Monthly Archives: November 2018

Friday Product Post: Be a Qwiic Pro

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello there everyone and welcome back! Hopefully you were able to get some great parts and boards during our Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales, but now we move forward to bring you even more new products this week! We start off the week with the Pro nRF52840 Mini, an Arduino Bluetooth development board that is also Qwiic capable! Speaking of the Qwiic Connect System, we also have an Expansion Board for the Onion Omega that allows you to incorporate boards with Qwiic connectors to be used with the new IoT platform. Last up this week, we have a tiny breakout board for a USB-C connector AND the connector itself!

A new Pro Mini!

SparkFun Pro nRF52840 Mini - Bluetooth Development Board

SparkFun Pro nRF52840 Mini - Bluetooth Development Board


The SparkFun Pro nRF52840 Mini is a breakout and development board for Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52840 – a powerful combination of ARM Cortex-M4 CPU and 2.4GHz Bluetooth radio. With the nRF52840 at the heart of your project, you’ll have a seemingly endless list of possibilities in an incredibly small package. The mini development board for the nRF52840 breaks out most of the critical I/O pins including GPIO and those needed for power, while maintaining a small footprint that nearly matches that of the Arduino Pro Mini (except those covered by the Qwiic connector).

Qwiic Expansion Board for Onion Omega

Qwiic Expansion Board for Onion Omega


The Qwiic Expansion Board for the Onion Omega allows you to easily attach the large catalog of breakout and development boards utilizing the SparkFun Qwiic Connect System to be operated by the powerful Omega! This Expansion Board is equipped with four individual Qwiic connectors and easily plugs into the Expansion Dock. With it, you will be able to combine and have full control over what kind of project you design for your Qwiic and Omega boards.

SparkFun USB-C Breakout

SparkFun USB-C Breakout

USB Female Type C Connector

USB Female Type C Connector


With this USB breakout you will finally be able to incorporate a USB-C connector into your projects without needing to solder each tiny SMD pad. The SparkFun USB-C Breakout supplies up to three times the power of previous USB iterations, and also solves the universally frustrating dilemma of plugging a USB cable in correctly, because it’s reversible! Of course, if you are looking for just the USB-C connector without the attached breakout, we have you covered there too!

And that’s it for new products this week! As always, we can’t wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

We’ll be back next week with even more fantastic new products!

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Enginursday: 3D-Printed, Illuminated Wand Prop

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

My students had another dance performance recently. To fit the theme, I decided to dive into the wizarding world! What better way than to 3D print a wand? I had to go simple since I had to make enough for all of my students with the time I had available.

Browsing Thingiverse, there were quite a lot of wands to choose from. I finally found the wand from user jakereeves. There was an option to print the wand as a single piece, but I did not have enough space on the print bed. Shrinking and rotating could have been an option but a smaller size would not have been as appealing on stage.

Luckily, he provided an option to print it as two parts. I just had to use some glue to assemble the wand together. I also needed to use a raft for bed adhesion, which required an additional step to remove the support. Here’s how it looked after printing and assembling:

LulzBot 3D Printed ABS Elder Wand from jakereeves Model

The wand was cool but I went the extra mile and added an LED to light the end. While there were other prints that had an option to have the electronics inside, they appeared to be bulky or more involved than what I wanted, so I opted to have the electronics on the outside.

3D Printed Illuminated Wand Assembled

Satisfied with the initial build, I continued to make wands for each student’s costume. On a side note, Joann Fabrics usually has some cool fabric patterns if you wanted to make a custom clip-on tie.

Harry Potter Ties and Cloak with 3D Printed Illuminated LED Wand

How did it go when I handed the illuminated wands over to my students? Well, they did not mind the circuit being wrapped around on the outside of the wand. The kids started saying magical incantations, ran around flicking imaginary balls of energy, and tried making things levitate. As a result, NO ONE WAS FOCUSED. Luckily, I handed them their illuminated wands during their last rehearsal before the fall show. At least they were really in character?

Wands in Action

How to Make a Illuminated Wand

Looking to build one yourself? Check out my associated tutorial.


3D Printed Illuminated Wand Prop

November 29, 2018

In this tutorial, we will learn about how to create a theatrical prop for a performance by 3D printing a wand and adding an LED.

Have you tried a project like this? Let us know your thoughts below in the comments. Until next time!

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MagPi 76: our updated Raspberry Pi Superguide!

via Raspberry Pi

Hi folks, Rob from The MagPi here! The holiday season will soon be upon us, and that means a lot of Raspberry Pis will be given as gifts. For all these new Pi users, we thought it was time to update our beginners’ guide for 2019 in issue 76 of The MagPi, out now!

And yes, this includes the brand-new 3A+.

Look, up on the magazine rack!

Is it a bird? A plane? No, it’s Superguide!

In this Superguide, we’ll take you through the initial setup of the Pi, we’ll help you familiarise yourself with it, and we’ll even show you a couple of fun Pi projects to get started with! Whether you’re a complete newbie to Raspberry Pi or you want need a little refresher, our guide has got you covered.


3A+ subscription offer!

Speaking of the Raspberry Pi 3A+, we have a full feature on the fresh addition to the Raspberry Pi family, including all the juicy benchmarks, stats, and info you’d ever want to know. There’s even an interview with Eben Upton and Roger Thornton about its development!

In fact, we love the 3A+ so much that we’re offering a brand-new, limited-time subscription offer: sign up for a twelve-month print subscription of The MagPi now, and you’ll get a Raspberry Pi 3A+ completely free!

Hurry though, this offer only runs as long as stocks last.

Be quick, this offer won’t be around forever!

Heads, Pac-Man, and Christmas lights

Of course, there also are amazing projects, guides, and reviews in this issue. This includes As We Are, a mesmerising art project that displays people’s faces on a 14-foot tall screen shaped like a head. We also show you how to start making Pac-Man in our monthly Pygame tutorial, and our smart lights guide has a bit of a festive flair to it.

Get The MagPi 76

You can get The MagPi 76 from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the issue online: check it out on our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF.

Rolling subscription offer!

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? As well as the subscription mentioned above, you can now take out a monthly £5 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre‑order system that saves you money on each issue.

The MagPi subscription offer — The MagPi 75

That’s it for now! I’ll see you next time around Christmas.


The post MagPi 76: our updated Raspberry Pi Superguide! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi vs a Raspberry Pi–powered escape room

via Raspberry Pi

A few Mondays ago, the Raspberry Pi North America team visited a very special, Raspberry Pi–powered Escape Room in San Francisco. Run by Palace Games, the Edison Escape Room is an immersive experience full of lights, sensors, and plenty of surprises. This is the team’s story of how they entered, explored, and ultimately escaped this room.

At World Maker Faire this year, our very own social media star Alex Bate met Jordan Bunker, one of the Production Artists at Palace Games. Emails were sent, dates arranges, and boom, the Raspberry Pi North America team had to face the Edison Escape Room!

Escape rooms

In case you’re not familiar, an escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, logic, and strategy to complete the game’s objectives. Many escape room designers use physical computing to control the many sensors and triggers involved in the player experience.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The team vs Edison

Upon entering the Edison Escape Room, my team and I quickly realized that we were within a complex system built like a giant computer! So even though it was our first-ever time in an escape room, that would not be a disadvantage for us.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

Our goal was to accomplish a variety of tasks, including solving many puzzles, looking for hidden clues when anything could be a clue, completing circuits, moving with the floor, and getting a bit of a workout.

The true test, however, was how well we communicated and worked with each other — which we did an awesome job at: at times we split up the work to effectively figure out the many different puzzles and clues; there was a lot “try it this way”, “maybe it means this”, and “what if it’s supposed to go that way” being yelled across the room. Everyone had their Edison thinking hat on that day, and we were so ecstatic when we completed the last challenge and finally escaped!

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The inner workings

After escaping the room, we got the chance to explore behind the scenes. We found a local network of many Raspberry Pis that are coordinated by a central Raspberry Pi server. The Python Banyan framework is the connective tissue between the Raspberry Pis and their attached components.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The framework facilitates the communication between the Pis and the central server via Ethernet. The Raspberry Pis are used to read various types of sensors and to drive actuators that control lights, open doors, or play back media. And Raspberry Pis also drive the control panels that employees use to enter settings and keep tabs on the game.

“Raspberry Pi keeps us going. It’s the heart and soul of our rooms.”  – Elizabeth Sonder, Design Engineer & Production Manager

We highly recommend heading over to Palace Games and exploring one of their many escape rooms. It’s a great team-building exercise and definitely allows you to learn a lot about the people you work with. Thank you to the Palace Games team for hosting us, and we hope to return and escape one of their rooms again soon!

The post Raspberry Pi vs a Raspberry Pi–powered escape room appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

From the Field: GroupGets Labs (aka GetLab)

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be letting some of our customers take over the blog to talk about how they use their favorite SparkFun tools and products in their projects, businesses and everyday lives. The best part? All the SparkFun items on their wishlist will be on sale today only!

Ron Justin, cofounder and CEO of GroupGets

Over the years, SparkFun has become our “Staples” for electronic gear at GroupGets. It’s where we find ourselves grabbing the basics, like antennas, ESPxx Thing Wi-Fi boards, FTDI breakouts and rechargeable batteries with JST connectors. These items are not the new hotness in electronics, but they certainly help enable it. Below is a go at narrowing down our three favorite go-to’s, in no particular order.

Ron’s wishlist (on sale today only!):

Number one is the Sparkfun Third Hand Kit. On top of being well… handy, it was also designed by a friend and former colleague of mine, so that’s an added bonus. “Helping hands” rigs are ubiquitous to hold your boards for soldering, but the Third Hand Kit has more flexibility and a wider range of motion than the standard options, and doesn’t have that funky magnifier to get in the way. Crafty veterans prefer to wear a magnifying visor instead anyway. High-five to Ryan Straughn for creating this super useful and clever system, just one of many in his bag of tricks.

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Next on the list is the SparkFun ESP8266 Thing Dev Board. It’s dirt simple to connect up a sensor to it and stream its data to the web. What we really appreciate about it are SparkFun’s quick and easy tutorials to get up and running quickly with it, like this one. This also makes us comfortable giving them out to students and budding engineers when we moderate hack-a-thons, to make their first edge-to-cloud experience as painless as possible. There are multiple versions of the Thing for your ESP of choice, but we love how single-purpose they all are. Many hardware developers get intimidated by cloud apps but the Thing greatly reduces the angst when wanting to get your data online for a demo or proof-of-concept.

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Last but not least, with just a dash of an obligatory shameless plug warning, we obviously use the GroupGets PureThermal 2 FLIR Lepton Smart I/O Board (aka “PT2”) on the daily, since we designed and produce it. The goal of PT2 was to make application development with the FLIR Lepton LWIR core simple by putting an STM32 on board to output thermal video as a USB video class (UVC) stream. With PT2, you don’t need any other board to see its video output; just plug it into a USB port on any macOS, Linux or Windows computer. You can view its video with most open source video viewers like VLC or our own open viewer, GetThermal. Whether we are putting PT2 in some strange test scenario for a customer, adding new features to its firmware or making 3D-printed cases for it, you will often see its thermal video output on some screens at our HQ.

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SparkFun was our first ever distributor years ago for what we called the “classic” FLIR Lepton breakout board, which we also designed and later licensed to FLIR. It’s the same board used in the FLIR Radiometric Lepton Dev Kit, and requires an external development board like a Raspberry Pi to operate. Both boards have their unique place in the evaluation and app development process with Lepton, and many professional developers use both.

So there you have it – a brief glimpse into what’s inside those red boxes on the shelf at GroupGets.

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New product: STSPIN820 Stepper Motor Driver Carrier with 1/256 microstepping

via Pololu Blog

We have yet another new stepper motor driver carrier in our popular 16-pin, 0.6″ × 0.8″ form factor, this time for STMicro’s STSPIN820, which offers 1/256 step microstepping! ST actually has their own similar evaluation board, the EVALSP820-XS, but the STSPIN820 chip has a non-inverted Enable input, which is inverted compared to most other stepper motor driver ICs out there, and they expose the pin that way on their version of the board. We have thoughtfully added a transistor-based inverter so that our board is more likely to work as a drop-in replacement (or upgrade!) for the stepper driver boards you already have. In our tests, the Pololu carrier supported a substantially higher maximum current than the ST eval board (around 900 mA compared to 720 mA, probably due to our board having four layers vs. two layers for the ST eval board), and as of this writing (27 November 2018), our board is also priced lower.

You can see the full schematic for all the details (this schematic is also available as a downloadable pdf (109k pdf)):

Schematic diagram of the STSPIN820 Stepper Motor Driver Carrier.

With our release earlier in November of compact carriers for Toshiba’s TB67S249FTG and TB67S279FTG stepper motor drivers, we now offer ten different stepper motor driver modules in this compact size:


Black Ed.




Pot. CC

Digital CC



Driver chip: A4988 DRV8825 DRV8834 DRV8880 MP6500 TB67S279­FTG TB67S249­FTG STSPIN­820
Min operating voltage: 8 V 8.2 V 2.5 V 6.5 V 4.5 V 10 V 10 V 7 V
Max operating voltage: 35 V 45 V 10.8 V 45 V 35 V 47 V 47 V 45 V
Max continuous current per phase:(1) 1 A 1.2 A 1.5 A 1.5 A 1 A 1.5 A 1.1 A 1.6 A 0.9 A
Peak current per phase:(2) 2 A 2.2 A 2 A 1.6 A 2.5 A 2 A 2 A 4.5 A 1.5 A
Microstepping down to: 1/16 1/32 1/32 1/16 1/8 1/32 1/32 1/256
Board layer count: 2 4 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
Special features: high current low-voltage
high current
digital current
high current digital current
high current
Auto Gain Control,
high max voltage
Auto Gain Control,
high max voltage,
high current
128 and 256
1-piece price: $5.95 $7.49 $8.95 $5.95 $6.95 $5.95 $5.95 $7.75 $9.95 $7.75
1 On Pololu carrier board, at room temperature, and without additional cooling.
2 Maximum theoretical current based on components on the board (additional cooling required).

As with all of our new products this year, we are offering an introductory special. The first 100 customers that use coupon code STSPIN820INTRO can get up to five units at just $5 each.