Monthly Archives: March 2013

New Product Friday: Teensy New Products

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

Welcome back! It’s been another week and we have several new products to talk about. So let’s jump right in and see what we’ve got.

Vimeo version can be found here

If you need a powerful microcontroller in a small package, be sure to check out the new Teensy boards.

alt text

We’re now carrying the Teensy! The Teensy 3.0 is the newest Teensy and packs a punch. It’s based on a 32-bit ARM Cortex M4 and has a lot of power in a small package. You can even program the board in Arduino using the Teensyduino add-on.

alt text

We’re also carrying the Teensy++ 2.0. This board crams 46 digital I/O pins into a board that’s only 2" x 0.7"! Teensy indeed! Like the Teensy 3.0, you can use your favorite IDE or install the add-on and use it with the Arduino IDE.

alt text

The Si4707 Weather Band Breakout lets you receive weather information transmitted on the weather band. It even has a SAME processor which allows the breakout to listen for specific warnings.

alt text

If you have a Raspberry Pi and want to start adding some hardware to it, you might want to check out the PiFace. The PiFace plugs directly into the GPIO socket and gives you a lot of buttons, relays, and inputs and outputs for interfacing with hardware.

alt text

Need even more functionality with your Pi? The GertBoard does just about everything. It has a motor controller, 8-bit D/A converter, 10-bit A/D converter, and an onboard ATmega328 for running off-board programs. The Gertboard is the ultimate tool for exploring the Raspberry Pi’s full I/O potential!

alt text

If you’re looking to get started with Raspberry Pi, but don’t know where to start, check out the book, Getting Started with Raspberry Pi. It focuses on hardware and software and should get you up and running in no time.

alt text

If you want to learn more about electronic components, you might want to check out The Encyclopedia of Electronic Components. This first volume covers the most common components and provides a nice in-depth look at what they are and how they’re used.

alt text

We have the new version of our Danger Shield in Retail. This new version corrects some issues and adds a cap sense pad. This is the same version we’ve been selling previously, but now has retail packaging.

alt text

If you need to run a little more current through some jumper wires, you might want to check out our new thicker gauge jumper wires. They’re 20 gauge, come in packs of 10, and we have them in male/male and female/female.

That’s it for this week. I’ll see you again in about a month, but Nick will be filling in for my in my absence. Thanks for reading and check back next week!

Chernobyl and the Leiger

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

Early one Saturday morning in April 1986, a series of human errors led to the one of the worst and most memorable nuclear disasters in human history. Poor reactor design, inadequate safety procedures, and hubris caused an explosion to spread high levels of radiation thousands of square miles across the entire European continent. The disaster at Chernobyl is both fascinating and terrifying. Less than a week from today, I will be standing inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone with my wife Kim, David from IT, a backpack of photography gear, and a homemade GPS and radiation logger.

alt text

Reactor 4 at Chernobyl after the explosion

Whenever I told anyone about our trip, I got a lot of questions like, “Is it safe”, “What is the radiation like”, or even, “Is that really a great idea?”. Honestly, I didn’t have any good answers, and still don’t. Although people are allowed into Chernobyl for tours, the area still contains significant deposits of radioactive material. Chunks of the radioactive core were dispersed throughout the area, much of which remains embedded in the ground to this day. Some areas will have normal background radiation levels, and others will have levels several thousand times higher.

alt text

A chunk of a graphite neutron moderator ejected from the core during explosion

To understand what all these readings meant, I first had to get a basic understanding of radiation levels. Here in Boulder, we see an average radiation level of 0.20 uSv/hour. Over the course of a year, we will see standard background radiation, radiation from the natural potassium in our bodies, and from other sources like x-rays. In a year, an average person is exposed to around 4mSv of radiation (or 4000 uSv). OK, now we’re getting somewhere. So, what can I expect to see in Chernobyl? This chart gave me a little better idea what all the levels mean.

alt text

I’ve seen readings from sources online that range from 0.2 uSv/hr (the same as here in Boulder) to over 200 uSv/hour (and sometimes even higher!). Because of the random dispersal of radioactive material, the range of radioactivity is massive. This got me thinking, what if there was a radiation map that could show hot-spots? I decided I wanted to build my own Geiger counter, GPS logger, and dosimeter as a project. So, I built the Leiger.

alt text

The Leiger combines an open-source Geiger counter (using a Russian SBM-20 tube), GPS module, OpenLog, and a PowerCell. When the unit is turned on, it will log the time, date, location, and all the readings from the Geiger tube. This should give me a radiation map of everywhere we travel inside the zone. I will have more details (including a detailed build tutorial, example code, and of course all the data) when I get back. For now, here’s a quick video of what’s inside, and how it works.

Vimeo version can be found here

I’m still not entirely convinced this trip will be safe, or is even a good idea. When I get back and look at the data, I’m not even sure what it will tell me. In my lifetime, Chernobyl will most likely never be considered ‘inhabitable’ or have safe levels of radiation. But, it’s something I feel compelled to experience.

Engineering Roundtable – Infrared Transmission with the IR Shark!

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

In today’s edition of “Engineering Roundtable,” SparkFun Engineer and all-around swell guy Chris Taylor discusses infrared protocol and his newest project – the IR Shark.

Inspired by the TV-b-Gone, Chris' project uses infrared technology to not only transmit IR TV commands, but to capture and save them as well. This gives Chris the power to turn on and off other people’s TVs at will and also grants him access to more controls (like channel up and down or volume).

Vimeo version can be found here

You can find the Ken Shirriff’s IR library for Arduino here. As always, if you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below.

AVC Reminder

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

alt text

Just a couple weeks ago, we released the course preview and competition details for the 2013 SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition (or AVC). The response has been outstanding. As of right now, we have 32 teams signed up and a hundred spectators registered. It’s shaping up to be an awesome day!

alt text

Today we just wanted to remind you that if you are planning on participating or simply attending as a spectator, please register as soon as possible. It will make planning the event much easier!

alt text

We are extremely excited about the AVC this year and have high hopes for an exciting day of robotics. If you are interested in competing, you can read the full rules of the competition here. You can also check out a course preview here. There are a few discrepancies between what is said in the video and what is stated on the AVC website – when in doubt, always defer to the website. That is the go-to source for up-to-date info.

Thanks and hope you can join us!

Exploring the 4D Systems Screens

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

Quick note – Winter Storm Virgil (still weirds me out that snowstorms get names) is causing some shipping delays in the following states: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. Just be aware your SparkFun order might take a little longer because of this. Our apologies for any inconvenience!

Before we get into the meat of today’s post, first let’s announce the caption contest winner. Once again, it wasn’t an easy choice and there were a ton of great captions. But, this one – while a touch on the long side – takes the cake.

alt text

Dear Mom, It appears I’m moving up in the corporate ladder. They gave me a raise and I now have someone working under me. I also have an office with a view and I get to mingle with the higher ups. I do have to share my office with a co-worker so when you send cookies could you please add extra.

Congrats to Member #278126 – you’re the winner! Keep an eye on your email inbox for further information about your prize (the pcDuino). Now on to today’s post…

When we released the 4D Systems screens the New Product Friday before last, we promised we would make a video to show you how to incorporate them into your next project. Yes, we are a couple days late – but a promise is a promise. Check it out:

As always, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to get them answered. Happy Monday! Cheers!

New Product Friday: Moving Right Along

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

Welcome back to another riveting installment of “show me the new stuff y'all got this week”. We do indeed have new products for you, so check them out!

Vimeo version can be found here

We will be working on a proper demo of the new mecanum wheels in the upcoming weeks. The last time we got these in, we didn’t have enough time to do a proper demo, so give us some time to get them working properly and we’ll even have an accompanying tutorial. Watch for that in the next few weeks. Now let’s check out the products for this week.

alt text

This week we have a new version of the mecanum wheels. Instead of a plastic hub, the new ones are metal and have significantly less friction on the rollers. As I said above, we will be working on a more in-depth tutorial in the upcoming weeks. If you can’t wait, click here to learn more about the wheels.

alt text

We also have some new serial 7-segment displays. These use the ‘tall’ displays and can be easily communicated with over serial. You can also use them as a simple counter (counts and displays pulses) for easy score-boards for games without needing an additional microcontroller.

alt text

Is the cord on your wall-wart not long enough? We have these two extension cables that add 3 or 6 feet. They plug into a standard 5mm barrel jack. They have a male connector on one end and a female on the other. You can even cut them apart and use them as two separate cables if you’re so inclined.

alt text

We’ve had a few people ask for us to carry the 13x2 female header that plugs into a Raspberry Pi. We already used this on the RaspiRobot, so we already had some in stock.

alt text

We have this h-bridge leftover from a production assembly that we’re no longer making. The NJM2670 is a general-purpose 60V dual H-bridge driver. It’s basically just a pair of H-bridges, a thermal shut down circuit and its alarm output.

That’s all we have for this week. Be sure to check back next week! We’ll see you then!

National Tour Update

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

Last month, we announced the SparkFun National Tour – an event where we will travel across the country teaching students, teachers, librarians, and other educators about DIY electronics and how they can be part of the modern classroom.

Today, we wanted to update you on the progress we’ve made and encourage you to sign up! Thus far, we have had an amazing response and, as I write this, we have booked 35 stops! Many states are represented, all the way from Vermont to Hawaii, and we have stops booked at schools, hackerspaces, museums, and more.

alt text

The first 50 stops that are booked receive a discounted price ($1500 vs. $2500) for a full day of instruction and kits for 20-40 students. There are only 15 of these discounted stops still remaining, so sign up soon!

alt text

We hope that you’ll join us in helping change the face of education! Join the SparkFun National Tour today!

National Tour Update

via SparkFun Electronics - Recent News Posts

Last month, we announced the SparkFun National Tour – an event where we will travel across the country teaching students, teachers, librarians, and other educators about DIY electronics and how they can be part of the modern classroom.

Today, we wanted to update you on the progress we’ve made and encourage you to sign up! Thus far, we have had an amazing response and, as I write this, we have booked 35 stops! Many states are represented, all the way from Vermont to Hawaii, and we have stops booked at schools, hackerspaces, museums, and more.

alt text

The first 50 stops that are booked receive a discounted price ($1500 vs. $2500) for a full day of instruction and kits for 20-40 students. There are only 15 of these discounted stops still remaining, so sign up soon!

alt text

We hope that you’ll join us in helping change the face of education! Join the SparkFun National Tour today!

Highlights from Lindsay’s Trip to the Lonestar State

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

alt text

Since the formation of the Department of Education in 2011 we have been traveling throughout the country hosting workshops and events designed to inspire students of all ages. It was a nice change of pace to sit back as part of the audience and enjoy the inspiration and excitement of listening to all of the wonderful panelists and presenters at SXSWedu. There were too many notes to go through and I was chastised a bit for my last lengthy conference post, so I’ve added headings in this brain dump to allow for easier scanning/skipping. Let’s begin with a few lessons learned that I thought I would share:

  1. Do NOT lose your badge. Seriously. SXSW badge bureaucracy is intense!
  2. Attend panels that sound interesting and inspirational – don’t just follow big names.
  3. Next year, pack a bunch of soldering irons, kits, e-textiles materials and storm the Makerspace so people have things to build!
  4. Go check out the vintage shopping on Congress Ave.
  5. Do NOT mess with Texan BBQ (Who serves BBQ without sweet tea?)
  6. Do NOT leave the morning of the day that the rest of SXSW launches (bittersweet flight home).
  7. Compared to Boulder, Austin isn’t that weird, but it’s a darn cool city that I hope to visit again next year!

The Department of Education spends a lot of time evangelizing the merits of hands-on, kinesthetic, differentiated learning, so it is hard for me to sit back in a seat for most of a day listening. That being said, the organizers of SXSWedu should be applauded for a fantastic lineup. I’ve tried to recap a few choice panels below. However, in a delightful change of pace from sitting quietly in the audience, I also participated in the Squishy Circuits, Toy Engineering and More! workshop hosted by Tricia Berry and Didey Muniz. We were tasked with building the best parachute to ensure a safe landing for a toy animal. The materials included different weights of paper, aluminum foil, yarn and a few paper clips. We found partners, collaborated on design, and tested our models before a culminating group drop. It’s hard to say how safe our horse was in the final drop; I probably should have paid better attention in physics. Following the first activity, Berry and Muniz presented a slideshow from the PBS series, SciGirls, which focuses on improving confidence, emphasizing a deeper understanding of inquiry, and a broadened awareness of careers for 8-13 year-old females. The discussion surrounded seven strategies for engaging girls.

Girls prefer STEM projects and experiences that embrace collaboration, are personally relevant, offer hands-on, open-ended participation, accommodate preferred learning styles, provide specific, positive feedback, allow for critical thinking, and involve role models & mentors.

We ended the workshop building Squishy Circuits. I had one of those deeply proud open source moments when an enthusiastic educator in the audience asked about gaining access to the slideshow so she could bring the materials back to her class. The women running the workshop were unable to oblige due to the copyright materials on the slides from SciGirls. These are the moments that solidify exactly why we continue to embrace the open source culture here at SparkFun. The last thing we ever want is to deny materials to an enthusiastic and inspired educator. Thankfully I was able to catch up with the educator at the end of the workshop and give her the link to our Squishy Circuits materials. If you’re interested, you can find out more about Texas Girls Collaborative Project and SciGirls.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDER PLY: Why Makers Rule in EDU

Dale Dougherty, Karl Wendt, Katie Rast

The maker panel was a nice discussion of experiences and quips about implementing “making” into the education system. Dougherty delivered a sage warning regarding filling a room with machines and expecting something to happen, emphasizing the importance of having support for a maker program. The panel also discussed the importance of creating an interdisciplinary space and how it connects people to technology. Wendt emphasized the importance of ownership and how that gives students a sense of purpose and meaning. Though it seems like a strange correlation, I thought about my high school experience and that I thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility and “ownership” of the specimen I was given to dissect in my biology and anatomy courses. The experience of deconstructing and learning through hands-on exploration is certainly what inspired my path to undergraduate and graduate studies in science. Despite being a far cry from your typical maker project, I think the overall message is the same. I really enjoyed the friendly disagreement between Wendt and Dougherty about the importance of formally integrating “making” into the curriculum. I happen to side with Wendt who was arguing in favor of ensuring integration. Overall I think the idea that the maker movement, with roots in skillsets that were traditionally tied to vocational or technical programs, is no longer an alternative path (it’s for everyone), is a fantastic message.

STEM to STEAM: Full Circle – Education to Economy

Jon Perera, Ainissa Ramirez, Rosemarie Truglio, Matt Goldman, and John Maeda

When the department formed in 2011 the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) was gaining momentum due to government attention to how these important fields affect the economy. I cannot pinpoint the first time our team was introduced to STEAM – adding art(s) to the popular acronym – but there wasn’t a moment of hesitation before we all quickly adopted this preferred acronym. It could be argued that there are many other important letters missing from this concept, but we firmly believe in the importance of that A. The discussion of this shift from STEM to STEAM was definitely a recurring theme at this year’s conference, culminating in this discussion with a rockstar panel. Each panelist provided a brief discussion about why the arts are a vital part of a comprehensive curriculum. They encouraged us to go “off road” and step outside our disciplines, to think about the idea that we design to differentiate, and that innovation is the product of art and design. I had a particular affinity for Ainissa Ramirez’s discussion about the importance of curiosity, creativity, problem-solving, and making friends with failure. She recently launched Save Our Science. If I left SXSWedu adding a new mantra to my life it would be Ramirez’s “discoveries are made one failure at a time.”

DRONES.edu: Hands on the Future in the Classroom

Todd Humphreys, Elad Inbar, Matt Waite, Amie Stepanovich

Despite a smaller audience than I would have imagined given the societal weight of the topic, the Drones.edu panel was one of my favorites. The panelists discussed the roles for drones in capturing data after natural disasters, how to approach and set some level of regulations on drones, drone hijacking, and accessibility to this technology with companies like our friends, DIY Drones. The hour flew by with really poignant dialogue about the future of this technology. I was particularly impressed by Matt Waite, a professor of practice in journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, who runs the Drone Journalism Lab. I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Matt following the panel and was really excited to hear about his journalism students learning to solder and hack hardware. If you’re intrigued by drones you might want to check out DroneCon this summer at our headquarters!

Don’t Make Me Go Back to Traditional Education

Isabetta Bleu Herrera Grant, Ludvik Herrera, Adam Gehlar

If you’re questioning various characteristics of Generation Millennial, perhaps it is time to reserve total judgment. Have you seen the recent news highlighting some pretty amazing scientific work of young men and women that are too young to vote? We are withholding judgment about this generation because we have had the amazing opportunity to interact with folks like Joey Hudy, Quin, and Super Awesome Sylvia. At SXSWedu I had the opportunity to chat with Isabetta Bleu and her father, Ludvik Herrera. Isabetta is an eighth grade student at West Fargo STEM middle school in North Dakota. Her experiences in the STEM school have been exceptional and allow her to get the most out of her education. The panel discussion between Isabetta, her father, and a former teacher, who now serves as the Assistant Principle at West Fargo High School, covered how things would change when Isabetta moved from a STEM-oriented middle school to a “traditional” high school. I thought I was a passionate student at that age but was definitely more concerned about acquiring thrift clothing to match the Beastie Boys' style than whether or not my preferred learning style would be addressed in the coming academic years. I applaud Isabetta for taking charge of her own education at a young age and demanding more from our education system.

alt text

Photo courtesy of Ludvik Herrera

Despite finding myself in close proximity to Mr. William Gates on the final day of the conference, I was unable to attend his final keynote due to that aforementioned pesky badge bureaucracy. I decided to wash away my sorrows with a little vintage retail therapy and local cuisine on Congress Avenue. Our friendly server at the Snack Bar was quite enthused by the oversized Big Time watch adorning my wrist, so I followed unofficial SparkFun protocol and passed it along to its new owner. Another happy customer and a great excuse to build up another sweet watch! If you’re strolling along Congress, I highly recommend Uncommon Objects – it’s a tour de force of vintage awesomeness. It would have been easy to spend a small fortune, but I was a responsible adult and only left with a cool old photograph of scientists pipetting and logging data in a lab.

alt text

See you next time, Austin!

Highlights from Lindsay’s Trip to the Lonestar State

via SparkFun Electronics - Recent News Posts

alt text

Since the formation of the Department of Education in 2011 we have been traveling throughout the country hosting workshops and events designed to inspire students of all ages. It was a nice change of pace to sit back as part of the audience and enjoy the inspiration and excitement of listening to all of the wonderful panelists and presenters at SXSWedu. There were too many notes to go through and I was chastised a bit for my last lengthy conference post, so I’ve added headings in this brain dump to allow for easier scanning/skipping. Let’s begin with a few lessons learned that I thought I would share:

  1. Do NOT lose your badge. Seriously. SXSW badge bureaucracy is intense!
  2. Attend panels that sound interesting and inspirational – don’t just follow big names.
  3. Next year, pack a bunch of soldering irons, kits, e-textiles materials and storm the Makerspace so people have things to build!
  4. Go check out the vintage shopping on Congress Ave.
  5. Do NOT mess with Texan BBQ (Who serves BBQ without sweet tea?)
  6. Do NOT leave the morning of the day that the rest of SXSW launches (bittersweet flight home).
  7. Compared to Boulder, Austin isn’t that weird, but it’s a darn cool city that I hope to visit again next year!

The Department of Education spends a lot of time evangelizing the merits of hands-on, kinesthetic, differentiated learning, so it is hard for me to sit back in a seat for most of a day listening. That being said, the organizers of SXSWedu should be applauded for a fantastic lineup. I’ve tried to recap a few choice panels below. However, in a delightful change of pace from sitting quietly in the audience, I also participated in the Squishy Circuits, Toy Engineering and More! workshop hosted by Tricia Berry and Didey Muniz. We were tasked with building the best parachute to ensure a safe landing for a toy animal. The materials included different weights of paper, aluminum foil, yarn and a few paper clips. We found partners, collaborated on design, and tested our models before a culminating group drop. It’s hard to say how safe our horse was in the final drop; I probably should have paid better attention in physics. Following the first activity, Berry and Muniz presented a slideshow from the PBS series, SciGirls, which focuses on improving confidence, emphasizing a deeper understanding of inquiry, and a broadened awareness of careers for 8-13 year-old females. The discussion surrounded seven strategies for engaging girls.

Girls prefer STEM projects and experiences that embrace collaboration, are personally relevant, offer hands-on, open-ended participation, accommodate preferred learning styles, provide specific, positive feedback, allow for critical thinking, and involve role models & mentors.

We ended the workshop building Squishy Circuits. I had one of those deeply proud open source moments when an enthusiastic educator in the audience asked about gaining access to the slideshow so she could bring the materials back to her class. The women running the workshop were unable to oblige due to the copyright materials on the slides from SciGirls. These are the moments that solidify exactly why we continue to embrace the open source culture here at SparkFun. The last thing we ever want is to deny materials to an enthusiastic and inspired educator. Thankfully I was able to catch up with the educator at the end of the workshop and give her the link to our Squishy Circuits materials. If you’re interested, you can find out more about Texas Girls Collaborative Project and SciGirls.

TINKER TAILOR SOLDER PLY: Why Makers Rule in EDU

Dale Dougherty, Karl Wendt, Katie Rast

The maker panel was a nice discussion of experiences and quips about implementing “making” into the education system. Dougherty delivered a sage warning regarding filling a room with machines and expecting something to happen, emphasizing the importance of having support for a maker program. The panel also discussed the importance of creating an interdisciplinary space and how it connects people to technology. Wendt emphasized the importance of ownership and how that gives students a sense of purpose and meaning. Though it seems like a strange correlation, I thought about my high school experience and that I thoroughly enjoyed the responsibility and “ownership” of the specimen I was given to dissect in my biology and anatomy courses. The experience of deconstructing and learning through hands-on exploration is certainly what inspired my path to undergraduate and graduate studies in science. Despite being a far cry from your typical maker project, I think the overall message is the same. I really enjoyed the friendly disagreement between Wendt and Dougherty about the importance of formally integrating “making” into the curriculum. I happen to side with Wendt who was arguing in favor of ensuring integration. Overall I think the idea that the maker movement, with roots in skillsets that were traditionally tied to vocational or technical programs, is no longer an alternative path (it’s for everyone), is a fantastic message.

STEM to STEAM: Full Circle – Education to Economy

Jon Perera, Ainissa Ramirez, Rosemarie Truglio, Matt Goldman, and John Maeda

When the department formed in 2011 the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) was gaining momentum due to government attention to how these important fields affect the economy. I cannot pinpoint the first time our team was introduced to STEAM – adding art(s) to the popular acronym – but there wasn’t a moment of hesitation before we all quickly adopted this preferred acronym. It could be argued that there are many other important letters missing from this concept, but we firmly believe in the importance of that A. The discussion of this shift from STEM to STEAM was definitely a recurring theme at this year’s conference, culminating in this discussion with a rockstar panel. Each panelist provided a brief discussion about why the arts are a vital part of a comprehensive curriculum. They encouraged us to go “off road” and step outside our disciplines, to think about the idea that we design to differentiate, and that innovation is the product of art and design. I had a particular affinity for Ainissa Ramirez’s discussion about the importance of curiosity, creativity, problem-solving, and making friends with failure. She recently launched Save Our Science. If I left SXSWedu adding a new mantra to my life it would be Ramirez’s “discoveries are made one failure at a time.”

DRONES.edu: Hands on the Future in the Classroom

Todd Humphreys, Elad Inbar, Matt Waite, Amie Stepanovich

Despite a smaller audience than I would have imagined given the societal weight of the topic, the Drones.edu panel was one of my favorites. The panelists discussed the roles for drones in capturing data after natural disasters, how to approach and set some level of regulations on drones, drone hijacking, and accessibility to this technology with companies like our friends, DIY Drones. The hour flew by with really poignant dialogue about the future of this technology. I was particularly impressed by Matt Waite, a professor of practice in journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, who runs the Drone Journalism Lab. I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Matt following the panel and was really excited to hear about his journalism students learning to solder and hack hardware. If you’re intrigued by drones you might want to check out DroneCon this summer at our headquarters!

Don’t Make Me Go Back to Traditional Education

Isabetta Bleu Herrera Grant, Ludvik Herrera, Adam Gehlar

If you’re questioning various characteristics of Generation Millennial, perhaps it is time to reserve total judgment. Have you seen the recent news highlighting some pretty amazing scientific work of young men and women that are too young to vote? We are withholding judgment about this generation because we have had the amazing opportunity to interact with folks like Joey Hudy, Quin, and Super Awesome Sylvia. At SXSWedu I had the opportunity to chat with Isabetta Bleu and her father, Ludvik Herrera. Isabetta is an eighth grade student at West Fargo STEM middle school in North Dakota. Her experiences in the STEM school have been exceptional and allow her to get the most out of her education. The panel discussion between Isabetta, her father, and a former teacher, who now serves as the Assistant Principle at West Fargo High School, covered how things would change when Isabetta moved from a STEM-oriented middle school to a “traditional” high school. I thought I was a passionate student at that age but was definitely more concerned about acquiring thrift clothing to match the Beastie Boys' style than whether or not my preferred learning style would be addressed in the coming academic years. I applaud Isabetta for taking charge of her own education at a young age and demanding more from our education system.

alt text

Photo courtesy of Ludvik Herrera

Despite finding myself in close proximity to Mr. William Gates on the final day of the conference, I was unable to attend his final keynote due to that aforementioned pesky badge bureaucracy. I decided to wash away my sorrows with a little vintage retail therapy and local cuisine on Congress Avenue. Our friendly server at the Snack Bar was quite enthused by the oversized Big Time watch adorning my wrist, so I followed unofficial SparkFun protocol and passed it along to its new owner. Another happy customer and a great excuse to build up another sweet watch! If you’re strolling along Congress, I highly recommend Uncommon Objects – it’s a tour de force of vintage awesomeness. It would have been easy to spend a small fortune, but I was a responsible adult and only left with a cool old photograph of scientists pipetting and logging data in a lab.

alt text

See you next time, Austin!

Your March Caption Contest

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

No use in beating around the bush – it’s time for a caption contest. As always, a few ground rules:

  • Leave your funniest clean caption in the comments section below. We reserve the right to delete captions that we deem inappropriate – so be clever, but keep it PG-13. Captions submitted any other way (smoke signal, carrier pigeon, feedback form, email, or otherwise) will not be accepted!
  • Captions will be accepted from the moment this post goes live until Thursday, March 21st at 9 a.m. Mountain Time.
  • A crack team of humor experts will pick the winner and we will announce it next week.

Here is the photo:

alt text

The prize this time around is a (drum roll please) – pcDuino (and a pcDuino wireless dongle). If you’re not familiar with the pcDuino, it is a high performance, cost effective mini-PC that runs full-featured operating systems such as Ubuntu and Android ICS. You can read more about it on the product page.

Alright – ready, set, caption! May the best caption win!

Your March Caption Contest

via SparkFun Electronics - Recent News Posts

No use in beating around the bush – it’s time for a caption contest. As always, a few ground rules:

  • Leave your funniest clean caption in the comments section below. We reserve the right to delete captions that we deem inappropriate – so be clever, but keep it PG-13. Captions submitted any other way (smoke signal, carrier pigeon, feedback form, email, or otherwise) will not be accepted!
  • Captions will be accepted from the moment this post goes live until Thursday, March 21st at 9 a.m. Mountain Time.
  • A crack team of humor experts will pick the winner and we will announce it next week.

Here is the photo:

alt text

The prize this time around is a (drum roll please) – pcDuino (and a pcDuino wireless dongle). If you’re not familiar with the pcDuino, it is a high performance, cost effective mini-PC that runs full-featured operating systems such as Ubuntu and Android ICS. You can read more about it on the product page.

Alright – ready, set, caption! May the best caption win!

Product Assembly at SparkFun

via SparkFun Electronics News Posts

In the early days of SparkFun, our manufacturing “process” consisted of one zealous engineering student (that’s Nate Seidle) soldering away in his college apartment. Our infamous (the in-famous!?) tried-and-true hot-plate reflow method was one of the crowning jewels in SparkFun’s early history.

Now, things are a bit different. We have a full team of trained soldering ninjas putting together hundreds of boards every day. We have not one, not two, but three pick-and-place machines working round the clock. And we have two reflow ovens – one for reflow work and one to heat up pizza rolls for backup. All because the DIY electronics community is thriving and we have lots of work to do to keep the products you need in-stock and on the shelves. It’s a big challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun. Check out this video called “Birth of SparkFun Widget.” It’ll give you a nice visual idea of the steps involved before that red box lands on your doorstep:

We also have a new tutorial called “Electronics Assembly.” This tutorial details just how SparkFun does its manufacturing – from stenciling all the way to packaging up the parts. Part of the process has warranted the creation of whole separate wing of production known as “kitting.” Their process (and…uh…unique “skills”) can be seen in this video:

We hope these videos (and tutorial) help “demystify” the SparkFun production process and give you a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes on here on a daily basis! As always, please feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Cheers!