SwarmDrive: NickStick’s ESP32-Powered Dev Board for Experimentation and Learning

Reporting from Shanghai, China
Oct 30, 2020

With an ESP32-powered board and strong educational documentation, SwarmDrive enables professionals and students alike to easily learn about different commutation algorithms and all the other aspects of electric (BLDC) motors.

NickStick’s SwarmDrive is a development board intended for learning and experimenting with electric motors. In fact, it is a mechatronics platform for users who want to learn and start experimenting with small electric motors and, more specifically, Brushless Direct Current (BLDC) motors. The SwarmDrive board contains a basic motor driver setup and a powerful ESP32-based Wi-Fi-and-Bluetooth-enabled microcontroller with USB connectivity.

SwarmDrive enables professionals as well as students to easily learn about different commutation algorithms and all the other aspects of electric BLDC motors, with a single, integrated board and the strong educational documentation that goes with it.

Specially designed console firmware as well as example code can be downloaded, so that users can get started quickly and easily. The open-source code is well documented and is based on Espressif’s ESP-IDF. SwarmDrive can be used as a starting point for getting an insight into the inner workings of algorithms for driving a motor.

The ‘Swarm’ aspect of the SwarmDrive is related to ESP32's great Bluetooth-and-Wi-Fi communication capabilities, which enable the board/motor to communicate with several other boards/motors. This allows for a ‘Swarm’ type of implementation or just a remote control of the board/motors.

Features and Specifications

  • Microcontroller: ESP32 dual core, 240 MHz, 4 MB flash
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n/d/e/i/k/r (802.11 n up to 150 Mbps)
  • Bluetooth: v 4.2 BR/EDR and BLE specification
  • Driver: L6234 triple half-bridge motor driver, 5A peak current, 3x enable pins are broken out to a bridging connector
  • Communication: USB-to-UART bridge, micro USB serial + power
  • Input voltage: 7-13 V via screw terminal or pin headers
  • Motor connection: via screw terminal
  • GPIO: 26 from ESP32 module
  • Power output pins: 5 V, 3.3 V, and GND
  • Boot and reset: via pushbuttons

SwarmDrive is designed to be open-source. Schematics and source code have already been published on GitHub, while more information on the firmware is also available on the NickStick website.

The board is currently being crowdfunded on Crowd Supply, and shipping is expected to begin in early February 2021.

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