experimenting. If I could only buy one thing to learn about PIC stuff, this would be it.