Monthly Archives: October 2020

This Inspector Gadget hat actually responds to voice commands

via Arduino Blog

If you ever watched the 1980s Inspector Gadget cartoon, you undoubtedly wanted a hat like his, which can pop out all kinds of useful tools under voice control. Although it won’t allow you to fly off after saying “go go gadget ‘copter,” DJ Harrigan’s replica does produce a spinning propeller and an emergency light with 16 RGB LEDs.

Underneath this 3D-printed hat is a pair of micro servos, with linkage systems that open the top flaps. A standard servo extends the actual gadget. Controlling the device is a MKR1000, and voice commands are registered via a MikroElektronika SpeakUp click board.

While many characters sparked DJ’s imagination for invention and quest for technical skills, one of the earliest was everyone’s favorite 1980’s cyborg policeman: RoboCop, er uh Inspector Gadget! While Inspector Gadget’s gadgets certainly obeyed the laws of cartoon physics rather than real physics, they’re just beyond the edge of plausibility. So in a year long preparation for Halloween 2021, DJ is setting out to make a voice activated hat that can summon real gadgets from his head. No plastic surgery necessary. Some assembly required. 

Arduino joins the Open Source Security Foundation

via Arduino Blog

As an open-source project, Arduino has always considered security a top priority: making tools and products easy to use for our community has consistently been as important as making them secure. 

Today, we are excited to announce that Arduino has joined the Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSFF), the collaborative cross-industry effort to secure the open-source ecosystem.

Hosted at the Linux Foundation, the OpenSFF brings together the efforts of the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII) and GitHub’s Open Source Security Coalition and is committed to working both upstream and with existing communities to advance the security of open-source software. The foundation will initially include technical initiatives and working groups that will address vulnerability disclosures, security tooling, security best practices, and the identification of security threats to the open-source project. 

Arduino is proud to become a member of the OpenSFF alongside GitHub, Google, IBM, Facebook, Red Hat, Facebook, Huawei Technologies, and Samsung. Arduino’s membership to the OpenSFF is also part of the Arduino Donation Program, our philanthropic initiative to fund projects and institutions that can make the difference for the worldwide open-source community.

Our aim is to make complex technologies simple to use for everyday people and security out of the box is part of the user experience we strive for. We believe that working with skilled security experts and industries across the globe is crucial in identifying security weaknesses and vulnerabilities, “said Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi. “We are excited to join the Open Source Security Foundation and we look forward to collaborating with other members to improve the security of any open-source ecosystem.”

Goodbye, October! Hello, Custom Board Designs.

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

It has been a busy couple of weeks for us here at SparkFun. Last week we released the MicroMod line, which allows you easily swap out a variety of processors into function-specific carrier boards. This week we announced À La Carte (ALC), SparkFun's custom printed circuit board production service! We went into some detail about ALC on Wednesday, but we're excited so we're going to talk about it again, as well as a new SparkX product!

What can YOU make with ALC?

ALC helps you create new, custom boards

SparkFun has been designing boards for more than a decade, and we're the source for the latest and greatest technologies. We've taken all that knowledge built a platform that turns components and modules into easy-to-choose blocks. SparkFun À La Carte allows you to create custom boards by selecting only the blocks you want to use and adding them to your board. Whether you're a test engineer building 15 test fixtures or a Burning Man artist needing 47 light-activated servo controllers, ALC is there to bridge the gap between prototype and production.

Interested in trying ALC? We’re offering 50% off the design fee on all new orders through 11:59 p.m. on 12/31/2020 with promo code: ALCSPARKFUN50

Start your design with ALC

Qwiic Digital Capacitor - NCD2400M

Qwiic Digital Capacitor - NCD2400M


Ever need to fine tune an oscillator circuit or RF filter? It can be tricky and repetitive switching out capacitors on a PCB. SparkX's Qwiic Digital Capacitor, complete with the NCD2400M IC, can be a great solution. Solder the nibs onto any 0603 or 0402 footprint, plug in a Qwiic cable and RedBoard, and change the capacitance in code.

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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A Whole Lotta Deals

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone! You may notice that tomorrow there isn’t a new Weekly Deal, but that’s because we’re kicking off a bunch of sales next Monday! We’re going to be spending 23 of November's 30 days with some awesome thing(s) or another on sale, starting with daily deals. Every weekday from Monday, November 2, through Thursday, November 26, we will have something on sale.

Banner announcement for November deals

Why, you may ask, do the deals end on Thursday, November 26? We have more surprises planned for Black Friday and Cyber Monday! For your planning purposes, Black Friday will run from Friday, November 27, through Sunday, November 29. After that, we’ll be holding a one-day sale for Cyber Monday on Monday, November 30.

Sales are awesome, but they would not be possible without our amazing warehouse team, so a MASSIVE shout out goes to our incredible crew who have been working in the warehouse throughout this pandemic and are making the logistics of these deals possible. These sales are likely to increase our order volume, so please bear with us as we fulfill orders while keeping our team safe. Order ship times may be delayed, as well as the in-transit shipping delays that have become almost normal these days.

So get hyped, get ready for the sales, and maybe go enter all those dates on a calendar?

Rules & Information:

  • Each daily deal will run from 12 a.m. MT until 11:59 p.m. MT on the same day.
  • Daily deals will only be released Monday through Friday of each week, from Monday Nov, 2, through Thursday, Nov 26.
  • No rainchecks or backorders will be allowed.
  • We will not be allowing the combining of orders during this sale.
  • Distributor and reseller accounts will not be eligible for sale prices unless specifically noted otherwise.

Please note: We will be working hard to get as many orders out as quickly as possible, but we cannot guarantee same-day shipping during the sale days.

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Introducing SparkFun À La Carte

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

SparkFun is proud to introduce
SparkFun A La Carte Custom Pce

Bridging the gap between prototype and production.


It’s not often I get to give "turtleneck" sorts of talks so buckle up. For too many months to count, we’ve been working quietly to iron out the details. Today, it’s with great excitement that I tell you about SparkFun À La Carte, or ALC, the world’s first board building service without the need for an EE degree.

A collection of point to point soldered projects and rats nest of wires

That was fun. Once.

fully assembled custom PCB

Much better. Let ALC do the work for you.

I like soldering just as much as the next nerd but there are times when it can be really painful to build multiples of a device. That's where ALC comes in...

ALC is a manufacturing service for professionals who understand the value of their time. How many times have you:

  • Cut and stripped wires, point-to-point soldered breakout boards, anchored everything to the proverbial breadboard, and after four hours sat back to realize you only had five more devices to build?
  • Found yourself with a great idea, but unsure of how to bring it to life?
  • Had an amazing prototype but needed to create a demo ready proof-of-concept?


Start your Design with ALC

If you can build your idea with SparkFun breakout boards, you can have a fully assembled, custom board delivered to your door in a few weeks. ALC is the point-and-click tool to get a bunch of technologies onto a single board, fully assembled, right here in Colorado. No more late night soldering sessions before the big day; leverage our designs, our circuit know-how, and our machines to have a professional device made just for you.

SparkFun's custom pcb designer

À La Carte designer

À La Carte is based on blocks. An ALC block contains the module to be added to the board along with information about nets, classes, connection restrictions, and other electrical design needs and constraints. By including all of this information, ALC is able to remove the need for users to have intimate knowledge of a technology that usually only comes with lots of trial and error. SparkFun has been doing this for nearly 20 years; we know firsthand what it's like to mess up a PCB or fight jumpers on a small IC. Let us remove that frustration so that you can get back to your larger project.

To create a board with ALC, simply select the various blocks you need on your design and the system figures out the rest as you go, ensuring an electrically sound board.

  • Select your controller. Today, we offer five controllers: Artemis, SAMD51, ATmega328, ATtiny84 and ESP32
  • Select your components. We have 85 sensors, actuators, radios, switches and LEDs available today, and piles of new blocks planned to release soon. ALC will ensure all blocks chosen are compatible with your current design as you go.
  • Add connectors. The classic PTH header, a latching terminal or any number of terminals can be added to make your design really flexible.
  • Pick how you’re going to power your board. Wall, solar, battery, even car power are all available. This tells the system how many components you can add to your board before you may run into power constraints.
  • Check out.

It’s as simple as that, and feels more like shopping for parts than designing a board.

Sample boards assembled with ALC

Design a board with ALC


The not-so-hidden fees

Design fee - There’s a $949 design fee on all new orders. For businesses, this is much lower than you’ll find with comparable do-it-yourself board designers, definitely less expensive than hiring a contractor or employee to design the board for you, and clearly more efficient than trying to do it on your own. We’ve been using it to run new product ideas and it’s amazing how much it saves us in schematic and hardware mistakes.

If you find yourself wondering why it costs so much for something that seems so simple (it’s just blocks, after all!) then we’ve done our job! The best designed interfaces are the ones you don’t notice. We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time boiling down a very complex process into the best user experience possible.

Design files - All ALC orders include a downloadable version of the Gerber files and PDF of the schematic. If you need the Eagle source files (BRD and SCH) to edit the design, they can be purchased separately for $150; these files are routed and ready for manufacture.

That’s it. Those are the only two fees not included in the per board price.

Point-and-click board design

The number one question we’ve received about ALC is: “Why can’t I move the blocks around?” While we could absolutely design a tool that allows you to poke and prod down to the mil, there are already piles of tools that do that: Upverter, KiCad, EAGLE, Altium, Orcad, Pads, it goes on. For now, we want to focus the interface on being as simple to use as possible. When a block is placed on the board, ALC takes into account the needs of that block, as well as all the other blocks on the board, to determine its optimal placement. This optimization is what allows ALC to take care of all the traces and other electrical needs for you.

Why now?

SparkFun is not another contract manufacturer - we’re the only company in the world that has the latest sensors, hard-to-find ICs, the know-how to integrate them, and the tools to solder it all together. It’s what we do, every day! Now we want to enable you to enjoy the benefits of all that knowledge. So the next time you think, “How am I going find someone to design that board?” - think À La Carte instead.

Give me all the details!

Start with the main ALC page but don’t forget to hit up our FAQs. We’ve covered as many bases as possible but if there’s something you still have questions about, please let us know in the ALC forum.

We’re excited and it’s been a lot of fun watching what people create. But this is just the beginning! Please kick the tires today but check back in over the coming months. We’ve got a lot more to share.

Interested in trying SparkFun À La Carte?

To encourage you to give ALC a try, we’re offering 50% off the design fee on all new orders through 11:59 p.m. on 12/31/2020 with promocode: ALCSPARKFUN50

Design a board with ALC

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SparkFun Simple Sketches

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Working at a fancy tech company can be great, but often it's difficult to describe what I do in my Job at SparkFun to friends and family members who aren't super tech-savvy. A conversation with my dad prompted me to think about how we could use short-form content to clearly and simply demonstrate the functionality of SparkFun's various microcontrollers and breakout boards. "I have to admit," he said to me, "I've tried to figure out what you guys do and it's just way over my head." A lot of my friends have a similar response when I try to explain what SparkFun does. So, over the past several weeks we've put together some simple sketches to show off the various features and ease of use of some of our Qwiic-enabled products, and we want to know how to make them better for everyone!

Keep in mind that we have filmed these videos for our social media channels so they will be in portrait mode rather than landscape.

Learn how to read the state of the Qwiic Button as it illuminates the button’s built-in LED while the button is pressed, and displays “Pressed!” on a Micro OLED display. Find the code and parts list in this GitHub Repo.

This sketch reads the temperature from the Qwiic Environmental Combo Breakout and displays it on the Micro OLED Display. Find the code and parts list in this GitHub Repo.

Illuminate the RGB LED of the Qwiic Twist and change its color as you twist the knob while displaying the name of the color on a Micro OLED display. Find the code and parts list in this GitHub Repo.

Use the SparkFun MP3 Trigger to play an audio file that corresponds with the direction that the Qwiic Joystick has been tilted. Find the code and parts list in this GitHub Repo.

With user input from the SparkFun Capacitive Touch Slider you can illuminate a bar of pixels on the Micro OLED Display to correspond with the activated touch pad. Find the code and parts list in this GitHub Repo.

If you'd like to see these videos as they release make sure to follow us @sparkfun on Twitter, on Instagram or on Facebook.

Do you have any specific products or features you want to see demonstrated before you buy? Let us know what you want to see! We really hope to show off how easily even a novice can get up and running with Qwiic, not to mention all the awesome features you can add to your project with each breakout or microcontroller. Leave a comment and let us know what you want to see, and if you haven't seen the videos yet, check them out!

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