Monthly Archives: November 2021

AWS IoT ExpressLink and MicroMod

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

If you have been watching AWS re:Invent, you may have seen that SparkFun has teamed up with u-blox and AWS to create a new asset tracking kit that utilizes the SARA-R5 module and provides all you need to connect a device to AWS IoT Core over a cellular LTE-M network. We are happy to present to you, the AWS IoT ExpressLink SARA-R5 Starter Kit! The specialized SARA-R5 module on the board supports the AWS IoT ExpressLink AT command set, which aims to make the app developer’s life easy.

AWS IoT ExpressLink SARA-R5 Starter Kit

AWS IoT ExpressLink SARA-R5 Starter Kit


Built around AWS IoT ExpressLink, the Starter Kit offers AWS IoT Core access with a pre-activated SIM card for global use already inserted in the slot. The kit includes a SARA-R5 module mounted on a SparkFun MicroMod Asset Tracker Carrier Board into which a SparkFun MicroMod processor board can be inserted, allowing the module to be used with many different microprocessors. An ESP32 Processor Board is included in the kit allowing to run examples or demo applications.

Individuals who purchase the AWS IoT ExpressLink SARA-R5 Starter Kit are early adopters to the AWS IoT Core. This kit is a limited run with just shy of 200 units available! We do not currently have plans to build more in the near future. So, if you are able to get your hands on the kit, you will be one of the select few to start building with it before anyone else. Our partner, u-blox, will continue to enhance the firmware for this product in the mean time. To support this effort, SparkFun will provide u-blox the contact information for customers who purchase this kit so they may reach out for firmware feedback.

Please keep in mind that this kit is available for pre-order. Orders will be fulfilled in the order they are received. If you are ordering these products alongside "Live/in-stock" products and want to receive these products ASAP, be sure to designate your order for split shipments in checkout. We do expect to start shipping these kits within the next few days, though!

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Rechargeable Wooden "Candle"

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Keeping it simple

Working at SparkFun, I get to see awesome new products released week after week and the ideas that come from those products are limitless. Free time, however, is not limitless. Over the years I've enjoyed mixing my hobby of woodworking with my SparkFun-esque ideas. In this case, keeping things simple is just what I needed in order to come up with a gift idea for some family members that I'm calling a rechargeable wooden candle.

Alarm at daytime.

The project

My initial requirements were that this project needed to be able to:

  • be portable
  • be rechargeable
  • have an on/off switch
  • have a long battery life
  • give off around the same amount of light as a candle
  • look nice, of course!

Based on my requirements, I used the following parts:

The SparkFun LiPo Charger Plus ended up being the perfect little board for this project given that it can control power from a LiPo while charging at the same time. It was as simple as hooking up the Rocker Switch to control the single LED.

The build

I had a smaller board of some rough cut walnut lying around, so I jointed an edge and sent it through the planer to smooth out. I then cut matching 3" squares and glued four stacked squares together to make a block with alternating grain patterns. After the glue dried, I hollowed out space for the electronics. I cut down 1.5" with a 1.5" Forstner Bit on the top of the block and then went all the way through the middle of that circle with a 1/4" bit. This is the hole where I placed the LED and, ultimately, poured epoxy in to. The next step was hollowing out the bottom 5/8" deep while leaving a little more than a 1/4" on the outside of the block.

The trickiest part of this was aligning the USB-C port of the LiPo charger to the edge of the piece. This took some fine work with a Dremel tool, a bit of work with a small chisel and a file to make it fit just right.


The electronics

The electronics of this build were very simple, as you can see from the Fritzing Diagram below. It wasn't much more than just routing the power out from the LiPo Charger Plus to the rocker switch and then completing the circuit through the single LED.


parts for the project


The result

For the most part, I'm happy with how my first round of these turned out. One thing I will probably do on the next build is add a little less color to the epoxy mixture to make these just a bit brighter. I really like the fact that they can be moved around the house or even taken outside for a little mood lighting on the patio. Mine is currently sitting beside my bed for late night bathroom trips so I can see well enough to not step on the dog and not have too much light to wake up my better half.


project lit up on a shelf


Thanks for reading! If you like the craftsmanship element of this post below are a few other projects I've done mixing electronics and woodworking.


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How do we develop AI education in schools? A panel discussion

via Raspberry Pi

AI is a broad and rapidly developing field of technology. Our goal is to make sure all young people have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to use and create AI systems. So what should AI education in schools look like?

To hear a range of insights into this, we organised a panel discussion as part of our seminar series on AI and data science education, which we co-host with The Alan Turing Institute. Here our panel chair Tabitha Goldstaub, Co-founder of CogX and Chair of the UK government’s AI Council, summarises the event. You can also watch the recording below.

As part of the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s monthly AI education seminar series, I was delighted to chair a special panel session to broaden the range of perspectives on the subject. The members of the panel were:

  • Chris Philp, UK Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy
  • Philip Colligan, CEO of the Raspberry Pi Foundation 
  • Danielle Belgrave, Research Scientist, DeepMind
  • Caitlin Glover, A level student, Sandon School, Chelmsford
  • Alice Ashby, student, University of Brighton

The session explored the UK government’s commitment in the recently published UK National AI Strategy stating that “the [UK] government will continue to ensure programmes that engage children with AI concepts are accessible and reach the widest demographic.” We discussed what it will take to make this a reality, and how we will ensure young people have a seat at the table.

Two teenage girls do coding during a computer science lesson.

Why AI education for young people?

It was clear that the Minister felt it is very important for young people to understand AI. He said, “The government takes the view that AI is going to be one of the foundation stones of our future prosperity and our future growth. It’s an enabling technology that’s going to have almost universal applicability across our entire economy, and that is why it’s so important that the United Kingdom leads the world in this area. Young people are the country’s future, so nothing is complete without them being at the heart of it.”

A teacher watches two female learners code in Code Club session in the classroom.

Our panelist Caitlin Glover, an A level student at Sandon School, reiterated this from her perspective as a young person. She told us that her passion for AI started initially because she wanted to help neurodiverse young people like herself. Her idea was to start a company that would build AI-powered products to help neurodiverse students.

What careers will AI education lead to?

A theme of the Foundation’s seminar series so far has been how learning about AI early may impact young people’s career choices. Our panelist Alice Ashby, who studies Computer Science and AI at Brighton University, told us about her own process of deciding on her course of study. She pointed to the fact that terms such as machine learning, natural language processing, self-driving cars, chatbots, and many others are currently all under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, but they’re all very different. Alice thinks it’s hard for young people to know whether it’s the right decision to study something that’s still so ambiguous.

A young person codes at a Raspberry Pi computer.

When I asked Alice what gave her the courage to take a leap of faith with her university course, she said, “I didn’t know it was the right move for me, honestly. I took a gamble, I knew I wanted to be in computer science, but I wanted to spice it up.” The AI ecosystem is very lucky that people like Alice choose to enter the field even without being taught what precisely it comprises.

We also heard from Danielle Belgrave, a Research Scientist at DeepMind with a remarkable career in AI for healthcare. Danielle explained that she was lucky to have had a Mathematics teacher who encouraged her to work in statistics for healthcare. She said she wanted to ensure she could use her technical skills and her love for math to make an impact on society, and to really help make the world a better place. Danielle works with biologists, mathematicians, philosophers, and ethicists as well as with data scientists and AI researchers at DeepMind. One possibility she suggested for improving young people’s understanding of what roles are available was industry mentorship. Linking people who work in the field of AI with school students was an idea that Caitlin was eager to confirm as very useful for young people her age.

We need investment in AI education in school

The AI Council’s Roadmap stresses how important it is to not only teach the skills needed to foster a pool of people who are able to research and build AI, but also to ensure that every child leaves school with the necessary AI and data literacy to be able to become engaged, informed, and empowered users of the technology. During the panel, the Minister, Chris Philp, spoke about the fact that people don’t have to be technical experts to come up with brilliant ideas, and that we need more people to be able to think creatively and have the confidence to adopt AI, and that this starts in schools. 

A class of primary school students do coding at laptops.

Caitlin is a perfect example of a young person who has been inspired about AI while in school. But sadly, among young people and especially girls, she’s in the minority by choosing to take computer science, which meant she had the chance to hear about AI in the classroom. But even for young people who choose computer science in school, at the moment AI isn’t in the national Computing curriculum or part of GCSE computer science, so much of their learning currently takes place outside of the classroom. Caitlin added that she had had to go out of her way to find information about AI; the majority of her peers are not even aware of opportunities that may be out there. She suggested that we ensure AI is taught across all subjects, so that every learner sees how it can make their favourite subject even more magical and thinks “AI’s cool!”.

A primary school boy codes at a laptop with the help of an educator.

Philip Colligan, the CEO here at the Foundation, also described how AI could be integrated into existing subjects including maths, geography, biology, and citizenship classes. Danielle thoroughly agreed and made the very good point that teaching this way across the school would help prepare young people for the world of work in AI, where cross-disciplinary science is so important. She reminded us that AI is not one single discipline. Instead, many different skill sets are needed, including engineering new AI systems, integrating AI systems into products, researching problems to be addressed through AI, or investigating AI’s societal impacts and how humans interact with AI systems.

On hearing about this multitude of different skills, our discussion turned to the teachers who are responsible for imparting this knowledge, and to the challenges they face. 

The challenge of AI education for teachers

When we shifted the focus of the discussion to teachers, Philip said: “If we really want to equip every young person with the knowledge and skills to thrive in a world that shaped by these technologies, then we have to find ways to evolve the curriculum and support teachers to develop the skills and confidence to teach that curriculum.”

Teenage students and a teacher do coding during a computer science lesson.

I asked the Minister what he thought needed to happen to ensure we achieved data and AI literacy for all young people. He said, “We need to work across government, but also across business and society more widely as well.” He went on to explain how important it was that the Department for Education (DfE) gets the support to make the changes needed, and that he and the Office for AI were ready to help.

Philip explained that the Raspberry Pi Foundation is one of the organisations in the consortium running the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), which is funded by the DfE in England. Through the NCCE, the Foundation has already supported thousands of teachers to develop their subject knowledge and pedagogy around computer science.

A recent study recognises that the investment made by the DfE in England is the most comprehensive effort globally to implement the computing curriculum, so we are starting from a good base. But Philip made it clear that now we need to expand this investment to cover AI.

Young people engaging with AI out of school

Philip described how brilliant it is to witness young people who choose to get creative with new technologies. As an example, he shared that the Foundation is seeing more and more young people employ machine learning in the European Astro Pi Challenge, where participants run experiments using Raspberry Pi computers on board the International Space Station. 

Three teenage boys do coding at a shared computer during a computer science lesson.

Philip also explained that, in the Foundation’s non-formal CoderDojo club network and its Coolest Projects tech showcase events, young people build their dream AI products supported by volunteers and mentors. Among these have been autonomous recycling robots and AI anti-collision alarms for bicycles. Like Caitlin with her company idea, this shows that young people are ready and eager to engage and create with AI.

We closed out the panel by going back to a point raised by Mhairi Aitken, who presented at the Foundation’s research seminar in September. Mhairi, an Alan Turing Institute ethics fellow, argues that children don’t just need to learn about AI, but that they should actually shape the direction of AI. All our panelists agreed on this point, and we discussed what it would take for young people to have a seat at the table.

A Black boy uses a Raspberry Pi computer at school.

Alice advised that we start by looking at our existing systems for engaging young people, such as Youth Parliament, student unions, and school groups. She also suggested adding young people to the AI Council, which I’m going to look into right away! Caitlin agreed and added that it would be great to make these forums virtual, so that young people from all over the country could participate.

The panel session was full of insight and felt very positive. Although the challenge of ensuring we have a data- and AI-literate generation of young people is tough, it’s clear that if we include them in finding the solution, we are in for a bright future. 

What’s next for AI education at the Raspberry Pi Foundation?

In the coming months, our goal at the Foundation is to increase our understanding of the concepts underlying AI education and how to teach them in an age-appropriate way. To that end, we will start to conduct a series of small AI education research projects, which will involve gathering the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders, including young people. We’ll make more information available on our research pages soon.

In the meantime, you can sign up for our upcoming research seminars on AI and data science education, and peruse the collection of related resources we’ve put together.

The post How do we develop AI education in schools? A panel discussion appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

"Serenade"; 3D Mixed-Media Artwork by Tammy Carmona

via Pololu Blog

Artist Tammy Carmona recently used our laser cutting service to help create her 3D mixed-media artwork, “Serenade”, pictured above. Carmona writes about the piece:

    This mixed-media composition takes classical elements of music, and combines them with art in a decadent, delicious “feast for the eyes”.

    The piano-glossy notes, the authentic violin bows and an actual violin, the laser-cut butterflies, the preserved roses – each element brings a different sensation and a different meaning.

    Themes of rebirth and remembrance permeate this piece. The old violin is reborn with bursts of flowers, the old bows have found a new life supporting musical notes, the flowers are real preserved roses.

The music notes were laser cut out of black cast acrylic, which we stock regularly. The title sign for the piece, pictured below, was cut from the same material and raster engraved. A nice feature of the cast acrylic used in this piece is that it turns frosty white when engraved, which provides high contrast engravings.

For a more detailed description of Carmona’s piece and additional pictures, visit her website here. More information about our laser cutting service can be found here.

Black acrylic notes from Tammy Carmona’s artwork, “Serenade”.

Title sign from Tammy Carmona’s artwork, “Serenade”.

Our 12 Favorite Arduino UNO Projects

via Arduino Blog

The UNO wasn’t Arduino’s first board, and it won’t be its last. There have been many varieties of microcontroller and maker boards before and after the UNO, but none have been as iconic. As we cross the epic milestone of 10 million UNOs sold and the launch of the UNO Mini Limited Edition, we decided it was time to take a look back at some of our favorite UNO projects from the last 10 years.

And we want to hear about yours, too. Join us over on social media to share your favorite UNO projects, whether you built them yourself or marveled at someone else’s electronic creation.

The Toothbrush Machine

The queen of terrible tech Simone Giertz casually blew the internet’s mind back in 2015 with her robotic skateboard helmet with an automated toothbrush mounted on the front.

Arduino GRANDE

Spend more than five minutes Googling “Arduino UNO” and you’re bound to find yourself looking at the Arduino GRANDE. A fully operational UNO that’s six time bigger than it should be.

Coffee Printer

If you’ve ever left a coffee ring on your notepad or table top, you’ll appreciate how effective it is at leaving a mark. This UNO project put that annoying side effect of coffee to artistic use.

Autonomous “Follow Me” Cooler

Why carry your own beer and sandwiches around like a sucker, when you can “simply” connect a robotic cooler to your smartphone’s Bluetooth, hook it up with GPS and let if follow you around.

Skeleton Arduino Uno

This Arduino UNO is its own project, which is so meta it’s impossible not to love it! It’s a PCB without the PCB, and takes “open” source more literally than any other maker board has ever achieved.

Gaming Microwave

Microwave’s used to be considered the fastest way to cook things. But in today’s CPA-addled world, even one-minute noodles take too long. Problem solved; game while you’re waiting.


This UNO project takes the concept of “everything is a drum” to new levels by turning devices like hard drives, floppy drives, scanners and more into a techno-orchestra.


This programmable guitar pedal built from an UNO lets you create all your own effects and digital sounds, with an ever-growing repository of pre-built effects from the Arduino music community.

Automated Dust Collection

Master maker and craftsman I Like to Make Stuff has created some incredible carpentry projects, and underneath it all is an Arduino UNO keeping his awesome workshop clean.

Useless Box

Useless machines are a wonderful maker project rabbit hole to fall down. This is a great example, and even though they’re useless, you can learn so much from building one. Which means it’s not actually useless, right?


Drumcube is a drummer in a box, so as long as you’ve got an Arduino UNO and a small box, you’ll always have someone down in the boiler room when you play at a gig.

Petoi Bittle

This highly maneuverable little palm-sized robot runs, jumps and plays to become your very own robotic pet. Some stunning design work, and it can even carry up to half a kilogram as it skips around!

Got a mind-blowing Arduino UNO project we missed? Share it with us on social media, and let us know if you’re planning a brand new UNO project, ideally using the stunning UNO Mini Limited Edition!

The post Our 12 Favorite Arduino UNO Projects appeared first on Arduino Blog.

Converting a Fat Cat cushion into a controller for Final Fantasy XIV

via Arduino Blog

Mounts in the video game Final Fantasy XIV act like how cars or horses do in our world since they allow players to travel around the map much faster than would otherwise be possible. But even better, mounts are ways to express personality and have some fun, which is especially evident with the infamous “Fatter Cat” mount, as it got so widely beloved that Square Enix, the game’s publisher, decided to start selling a plushie version of it in their store. 

With his own Fatter Cat cushion, FFXIV modder Louis Hamilton (SuperLouis64 on YouTube) decided to add some extra functionality by attaching both a touch sensor and a passive infrared module that lets it sense when someone has sat on it. This in turn causes an Arduino Micro board to send out a keystroke that activates a macro in the game, thus causing the Fatter Cat mount to appear. 

You can watch SuperLouis64’s video below for a short demonstration of how this fun system works.

The post Converting a Fat Cat cushion into a controller for Final Fantasy XIV appeared first on Arduino Blog.