Monthly Archives: April 2019

Friday Product Post: Ohhh! What Does This Button Do?

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone! We have quite a few products to get through today, starting with the new SparkFun Qwiic Keypad, which helps you easily incorporate a 12-button actuator into a project. We also have the new Raspberry Pi PoE HAT, and a VR IMU Breakout with lightly bad silk at a reduced cost. To round out the day we have a couple of limited-time essential components, including three Cherry MX keycaps, three trimpots and some multicolored tactile buttons! Let's take a closer look!

You're really pressing our buttons, now!

SparkFun Qwiic Keypad - 12 Button

SparkFun Qwiic Keypad - 12 Button

COM-15290
$9.95

Keypads are very handy input devices, but who wants to tie up seven GPIO pins, wire a handful of pull-up resistors and write firmware that wastes valuable processing time scanning the keys for inputs? The SparkFun Qwiic Keypad comes fully assembled and makes the development process for adding a 12-button keypad easy. There's no need for voltage translation or to figure out which I2C pin is SDA or SCL, just plug and go! Utilizing our handy Qwiic system, no soldering is required to connect it to the rest of your system. However, we still have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard.


Make Power over Ethernet a piece of pi!

Raspberry Pi PoE HAT

Raspberry Pi PoE HAT

DEV-14882
$20.00

The Raspberry Pi PoE (Power over Ethernet) HAT is a small accessory board for the Raspberry Pi computer. The PoE HAT allows you to power your Raspberry Pi using Power over Ethernet–enabled networks. Please be aware that for this HAT to work effectively, the network it is connected to needs to have power-sourcing equipment for a 802.3af Power over Ethernet network installed.


Looks can be deceiving!

SparkFun VR IMU Breakout - BNO080 (Qwiic) - Bad Silk

SparkFun VR IMU Breakout - BNO080 (Qwiic) - Bad Silk

DD-15323
$30.00

Look, this board may not look pretty, but it works like a dream. Virtual reality is in, but you shouldn't have to drop hundreds of dollars to gain access to the technology behind it. Luckily, that's where the SparkFun VR IMU Breakout (with bad silk) comes in. At its heart is Bosch’s BNO080, a combination triple-axis accelerometer/gyro/magnetometer SiP, packaged with a 32-bit ARM Cortex M0+. The BNO080 Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) produces accurate rotation vector headings, excellently suited for VR and other heading applications, with a static rotation error of two degrees or less.

The VR IMU is exactly what we’ve been waiting for: All the sensor data is combined and drift-corrected into meaningful, accurate IMU information. It’s perfect for any project that needs to sense orientation or motion. This IMU breakout board has also been equipped with two I2C Qwiic connectors, in order to make interfacing with the tiny, QFN package a bit easier. It’s part of SparkFun’s Qwiic connect system, so you won’t have to do any soldering to figure out how things are oriented. However, we still have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard.

This board is functionally the same as the VR IMU Breakout - BNO080 (Qwiic), but our PCBs came in with a poor silk job. The labels may be a bit harder to read, but they are functionally the same.


Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Opaque Black)

Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Opaque Black)

PRT-15305
$0.95
Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent)

Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent)

PRT-15306
$0.95
Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent Black)

Cherry MX Keycap - R2 (Translucent Black)

PRT-15307
$0.95

Cherry MX switches are great for building your own keyboards. Whether you are looking to build a full-sized, 108-key keyboard, your own 10-key or just a custom input for your computer, Cherry MX switches give you that satisfying keyboard click. Now we carry keycaps to make your project a little more professional looking. These keycaps come in an Opaque Black, Translucent or Translucent Black, which allows you to add a solid professional finish to your keys. You can still mark these with a permanent marker, sticker or other marking device. While many of the Cherry MX switches have a spot for an LED it will not show through this keycap.


 Trimpot 2K Ohm with Knob

Trimpot 2K Ohm with Knob

DD-15298
$0.95
 Trimpot 100 Ohm with Knob

Trimpot 100 Ohm with Knob

DD-15299
$0.95
 Trimpot 100K Ohm with Knob

Trimpot 100K Ohm with Knob

DD-15300
$0.95

There are lots of trimpots out there. Some are very large, and some are so small they require a screwdriver. Here at SparkFun, we just needed a simple one that worked. These 2K Ohm, 100 Ohm and 100K Ohm trimmable potentiometers have a small knob built right in, and are breadboard friendly to boot! Perfect for your next LCD contrast adjuster, opamp setting or volume level.


Multicolored Tactile Buttons - 4-Pack

Multicolored Tactile Buttons - 4-Pack

DD-15326
$1.00

This is a simple 4-pack of momentary, multicolor buttons, great for all sorts of projects! This version of multicolor buttons does not have recessed actuators, and instead has red, green, blue and yellow caps to distinguish them from each other. The colored caps are removable and the buttons fit into breadboards.


That's it for 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!

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Enginursday: Building a Wireless EL Wire Dance Suit, Part 1

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Continuing on my journey of merging art and technology, I decided to try using EL once again for my students' 2017 spring performance with Streetside Studios. If you have not been following along with some of my Enginursdays, be sure to get caught up with the following blog posts.

Let's check out some of my first designs. For Mark I, EL tape and panels were inserted between a shirt and clear vinyl. It did not pan out as well as I thought, since the tiny wires attached to the tape/panels kept breaking off at the joint, and the electronics kept falling out of their pockets. For the next version, I sewed together a harness using non-addressable LEDs. With the success of the second version, I added an accelerometer, N-Channel MOSFET and Arduino to control the LEDs for Mark III.

Mark I: EL Dance Shirt Mark II: LED Dance Harness Mark III: Motion-Controlled LED Dance Harness

Click on the images/GIFs/links for a closer look.

Mark IV: Wireless EL Wire Dance Suit

After some experience adding lights to shirts and harness, I decided to expand to the arms and legs. Instead of using EL tape and panel forms like the first version, I decided to try out EL wire. While the EL wire did not have as much surface area as the flat tape and panel, it was more flexible to a certain point. I also had more time to plan it out over the course of three months. Off I went, sewing 42 meters (coincidence?, I think not) to hoodies and pants. For those that use Imperial units, that's ~1,653.5 inches of hand-sewed EL wire. I decided to join in on the fun with my own suit, so I opted to make a wireless glove to control the suits using XBees and EL sequencers. Behold, my students and I wearing Mark IV.

Wireless EL Dance Suits in Action

How Do You Build Such a Thing? Part 1

As with any project, you will want to start small and work on the project in parts. In this case, I needed to build a Wireless Glove Controller for the project to control each dancer's EL sequencer. Below is a tutorial showing how I built the wireless glove controller to control a simple RGB LED. The concept and coding used to control the RGB LED is the same as toggling each channel of an EL sequencer remotely.

New!

Wireless Glove Controller

April 24, 2019

Build a wireless glove controller with Arduinos to trigger an LED using XBees!

Tune in some time in the future when I go over the next part of the wireless EL suit. ;D

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Laser-cut teapot coasters

via Pololu Blog

This past weekend my mom hosted a tea-themed baby shower for me, and after looking around and not finding any party favors I liked, I decided to make my own custom laser-cut teapot-shaped coasters for it. To get started, I searched some free vector file sites for a vector file of a teapot that I liked and could easily prepare for laser-cutting with CorelDRAW. I chose this one designed by Freepik. Once loaded into the software, I resized the teapot and added text. I personally really like cork as a coaster material since it keeps the cup from slipping and absorbs moisture well, so I also picked up some 1/8″ cork place mats from IKEA.

Evidently, cork is not a material we are asked to laser-engrave very often, so I had to do some experimenting with the engraving settings before cutting out prototypes.

I generally liked the look of the first draft, but realized that at 4 inches total width it was too small to be practical (and readable). In addition, the handle of the teapot was fairly fragile since the cork was only an eighth of an inch thick. Below you can see the first draft of the cork teapot in the upper left. It is missing the small circular embellishment at the base of the handle.

Comparison of different test coaster sizes.

For the second draft, I increased the size to about 5.5 inches, edited my file to thicken the areas of the teapot where the handle connects to the base, and started playing with different acrylic backings to make the coasters more durable and colorful. I tried a version with an outline around the cork teapot and one that fit directly beneath the cork.

In the end, I went with the sleeker acrylic with no outline, though most of the others I consulted here preferred the mirrored outline shown on the left above (despite my insistence that it looked like a magic lamp). I cut out a variety of colors and glued them to the back of the cork with rubber cement.

All in all I think they came out well (though I could have made the attachment for the small circle at the bottom of the handle even thicker), and they were definitely a big hit at the party!

If you want to try your own laser cutting project, submit a quote request here!

Project Canary: Atmospheric Research Takes Flight

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Over the last two years, a few SparkFun employees and I have been gathering, every Thursday afternoon, at the St. Vrain Innovation Center up in Longmont, CO. There, we volunteer with the Innovation Center Aquatic Robotics Team (ICART). Recently, with the help of one of my coworkers, QCPETE, the students involved with Project Canary assembled their first custom PCB design. This is the story behind their project and their experience with the design and assembly process.


Project Canary: Atmospheric Research Takes Flight

Written by Davita Bird

In 2017, Janine Aquino and Kate Young of the University Center for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) contracted with the St. Vrain School District Innovation Center to outfit a quadcopter with sensors so that they could conduct low-altitude atmospheric research. From this, the Canary Drone Team was born. For this project, six Innovation Center students (Michelle, Davita, Aidan, Ben, Pi and Morgan), together with team mentor Craig Rahenkamp, were tasked with recommending a quadcopter to purchase, designing and constructing a sensing array that could be attached to the drone and relay data to a ground station, and developing a method for transmitting this data to an on-line database.

alt text

The team ended up choosing a DJI Phantom drone because of its flight time and high load capacity. They then designed the circuitry and created code for an Atmel chip (1284 PA if anyone’s interested) to communicate with five gas sensors (NH3, CO2, O3, H2 and CH4), a LiDAR sensor, a GPS sensor and a BME280 sensor (measures temperature, pressure and humidity), which then transmits all of that data through an XBee radio. The data package is received by a second radio attached to a phone, which then transfers the data to a CHORDS database in the cloud.

In order to attach this sensor suite to the drone, the team had to design its own circuit board for the sensors. This process took about a year, during which one of our circuit board team members graduated (as did most of the rest of the team, darn them all!), leaving a three-and-a-half member team to finish the project. One of the graduates, Michelle, worked remotely to finished the cell phone code during her first year of college, with help from Jim Foltz, a team mentor. The project is nearly done, with the airborne code essentially finished and only testing remaining. The students were very lucky to have Pete, a SparkFun mentor, to help with the process of creating the circuit board and helping Caitlyn and Davita mount the components. Through all the phases of the circuit board creation, SparkFun was instrumental in helping the team have some idea of what to do, not to mention providing the opportunity to see the manufacturing tools in action in the warehouse.

PCB design
Final PCB Design. (Click to enlarge)

in February, Caitlyn and Davita, and their mentor Craig Rahenkamp, went to SparkFun headquarters to surface mount components on our newly designed and printed circuit boards. The first generation of boards ended up getting the guidelines printed as signal traces (oops), so this time the team had a SparkFun mentor check and recheck our student design made by Manas. SparkFun then helped the team get the boards manufactured by sending the design out to JLCPCB. Once delivered, these new boards were taken to SparkX, the R&D/rapid prototyping side of SparkFun.

Student applying soldering paste for the layout process
Caitlyn applying solder paste to one of the boards for the layout process.

At one of their available desks, Caitlyn and Davita put solder paste on them with the help of stencils that were specifically created for the board, and got them ready for the next step: surface mounting the components. For this part, Caitlyn and Davita carefully transported the boards downstairs, where SparkFun does their board assembly. Using tweezers, Caitlyn and Davita placed five LEDs, 19 capacitors, 12 resistors, one inductor and the microchip onto the three boards. Most of these parts were smaller than ants, measuring just 0.3 mm by 0.6 mm. From there, the students were able to use the huge oven to heat our boards and finish the soldering process. While the boards were being heated, the students and mentors were able to watch a pick-and-place machine mount the parts for a panel of SparkFun boards. This machine is used to quickly and accurately mount parts on larger batches of circuit boards.

Assembly Completed
Caitlyn, Davita, Pete and Craig with the completed boards.

Project Canary was able to take a large step forward with the help of SparkFun and the opportunities it offered the team. Going to SparkFun helped enhance students' and the mentor's knowledge on circuit boards, the art and science of soldering, and surface mounting smaller components. It was a really fun, hands-on activity, and it helped give the students ideas for future careers and jobs.


Team Bio:

Our current team is three full-time students (Davita Bird, Caitlyn Fong and Manas Saini), one half-time student (Michelle Tran) and our mentor Craig Rahenkamp. The team has been in existence for two years.

If you are a technical professional and are interested in volunteering, you can reach out to Axel Reitzig, the Robotics and Computer Science Coordinator at the St. Vrain Innovation Center. Additionally, you can visit the St. Vrain Valley School District's Community Strong platform to learn about other opportunities to get involved.

Students in the St. Vrain Valley School District who are interested in working (possibly paid) on projects like this can apply for positions through the St. Vrain Innovation Center.

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New product: DB15 Screw Terminal Adapter for MCP23X/26X Advanced Motor Controllers

via Pololu Blog

DB15 Screw Terminal Adapter for MCP23X/26X Advanced Motor Controllers with included hardware.

DB15 screw terminal adapter mated to an MCP266 Advanced Motor Controller.

We are now carrying a DB15 Screw Terminal Adapter for MCP23X/26X Advanced Motor Controllers. The adapter breaks out connections from the DB15 connector to a set of screw terminals, making accessing those pins easier during prototyping. It is designed specifically to work with the MCP Advanced Motor Controllers that feature a DB15 connector: the MCP233, MCP236, MCP263, and MCP266. However, it could also be used as a generic breakout board for other hardware that uses the same connector, like old computer joysticks or MIDI devices (where it is called a game port).

Friday Product Post: You’ve Been Thunderstruck!

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello, there everyone! It's Friday, and that means we have some new products to show you all - starting with a Lightning Detector Breakout. Yup, you read that right! We also have the new Google Coral Single Board Computer, and three DMX cables. Let's take a closer look at all!

Storm's Coming, Ani!

SparkFun Lightning Detector - AS3935 (Qwiic)

SparkFun Lightning Detector - AS3935 (Qwiic)

SEN-15276
$24.95

Add the SparkFun Qwiic Lightning Detector to your next weather station to make sure you are aware of any potential hazardous weather heading your way. The AS3935 is capable of detecting lightning up to 40 km away, with an accuracy of 1 km to the storm front, and a sensitive antenna tuned to pick up lightning events in the 500 kHz band. Utilizing our handy Qwiic system, no soldering is required to connect it to the rest of your system. However, we still have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard.


Google Coral Development Board

Google Coral Development Board

DEV-15318
$156.95

The Coral Dev Board is a single-board computer with a removable system-on-module (SOM) that contains eMMC, SOC, wireless radios and the Edge TPU. You can use the Dev Board as a single-board computer when you need accelerated ML processing in a small form factor, but it also serves as an evaluation kit for the SOM. You can use the dev board to prototype internet-of-things (IoT) devices and other embedded systems that demand fast on-device ML inferencing, and then scale to production using just the 40 mm × 48 mm SOM board combined with your custom PCB hardware using board-to-board connectors.


XLR-3 (DMX) Cable - 5ft

XLR-3 (DMX) Cable - 5ft

CAB-15308
$4.95

This is a five-foot-long (~1.5 m) DMX cable capable of better communications for lighting and special effects through standard or digital communication protocols. We specifically like to use this cable with our ESP32 Thing Plus DMX to LED Shield, but it can also be used to interface with other DMX fixtures, as well!

If you need a longer cable, you're in luck! We also offer cable lengths of 10 ft and 25 ft.


That's it for 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!

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