Monthly Archives: August 2020


via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone and welcome back to another Friday Product Post here at SparkFun Electronics! This week we have a handful of new products that we feel that you are going to really appreciate and it all starts with the new Alchitry Au FPGA Kit. This FPGA kit includes pretty much everything you need to get started with Alchitry and at a reduced price! Following the kit, we also now offer the Teensy 4.0 and 4.1 with headers, so you won't need to solder anything to get up and running! Finally, we round out the day with a new, simple 555 Timer.

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!

Whatever you need, FPGA is here for you.

Alchitry Au FPGA Kit

Alchitry Au FPGA Kit


If you have ever wanted to get into FPGAs but never knew where to begin, the Alchitry Au FPGA Kit from SparkFun provides you with the boards you need to get started! Included in this kit is the Alchitry Au, Alchitry Io Element, Alchitry Br Prototype, and a 4-pack of female headers. The only thing you'll need to supply are a USB-C cable to power and program the Au and Qwiic cables to add I2C accessory integration.

Teensy 4.0 (Headers)

Teensy 4.0 (Headers)


The Teensy 4.0 with Headers features an ARM Cortex-M7 processor at 600MHz, with a NXP iMXRT1062 chip, the fastest microcontroller available today. Teensy 4.0 is the same size and shape as Teensy 3.2, and retains compatibility with most of the pin functions on Teensy 3.2.

Teensy 4.1 (Headers)

Teensy 4.1 (Headers)


The Teensy 4.1 with Headers is the newest iteration of the astoundingly popular development platform that features an ARM Cortex-M7 processor at 600MHz, with a NXP iMXRT1062 chip, four times larger flash memory than the 4.0, and two new locations to optionally add more memory. The Teensy 4.1 is the same size and shape as the Teensy 3.6 (2.4in by 0.7in), and provides greater I/O capability, including an ethernet PHY, SD card socket, and USB host port

555 Timer

555 Timer


This is a common 555 timer/oscillator from TI. A classic for all of those first year circuits projects where you need to blink an LED, generate tone, and thousands of other great beginning projects.

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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Remote teams ring office bell with Raspberry Pi and Slack

via Raspberry Pi

Bustling offices… remember those? It feels like we’ve all been working from home forever, and it’s going to be a while yet before everyone is back at their desks in the same place. And when that does happen, if your workplace is anything like Raspberry Pi Towers, there will still be lots of people in your team who are based in different countries or have always worked from home.

This office bell, built by a person called Alex, is powered by a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and is linked to Slack, so when a milestone or achievement is announced on the chat platform by a remote team member, they get to experience ringing the office bell for themselves, no matter where in the world they are working from.

Kit list:

Close-up of the servo wired to the Raspberry Pi pins

Integrating with Slack

To get the Raspberry Pi talking to Slack, Alex used the slackclient module (Python 3.6+ only), which makes use of the Slack Real Time Messaging (RTM) API. This is a websocket-based API that allows you to receive events from Slack in real time and send messages as users.

With the Slack RTM API, you create an RTM client and register a callback function that the client executes every time a specific Slack event occurs. When staff tell the @pibot on Slack it’s ‘belltime’, the Raspberry Pi tells the servo to ring the bell in the office.

Alex also configured it to always respond with an emoji reaction when someone successfully rings the bell, so remote employees get some actual feedback that it worked. Here’s the script for that bit.

Alex also figured out how to get around WiFi connectivity drops: they created a cronjob that runs a bash script every 15 minutes to check if the bell ringer is running. If it isn’t running, the bash script starts it.

At the end of Alex’s original post, they’ve concluded that using a HAT would allow for more control of the servo and avoid frying the Raspberry Pi. They also cleaned up their set-up recently and switched the Raspberry Pi 3B+ out for a Raspberry Pi Zero, which is perfectly capable of this simple job.

The post Remote teams ring office bell with Raspberry Pi and Slack appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Keep your pool under control with ARDUPOOL

via Arduino Blog

Having a pool can be a great way to relax during the summer, but keeping the water crystal clear and safe to swim in can be a challenge. To help, engineer Diego has developed the Arduino Mega-powered ARDUPOOL, which is now crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

This modular, open source device is capable of controlling up to four peristaltic pumps for dosing chlorine and other chemicals, as well as the filtration system. Programming is done via a simple LCD screen on the front, along with three buttons.

Depending on the setup, ARDUPOOL can either run the pool on a schedule, or be automated based on pH and chlorine sensors. Further functionality for lighting and app control is also in the works. Reward pledge levels vary from €149 (~$176 USD) for a Basic Kit to €399 (~$468 USD) for an assembled ARDUPOOL Super.

Mini Raspberry Pi Boston Dynamics–inspired robot

via Raspberry Pi

This is a ‘Spot Micro’ walking quadruped robot running on Raspberry Pi 3B. By building this project, redditor /thetrueonion (aka Mike) wanted to teach themself robotic software development in C++ and Python, get the robot walking, and master velocity and directional control.

Mike was inspired by Spot, one of Boston Dynamics’ robots developed for industry to perform remote operation and autonomous sensing.

What’s it made of?

  • Raspberry Pi 3B
  • Servo control board: PCA9685, controlled via I2C
  • Servos: 12 × PDI-HV5523MG
  • LCD Panel: 16×2 I2C LCD panel
  • Battery: 2s 4000 mAh LiPo, direct connection to power servos
  • UBEC: HKU5 5V/5A ubec, used as 5V voltage regulator to power Raspberry Pi, LCD panel, PCA9685 control board
  • Thingiverse 3D-printed Spot Micro frame

How does it walk?

The mini ‘Spot Micro’ bot rocks a three-axis angle command/body pose control mode via keyboard and can achieve ‘trot gait’ or ‘walk gait’. The former is a four-phase gait with symmetric motion of two legs at a time (like a horse trotting). The latter is an eight-phase gait with one leg swinging at a time and a body shift in between for balance (like humans walking).

Mike breaks down how they got the robot walking, right down to the order the servos need to be connected to the PCA9685 control board, in this extensive walkthrough.

Here’s the code

And yes, this is one of those magical projects with all the code you need stored on GitHub. The software is implemented on a Raspberry Pi 3B running Ubuntu 16.04. It’s composed on C++ and Python nodes in a ROS framework.

What’s next?

Mike isn’t finished yet: they are looking to improve their yellow beast by incorporating a lidar to achieve simple 2D mapping of a room. Also on the list is developing an autonomous motion-planning module to guide the robot to execute a simple task around a sensed 2D environment. And finally, adding a camera or webcam to conduct basic image classification would finesse their creation.

The post Mini Raspberry Pi Boston Dynamics–inspired robot appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Enginursday: When NOT to use a Raspberry Pi

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

This isn't a Pi bashing thread, I cannot stress that enough. It's a question I'm sure you've seen or potentially asked. We've answered the question in tech support and personal conversations, but it's never really been covered in our blog.

For those confused as to why this is an addressable topic, there's been a question as old as the Pi: Why should I buy 8-bit/32-bit boards when I can get a Raspberry Pi for $35? Why buy a microcontroller development board when you can have the power of a desktop computer for around the same price? And the answer is, when it's the right tool for the job. What you lose in features and performance, you're gaining in ease of use and a more application-appropriate processor.

How hardware intensive is this project?

The 40-pin connector on the Raspberry Pi is a solid option for working with hardware I/O, but if the majority of the project consists of talking to these devices, then the Pi is probably not needed. One could make the "better to have and not need" argument with respect to the extra performance and features, but with that comes extra work. Take a simple LED blinking - using something like the Arduino Uno can have your LED blinking in around five minutes. The Pi, on the other hand, requires importing libraries and a bit more code. Still not the end of the world, but definitely can be done easier with an Uno (even easier with a 555 timer).

However, the more a software "lift" is required, such as hosting data or hardware states on a server, the more a Pi makes sense. It's not a binary choice however, there are a number of products in between that hit benchmarks in terms of the balance of hardware and software accessibility.

Power requirements

The Pi is awesome when it comes to putting together sensor systems. The ability to use things like Jupyter Notebooks on the same processor you're reading data from is incredible! But what if this sensor system is remote? The power-hungry Pi means finding a power source that matches the remote nature can be difficult. If no local power is available, bulky batteries could be your only option.

SPLOT electronics in case

The SPLOT, a remote sensing project by Pete Marchetto (former SparkFun Hacker in Residence). A good example of a project where a Pi might fit, but without it, it works a lot better.

On the other end, a properly configured Teensy can provide a remote or edge sensor system that can run for months off of a smaller battery pack. It will require a separate device for processing data (and storing it, depending on the route). But in most cases the more remote your project, the more power efficient you want it to be. Thus the Pi often isn't going to be your first choice.

Your background

I don't like that I'm making this argument, but I think it's valid. It actually might point you back toward the Raspberry Pi.

If time is something you don't have a lot of, you might want to go with the platform (or programming language) you know best. I have plenty of EE friends who constantly complain about how much of a pain in the butt working with the Pi is. Alternatively, I have a lot of friends with a software background who love working with the Pi and its terminal. If the goal is quick and you're more versed in microcontrollers and programming in C, then it's probably better to stick with what you know. That being said, I'll always plug the enormous library of tutorials the internet has to offer for both the Pi and other platforms.

The right tool for the job

I often compare it to this situation: What would you deliver pizza in - a Honda Civic or a Ferrari? Of course you're choosing the Ferrari! It'd be so much fun! Imagine the look on people's faces when you roll up to their house with their large pepperoni pizza in a $200,000 car with the pizza delivery sign on top. It's everyone's choice! But when you factor in insurance, gas, and how it's not really practical for pizza delivery... suddenly the Civic seems more appealing (no, selling the Ferrari so you don't have to deliver pizzas isn't an option in this analogy).

The Pi has almost limitless uses, but so do the myriad other boards available, so don't always go to the performance-for-price metric when choosing the right board for your project.

As always, I love hearing the opinions of our customers. How do you feel about using other boards or the Pi. Is one a no-go due to a personal barrier?

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Lumenati & LuMini

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Individually addressable LEDs quickly became all the rage in the mid-2010s and in 2017, SparkFun released a customizable 5050-sized APA102C board ecosystem called Lumenati. The Lumenati line of LED boards employ a 2-wire communication protocol consisting of a clock line and a data line. While this requires one more wire than standard WS2812B addressable LEDs, the advantage is that the communication with the LEDs becomes somewhat timing independent, allowing users to run these directly off of a Raspberry Pi or other single-board computer that doesn't normally allow for a long, precisely-timed data stream without the use of additional hardware.

The Lumenati line is composed of six unique boards, the 4-Pack (a four LED disc), the 8-Pack (an eight LED disc), the 3x3 (a nine LED matrix), the 8-Stick (a narrow eight LED board), the 90L (a quarter-circle board with three LEDs where the signal and power moves left), and the 90R (another quarter-circle board with three LEDs where the signal and power moves right). Any of the boards can be used stand-alone or daisy-chained. However, the 8-stick, 90L and 90R were designed with easy daisy-chaining specifically in mind!

SparkFun Lumenati 4-pack

SparkFun Lumenati 4-pack

SparkFun Lumenati 8-pack

SparkFun Lumenati 8-pack

SparkFun Lumenati 3x3

SparkFun Lumenati 3x3

SparkFun Lumenati 8-stick

SparkFun Lumenati 8-stick

SparkFun Lumenati 90L

SparkFun Lumenati 90L

SparkFun Lumenati 90R

SparkFun Lumenati 90R


About a year and a half later, the LuMini line was released! The LuMini line uses the same LED used on the Lumenati boards, the APA102, just in a smaller, 2.0x2.0 mm package. This allows for incredibly tight pixel densities, and thus, a more continuous ring or matrix of color. While the LuMini boards come in different shapes and sizes, they all operate in a similar fashion.

Unlike the Lumenati boards, each LuMini comes in a non-customizable package, so you won't be able to crate unique shapes with the boards, only unique color patterns. There are four different LuMini boards, the 1in Ring with 20 LEDs, the 2in Ring with 40 LEDs, the 3in Ring with 60 LEDs, and the LuMini Martix with 64 LEDs.

SparkFun LuMini LED Ring - 1 Inch (20 x APA102-2020)

SparkFun LuMini LED Ring - 1 Inch (20 x APA102-2020)

SparkFun LuMini LED Ring - 2 Inch (40 x APA102-2020)

SparkFun LuMini LED Ring - 2 Inch (40 x APA102-2020)

SparkFun LuMini LED Ring - 3 Inch (60 x APA102-2020)

SparkFun LuMini LED Ring - 3 Inch (60 x APA102-2020)

SparkFun LuMini LED Matrix - 8x8 (64 x APA102-2020)

SparkFun LuMini LED Matrix - 8x8 (64 x APA102-2020)


On top of the boards and basic guides on how to just get you started, we have also written several blogs, made multiple projects, and published several next-step tutorials to hopefully get you started on your next lighting project for drones, installations, and more.

Lumenati Hookup Guide

Lumenati is our line of APA102c-based addressable LED boards. We'll show you how to bring the sparkle to your projects!

LuMini Ring Hookup Guide

The LuMini Rings (APA102-2020) are the highest resolution LED rings available.

LuMini 8x8 Matrix Hookup Guide

The LuMini 8x8 Matrix (APA102-2020) are the highest resolution LED matrix available.

LumiDrive Hookup Guide

The LumiDrive LED Driver is SparkFun’s foray into all things Python on micro-controllers. With the SparkFun LumiDrive you will be able to control and personalize a whole strand of APA102s directly from the board itself.

So that's Lumenati and LuMini! What have you made with these boards? Is there something that you'd like us to make with them? Did you get any ideas for your next project by reading this post? Let us know in the comments below and we'll talk with you next time!

Interested in learning more about LEDs?

See our LED page for everything you need to know to start using these components in your project.

Take me there!

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