Monthly Archives: August 2020

Coding for kids and parents with Digital Making at Home

via Raspberry Pi

Through Digital Making at Home, we invite your and your kids all over the world to code and make along with us and our new videos every week.

Since March, we’ve created over 20 weeks’ worth of themed code-along videos for families to have fun with and learn at home. Here are some of our favourite themes — get coding with us today!

A mother and child coding at home

If you’ve never coded before…

Follow along with our code-along video released this week and make a digital stress ball with us. In the video, we’ve got 6-year-old Noah trying out coding for the first time!

Code fun video games

Creating your own video games is a super fun, creative way to start coding and learn what it’s all about.

Check out our code-along videos and projects where we show you:

A joystick on a desktop

Build something cool with your Raspberry Pi

If you have a Raspberry Pi computer at home, then get it ready! We’ve got make-along videos showing you:

Top down look of a simple Raspberry Pi robot buggy

Become a digital artist

Digital making isn’t all about video games and robots! You can use it to create truly artistic projects as well. So come and explore with us as we show you:

Lots more for you to discover

You’ll find many more code-along videos and projects on the page. Where do you want your digital making journey to take you?

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Beginners’ coding for kids with Digital Making at Home

via Raspberry Pi

Have your kids never coded before? Then out Digital Making at Home video this week is perfect for you to get them started.

A girl doing digital making on a tablet

In our free code-along video this week, six-year-old Noah codes his first Scratch project guided by Marc from our team. The project is a digital stress ball, because our theme for September is wellness and looking after ourselves.

Follow our beginners’ code-along video now!

Through Digital Making at Home, we invite parents and kids all over the world to code and make along with us and our new videos and live stream every week.

Our live stream will take place on Wednesday 5.30pm BST / 12.30pm EDT / 10.00pm IST at Let your kids join in so they can progress to the next stage of learning to code with Scratch!

The post Beginners’ coding for kids with Digital Making at Home appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Self-driving trash can controlled by Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

YouTuber extraordinaire Ahad Cove HATES taking out the rubbish, so he decided to hack a rubbish bin/trash can – let’s go with trash can from now on – to take itself out to be picked up.

Sounds simple enough? The catch is that Ahad wanted to create an AI that can see when the garbage truck is approaching his house and trigger the garage door to open, then tell the trash can to drive itself out and stop in the right place. This way, Ahad doesn’t need to wake up early enough to spot the truck and manually trigger the trash can to drive itself.


The trash can’s original wheels weren’t enough on their own, so Ahad brought in an electronic scooter wheel with a hub motor, powered by a 36V lithium ion battery, to guide and pull them. Check out this part of the video to hear how tricky it was for Ahad to install a braking system using a very strong servo motor.

The new wheel sits at the front of the trash can and drags the original wheels at the back along with

An affordable driver board controls the speed, power, and braking system of the garbage can.

The driver board

Tying everything together is a Raspberry Pi 3B+. Ahad uses one of the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi to send the signal to the driver board. He started off the project with a Raspberry Pi Zero W, but found that it was too fiddly to get it to handle the crazy braking power needed to stop the garbage can on his sloped driveway.

The Raspberry Pi Zero W, which ended up getting replaced in an upgrade

Everything is kept together and dry with a plastic snap-close food container Ahad lifted from his wife’s kitchen collection. Ssh, don’t tell.


Ahad uses an object detection machine learning model to spot when the garbage truck passes his house. He handles this part of the project with an Nvidia Jetson Xavier NX board, connected to a webcam positioned to look out of the window watching for garbage trucks.

Object detected!

Opening the garage door

Ahad’s garage door has a wireless internet connection, so he connected the door to an app that communicates with his home assistant device. The app opens the garage door when the webcam and object detection software see the garbage truck turning into his street. All this works with the kit inside the trash can to get it to drive itself out to the end of Ahad’s driveway.

There she goes! (With her homemade paparazzi setup behind her)

Check out the end of Ahad’s YouTube video to see how human error managed to put a comical damper on the maiden voyage of this epic build.

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Sir, yes, SerLCD

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Welcome, welcome, welcome! This week we have three products to show off and they are all new versions of our popular serial LCDs. SerLCD was introduced a few years ago to provide an AVR-based liquid crystal display that didn't require a control backpack. Now, we offer two 16x2 displays and one 20x4 display, all controllable with Qwiic!

Don't forget that you can get a free SparkFun Qwiic Pro Micro BoogieBoard with any purchase of $75 or more using promo code "BOOGIEBOARD20" (some restrictions apply). Supplies are running short so get yours before we run out!

Now onto our new products!

Serial enabled LCDs have never been easier to use!

SparkFun 16x2 SerLCD - RGB Backlight (Qwiic)

SparkFun 16x2 SerLCD - RGB Backlight (Qwiic)

SparkFun 16x2 SerLCD - RGB Text (Qwiic)

SparkFun 16x2 SerLCD - RGB Text (Qwiic)


The SparkFun SerLCD is an AVR-based, serial enabled LCD that provides a simple and cost effective solution for adding a 16x2 Black on RGB or RGB Text on Black Liquid Crystal Display into your project. The PCB design on the back of the screen includes an ATmega328P that handles all of the screen control, meaning a backpack is no longer needed! This display can communicate three different ways: serial, I2C and SPI. These versions come equipped with a Qwiic connector, bringing serial LCDs into the Qwiic ecosystem. This simplifies the number of wires needed and allows your project to display all kinds of text and numbers.

SparkFun 20x4 SerLCD - RGB Backlight (Qwiic)

SparkFun 20x4 SerLCD - RGB Backlight (Qwiic)


If you need something a little bigger than a 16x2 display, you're in luck! This 20x4 Black on RGB Liquid Crystal Display can be added to a project just as easily as the screens above and possesses all of the same features as well - the only difference is its size.

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!

Never miss a new product!

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The Last Enginursday

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Almost every Thursday for the past seven years, a SparkFun engineer has written about a project they were working on, or one that they thought up in between designs – affectionately referred to as Enginursday. These Thursday engineering posts have given us such hits as a controlling a table pong robot, learning how to use a 555 timer, making a pumpkin seed-spitting Jack-O'-Lantern, and over 300 more!

For a blog post that started to mainly fill the day before Friday Product Posts, Enginursdays have grown to be one of our favorite releases each week. However, with SparkFun's engineers busier than ever working on exciting new products (like the Qwiic ecosystem, or the OpenLog Artemis), something had to give. So today, we are going to take a look back at seven of our favorite posts (mobile users: make sure you are connected to WiFi, this trip down memory lane includes a few large images)!

60 USB Chargers in Parallel

Sometimes engineers need to take a break from crunching numbers and furrowing their brows at data sheets, and do something fun instead. In May 2017, we wanted to find out what would happen if we took 60 5V, 2A power supplies and wired them together. It can put out 120 amps at 5 volts! Will it melt a wire? What about a spoon? Can it melt a quarter? Or will the whole thing catch on fire? The only question remaining is what to do with them next.

Pumpkin Seed-Spitting Jack-O'-Lantern

Around Halloween 2017, we thought it would be fun to create a motion activated, pumpkin seed-spitting, Jack-O'-Lantern. Listen, we still think that it is a delightfully disgusting Halloween treat for adults and kids alike. Best yet, that time of year is coming around again so we might just make a second one for kicks.


Burning Man has been a staple summer experience for several SparkFun employees and alumni. We've constructed multiple festival projects and installations over the years. It was only natural to create a lit up EL wire entryway dubbed "EnLightenment" to a local festival around the same time.

SparkFun Pong

For decades, Tabletop Pong has been played the same way: two teams stand on opposite ends of a table and take turns throwing ping pong balls into cups on the other side. The game is so popular, there are even arcade machines that let you play on your own to your heart's content ... or until you run out of quarters. In September 2016, we decided to SparkFun-ify the game by making it motorized AND remote controlled!

Qwiic Escape Room

Escape Rooms have been an obsession of ours, and in recent years there has been a proliferation of microcontrollers and electronics used in these puzzles, leading to many, “How did they do that?!” moments. In March 2019, there was a desire to start making puzzles of our own, and Qwiic boards made it fast and easy to put a couple together.

Digital Handpan

In November 2016, we transformed a steel handpan into a digital version! It turns out that a digital version of a musical instrument usually requires a lot of computational power for it to sound decent and real. Luckily for us, there is a little thing called Teensy available!

Three Childhood Mysteries Electrical Engineering Solved for Me

There are a lot of hows and whys when you are a child, but as you age you start learning the answers to a lot of your questions. Sometimes it takes 10 years and a college degree to answer some of them! In September 2013, we solved three childhood mysteries with electrical engineering.

If you ever wanted to go back to re-read some of the older Enginursdays, don't worry, they aren't going anywhere. You be able to easily find them searching or clicking on the "Enginursday" tag at the top of each post.

We have a so many more engineering projects and ideas coming as Rob and Avra continue to implement new ways to approach SparkFun products, interesting events and captivating concepts. You'll also see more posts pop up from SparkFun engineers, as well as members of the community (maybe one from you)! If you want to write a guest post for SparkFun, please comment below, send us an email, or give us a call. I would personally love to talk with you. We'll see you next time with our next exciting project!

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OpenBot leverages smartphones as brains for low-cost robots

via Arduino Blog

High-end robotic systems are still out of price range of most individuals, and even many research labs. Smartphones, however, with an astonishing array of computing power, sensors, and networking capabilities, are commonplace and becoming more powerful every day. To leverage these abilities, Intel researchers Matthias Müller and Vladlen Koltun have come up with OpenBot, which uses an Android smartphone as the brains, and otherwise costs about $50 to construct.

The OpenBot software stack consists of a custom Android app, along with code for an Arduino Nano that connects to the phone over USB serial. The mobile device takes care of higher level processing, while the Nano handles lower level tasks, such as motor control.

So far the OpenBot design has been able to follow a human and navigate autonomously. As experimentation, plus phone technology progresses, it could potentially do even more in the future!

This work aims to address two key challenges in robotics: accessibility and scalability. Smartphones are ubiquitous and are becoming more powerful by the year. We have developed a combination of hardware and software that turns smartphones into robots. The resulting robots are inexpensive but capable. Our experiments have shown that a $50 robot body powered by a smartphone is capable of person following and real-time autonomous navigation. We hope that the presented work will open new opportunities for education and large-scale learning via thousands of low-cost robots deployed around the world.

Smartphones point to many possibilities for robotics that we have not yet exploited. For example, smartphones also provide a microphone, speaker, and screen, which are not commonly found on existing navigation robots. These may enable research and applications at the confluence of human-robot interaction and natural language processing. We also expect the basic ideas presented in this work to extend to other forms of robot embodiment, such as manipulators, aerial vehicles, and watercraft.