The Toastboard: Ubiquitous Instrumentation and Automated Checking of Breadboarded Circuits

Daniel Drew, Julie Newcomb, William McGrath, Filip Maksimovic, David Mellis, Björn Hartmann
ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (2016)

Abstract

The recent proliferation of easy to use electronic components and toolkits has introduced a large number of novices to designing and building electronic projects. Nevertheless, debugging circuits remains a difficult and time-consuming task. This paper presents a novel debugging tool for electronic design projects, the Toastboard, that aims to reduce debugging time by improving upon the standard paradigm of point-wise circuit measurements. Ubiquitous instrumentation allows for immediate visualization of an entire breadboard's state, meaning users can diagnose problems based on a wealth of data instead of having to form a single hypothesis and plan before taking a measurement. Basic connectivity information is displayed visually on the circuit itself and quantitative data is displayed on the accompanying web interface. Software-based testing functions further lower the expertise threshold for efficient debugging by diagnosing classes of circuit errors automatically. In an informal study, participants found the detailed, pervasive, and context-rich data from our tool helpful and potentially time-saving.