Author Archives: Chris McCarty

Friday Product Post: You’ve Been Thunderstruck!

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello, there everyone! It's Friday, and that means we have some new products to show you all - starting with a Lightning Detector Breakout. Yup, you read that right! We also have the new Google Coral Single Board Computer, and three DMX cables. Let's take a closer look at all!

Storm's Coming, Ani!

SparkFun Lightning Detector - AS3935 (Qwiic)

SparkFun Lightning Detector - AS3935 (Qwiic)

SEN-15276
$24.95

Add the SparkFun Qwiic Lightning Detector to your next weather station to make sure you are aware of any potential hazardous weather heading your way. The AS3935 is capable of detecting lightning up to 40 km away, with an accuracy of 1 km to the storm front, and a sensitive antenna tuned to pick up lightning events in the 500 kHz band. Utilizing our handy Qwiic system, no soldering is required to connect it to the rest of your system. However, we still have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard.


Google Coral Development Board

Google Coral Development Board

DEV-15318
$156.95

The Coral Dev Board is a single-board computer with a removable system-on-module (SOM) that contains eMMC, SOC, wireless radios and the Edge TPU. You can use the Dev Board as a single-board computer when you need accelerated ML processing in a small form factor, but it also serves as an evaluation kit for the SOM. You can use the dev board to prototype internet-of-things (IoT) devices and other embedded systems that demand fast on-device ML inferencing, and then scale to production using just the 40 mm × 48 mm SOM board combined with your custom PCB hardware using board-to-board connectors.


XLR-3 (DMX) Cable - 5ft

XLR-3 (DMX) Cable - 5ft

CAB-15308
$4.95

This is a five-foot-long (~1.5 m) DMX cable capable of better communications for lighting and special effects through standard or digital communication protocols. We specifically like to use this cable with our ESP32 Thing Plus DMX to LED Shield, but it can also be used to interface with other DMX fixtures, as well!

If you need a longer cable, you're in luck! We also offer cable lengths of 10 ft and 25 ft.


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!

comments | comment feed

Batteries? What For?

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

This is a guest blog post from Andrew Shepherd. Andrew has been studying electronics in earnest for over a decade and loves working with his mind and hands. He specializes in analog electronics, but his interests are eclectic and span seemingly unrelated areas.


If you need a project to be portable, here’s a small crash course on some of the batteries that are available and what situations they are good for.

Types:

There are two main types of batteries: primary and secondary – batteries that can be recharged and those that are one-use-only. Today we'll cover only the most relevant and available types for the sake of brevity, as the full catalog of battery types could fill pages. We will also only explore certain secondary batteries.

Lead-Acid - This is the oldest type of rechargeable battery. They can supply a lot of current but are also very heavy compared to newer types. They tend to be used in cars and stationary equipment, like UPSs (Uninterruptible Power Supplies), due to their durability and tolerance for low temperatures. Cell voltage is ~2.1 V each, but they typically come in 6V or 12V packs. Charging and discharging is quite simple, as long as the upper and lower voltage bounds are not grossly exceeded and the charge current is not too high. If they are abused they can outgas hydrogen and potentially explode.

Lead Acid Battery - 12V 7.2Ah

Lead Acid Battery - 12V 7.2Ah

PRT-15066
$47.95

NiMH - These are an improvement on the NiCd batteries, and are a proven and reliable battery technology. They are more power dense than lead-acids, but have a lower cell voltage of ~1.2V under load. Recharging and discharging is also fairly simple given that you don’t draw current below a certain voltage. If abused they can overheat and lose a lot of their capacity.

2500 mAh NiMH Battery - AA

2500 mAh NiMH Battery - AA

PRT-00335
$2.95
-


LiPo/Li-Ion - The difference between LiPo and Li-Ion is subtle and the technologies are typically combined for most batteries, so they will be regarded together. These are lightweight, high power density, high cell voltage (3.7V under load). Their output current capability is consistently better than NiMH for a given size. Their disadvantage is they are less stable than other batteries and care must be taken when charging or discharging. The charging process is more complicated and requires a special process to avoid damage. For multi-cell systems, cell balancing is required for charging and discharging. If these batteries are abused, they can explode and shoot flames and fluoride gas everywhere.

Types of LiPos

These things come in all shapes and sizes and can be used for many applications due to their high power density.

Small Li-Ion Flat Packs - These are useful for small projects and most can interface directly with many SparkFun products. Paper-thin, flexible batteries also exist and may be best for wearables.

Lithium Ion Battery - 850mAh

Lithium Ion Battery - 850mAh

PRT-13854
$9.95
2
<-


18650s - Shaped like a large AA battery, these are a versatile store-and-replace cell with lots of current capability and capacity. Their main advantage is they can be swapped in and out, or be bundled together into a pack.

Lithium Ion Battery - 18650 Cell (2600mAh)

Lithium Ion Battery - 18650 Cell (2600mAh)

PRT-12895
$5.95

Multicell Packs - If you need more voltage than 3.7V this is the way to go. You’ll need a charger capable of cell balancing to use them, however.

Lithium Ion Battery - 2200mAh 7.4v

Lithium Ion Battery - 2200mAh 7.4v

PRT-11856
$15.95

USB LiPo Pack - These are useful for small Arduino projects because they provide USB power (5V at 1A) in a small, handy package.

Lithium Ion Battery Pack - 2.5Ah (USB)

Lithium Ion Battery Pack - 2.5Ah (USB)

PRT-14367
$8.95

LiPo Management

USB Chargers - This USB LiPoly Charger runs from either a DC jack or a micro USB connection and charges a single cell Li-Po through a common JST connector. It also has an output port so it can be used in a project without reconnecting the battery after charging. This charger lets you adjust how much current you want to charge with a basic USB charger.

SparkFun LiPo Charger/Booster - 5V/1A

SparkFun LiPo Charger/Booster - 5V/1A

PRT-14411
$15.95

Boost Converter - This takes a single cell 3.8V LiPo and boosts the voltage up to 5V to make it usable for most microcontroller and LED circuits. It can source up to 1A of current.

LiPower - Boost Converter

LiPower - Boost Converter

PRT-10255
$15.95
5

Multiple Cells

What if you need more voltage or current capability? The solution is to add cells in series for more voltage, and cells in parallel for increased current capability and capacity. With LiPos especially, it is critical the cells can charge and discharge correctly. You can put cells in parallel with each other, but they must be protected somehow. Otherwise, they can discharge into each other and cause damage. One way is to use a Schottky diode in series with each cell, which will allow current to pass out of each cell but prevent damage if one cell gets lower than the others.

Batteries in parallel.

Charging multiple cells requires cell balancing or separate chargers for each cell. The advantage of 18650s is that they can be removed and charged separately in a bay like this.

Tenergy T4s Intelligent Universal Charger - 4-Bay

Tenergy T4s Intelligent Universal Charger - 4-Bay

TOL-14457
$29.95

Useful Resources and Further Learning

  • Dave Jones of EEVBlog explains the charging process of LiPos. It lends clues as to why the charging process is more complicated than NiMH or other batteries, and discusses how you could make a charger yourself.
  • This website carries a lot of different types of batteries, including special ones that might be hard to find elsewhere.
  • DIY battery charger using the TP4056 chip.

comments | comment feed

Friday Product Post: Balancing the Scales

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

This week, to celebrate the final season of everyone's favorite romcom, Game of Thrones, we've added a bit of a theme! We have the new SparkFun Qwiic Scale to weigh all your coinage, a new TFT LCD Breakout to expand your options for watching your favorite (miniaturized) show, and our new Master of Coin shirts! That's not all though, because we end the week with a new, 12-inch ruler and two strips of APA104 LEDs to light up the darkest, terror-filled night!

Weigh it all in the blink of an eye!

SparkFun Qwiic Scale - NAU7802

SparkFun Qwiic Scale - NAU7802

SEN-15242
$14.95

The SparkFun Qwiic Scale is a small breakout board for the NAU7802 that allows you to easily read load cells to accurately measure the weight of an object. By connecting the board to your microcontroller, you will be able to read the changes in the resistance of a load cell and, with some calibration, get very accurate weight measurements. This can be handy for creating your own industrial scale, process control or simple presence detection. Utilizing our handy Qwiic system, no soldering is required to connect it to the rest of your system. However, we still have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard.


Display whatever you wish!

SparkFun TFT LCD Breakout - 1.8" (128x160)

SparkFun TFT LCD Breakout - 1.8" (128x160)

LCD-15143
$29.95

The SparkFun TFT LCD Breakout is a versatile, colorful and easy way to experiment with graphics or create a user interface for your project. With a 4-wire SPI interface and microSD card holder, you can use this breakout to easily add visual display/interface capabilities to a project, as well as provide all the storage you might need for multimedia files.


Master of Coin Women's Shirt - Large (Gray)

Master of Coin Women's Shirt - Large (Gray)

SWG-15234
$19.95
Master of Coin Shirt - Large (Gray)

Master of Coin Shirt - Large (Gray)

SWG-15239
$19.95
Master of Coin Shirt - Large (Red)

Master of Coin Shirt - Large (Red)

SWG-15280
$19.95
Master of Coin Women's Shirt - Large (Red)

Master of Coin Women's Shirt - Large (Red)

SWG-15285
$19.95

Our new limited edition tee is here, with a nod to Game of Thrones! These shirts come in red and gray in both men's and women's fitted sizes, and are designed to keep those around you guessing what game you're playing with the positive side of the classic coin cell battery that we carry in our catalog. The back also has our SparkFun emblem on the negative side of the CR2032.

Even though we only show the large sizes in this blog post, please be aware that sizes S through XXL are available as well! Click here to find each size available, but remember: these shirts are only available for a limited time so get them while you can because once they are gone, they are gone!


SparkFun PCB Ruler - 12 Inch

SparkFun PCB Ruler - 12 Inch

TOL-15295
$5.95

One ruler to rule them all! This may look like a basic 12-inch ruler, but it's made from a PCB. We have included useful information you might use on a daily basis, including wire gauge holes, transistor diagrams, common fractions, Roman numerals and metric-to-imperial conversions. Most importantly, the ruler provides you with a straight line, centimeter markings one side and inch markings on the other side.


LED RGB Strip - Addressable, Sealed, 1m (APA104)

LED RGB Strip - Addressable, Sealed, 1m (APA104)

COM-15205
$24.95
LED RGB Strip - Addressable, Bare, 1m (APA104)

LED RGB Strip - Addressable, Bare, 1m (APA104)

COM-15206
$19.95

These are sealed and bare addressable, one-meter, 5V RGB LED strips that come packed with 60 APA104s per meter. There is access to each APA104 LED and each strip length can be easily modified. You will be able to control each RGB LED individually, giving you the ability to create cool lighting effects for your car, or perhaps under-cabinet lighting in your kitchen! These LED strips are compatible with similar WS2812 and SK6812 addressable LEDs.


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!

comments | comment feed

SparkFun Ambassadors: Class of 2019

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

We're very excited – today we finally announce our inaugural SparkFun Ambassadors! We’ll be honest, this took longer than expected with some late nights, a few heated discussions and probably some of the hardest decisions we’ve made. We are confident, however, that these Ambassadors are passionate about SparkFun and electronics in general, they believe in the open source movement and they enjoy connecting with others. With their help, we can celebrate more open source technology, provide better support to the engineering community, and improve our products and tutorials.

Let’s meet the four SparkFun Ambassadors!


Jesse Brockman

Jesse Brockmann is a senior software engineer with over 20 years of experience. Jesse works for a large corporation designing real-time simulation software in C and C++. He is a long-time maker, and first purchased a gyro and other components from SparkFun in 2006 to build a rover. He participated in the Sparkfun AVC from 2014 to 2017, won the heavyweight class in 2016, and won the classic AVC in 2017.


RJ Duran

RJ Duran is a multi-faceted researcher, engineer, designer, and emerging technology educator and consultant based in Denver. He co-owns and operates Laser Lab, a Denver-based laser cutting and engraving studio specializing in customization and artisan products, and teaches creative design and technology-based courses and workshops in CMCI STUDIO at CU Boulder. He is passionate about accessibility to design and fabrication technologies in education, collective creativity and developing programs, experiences, tools, and systems that enable discovery, wonder, education, inquiry and play.


Jeremy Hong

Jeremy Hong is an electronic systems engineer living in Dayton, OH, and working in the aerospace and defense industry. He got his start as an electronics and amateur radio hobbyist, and created a consulting business, Hong's Electronics, while in high school. Today, Jeremy works all day and night designing and reverse-engineering electronics, and is very active with his local radio club, The Dayton Amateur Radio Association.


Paul Trebilcox-Ruiz

Paul is a software engineer out of Boulder, CO, and an avid maker. As a member of the 501st and Rebel Legion charity organizations, he makes screen-accurate movie props and volunteers regularly. His main costumes are a Snowtrooper, Tusken Raider and an X-Wing Pilot. Outside of movie props, Paul loves 3D printing, woodworking and creating IoT projects, including transforming a Star Wars Porg toy to translate between English and Spanish, and using augmented reality to enhance a custom board game.


Now you know our Ambassadors! We had originally planned to bring on five individuals, but due to unforeseen circumstances in the 11th hour we weren't able to fill the fifth spot. We are still planning on bringing on a fifth (and maybe sixth) Ambassador this summer, should everything go smoothly. In the next few weeks, we'll share a home page for our Ambassadors with their social media handles and any events they may be attending in the coming months. Please keep an eye out for these four – we see so much greatness in them and can't wait to see what we do together!

I am pleased to be the first to say:

WELCOME SPARKFUN AMBASSADORS OF 2019!

comments | comment feed

Friday Product Post: GPS Week 1024!

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

How's it going, everyone? Tomorrow is the the GPS Week Number Rollover and (unlike 1999) we are pretty prepared for it – heck, we only had 20 years to plan! In recognition of week 1024 we have a ton of new GPS and GNSS options for you, including two new GPS breakouts utilizing the M8Q package, a six-in-one GNSS Antenna Evaluation board, a stand-alone GNSS antenna and a high-power RGB LED!

Which GPS option will you choose?

SparkFun GPS Breakout - Chip Antenna, SAM-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - Chip Antenna, SAM-M8Q (Qwiic)

GPS-15210
$39.95

The SparkFun SAM-M8Q GPS Breakout is a high quality GPS board with equally impressive configuration options. The SAM-M8Q is a 72-channel GNSS receiver, meaning it can receive signals from the GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and constellations. This increases precision and decreases lock time, and thanks to the onboard rechargable battery, you'll have backup power enabling the GPS to get a hot lock within seconds! Additionally, this u-blox receiver supports I2C (u-blox calls this Display Data Channel), which made it perfect for Qwiic compatibility, so we don't have to use up our precious UART ports. Utilizing our handy Qwiic system, no soldering is required to connect it to the rest of your system. However, we still have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard.


SparkFun GPS Breakout - ZOE-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - ZOE-M8Q (Qwiic)

GPS-15193
$44.95

Of course, if you need a GPS breakout in a smaller package, we also offer the SparkFun ZOE-M8Q GPS Breakout! This board operates in almost the exact same way as the SAM-M8Q, but since the ZOE-M8Q is a tiny GPS receiver, and in order to minimize its footprint, we've added a U.FL connector to allow the use of both large standard ceramic antennas and very small chip scale antennas.


SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board

SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board

GPS-15247
$24.95

What is the best chip antenna for your GNSS project? There are tons to choose from, but finding the right one might be tricky, so here's a board that helps make deciding easier. The SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board makes it easy to test various GPS antennas and geometries. Six different chip antennas have been populated on this board, each with a U.FL connector to attach your chip to the antenna! We've even v-scored the board so you can snap the six antennas apart and just have the one you need.


Molex Flexible GNSS Antenna - U.FL (Adhesive)

Molex Flexible GNSS Antenna - U.FL (Adhesive)

GPS-15246
$3.95

The Molex GNSS Flex antenna is paper-thin, makes a great option for basic GNSS applications, and will work with any of our GNSS boards equipped with a U.FL at a fraction of the cost of many of its big brothers. This antenna supports GPS, Galileo, BeiDou and GLONASS in three different frequency bands (1561 +/-3MHz, 1575 +/-3MHz, 1602 +/-3MHz).


Triple Output High Power RGB LED

Triple Output High Power RGB LED

COM-15200
$4.95

So much power and light from such a small package. This 3W-per-channel, Triple Output High Power RGB LED is sure to shed a lot of light on any project. This LED acts as any other, except it requires much more power while delivering a light that is incredibly intense.


That's it for this week! Make sure to join us next week as we celebrate the start of a certain famous fantasy show's final season! 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!

comments | comment feed

The SparkFun Edge: Day One

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

If you're one of the first customers who ordered The SparkFun Edge board, we’re with you – we can’t get enough of this microcontroller-based machine learning either! If you haven't jumped on board yet, what are you waiting for? Maybe this will help!

What does the SparkFun Edge do?

SparkFun Edge Development Board - Apollo3 Blue

SparkFun Edge Development Board - Apollo3 Blue

DEV-15170
$14.95

The possibilities of the Edge are thrilling, but at $15, it’s not exactly your personal assistant. We admit the Google Assistant has made our shopping lists more complete & efficient than ever before, but the feature set of The SparkFun Edge on day one has us more excited! What is available right now when I get the SparkFun Edge, you ask?

  • The Edge has mind-bendingly low power consumption, measuring in at 1.6mA@3V at a full speed of 48MHz with no sleep cycling, and can run solely on a CR2032 coin cell battery for up to 10 days.
  • The accelerometer and microphones work and have example code in the SDK. Note that currently there is only a TensorFlow example for voice recognition, and it has aspects that are rough around the edges. No pun intended.
  • Check out this tutorial from Google - Machine Learning on a microcontroller with SparkFun & TensorFlow - to get the preloaded voice recognition script working. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the SparkFun Edge Hookup Guide, which details all the hookup accessories and board layout referenced in the codelabs tutorial. Please keep in mind that going through the TensorFlow build process can be a bit challenging. If you just want to have the SparkFun Edge blink for “yes,” you can flash the pre-built application from our BSP by following our SDK tutorial.

Hooking up your SparkFun Edge

Not enough for you? Take things a bit further and build and flash the binary to understand how to reflash the SparkFun Edge board, start playing with the code and try modifying the behavior! Add I2C sensors/devices using the Qwiic connector, or just make different LEDs turn on. Programming the board is done with an external USB-serial adapter like the Serial Basic Breakout via a serial bootloader. If page three of the codelabs tutorial leaves you looking for more details, look no further than Using SparkFun Edge Board with Ambiq Apollo3 SDK or the TensorFlow Lite experimental software repo.

New!

Using SparkFun Edge Board with Ambiq Apollo3 SDK

We will demonstrate how to get started with your SparkFun Edge Board by setting up the toolchain on your computer, examining an example program, and using the serial uploader tool to flash the chip.
New!

SparkFun Edge Hookup Guide

Get to know your Edge board, including both the hardware features for you to utilize as well as how to get talking to it.

What’s next for The Edge?

We are working with TensorFlow to improve the algorithm over the next few months. Similarly, we've made promising steps toward making the camera interface work, but we are a few months away from frame capture and possible recognition. We intend to push software updates to you over the next three months after release, and features we would like to see added in the next 6-12 months as TensorFlow updates their algorithms.

comments | comment feed