Monthly Archives: December 2021

SparkFun’s 2021 in Review

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

As a reminder, SparkFun will be closed on Friday, December 31st. We will reopen at 9:00 a.m. MST on Monday, January 3rd. Happy New Year!

Another year, another look back at everything that has been accomplished over 52 weeks. Sure, it was another weird year, but I think (in my personal opinion) that it was leagues better than 2020 overall! Regardless, at Midnight tonight we will bid farewell to the 21st year of the second millennium and welcome in 2022! In celebration of the new year, we decided to take a look back at some of our favorite products, projects and tutorials. It's a bit surprising to think of everything that happened this year, so let's jump in and take a look back!

Find out some of the things SparkFun got up to in 2021

Rob joins us to show off all of our awesome projects for the year. If you want to look into any of the subjects he talked about, scroll down and look into them with greater detail!


You may recognize Elektor - we’ve partnered with them on a few things recently. What you may not know is that a while ago, we had a special meeting with the great folks at Elektor (in the Before Times, when you could grab an espresso in person), leading to us teaming up with them to create a SparkFun Edition of the popular magazine.


The Raspberry Pi Pico is a low-cost, high-performance microcontroller board with flexible digital interfaces. It features the RP2040, which marks Raspberry Pi's first microcontroller designed in-house. Pico provides minimal (yet flexible) external circuitry to support the RP2040 chip.


It's a colossal feat to have sent a rover to our neighbor, the big Red Planet, in search of whether life has ever existed on Mars. While the majority of the high-tech toolkit aboard the Perseverance rover is proprietary to NASA, there are also on-board projects that utilize new, open source hardware and software that are equally as available to everyday hackers as they are to NASA. The Ingenuity helicopter, which aims to demonstrate the first powered flight on Mars, especially utilizes open source technology.


The SparkFun 2D Barcode Scanner Breakout is a nifty little breakout board featuring the DE2120 barcode scanner module from DYScan. The DE2120 reads 20 different barcode symbologies (both 1D and 2D) using a camera coupled with on-board image processing to identify and decode everything from UPC codes to QR codes. The module also features two LEDs: one for illumination and one to project the red line that you're used to seeing from laser-based scanners.


Over the last year, we have endeavored to create the most affordable, yet highly accurate, real-time kinematic (RTK) positioning options currently available. SparkFun RTK Surveyors are enclosed and ready to use GNSS receivers for millimeter-level positioning - and the best part is, no programming required! We've created a page that explains the differences in each version and makes it easy to access popular RTK Surveyor resources.


MicroMod is a solderless, modular interface ecosystem that uses the M.2 standard to mix and match your choice of processor with specific Function Boards or stand-alone Carrier Boards. MicroMod Main Boards are specialized carrier boards that allow you to interface a MicroMod Processor Board alongside one or two Function Boards. Function Boards add a certain functionality to a Main Board.


With a clear view of the sky, the SparkFun Artemis Global Tracker (AGT) allows you to send and receive short data messages. Leveraging the Iridium satellite network, it works anywhere in the world, including the polar regions, far beyond the reach of WiFi and GSM networks. Maybe you want to transmit pressure, temperature or humidity readings from the top of a mountain? Or use it to send data from a traveling balloon sat? Or use it to control your remote equipment out in the field? Or receive alerts if your equipment is moved out of or into a geofenced area? Perhaps you need to communicate in an emergency, when other networks might not be available?


Earlier this year, we were excited to share a video by GreatScott! We've been fans of GreatScott! for a while, and we were thrilled to co-sponsor a video of his with Elektor showcasing the JetBot. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check out his review of our popular JetBot AI Robotics Kit.


Alie highlighted her crazy experience co-hosting the Arm DevSummit TV show and shares her can't miss sessions from the event.


Special thank to Alex Glow for the creation of the "DOOT!" button. It all started with our MicroMod boards and it really helped us lean into some bad silk to help us create our SkeleBoard this last Halloween!


Geeky Faye is a maker, artist, cosplayer, filmmaker, and more (Quite frankly we'll be surprised if there's something they can't do). And this year, they dove into the SparkFun Inventor's Kit!


There is so much more that we haven't been able to touch on and we compell you to look further into more of 2021's posts, projects, and products. Like Rob said, there is, literally, no way that we could have accomplished everything that we've done this year without you. Thank you!

Let us know what your highlights of the year were. What products, posts and tutorials did you love? What was your favorite Rob and Avra video? We'll see you next year, and thank you for your ongoing support! Here's to 2022!

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Winner, Name that Ware November 2021

via Hacking – bunnie's blog

The Ware for November 2021 is the controller PCB from a late ’80s vintage “Caroling Christmas Bells” set. As described by the contributor: “Basically it’s a string of twelve electromagnetically-actuated brass bells that play christmas songs. These seem to have been quite popular at the time as there’s hundreds of sets for sale on eBay right now. It’s pretty cool to see a novelty product like this implemented using discrete logic chips.”

Thanks again to jackw01 for contributing this seasonal ware!

I haven’t seen the ware myself, but I think Adam Robinson’s description is close enough to me to declare it a winner. Congrats, an email me for your prize!

Makers You Should Know

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

One of the best parts of our community of makers has always been just that - the community. Not just traveling to events to see the latest and greatest that companies had to offer, but to get together with old maker friends, meet new ones, and to talk, laugh, share ideas and drinks; we had opportunities to really know that we were a part of a great collective. The past two years, those communal events that we love have all but disappeared, but our sense of community and the desire to connect still exists. Now is a great time to digitally find new members of our community, follow them, connect with them, create a wider group of peers and friends, and give ourselves that much more to look forward to once we get back to IRL events.

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The competitor's tent at the SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition was always a favorite maker's meeting place.

I’ve put together a list of makers and engineers that I’ve only met online, but am really looking forward to meeting at a gathering in the future. This is a very short list, and you may already know most or all of them. May they inspire you to look further, see who they’re connected with, and expand your circle of maker connections. So here, in no particular order, are…

MAKERS YOU SHOULD KNOW

Earlier this year, we worked with Allie (@GeekyFayeArt), an amazing artist in multiple mediums. They wanted to be able to add electronics to their already impressive array of skills, and it’ll be exciting to see what they turn out in the coming year.

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Allie (aka GeekyFayeArt) is a multidisciplinary artist who is now adding electronics to their creations.

Billie Ruben (@BillieRubenMake) is another great person to follow. An amazing maker based primarily in costume, couture, and 3D printing, Billie’s superpower is her altruism. She hosts a youtube channel that focuses not just on what she does, but also on other makers. Her “Meet a Maker” series allows her to have “chats with cool peeps who make things”, and helps bring more awareness and support to other makers in the community, elevating the maker community as a whole.

Another great maker is @HannahMakes. She describes herself as a “Maker of frivolous things. Teabag dunking robots, shoes that call you an Uber.” You know, the usual stuff. Her builds are always solid and creative, and her videos are a joy to watch.

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A triumvirate of talent: Hannah and Allie join Billie for one of her Meet a Maker episodes.

Danielle Boyer @danielleboyerr is another maker whose altruistic side matches her maker side. A great young educator, activist, and inventor, Danielle is the founder of The Steam Connection, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting technology into the hands of young people who historically have not had access to it, with a focus on education and opportunities for indigenous youths. She has been named both a 2021 MIT Solver and a 2020 L’Oreal Paris Woman of Worth for her work.

A roboticist you probably know by now, thanks in part to his recent cover appearance on Make Magazine, is Jorvon Moss. @Odd_Jayy is a self-taught roboticist from Compton, whose continuous stream of mechanized eyewear and companion bots are as beautiful as they are technologically impressive.

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(L)Danielle Boyer wearing a Jorvon Moss original. (R)Jorvon Moss also wearing a Jorvon Moss original.

If you want a glimpse into the future of STEM/STEAM, look no further than @STEMillie_. An aspiring scientist and engineer, Millie has a penchant for cars and power tools, and continues to be an inspiration to girls in STEM everywhere.

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One of the great up-and-coming #GirlsInSTEM, Millie's ebullience and passion for STEM are clear in everything she does.

If you’re more STEAM leaning, wanting to make sure there’s art in your STEM, two more of my favorites are Debra @GeekMomProjects and Mohit @MohitBhoite. Debra, a technophile and lateral thinker, believes that LEDs improve everything, and she had an expansive show of projects to back up her claim. She’s also designed a beautiful necklace clasp/battery holder that uses magnets to keep jewelry connected and powered. Mohit is as much a sculptor as a coder, and his medium is wire. He uses wireframe not only for the circuitry of his builds, but for the structure as well, and the results are beautiful.

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Debra (@GeekMomProjects) surrounded by some of her amazing blinky creations.

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Mohit Bhoite's (@MohitBhoite) precision wire bending creates the perfect union of form and function.

AND FOR THE KIDS

If you have young ones who are interested in STEAM/STEM, there are a few folks I can definitely recommend, as the bulk of their work is designed to teach, inspire, and engage kids. @BrownDogGadgets uses a lot of paper circuits, bristlebots, and interactive circuits that offer kids simple designs that they can create (usually with an adult) quickly and easily. Even the more advanced builds, like the singing Christmas Tree, use a micro:bit for control, keeping it simple enough for kids to build and program.

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With projects aimed at a younger crowd, @BrownDogGadgets keeps their builds as engaging as they are informative.

Another great resource to follow to get or keep kids excited about STEM is @KidsInventStuff. Helmed by the amazing Ruth Amos @RuthAmos and Shawn Brown @ShawnMakes (two more people you should definitely be following), these two incredible engineers and inventors take a different tack to get kids excited about STEM/STEAM. At Kids Invent Stuff, Ruth and Shawn issue challenges to kids, with specific parameters, although the parameters are usually pretty flexible. As an example, the current challenge is a Winter Invention Challenge. The only real design rule for this is that it has to have something to do with winter - something that will keep you warm, something that makes spending time out in the winter weather more fun, pretty much anything winter-related. Kids of all ages send in ideas and drawings, and these two makers set about creating the winning idea. From a sneeze-activated flamethrower helmet to a bike that feeds you cake as you ride, these builds and accompanying videos are always a joy to watch, for both kids and adults, and always keep children excited about technology.

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Ruth and Shawn from @KidsInventStuff in front of one of their builds, a dinosaur robot that cleans your floors!

This is such a cursory list, but it’s a starting point. There are so many others that you should check out, too. @glowascii, @witnessmenow, @sophywong, @BlitzCityDIY, and @KittyArtPhysics are just a few that come to mind. Check them out, follow them, support them, see who they follow, and if any of those connections speak to you, follow them too. But above all, keep this in mind: When a maker starts sharing their projects online, they are sharing a part of themselves, and with that comes a certain vulnerability. Choose your words and your comments wisely and with kindness. I guess what I’m really trying to say is be nice, and happy hacking!

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App note: Types of capacitors used for output smoothing of switching regulators and their precautions

via Dangerous Prototypes

Another app note from ROHM Semiconductor on various capacitors used for output smoothing. Link here (PDF)

In recent years, it has become a common practice to recommend multilayer ceramic capacitors for the output smoothing of switching regulators due to the stability of their temperature characteristics and the reduction on the mounting area. On the other hand, they are increasingly being replaced by low-cost, high-capacity aluminum electrolytic capacitors and conductive polymer hybrid aluminum electrolytic capacitors.