Author Archives: Bobby Chan

Logic Level Basics

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Not all boards use the same voltage for logic levels. Before connecting your microcontroller or single board computer to a device, make sure that you understand logic levels with our tutorial!

Logic Levels

June 3, 2013

Learn the difference between 3.3V and 5V devices and logic levels.

Don't forget to check out a few of the examples below using a logic level converter to protect your I/O pins and ensure safe communication between different devices.

Bi-Directional Logic Level Converter Hookup Guide

An overview of the Bi-Directional Logic Level Converter, and some example circuits to show how it works.

Single Supply Logic Level Converter Hookup Guide

The Single Supply Logic Converter allows you to bi-directionally translate signals from a 5V or 3.3V microcontroller without the need for a second power supply! The board provides an output for both 5V and 3.3V to power your sensors. It is equipped with a PTH resistor footprint for the option to adjust the voltage regulator on the low side of the TXB0104 for 2.5V or 1.8V devices.

PCA9306 Logic Level Translator Hookup Guide (v2)

A quick primer to get you going with the PCA9306 Logic Level Converter - a dedicated I2C translator.

You can also add a transistor or relay to control devices operating at higher voltages like the tutorials listed below!

LED Light Bar Hookup

A quick overview of SparkFun's LED light bars, and some examples to show how to hook them up.


A crash course in bi-polar junction transistors. Learn how transistors work and in which circuits we use them.

Beefcake Relay Control Hookup Guide

This is a guide for assembling and basic use of the Beefcake Relay Control board

Internet of Things Experiment Guide

The SparkFun ESP8266 Thing Dev Board is a powerful development platform that lets you connect your hardware projects to the Internet. In this guide, we show you how to combine some simple components to remotely log temperature data, send yourself texts and control lights from afar.

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Enginursday: Building a Wireless EL Wire Dance Suit, Part 2

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We're back! There were a lot of steps to consider when completing the project, most of which had to be repeated for each of the seven dancers.

EL Hoodie and Pants Worn on Dancers

The most time consuming part of making seven wireless EL wire dance suits was actually sewing the 42 meters (~1,653.5 inches) by hand. I'm not an expert at sewing, so adding EL wire along a hoodie's arms made out of stretchy material was not the easiest. I had to put together a jig made out of cardboard to help sew into the arms.

Sewing EL to a Hoodie made out of Stretchy Material

Hoodie Arm Clipped to Cardboard Jig to Sew EL Wire Down

Adding EL wire along the side of polyester pants was easier, since the material did not move around.

EL Wire Sewn on Pants

The kids aren't all the same size, so I decided to make a few custom EL wire extension cables rather then tailoring the suits for each dancer. This also made it easier to quickly disconnect the hoodie or pants from the inverter.

EL Wire Extension Cable

I decided to use a 12V inverter to power the EL wires. To make it run off a single power supply with the EL Sequencer and XBee, the wires for the inverter's input had to be switched out. Instead of a barrel jack, a 2-pin JST connector was used.

Reworking 12V Inverter

How Do You Build Such a Thing?

In addition to making a wireless glove controller, here are a few more tutorials needed to complete this project.

EL Wire Hoodie

In this tutorial, we will sew standard electroluminescent (EL) wire to a hoodie.

EL Wire Pants

In this tutorial, we will sew standard electroluminescent (EL) wire to a pair of pants.

How to Make a Custom EL Wire Extension Cable

In this tutorial, we will make a custom EL Wire extension cable as an alternative to splicing wire.

Modifying Your EL Wire Inverter

In this tutorial, we will modify the 12V EL wire inverter to power the EL Sequencer/EL Escudo Dos off a single power supply.

Tune in some time in the future when I broadcast a signal from the wireless glove controller to remotely trigger each EL Sequencer. ;D

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Enginursday: Get Wired Up!

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We are hard at work getting a brand new product, that we are incredibly excited about, ready for release tomorrow! Unfortunately, this means we needed to write up a shorter Enginursday post this week to get everything ready for the Friday Product Post. Be sure to check back tomorrow, June 21st, to find out more!

And now, on to your Enginursday!

When it comes to prototyping and making your project come to life, working with wire is an essential skill to have! We've updated one of our older skill tutorials with more tips and techniques. Some of the updates include how to splice, wire wrap, crimp, and manage wire.

For more information, check out the updated resource!

Working with Wire

February 8, 2013

How to strip, crimp, and work with wire.

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Enginursday: Building a Wireless EL Wire Dance Suit, Part 1

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Continuing on my journey of merging art and technology, I decided to try using EL once again for my students' 2017 spring performance with Streetside Studios. If you have not been following along with some of my Enginursdays, be sure to get caught up with the following blog posts.

Let's check out some of my first designs. For Mark I, EL tape and panels were inserted between a shirt and clear vinyl. It did not pan out as well as I thought, since the tiny wires attached to the tape/panels kept breaking off at the joint, and the electronics kept falling out of their pockets. For the next version, I sewed together a harness using non-addressable LEDs. With the success of the second version, I added an accelerometer, N-Channel MOSFET and Arduino to control the LEDs for Mark III.

Mark I: EL Dance Shirt Mark II: LED Dance Harness Mark III: Motion-Controlled LED Dance Harness

Click on the images/GIFs/links for a closer look.

Mark IV: Wireless EL Wire Dance Suit

After some experience adding lights to shirts and harness, I decided to expand to the arms and legs. Instead of using EL tape and panel forms like the first version, I decided to try out EL wire. While the EL wire did not have as much surface area as the flat tape and panel, it was more flexible to a certain point. I also had more time to plan it out over the course of three months. Off I went, sewing 42 meters (coincidence?, I think not) to hoodies and pants. For those that use Imperial units, that's ~1,653.5 inches of hand-sewed EL wire. I decided to join in on the fun with my own suit, so I opted to make a wireless glove to control the suits using XBees and EL sequencers. Behold, my students and I wearing Mark IV.

Wireless EL Dance Suits in Action

How Do You Build Such a Thing? Part 1

As with any project, you will want to start small and work on the project in parts. In this case, I needed to build a Wireless Glove Controller for the project to control each dancer's EL sequencer. Below is a tutorial showing how I built the wireless glove controller to control a simple RGB LED. The concept and coding used to control the RGB LED is the same as toggling each channel of an EL sequencer remotely.


Wireless Glove Controller

April 24, 2019

Build a wireless glove controller with Arduinos to trigger an LED using XBees!

Tune in some time in the future when I go over the next part of the wireless EL suit. ;D

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Wireless RC Robot with Arduino and XBees

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We recently added the XBee Series 3 to the catalog. What's great about Series 3 is that you can configure it to be compatible with the legacy XBee firmware! As a result, we updated our Exploring XBees and XCTU tutorial.

Exploring XBees and XCTU

March 12, 2015

How to set up an XBee using your computer, the X-CTU software, and an XBee Explorer interface board.

Looking for more XBee fun? The SparkFun RedBot kit is a great way to get your feet wet in the world of robotics, and the last experiment of the kit goes over controlling the RedBot using an XBee tethered to your computer and a serial terminal. As a bonus, we recently released a new tutorial that explores different Arduino Serial objects used for the ATmega328P and the SAMD21 microcontrollers. In the process, we will control the RedBot from the wireless joystick kit using a pair of XBee Series 3s configured with the legacy XBee Series 1 firmware. For more information, check out the Wireless RC Robot with Arduino and XBees tutorial (and note you'll need to solder the wireless joystick controller's components to the board)!


Wireless RC Robot with Arduino and XBees

March 12, 2019

In this tutorial, we will expand on the SIK for RedBot to control the robot wirelessly with XBee radios! We'll explore a different microcontroller and wirelessly control the RedBot at a distance.

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Wireless Remote Control with micro:bit

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Remember the little battle bot we built way back when? The micro:bot was running loose at SparkFun, armed with skewers, the last time we checked in. Well, I had some time to explore the radio blocks in MakeCode and decided enough was enough. I wrote some code using a pair of micro:bits so that the robot only moves on command, using parts from the micro:bot and micro:arcade kits. If you have not already, check out the tutorial below to start experimenting with micro:bit’s wireless feature and train your micro:bot!


Wireless Remote Control with micro:bit

January 21, 2019

In this tutorial, we will utilize the MakeCode radio blocks to have the one micro:bit transmit a signal to a receiving micro:bit on the same channel. Eventually, we will control a micro:bot wirelessly using parts from the arcade:kit!

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