Monthly Archives: April 2020

Recreating Sega’s Columns with Arduino!

via Arduino Blog

In the early ’90s, Sega shipped its Game Gear console with a falling-block puzzle game called Columns. This Tetris-like game invited users to match colored “jewels” on the ground with lines of three new colors that drop from above. Michael A. Maynard envisioned building his own portable version of Columns at the time, but without electronics like Arduino boards and addressable RGB LEDs, the project just wasn’t in the cards.

Nonetheless, after years of consideration, he’s finally been able to create such a handheld. He used an Uno for development, which was replaced by a Nano in the current iteration. 

His system manipulates the falling jewels through a 6×13 LED matrix, with a three-LED preview display, seeven-segment LEDs for game stats, and dual-motor haptic feedback. The game even features stereo sound, with effects, and music produced via dual MP3 player modules.

Emergency ventilators: from ideation to manufacturing

via Arduino Blog

This article was written by César Garcia, researcher at La Hora Maker.

Welcome to the second article in this series on ventilators! As we’ve seen last week, ventilators are critical pieces of infrastructure. They must work reliably for long periods of time without missing a beat. Today we will uncover what are the different phases involved in developing one of these devices. Please, note that this process is a simplified one, based on current circumstances. It usually takes much more time to get one ventilator ready to market.

First stage is the ideation phase. In this initial stage, teams need to decide what technology they will use for their design. One of the most common these days is repurposing an AMBU, by operating it mechanically. There are other alternatives although like pneumatical, based on electro valves, etc, and some of the models approved in Spain involve techniques like High Frequency Jet Ventilation — that is a complete departure from the AMBU models! 

Andalucía Respira Ventilator photo (Source: Junta de Andalucía press release)

Given that the device is going to be used by medical personnel, it’s really important to look at the clinically relevant parameters for these devices. The MIT E-Vent team has done a wonderful job documenting these clinical aspects. You can find the key ventilator specifications to consider on their site.

It’s also worth noting that not all ventilators are meant to work the same. Some of them are better tailored for emergencies, while others are designed to support the patient for longer periods. Mechanical ventilators are covered by several ISO norms like 80601-2-12:2020. Several agencies have made the specifications available for free, to help new initiatives to develop ventilators against COVID-19.

Once you know which approach you would like to take, it’s time to start working on your first functional prototype.  Most of the designs will require you to get sensors and valves, as well as basic medical supplies. As per the control unit, we would recommend you to take a look at the Arduino boards better suited to the task in this presentation by Dario Pennisi.

Getting your prototype to pump air is the first step. But you need to control the amount of air in a precise way. Too much-pressurized gas could damage the patient lungs while falling short could suffocate them too. There are two approaches to this issue — some ventilators keep track of the volume of air, while others focus on pressure. To test this, you will need a lung simulator — there are plain simple models to really complex ones. UK’s MHRA offers an extensive test suite for Rapid Manufactured Ventilator Systems (RMVS) for this crisis. You can explore the test at Appendix B. 

Photo credits: MHRA’s diagram for the test circuit from the Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System specification.

If you are producing ventilators in the UK, this is the main mandatory step right now. In other countries, like Spain, the regulation is a bit more complex — we will focus on those additional steps in the rest of this article.

Once you pass all tests with the simulator, you are required to run clinical tests with animals. As you can imagine, this is not something you can do at your local hackerspace or Fablab. Veterinarians and doctors need to supervise the test, and validate if your device works as expected. Even if you pass some initial tests, you may still need to do more extensive trials. If you plan to produce a non-emergency ventilator, you might be required to repeat tests on pathological animals.

Let’s say you pass all these tests, what is next step? You need to supply your prototype and manuals to an external lab. The goal is to make a third party verify the device specs in a controlled environment. They will test for Electromagnetic compliance, so that the device doesn’t interfere with external ICU equipment, neither is affected by third party emissions.

Once you have your documentation ready, you can submit it for review for the local regulatory agency (AEMPS in Spain, FDA in the USA), to receive final approval! Does this mean that the device is certified? Not really!

Regular certification doesn’t just focus on the device, but also on the manufacturing methods, facilities, quality control, etc. To produce certain equipment, you need to ensure the environmental conditions at the factory, proper hygienic procedures, etc are maintained.

How do you make sure that none of the people assembling or printing is not affected by coronavirus? Most prototypes that have passed all tests have been produced by companies with manufacturing experience. Some projects like Oxygen, offer a maker version and an industrial version, that was manufactured by a car company. In their repository, you can find all documents required to move from prototype to an industrial device!

OxYGEN-IP Ventilator exploded view (available at OxYGEN repo)

So, how are these devices going to be deployed? In Spain, they are being used as devices in a clinical trial. Ethical committees in the hospitals would need to approve the trials and set the rules for actual usage. These devices will be used by trained doctors as compassive devices: if no other ventilator is available, they could decide to use them, after getting permission by patients or relatives. These clinical trials would start with a few patients and then scale to larger numbers if required.

In the next episodes, we will explore the stories behind some of these prototypes!

Makers are Making a Difference

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

The maker community has never ceased to amaze and impress. The community is a large reason why many of us have been drawn toward making things ourselves in the first place. In these unusual times, the maker community has started work to meet the challenges!

3D printing

3D printed Brim
Image from Prusa

3D printing has emerged as one of the main ways people have been able to use their skills to help others. There are a wide variety of prints people have designed and shared to help stay healthy, such as hands-free door openers or valves for medical devices.

Recently, a mask print has received FDA approval. There has been a tremendous amount of care and effort put into these designs, and it is heartening to know that they are being properly reviewed. NIH has even started their own page of "Reviewed for Clinical Use Designs," including a guide on what you can do to help.

Locally, many groups here in Colorado have come together to do what they can to help out. I want to highlight the Make4Covid organization - they have streamlined resources for makers, donors and equipment. Make4Covid helped us find a group of students and engineers at the University of Colorado who needed extra 3D printers to make face shield parts.

If you have a 3D printer that you are able to loan out, I highly recommend finding an organization like Make4Covid if you're looking for ways to help. If you have skills or equipment to share, consider adding your information to this 3D printing crowdsource document.

Sparkfun With Printers
Some of our 3D printers on their way to be utilized


Non Medical Grade Masks

The textile community has also been hard at work across the world. In many places, N95 masks are being reserved for those who need them most, and makers have been filling the need for masks that are effective but do not need to be medical grade. For example, Standard Issue has designed an open source mask that can be cut by a CNC machine.

Make has also compiled a good list of resources, which you can find here.

While pride fills my chest on any given day when thinking about the DIY/Maker community, it has been awe-inspiring to see the amazing things that have been done during this pandemic. Community means more than who you talk to about ideas, or where you get a nice snippet of code - it is who we take care of and who takes care of us in times of need.

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via Arduino Blog

Schools have recently had to make a sudden and seismic shift in the way they teach. As both educators and students get used to remote learning, the onus is now more on parents to support their children through homeschool, and that means parents themselves need support. At Arduino Education, we want to help you and your children by making remote learning experiences as smooth (and fun!) as possible.


As parents to children aged 11-plus, learning electronics and coding with them at home may not be something you’d ever think you’d be doing. But don’t worry, it really isn’t as daunting as it sounds, and electronics and coding skills are crucial in the world your children are growing up in.


Learn coding and the basic concepts of electricity together with your child at home with the Arduino Student Kit. It comes with all of the electronic components you need, as well as step-by-step instructions for how to start coding. But what is coding, exactly? Well, it’s simply the language that computers understand. It’s how we tell a computer what to do. In the Student Kit, you get pre-programmed code to help you understand how it works. You could also explore drag-and-drop visual coding such as Scratch to help you get a better understanding of what coding is.


The Student Kit is a hands-on, step-by-step homeschool starter kit for children aged 11-plus that will help them get started with the basics of electronics and coding at home. You’ll get all the hardware and software you need for one person, as well as complete guidance, step-by-step lessons, exercises, and a logbook where you can answer the lesson questions and find solutions. 


This is your hands-on, step-by-step remote learning learning tool that will help your child learn the basics of programming, coding, and electronics at home. As a parent, you don’t need any prior knowledge or experience as you are guided through step-by-step. The kit is linked directly into the curriculum so you can be confident that your children are learning what they should be, and it provides the opportunity for them to become confident in programming and electronics. You’ll also be helping them learn vital skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving.


  • All the basic electronic components you need to complete each lesson
  • Access to an online platform which helps children take their first steps into the world of electronics and inventions
  • Nine step-by-step lessons with up to 25 hours of learning time
  • Two open-ended projects. These projects don’t have a right or wrong answer – the solution to the project question is unique to each individual
  • A digital logbook that students can use to annotate their exercises, observations, and experiments. Parents can also use the logbook to find solutions


By using the kit at home, you’ll be mirroring what your children would learn in their classroom. As well as how to code, the kit teaches:

  • Basic concepts of electricity
  • Safety 
  • Schematics
  • Writing code
  • Controlling a circuit
  • Coding concepts
  • Controlling a servo motor
  • Producing sounds, tones, and music
  • Measuring the intensity of light 


You’ll need to purchase one Student Kit per child – you can either find your country’s distributor or buy the kit online. To use the kit, you’ll need a desktop computer, laptop or tablet device which has a compatible operating system and meets minimum requirements for downloading the Arduino software. Find out more about this here.

Integrating Hardware into the NVIDIA DLI Course

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Yesterday, we talked about the new Jetson Resource Page and all of the features and information you can find there. Today we're introducing a new step you can take with the SparkFun DLI Kit for Jetson Nano to get started with AI on the Jetson Nano.

Machine Learning is not an especially new topic - a number of hardware and software platforms have been around for a year or two, and more are emerging on what seems like a daily basis. The NVIDIA Jetson Nano has been around for a while, and we have seen a number of different projects, including some using our kits.

With that in mind, I wanted to capitalize on my “shelter in place” time and learn a little more about the NVIDIA Jetson Nano. I started my exploration by taking the Deep Learning Institute (DLI) course, which is free and can be found here, combined with our kit specifically for the course.

SparkFun DLI Kit for Jetson Nano

SparkFun DLI Kit for Jetson Nano


I learned a lot, but it left me wanting more. The way I learn, like many of you, is through building and tinkering with a “Hello World” and adding simple hardware components until we have...something. I call this the “Hello Moon” project, which is that first step beyond the “Hello World."

In the DLI Course, this came to the forefront as many of the examples seemed, on the surface, to be incredibly complicated, with long chunks of code in order to approach Machine Learning the same way. On top of that, I am still working on my fluency in Python, so I had a lot ahead of me to integrate some SparkFun hardware into one of these examples!

After some tinkering, working through errors and experimenting, I finally got the “Thumbs up, Thumbs Down” example working and integrated with some SparkFun hardware. I created a video giving an overview of the project, what hardware I used and where I tinkered with the existing code to get my project up and running.

I still have a lot to learn, but I feel more confident about digging into Machine Learning and integrating it into more and more of my projects in the future. I hope this helps you learn something new, gives you a bit more confidence to take the course and offers a possible starting point for a Machine Learning project you have in mind.

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The NVIDIA Jetson Nano and its Ecosystem

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Over the last few months, SparkFun and NVIDIA have worked together to extend the possibilities of the Jetson Nano Developer Kit, with kits specifically built to integrate SparkFun’s Qwiic Ecosystem, AWS Iot Greengrass, and support for those new to artificial intelligence. Last week, with the release of v2.1 of the SparkFun JetBot AI Kit, we've completely redesigned our Jetson Resource Page.

On the new resource page, you will find a complete breakdown of the NVIDIA Jetson Nano's capabilities and features, information on the new SparkFun JetBot AI Kit, ways to maximize the capabilities of the Jetson Nano with SparkFun pHAT boards, how to get your toes wet with Machine Learning with the DLI Course Kit, and more!

Assembly Guide for SparkFun JetBot AI Kit V2.0

Assembly Guide for the SparkFun JetBot AI Kit v2.0. This tutorial includes photos & comments to assemble the two-layer chassis & additional components unique to the JetBot kit.

Working with Qwiic on a Jetson Nano through Jupyter Notebooks

We created a few Jupyter Notebooks to make using our Qwiic boards with your Jetson Nano even easier!

Jetson Nano + Sphero RVR Mash-up (PART 1)

We took two of our biggest robotics partnerships from the previous year and shazamed them together into one robot to rule them all!

Adding WiFi to the NVIDIA Jetson

Step by step instructions for setting up and installing the Edimax N150 USB WiFi/BLE adapter on your NVIDIA Jetson Nano

Don't forget to check out all of the new projects and tutorials that utilize the Jetson Nano as well. There is so much that the Jetson is capable of, and we are always trying to expand our library of projects and tutorials, so check back often or fill out the form on the resource page to be notified of new content.

NVIDIA Jetson Nano front view

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