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Dr. Duino Explorer with Model Railroad Expansion Pack

Read this review from Model Railroader magazine
Dr. Duino Explorer with Model Railroad Expansion Pack

The Dr. Duino Explorer with the Model Railroad Expansion Pack is a wonderful introduction to the fascinating possibilities Arduino devices can add to your layout. These include special effects like custom light-emitting diode (LED) sequences and sound effects. It could also include layout control with servos and block detection. Our review looks at two parts: the Explorer kit and the Model Railroad Expansion Pack.

The Dr. Duino Explorer kit is a helpful all-in-one prototyping board. Typically, when building Arduino projects I end up using lots of wires on a separate breadboard. The Explorer kit makes the process much less cluttered. It includes four standard red LEDs, four momentary push buttons, three potentiometers, a light detection circuit, a piezo, eight addressable LEDs, an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display, an on-board voltage regulator, an ultrasonic sensor, and a Bluetooth BLE transmitter/receiver. The kit includes an Arduino Nano clone. There’s also a spot where you can plug in an Arduino Uno if you prefer.

As you may have noticed, this is a kit, so it’s important to note that the Dr. Duino Explorer comes with the circuit board and all its components, but they need to be assembled. You’ll need to get your soldering equipment out for this project. Dr. Duino has detailed instructions online to assemble the board. The instructions also include helpful tips on how to solder some of the trickier components. I was able to complete the assembly in about two hours.

After this it was time to dig into the Arduino IDE software. This is where the code, or “sketches,” are written, compiled, and uploaded to the Arduino board. The software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and can be downloaded free from the Dr. Duino website. You’ll need this so your computer can access the Arduino board. Again, Dr. Duino has provided detailed instructions on how to set up the projects, and where to find the additional important downloads.

The first project is an interactive test sequence that ensures your Explorer kit is working properly. There are also a number of interesting projects that come with the Explorer. Although they aren’t train related, I tried them anyway. I didn’t have to write any code because the sketches are provided by the developer.

After completing the Explorer kit projects, I moved on to the Model Railroad Expansion kit. This kit comes with two infrared detectors, two mini servos, a speaker, micro SD mp3 player, and 10 individual addressable LEDs.

There are five projects in this kit. Block detection, servo control, sound playback, addressable LED control, and finally a large project that ties it all together. The main idea with the Explorer isn’t to set up a fully functional railroad with an Arduino. It’s about learning how to use the technology through easy to follow projects. After completing the included projects, I immediately started to think about how Arduino can be used on future layouts.

Facts & features
Price: Dr. Duino Explorer Model Railroad edition, normally $200, available for a limited time for $159
Dr. Duino
P.O. Box 875
Holbrook, NY 11741
3 potentiometers
4 discrete light-emitting diodes (LEDs)
4 push buttons
8 addressable RGB LEDs
All required electronic components
Bluetooth BLE
Light sensor
Organic LED display
Piezo buzzer
Ultrasonic sensor
Voltage regulator

Model Railroad Expansion Pack
1 MicroSD MP3 player module
1 speaker
2 infrared detectors
2 micro servos
10 addressable RGB LEDs

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