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Add another eight pins to your microcontroller using a MCP23008 port expander. The MCP23008 uses two I2C pins which can be shared with other I2C devices, and in exchange gives you eight general purpose pins. You can set each of eight pins to be input, output, or input with a pullup. There's even the ability to get an interrupt via an external pin when any of the inputs change so you don't have to keep polling the chip.
Use this chip from 2.7-5.5V (good for any 3.3V or 5V setup), and you can sink/source up to 20mA from any of the I/O pins so this will work for LEDs and such. Team it up with a high-power MOSFET if you need more juice. DIP package means it will plug into any breadboard or perfboard.
You can set the I2C address by tying the ADDR0-2 pins to power or ground, for up to eight unique addresses. That means eight chips can share a single I2C bus - that's 64 I/O pins!
If a board needs code or communicates somehow, you're going to need to know how to program or interface with it. The programming skill is all about communication and code.
Skill Level: Rookie - You will need a better fundamental understand of what code is, and how it works. You will be using beginner-level software and development tools like Arduino. You will be dealing directly with code, but numerous examples and libraries are available. Sensors or shields will communicate with serial or TTL.
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If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.
Skill Level: Competent - You will be required to reference a datasheet or schematic to know how to use a component. Your knowledge of a datasheet will only require basic features like power requirements, pinouts, or communications type. Also, you may need a power supply that?s greater than 12V or more than 1A worth of current.
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