A convenient Arduino-based "backpack" board for controlling Adafruit RGB LED Matrix Panels

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The RGB Matrix Backpack is a small board that connects to the back of an Adafruit 16x32 or 32x32 RGB LED Matrix Panel and is a very convenient way to control these awesome panels. The board is simply a small Arduino. You can easily program the board using the Arduino IDE. As you can see from the video below, it's possible to create great color animations, completely in Arduino programming!

To program the board, you'll need a USB-Serial adapter or cable to connect to the board's 6-pin serial connector (more info below). Or you can program the ATMega328 chip using your Arduino board and move the chip to the RGB Matrix Backpack for testing.

The board snaps onto the back of the panel and provides power to the panel through the terminal block connections. The board should be powered by a 5V regulated power adapter that can deliver up to 2A. Adafruit sells the appropriate power adapter for their panel.

Board Features

A 8x2 female header on the back of the board allows this backpack board to simply snap onto the back of the matrix panel.
2.1mm power jack for a regulated 5V power supply. The 5V supply should be able to deliver 2A of current to meet the demands of the matrix panel. We strongly recommend this power supply provided by Adafruit for use with the matrix panel.
The terminal block is used to provide power to the RGB matrix panel.
The 6-pin programming header makes it easy to program the board using the Arduino IDE and a cable or adapter like our FTDI cable or Adafruit's cable or the Adafruit FTDI Friend.
A small tactile button can be used as an input to your Arduino program. It is connected to Arduino pin 10 on the 16x32 matrix backpack and to D11 on the "v2" matrix backpack for the 32x32 panel. To use the button, the setup() function in your program should call pinMode(10, INPUT); digitalWrite(10, HIGH);. The button is read by calling digitalRead(10).

(Use D11 instead of D10 if you have the new v2 version of the board.)

Programming the Matrix Backpack

To program the backpack board, you use it just like an Arduino. The board type to select in the Arduino IDE is "Aruino Uno". You need to connect an FTDI cable or adapter like our FTDI cable or Adafruit's cable or the Adafruit FTDI Friend

Adafruit provides useful Arduino libraries for controlling the RGB Matrix Panel. You can download the libraries and learn how to use them on their matrix tutorial page. You don't have to worry about any of the complex wiring -- just skip down to the sections "Test example code" and "Library".

The ATmega328 chip in the 16x32 backpack kit comes preloaded with the animation shown in the video above. To change the demo program download the sketch here. Make sure you've installed the Adafruit libraries correctly. Compile the sketch and upload it to your board. The board type to select in the Arduino IDE is "Aruino Uno".