Blog for my various projects, experiments, and learnings

STM32 Baremetal Examples

“Bare Metal” STM32 Programming (Part 3): LEDs and Buttons!

In a previous post, I walked through creating a basic project for an ‘STM32F031K6’ microcontroller to boot the chip into a ‘main’ C method. But the actual program didn’t do much, so in this post we will learn how to use the STM32’s ‘GPIO’ peripheral to listen for a button press and blink an LED.

The ‘Nucleo’ boards provided by ST have an LED already built into the board, but they don’t have a button (besides the reset one,) so we’ll need to connect one externally:

Nucleo board on a breadboard with a button.

‘Nucleo’ STM32F031K6 board with a button.

The green ‘LD3’ LED is attached to pin B3 on the board. The 100nF capacitor across the button should help reduce noise, one side of the button connects to ground through a jumper wire, and I put a 470Ω resistor between the other side of the button and pin B1.

Strangely, the B1 pin is labeled ‘D6’ on the Nucleo boards; I think that ST wanted to use the same footprint and labeling as the popular Arduino Nano. You can find the actual pin mappings in section 6.11 of this reference document, or they’re also printed on the informational card that comes with the board. The resistor and capacitor are both optional – they’re just a very simple form of debouncing. Next up, the code!

“Bare Metal” STM32 Programming (Part 2): Making it to ‘Main’

In a previous post, I tried to walk through some very minimal code to get an STM32 chip to boot into a simple “Hello, World” assembly program. But that quick introduction left out some important concepts, and usually people don’t want to write an entire program in an assembly language.

So in this tutorial, we’re going to build on that ‘absolute minimum’ example, and write some more complete ‘startup’ code which will run a familiar C program’s “main” method when it finishes.

We’ll use the STM32F031K6 chip as an example again; it is one of ST’s simpler ARM chips, and you can buy a pre-made ‘Nucleo’ board for just a little over $10.

What Will We Write?

This example project will consist of a few different files, but there’s still a good chance you can count them on one hand:

  • A more complete ‘Linker Script’ to map our C program’s individual sections of memory onto the chip.
  • A ‘Vector Table’ file which will point every possible hardware interrupt to a default ‘interrupt handler’ – we’ll go over how to actually use these later.
  • A ‘boot code’ file which will contain a reset handler to copy information to RAM and then jump into the ‘main’ method.
  • A ‘main.c’ file which will contain our actual program logic.
  • A ‘Makefile’ which will let GNU Make build the project for us, so we don’t have to copy/paste GCC commands into a console like last time.

Hopefully you’ll come out of this post with a decent starting point for STM32F0 projects, and a general understanding of what is required to create your own projects for other chips.

“Bare Metal” STM32 Programming (Part 1): Hello, ARM!

The STM32 line of ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers are a fun way to get started with embedded programming. The nice thing about these chips is that they don’t require much setup, so you can start to learn about them bit by bit, starting with almost no code. And they are much more capable than the 8-bit processors used in many ‘Arduino’-type boards – some can run at over 400MHz, and they can have advanced peripherals up to and including simple graphics accelerators.

But in this tutorial, we will just learn the absolute minimum required to get a program running on one of the simpler STM32 chips. We’ll cover how to support multiple chips in a later post, but this example will use the STM32F031K6 as an example. ST makes an affordable ‘Nucleo’ development board with this chip, which costs just over $10 from somewhere like Digikey, Mouser, etc.

This guide will assume some familiarity with C programming and the popular GCC compiler + GDB debugger, but I will try to explain all of the parts specific to coding for microcontrollers. I’d also like to make these posts more accessible, and would welcome feedback if anything is unclear or could be better explained.

On the bright side, the very low-level starting code demonstrated in these first few examples are things that you won’t have to worry about once it is set up. If you want to skip these examples, there are tools such as ST’s CubeMX which can generate these sorts of empty starting projects. But it’s nice to have some idea of what goes on inside of the chip, so let’s get started! You can view the entire minimal example project described in this post in this Github repository.