The Reactor Core – which recently surfaced on Kickstarter – is a hardware programming platform for Arduino boards and stand-alone AVR-based microcontrollers (MCUs). Designed by Frank Fox, the Reactor Core is powered by Atmel’s ATmega328P MCU and an FT232R for USB to serial communication.
“The Arduino IDE has a fantastic option of directly programming microcontrollers using ISP [and] we included a ATmega328P (equivalent to an Arduino Uno board) on the programmer,” Fox explained.
“This allows you to program compatible blank ATmega microcontrollers with the Arduino bootloader. Once the bootloader is installed, then they are ready for use with the Arduino software. You can then switch back to the USB/serial connection to upload your sketches.”
The Reactor Core also includes an integrated ZIF socket for a number of Atmel’s ATtiny chips.
“To make programming easier, we built in a ZIF socket. You setup the Reactor Core as an ISP, place your ATtiny chip in the ZIF socket, select the type of chip in the Board option, upload the sketch and then remove to install into your circuit,” said Fox.
As Fox notes, Makers can use the platform to self-replicate the bootloader to a blank microcontroller, thereby creating a cloned MCU.
“We think of this process like the chain reaction in a nuclear power plant. Once the first reaction happens, additional reactions are triggered. You can have dozens of projects all powered by the microcontrollers you programmed yourself. The Reactor Core is a device to empower you to make more reactions happen,” he added.
“The Reactor Core is also a way to simplify your life. Instead of having an Arduino, a programmer shield and a USB to serial converter, you only need the Reactor Core for all of these processes. This way if your Arduino is tied up on a project, you can still prototype another.”
Interested in learning more? You can check out the Reactor Core’s official Kickstarter page here.