Pololu Carrier with Sharp GP2Y0A60SZLF Analog Distance Sensor 10-150cm, 5V

via Pololu - New Products

The GP2Y0A60SZ distance sensor from Sharp offers a wide detection range of 4″ to 60″ (10 cm to 150 cm) and over twice the sampling rate of our other analog optical distance sensors. The distance is indicated by an analog voltage, so only a single analog input is required to interface with the module. The sensor ships installed on our compact carrier board, which makes it easy to integrate this great sensor into your project, and is configured for 5V mode.

Pololu Carrier with Sharp GP2Y0A60SZLF Analog Distance Sensor 10-150cm, 3V

via Pololu - New Products

The GP2Y0A60SZ distance sensor from Sharp offers a wide detection range of 4″ to 60″ (10 cm to 150 cm) and over twice the sampling rate of our other analog optical distance sensors. The distance is indicated by an analog voltage, so only a single analog input is required to interface with the module. The sensor ships installed on our compact carrier board, which makes it easy to integrate this great sensor into your project, and is configured for 3V mode.

Recap Video from SparkFun’s Trip to IDF

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

A little over a week ago, some representatives from SparkFun hopped on a plane to San Francisco for the Intel Developer Forum. While we were out there, Intel announced their newest creation - the Intel Edison computing platform.

Today we wanted to share some of our highlights from the trip:

If you missed the announcement about the Edison (and the first-round of SparkFun Block add-ons), you can check it out here!

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Gravity Touch bluetooth Glove powered by Arduino Micro

via Arduino Blog


Arduino user Jubeso submitted to our blog an instructable explaining the 10 steps to build an input device for gaming.

The  Gravity Touch bluetooth glove  is specifically designed to interact with augmented reality glasses like the Google Glass, Meta, Moverio BT or with the VR headsets like Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, vrAse, Durovis Dive:

Those new products are amazing and they need new types of input devices. This instructable will describe how to build your own “Gravity Touch bluetooth glove” and I will also give you some tips to build your own Durovis Dive VR headset so that you will be able to enjoy full mobile VR. Because this glove will be of most use for VR game, I have created a Unity3D plugin for Android that handle the communication between your app and the glove. It means that you will be able to use your Gravity Touch glove to interact with your Unity3D VR game.

The Arduino code and the Java class I wrote to handle the communication between the glove and the Android device will also be available so that you will be able to adapt them for your need.


The bill of materials, among other things, contains an Arduino Micro , FreeIMU – an Open Hardware Framework for Orientation and Motion Sensing and 3m of flexible soft electric wire.


Don’t Get Stung by a Wall Wart

via Nuts and Volts

Wall warts are used in place of internal AC-to-DC power supplies in most small devices — and for good reason. The powered unit can be more compact because of the obviously smaller parts count. There’s also no need to make allowances for convection cooling of components in the powered unit. The downside, of course, is the need to control a neverending, space-hungry herd of wall warts.

SparkFun Heading to Maker Faire in New York

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

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SparkFun Electronics is excited to be heading out to the Big Apple this weekend to take part in the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science!

The event takes place Sept. 20th and 21st from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Sunday. If you’ve never been to a Maker Faire, this is a great one to go to, with tons to do and see!

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For our part, we’re going to be running a soldering workshop - but this year, there’s a twist! Our friends at Atmel will be hosting us in their tent and attendees will be soldering the new PTH SparkFun Interactive Badges! Once soldered, these badges (designed by SparkFun Engineer Toni) become a trivia game. The participant can put the badges into three small Interactive stations which have electronics-based trivia questions on them. If the questions are answered correctly, the stations add points to the badges. Each point adds a new color to the LED on the top of the badge. Points add up to discounts at SparkFun.com!

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This won’t be our first rodeo. Here’s a view from Maker Faire San Mateo 2011.

We hope you can come see us, learn to solder (or sharpen your skills), and earn some sweet, sweet discounts with your electronics know-how. See you in New York!

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Build Your Own Retrocomputer with Modern Chips

via Hackaday » » hardware


If you’ve ever wanted to get started in retrocomputing, or maybe the Commodore 64 you’ve been using since the 80s just gave up the ghost, [Rick] aka [Mindrobots] has just the thing for you: a retrocomputer based on a PIC microcontroller and a Parallax Propeller.

The two chips at the heart of the computer are both open source. The Propeller is the perfect board to take care of the I/O, video, and audio outputs because it was purpose-built to be a multitasking machine. The microcontroller is either a PIC32MX150 or a PIC32MX170 and is loaded with a BASIC interpreter, 19 I/O pins, a full-screen editor, and a number of communications protocols. In short, everything you would ever want out of a retro-style minicomputer.

The whole computer can be assembled on a PCB with all the outputs you can imagine (VGA, PS/2, etc) and, once complete, can be programmed to run any program imaginable including games. And, of course, it can act as a link to any physical devices with all of its I/O because its heart is a microcontroller.

Retrocomputing is quite an active arena for hackers, with some being made from FPGAs and other barebones computers being made on only three chips. It’s good to see another great computer in the lineup, especially one that uses open chips like the Propeller and the PIC.

Filed under: classic hacks, hardware

Makerspaces: Tool-informed-values or Value-informed-tools?

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Our guest today is Riley Meehan, a member of the Center for Engineering Outreach and a graduate student in the Laboratory for Playful Computation at Tufts University. Riley is an engineer, maker, designer, educator, tinkerer, and can’t stop picking up new hobbies. His research lives in the worlds of education, engineering, design, and sociology – focusing on how educational institutions design and assess the use of makerspaces as reflecting the existing commitments of a school community. His biggest weakness is not being able to say no, so ask him to get involved with whatever you’re working on. Trust me.

From Riley:

Lately, my research group has spent a lot of time thinking about the maker movement with respect to education. In fact, a colleague of mine recently remarked that we’ve probably used the word “maker” more times in the last year than we have in the last ten years. It’s pretty evident that making is blowing up. Makerspaces have made their way into blogs on education hackerspaces are being featured in The New York Times, and a White House Maker Faire was held in lieu of the annual White House Science Fair this year. I think it’s fair to say making is so hot right now.

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Adapted from Mike Mitchell | via Mondo Gallery

With the rise of the makerspace, the maker movement has understandably also found its way into schooling. Makerspaces, STEAM labs, and Fab Labs are burgeoning all across the country in cities, suburban areas, and even rural areas. Many take root in community centers, museums, libraries, or standalone community spaces and increasingly have begun to integrate into formal educational institutions from kindergarten through university programs. And why not? It makes total sense – in an educational climate where schools are being inundated with the notion that the U.S. is behind the rest of the developed world in STEM education and our students need to be able to think critically, problem-solve, work inter-disciplinarily, and collaborate in order to succeed – makerspaces provide a unique opportunity as educational spaces that by and large embrace the skills and learning styles that progressive education has preached for years.

Many of these spaces include a variety of digital fabrication tools that, with the expiration of certain parents on equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters and the rapidly decreasing prices of electronics, have effectively ignited the democratization of digital fabrication. As a result, the publicized image of makerspaces features these tools and consequently it’s often the tools themselves that first come to mind and often take priority when the schools with which we work start designing their own spaces. Rather than first considering pedagogy, culture, and learning outcomes, most conversations center on the physical materials.

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The types of images from which rising perceptions of maker activities are developed.

Though some of these spaces don’t include modern digital fabrication tools, and many preexisting hands-on learning spaces like art rooms and wood-shops already employ many of the ideals of the maker movement, implementation of new spaces frequently takes on a tone set by a dominant narrative that prioritizes specific tools and types of making. The prominent examples of existing makerspaces often prioritize the digital fabrication tools that revitalized making rather than the ideals in which making is rooted.

As educators, if our goal is to create spaces for productive meaningful engagement educational makerspaces, like schools, must reflect the existing values and commitments of community. That means makerspaces can and probably should look considerably different from school to school because a large community results in a variety of people, with a variety of tools, and a variety of interests, which inevitably results in issues of alignment between individuals values and commitments for these spaces.

The work we are doing at Tufts is in researching how a school designs a space such that is responsive to its community’s needs. So, how does a community of individuals going about the construction and use of a space come to develop shared values? That’s the question we’re currently working through, for now, check out the great resources from folks like Jaymes Dec who are thinking about maker pedagogy and for those that are building their own spaces, start by talking to your own school community of teachers and students and listening to what about making inspires them– it may not be the newest 3D printer.

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Hacker-in-Residence: Java-powered Media Player

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Now that we’re getting settled into our rad new headquarters (where is the Millenium Falcon conference room again?), we figured it was time to throw a new hacker into the mix to keep everyone on their toes. Welcome Roberto - we can’t wait to see what you come up with while we solve the case of the capricious motion-sensing office lights.

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Roberto, king of the hackers

Can you share your background, interests, and some favorite past projects? What and where is your current position/company?

My technical background is in software development. I have interest in the Java platform and its strength in deploying to embedded, mobile, and enterprise environments, as well as to traditional PCs.

More recently, I have become interested in the maker movement and creating things. It is thrilling to control hardware with software. It gives a sort of nerd-high to drive electronics with software, whether it is one LED controlled by an Arduino, or an LED matrix controlled by a Java PC app.

Some of my favorite past projects include:

T.I.A. E.L.A. - The Interactive Art Exhibit for Light Admirers (GitHub here)

Lizard Enclosure (GitHub here)

Roller, which uses the Sparkfun multi-chassis tank (GitHub here)

Photorama (GitHub here)

I also have lots of interest in being a good father to my son; he’s a second-grader.

Currently, I am with a (really) large travel company, in the role of Systems Analyst.

How and why did you get involved in SparkFun’s Hacker-in-Residence program? Why do you think programs like this are valuable?

I heard about the HIR program on the SparkFun site. Motivation came from wanting to get some time to just make. Three weeks at SparkFun should help with that.

Sparkfun’s HIR program is far out! For me, value comes from being able to work with the smarty-pantses that are pumping out all this open-source software and hardware.

What is the project you’ll be working on at SparkFun? Why did you choose this project?

I will be working on an embedded, Java-powered media player. I already have a web-enabled MP3 player, but it was meant for desktop PCs. It lacks GPIO interaction altogether.

For this project, I want to add a visual element (VU meter) to the existing app, as well as create/cut an professional-looking enclosure. In addition to this, I would like to add hardware to control the media player, pots for volume control, buttons for next and previous tracks, and some controls for light modes.

If there is time, I would like to add some elements from the BBB radio project.

Another idea I have is to include a IOIO OTG in the mix where it makes sense.

The PC version of the media player app is one that I have had around for a while. I selected to upgrade that project, because I feel it deserves a proper enclosure/hardware and to (hopefully) inspire others to build it too.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and what is your favorite snack?

Flying by night and day is definitely my superpower of choice. Even in this recurring dream, I fly to the water tower in my neighborhood, and have a party at the “moon tower.” It tickles my belly when I fly in my dreams.

Lately, I have enjoyed horned melon and dragon fruit as a snack. They have lots of electrolytes. Although, if I could have a bottomless pouch of coconut shrimp, then that would be great!

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Arduino at MakerCon in New York City

via Arduino Blog

Right before the weekend of  World Maker Faire in NYC, Massimo Banzi will be at MakerCon with a keynote taking place on September 18 at 11 a.m local time. Makercon is a 2-day conference by and for makers organized around 4 specific tracks: Business of Making, Education, Maker Community Building, Tools of Innovation&Technology.

Makercon connects individuals at the forefront of the maker movement, focusing on the technologies, services ecosystem, manufacturing models, and funding trends that provide new ways of making things and getting them to market.

On Wednesday, September 17 at 7:30pm (after the Innovation Showcase) MakerCon will be able to watch the exclusive New York premiere screening of the acclaimed Neflix documentary Print the Legend. Right after the film, Dale Dougherty is moderating a panel discussion with some of the key players from the film.

Fresh Coffee at Mailchimp

via Raspberry Pi

Ben: Here’s a guest post from Steven Sloan, a developer at MailChimp.


Grounds for innovation

Here at MailChimp, we’re always trying to listen hard and change fast. Turns out, this requires a good bit of coffee. Each department has its own take on how to keep the stuff flowing, mostly with the standard Bunn-O-Matic commercial machines. A few folks regularly avail themselves of our espresso setup. The developers fill two airpots—one with regular, the other double strength.

And then there’s the marketing team and our precious Chemex.

We make a pour-over pot once every hour or so, all day long, 5 days a week, 50-something weeks a year. Last December, when we were gathering data for our annual report, we got curious about how many Fresh Pots that might amount to. We tried to count it up, but begrudgingly had to accept the fact we didn’t have a good measure beyond pounds consumed. We even tried to keep track with a bean counter, but that didn’t last long.

For a while, the exact nature of our coffee consumption seemed like it would remain just another mystery of the universe. But then one day, talking to Mark while waiting on yet another Fresh Pot, I said, “Hey, I bet we could track the temperature with a Raspberry Pi and post to the group chat when there’s a fresh one.”

I wasn’t too serious, but Mark’s response was one often heard around MailChimp when ridiculous projects are proposed: “Sounds great, just let me know what you need to get it done.”

A few days later, I had a materials list drawn up from Adafruit’s thermometer tutorial, and we were off to the races.


A fresh Pi

With a Raspberry Pi in hand, the first thing I did was add a script to the boot process that sent an email using Mandrill with its IP so I could find it on our network without trouble.

Then, I had to tackle the problem of detecting pot states with only a single datapoint: current temperature. I hoped that comparing the running averages of different time spans would be enough to determine the pot’s status. (The average Chemex temperature over the course of a few minutes, for instance, would tell us something different than the average temperate over the course of an hour.)

Since this was a greenfield project, I wanted to work with an unfamiliar language. I felt like the more functional nature of Clojure would be a great fit for passing along a single piece of state. This turned out to be a great decision, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

Graph it home

I hacked together a quick program that would spit out the current temperature, minute’s running average, hour’s running average, and the running average’s rate of change to a log file so I could analyze them.

{"current":32.062, "minute":24.8747, "hour":23.5391, "running-rate":0.039508}
{"current":32.437, "minute":25.0008, "hour":23.5635, "running-rate":0.0423943}
{"current":32.875, "minute":25.1322, "hour":23.5897, "running-rate":0.045361}
{"current":33.625, "minute":25.2738, "hour":23.6177, "running-rate":0.048569}
{"current":33.625, "minute":25.413, "hour":23.6476, "running-rate":0.05159}
{"current":33.625, "minute":25.55, "hour":23.6793, "running-rate":0.054437}

Log files in hand, I temporarily turned back to Ruby using the wonderful Gruff charting library to visualize things and make patterns easier to spot.

A few batches of hot water gave me a decent idea what things should look like, so I moved our coffee equipment to my desk to get some live data. This let me check in with the actual running state of the program and compare it with the status of the pot (and led to some coworker laughs and a wonderful smell at my workspace all day).


A brewing or fresh pot is easy to recognize, but figuring out when the pot is empty turned out to be a little tricky. It takes a while for the Chemex to completely cool off, which means it could be empty and still warm, which I’m sure would lead to more than a few disappointing trips to the kitchen. Luckily, the rate a pot cools tells us if it is empty or not—for instance, a half-full pot stays warm longer than an empty one simply because of the coffee still in it. Always nice to have physics on your side.

Watchers for the win

Armed with the collection of datapoints (running averages, rate of change, etc.) for each of the pot’s states, I moved on to figuring out how to notify our department’s group chat room when a pot was brewing, ready, empty, or stale. This is where some of the built-in features of Clojure came in handy.

I already had a program that logged the current state of itself every second. By switching the actual state to an agent, I could apply watchers to it. These watchers get called whenever the agent changes, which is perfect for analyzing changes in state.

Another agent added was the pot itself. The watcher for the temperature would look for the above mentioned boundaries, and update the pot’s state, leaving another watcher to track the pot and notify our chat room. When it came time to pick an alias to deliver the notifications, Dave Grohl was the natural choice.

Here’s a simple example of the pot watcher looking for a brewing pot:

(def pot-status
  (agent {:status "empty"}))

(defn pot-watcher [watcher status old_status new_status]
  (if (= (:status new_status) "brewing")

(add-watch pot-status :pot-watcher pot-watcher)

The great thing is the watcher only gets called when the status changes, not on each tick of the temperature. Using agents felt great to me in this case as they provided a clean way to watch state (without callbacks or a ton of boilerplate) and maintain separation of concern between different parts of the program.


Freshness into the future

I’m still working out a few kinks, tuning in the bounds, and keeping a log of pots. It’s been a fun experience and I learned a ton. Something tells me this won’t be the last time we work with Raspberry Pi on a project. What’s next, Fresh Pots in space? Luckily, we’ve got plenty of coffee to propel us.


Ben: Thanks to Steven and MailChimp for permission to use the post – we’re very pleased to see the Pi used as the tool of choice of coffee-hungry developers around the world! Coffee is important to us here at Pi Towers…

Trojan Room Coffee Pot

Blast from the past – remember this coffee pot? Click to read more

MailChimp is what I use to power Pi Weekly – my weekly Raspberry Pi news & projects email newsletter – check it out at piweekly.net!

The internet of trees makes smart birdhouses using Arduino Yùn

via Arduino Blog


The connected birdhouse is a project prototyped during a workshop ran by Massimo Banzi at Boisbuchet, last August in France. It was developed using Arduino Yùn, by Valentina Chinnici, who shared with us the project, and two other students taking part to  the week of learning-by-doing around the theme of  the Internet of Trees.

They redesigned a traditional object, a wooden birdhouse to be placed outdoor, and connected it to a lamp shaped like a nest, to be placed indoor:

The connected birdhouse was in fact an interactive object able to communicate to the nest/lamp the presence of a bird inside the house, and accordingly to a color coded signal was giving also some informations about the size of the bird itself. In the event of a bird entering into the house, the nest/lamp remotely controlled via WiFi by an Arduino Yùn, was turned on. The nest/lamp received the notification from the birdhouse translating it firstly with a rainbow effect. After few seconds the light changed according to the weight of the bird (green, yellow or red).

The LED strip used for the nest lamp was an Adafruit Neopixel strip controlled by an Arduino Yún.

On this blog you can find the sketch to make it work and create one yourself.

Afroman Demonstrates Boost Converters

via Hackaday » » hardware

boosIf you need to regulate your power input down to a reasonable voltage for a project, you reach for a switching regulator, or failing that, an inefficient linear regulator. What if you need to boost the voltage inside a project? It’s boost converter time, and Afrotechmods is here to show you how they work.

In its simplest form, a boost converter can be built from only an inductor, a diode, a capacitor, and a transistor. By switching the transistor on and off with varying duty cycles, energy is stored in the inductor, and then sent straight to the capacitor. Calculating the values for the duty cycle, frequency, inductor, and the other various parts of a boost converter means a whole bunch of math, but following the recommended layout in the datasheets for boost and switching converters is generally good enough.


[Afroman]‘s example circuit for this tutorial is a simple boost converter built around an LT1370 switching regulator. In addition to that there’s also a small regulator, diode, a few big caps and resistors, and a pot for the feedback pin. This is all you need to build a simple boost converter, and the pot tied to the feedback pin varies the duty cycle of the regulator, changing the output voltage.

It’s an extremely efficient way to boost voltage, measured by [Afroman] at over 80%. It’s also exceptionally easy to build, with just a handful of parts soldered directly onto a piece of perfboard.

Video below.

Filed under: hardware, parts

Electricute – Conductive Velcro-Style Hook and Loop

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Today we have another episode of “ElectriCute' - our video series focusing on the wonderful world of e-textiles. In today’s video, our resident wearables guru Dia and Creative Technologist Nick explore ”conductive hook and loop“ (think Velcro) material.

As always, feel free to leave any questions or comments below. You can check out all the videos from the ElectriCute series here.

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