Build Your Own Bristlebot on today’s SparkFun Live!

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Today at 3 p.m. MDT, we’re hosting another episode of “SparkFun Live!” In today’s episode, our Mechanical Engineer Evan will be teaching you how to build a Bristlebot - the erratic desktop companion you all want and need!

We hope you can join us for what should be another fun and educational episode of “SparkFun Live!” See you at 3!

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A Pi’s eye view of the solar eclipse

via Raspberry Pi

Last Friday morning I got up at an unfamiliar hour to board a train to Leicester, where BBC Stargazing were broadcasting a special live show to coincide with the partial solar eclipse over the UK. Regular readers will have seen Dave Akerman write here last week of his plans to launch two Model A+ Pis with Pi in the Sky telemetry boards on a weather balloon as part of the BBC’s event, with the aim of capturing stills and video of the eclipse from high above the clouds. As we’ll see, Dave was far from the only person using Raspberry Pis to observe the eclipse; to begin with, though, here’s a downward-facing view from one of his Pis of the launch, done with the help of a group of school students:

I caught up with Dave a bit later in the morning, by which point the payload had been recovered after a shortish flight.

Dave, John and Helen

Dave explains to my three-year-old son that the balloon payload has come down in fields by Leighton Buzzard

The chase vehicle tracked and recovered the payload Onlookers were surprised

BBC Radio Leicester interviewed Dave, making for a really interesting five-minute introduction to what a balloon mission involves. BBC Television filmed several interviews, too, including this one, broadcast on BBC Stargazing live the same evening, featuring images of the eclipse captured by the Pis:

My favourite moment is when the balloon bursts, having reached a diameter of about eight metres. Despite the lack of air, as Dave points out, the pop is clearly audible:

If you watched right to the end of the BBC Stargazing interview, you’ll have heard Lucie Green mention another project, this one with the involvement of BBC Weather’s Peter Gibbs. The Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading is running a citizen science programme, the National Eclipse Weather Experiment (NEWEx), to collect data to study small weather changes expected to accompany an eclipse, such as a drop in temperature and changes to clouds and wind. They particularly encouraged schools to join in, and we sent one of our weather station prototypes to the National STEM Centre in York so that they could help a local primary school take part. They installed it on their roof:

Weather station prototype on National STEM Centre roof

Matt Holmes from the STEM Centre displayed data from the weather station alongside a webcam image of the eclipse:

If you’re in the UK and you’d like to watch the (very) brief interview with Peter Gibbs that followed the one with Dave Akerman, you can catch it on BBC iPlayer, starting at 29m40s.

Other people were using Raspberry Pis to take weather measurements during the eclipse too. Cookstown High School in Northern Ireland have set up another of our weather station prototypes; you can see live data from it at, which you can drag to see older data and zoom for more detail. School staff are also tweeting more photos and information about the weather station as @STEAM4schools. Here are its temperature recordings during the eclipse:

PiView Weather Station - 20 March 2015, morning

As you can see, it’s difficult to separate out effects of the eclipse from other temperature variation, which is where NEWEx’s big-data approach will hopefully prove valuable.

One computing teacher planned his Friday morning class’s eclipse observations in our forums, with help from forum regular Dougie, whose own measurements are here, and others. They held an eclipse party before school, and they and others have shared their measurements in the forum.

School eclipse party


We’ve seen a number of timelapse films of the eclipse captured using Pis, too. Berlin Raspberry Jam organiser James Mitchell used a Raspberry Pi to make a timelapse of the 74% eclipse seen there:

It’s really great to see Raspberry Pis used in such a variety of ways to enhance people’s experiences of a rare and remarkable astronomical event, and particularly to see the involvement of so many schools. Did you use a Raspberry Pi for observations during Friday’s solar eclipse? Tell us in the comments!

Build a Precision Voltage Reference Box

via Hackaday » hardware

So you just scored a vintage piece of test gear, or maybe you just bought a fancy new DMM (Hmm…We love that new multimeter smell!) But can it read voltage accurately? How can you be sure? Well, that’s why you should build yourself a voltage reference box.

Youtuber [Scullcom’s] latest video has you covered. Wants some specs? Sure. How does a precision 10v and 5v output with only ±0.025% and an amazing 2.5ppm/°C sound? That’s very impress for something you can cobble together yourself.  We find it interesting that he actually uses some ebay parts to pull off this build. The LiPo battery, USB LiPo charging circuit, and boost regulator are all sourced from ebay. Not to worry though, as these parts are only used to supply power to a 15 volt linear regulator. The real magic happens in the Texas Instruments REF102 precision voltage reference. You give it a decently clean 12-36 volts, and it will give you a 10 volt reference out.  These amazing chips are able to obtain such precision in part because they are calibrated (or more specifically “laser trimmed”) from the factory. A secondary output of 5 volt is achieved by using a differential amplifier.

Warning: The video after the break is a bit on the long side(43 mins), so you might want to make some popcorn. But we find [Scullcom’s] teaching style to be lovely, and he does a wonderful job of explaining the project start to finish, soup to nuts.


Filed under: hardware

Free Circuit Cellar magazine February 2015

via Pololu - New Products

Get a FREE copy of Circuit Cellar magazine’s February issue with your order while supplies last. To get your free issue, enter the coupon code CIRCUIT0215 into your shopping cart. The magazine will add 6 ounces to the package weight when calculating your shipping options

Free Circuit Cellar magazine December 2014

via Pololu - New Products

Get a FREE copy of Circuit Cellar magazine’s December issue with your order while supplies last. To get your free issue, enter the coupon code CIRCUIT1214 into your shopping cart. The magazine will add 6 ounces to the package weight when calculating your shipping options

Actobotics Stairclimber Challenge Winners!

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Back at the end of January, we announced the Actobotics Stairclimber Challenge. We received a bunch of great entries, but ultimately had to pick a select few to take home the loot. Here they are, in all their glory!

First place ($500 SparkFun Credit): The Jaeger Family

Second place ($250 SparkFun Credit): Chris Begley

Third place ($100 SparkFun Credit): Chad Giddings

Honorable mention: Robert Paradiso

Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations to the winners – and great work on the ‘bots!

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An open hardware quartz crystal microbalance for ultra high mass sensitivity

via Arduino Blog


Marco Mauro is a physicist currently employed as Scientific Coordinator at Novaetech, the first Spin-off Company of the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Italy. He shared with us all the info about a project he’s been working on  and based on Arduino Micro.

OpenQCM is a fully open source scientific microbalance capable of weighing mass deposition down to 1 billionth of gram:

The sensing core of the microbalance is a piezoelectric quartz crystal oscillator. The deposition of a very tiny mass on the surface causes the variation in the quartz frequency. openQCM belongs to a new generation of innovative smart sensor which boast high resolution and ultra high mass sensitivity. The open source strategy made the creation of openQCM available at low cost which represents a bit fraction of the cost of similar scientific products.

openQCM was built keeping in mind the emergent principles of the open source hardware movement. The open source hardware gives people the freedom to control their technology through the open exchange of all the project features, 3D design, electronics and software. The open hardware potentiality is even greater when it comes to hardware for scientific applications.

openQCM is exactly something like that, the first open hardware quartz crystal microbalance with applications in a wide range of scientific fields, such as chemical and biological sensing, material science.

openQCM has an Arduino Micro board inside at heart. By hacking the timer counter of the AtMega32U4 Arduino microcontroller, it is possible to measure the quartz crystal frequency variations using the 16 Mhz microprocessor clock. openQCM team has designed an Arduino Micro shield with an embedded quartz crystal oscillator driver circuit and a temperature sensor. The output of the quartz crystal oscillator driver is fed to the Arduino Micro timer counter and the analog value of the temperature sensor is fed to the analog pin of the board. This configuration allow you measure the quartz crystal frequency with a resolution of 1 Hz, which roughly corresponds to a mass resolution of 700 pg over the entire quartz surface in air.

One of the major challenge of an open hardware project is that such devices require funding to prototype and manufacture. That’s why the openQCM team have selected the 3d printing technology to keep high quality and low cost. Using 3d printing to print out the prototypes via the SLS process from OS Formiga P100, P110, P395, and P730, the openQCM team created the device’s parts, which required a precision down to 60 µm.

The open source concept made openQCM publicly available so that anyone (scientists, technology enthusiast, makers, hobbyist …) can study, modify, and develop the hardware based on the original design. openQCM is now working and ready to win the heart of the scientific community and more.

Go and make one yourself!


Arduino Day is Coming!

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Arduino Day 2015

Arduino has been an undeniable force that has helped power the Maker Movement and the DIY electronics community for a decade. Countless projects and builds have an Arduino development board at their heart. So it is with a hefty dose of geeky glee that we announce our participation in Arduino Day 2015!

Arduino Day is an international event inviting people to share projects, stories and get involved with electronics. We’ve got a few things planned that we are very excited about - we hope you can join us!

alt text

First, to kick off the event, we’ve partnered with Atmel and their “Tech on Tour” initiative to bring some awesome workshops to SparkFun the day before Arduino Day, March 27th, 2015. Atmel will be on site at SparkFun from 8am to 4pm, doing presentations, demoing cool Arduino-powered robots, and hosting workshops about the new Arduino Zero.

SparkFun will be selling some Arduino and Arduino Compatible boards on the truck, at the Arduino Day sale prices (a sale, you say? More on that below!). We’ll are also providing Atmel with some raffle prizes which they will give away during the day.

The Tech On Tour event is free and open to the public – but we do ask that you register ASAP so we can have an idea of how many people to expect. This is Atmel’s second time coming by SparkFun, and if it’s any thing like the first, it’s going to be awesome!

Now on to the sale! On Arduino Day itself, starting at 12:01 a.m. MDT 3/28/2015 and running until 11:59:59 p.m. MDT 3/28/2015, we’re offering heavy discounts on some of our favorite Arduino and Arduino-compatible boards and Arduino accessories. So what’s on sale? Let’s take a look…

First, the ubiquitous disclaimer - please remember: all sales are WHILE SUPPLIES LAST! That means no backorders. Arduino and Arduino-compatible boards have a limit of two per customer (that means two of each product - not two total). Note, also, that some of these products are showing out-of-stock, but will be in stock day of.

Arduino Pro Mini 328 - 5V/16MHz

$ 9.95
Arduino Uno - R3

$ 24.95
SparkFun RedBoard - Programmed with Arduino

$ 19.95
Arduino Pro Mini 328 - 3.3V/8MHz

$ 9.95
Arduino Uno- R3 SMD

$ 29.95
Arduino Pro 328 - 5V/16MHz

$ 14.95
Arduino Pro 328 - 3.3V/8MHz

$ 14.95

So, for the Arduino and Arduino compatible boards, we’re going to have Arduino Pros (both 3.3V and 5.5V) for $9.95. Uno’s (both SMD and regular ol' R3) are going to be going for a hot $19.95. Pro Mini’s (of the 3.3 and 5V variety) are gonna go for $6.95.

Finally, we’ll have SparkFun RedBoards, a dev board that combines our favorite features of several Arduinos into one tidy package, going for $14.95! **Please remember: All sales are WHILE SUPPLIES LAST! That means no backorders.

Is that all? Not…even…close! Here are all the other awesome products that are going to be running at discounts. These products have the same rules about while supplies last and no backorders, but there is no limit on how many you can grab - have at ‘em!

SparkFun FTDI Basic Breakout - 5V

$ 14.95
SparkFun FTDI Basic Breakout - 3.3V

$ 14.95
CAN-BUS Shield

$ 39.95
SparkFun MP3 Player Shield

$ 39.95
SparkFun Weather Shield

$ 39.95
Break Away Headers - Straight

$ 1.5
SparkFun XBee Shield

$ 14.95
Breadboard - Self-Adhesive (White)

$ 4.95
SparkFun Ardumoto - Motor Driver Shield

$ 24.95
SparkFun ProtoShield Kit

$ 9.95
SparkFun WiFi Shield - CC3000

$ 39.95
SparkFun Cellular Shield - SM5100B

$ 99.95
SparkFun WiFly Shield

$ 69.95
SparkFun microSD Shield

$ 14.95
Arduino and Breadboard Holder

$ 3.95
USB Cable A to B - 6 Foot

$ 3.95
Ardumoto - Motor Driver Shield Retail

$ 29.95
Arduino Stackable Header Kit

$ 1.5
SparkFun USB Host Shield

$ 24.95

$ 14.95
SparkFun Music Instrument Shield

$ 29.95
SparkFun MIDI Shield

$ 19.95
SparkFun Vernier Interface Shield

$ 24.95
SparkFun MegaShield Kit

$ 17.95
SparkFun Electric Imp Shield

$ 19.95
SparkFun Joystick Shield Kit

$ 12.95
SparkFun MiniGen - Pro Mini Signal Generator Shield

$ 29.95
SparkFun EL Escudo Dos

$ 24.95
SparkFun Power Driver Shield Kit

$ 19.95
SparkFun GPS Shield

$ 14.95
SparkFun Touch Shield

$ 14.95
SparkFun RFM22 Shield - 434MHz

$ 29.95
SparkFun PoEthernet Shield

$ 39.95
SparkFun RFID Evaluation Shield - 13.56MHz

$ 19.95
SparkFun LiPower Shield

$ 29.95
SparkFun OpenSegment Shield

$ 14.95
SparkFun Mini FET Shield

$ 19.95
SparkFun PWM Shield

$ 19.95
SparkFun VoiceBox Shield

$ 39.95
Modkit MotoProto Shield

$ 29.95
SparkFun TransmogriShield

$ 14.95

Phew, that’s a lot! We hope there is something on there that tickles your fancy…and don’t forget to join us either March 27th for Atmel’s visit or the 28th for our Arduino Day Sale!

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Raspi-LTSP is now PiNet: easily manage a Raspberry Pi classroom

via Raspberry Pi

Helen: Over the past year and a half, Raspi-LTSP has become very popular as a simple and easy-to-set-up way of managing Raspberry Pi users and files in a classroom setting. Today its 18-year-old developer Andrew Mulholland launches PiNet, the new incarnation of this very valuable, free, open source project. He’s written us a guest post to tell you more about it.


For nearly two years now, I have been working on RaspberryPi-LTSP. The goal setting out was clear: a simple, free and easy-to-use system for schools that allowed them to manage their Raspberry Pis more easily.

So today I am proud to announce PiNet, the replacement for RaspberryPi-LTSP. The idea for PiNet/Raspi-LTSP was spawned out of a workshop I was teaching two years ago in a local primary school. The workshop ran over two days and I had forgotten to install a piece of software on all the SD cards before cloning them. I also had somehow to remember which student’s work was on which SD card so I could hand it out to them the next day. Logistically, managing it was a bit of a nightmare! And I only had one class of kids to worry about.

How can you manage students’ work when you have perhaps hundreds of different students using a set of Raspberry Pis in a week? Does each student get assigned her or his own SD card? And what happens when those SD cards need to be updated with the most recent software update?

After many (many) hours of work researching possible solutions, I came up with a proof-of-concept script. The script used LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) to build a virtual Raspbian operating system on a server, then let Raspberry Pis network boot off it. I released this on GitHub back in September 2013 not expecting much to come of it. Rather surprisingly, people slowly started playing around with it, I started getting emails with new ideas and I discovered there was an interest in the project.

PiNet classroom with lapdocks

A PiNet classroom, using Motorola lapdocks to provide display, keyboard and trackpad

200+ commits and 3000+ lines of code later, the feature list has grown after a huge amount of feedback from educators right across the world.

PiNet’s features include:

  • Network-based user accounts, so any student can sit down at any Raspberry Pi in the classroom and log in
  • Network-based operating system, so if you want to change the operating system (for example, by adding a new piece of software), you just edit the master copy on the server and reboot all the Raspberry Pis
  • Shared folders to allow teachers to share files with students
  • Automated backups of students’ work
  • Automated work collection/hand-in system
  • Super-easy to set up and maintain
  • Completely free and open source.

PiNet is a replacement for Raspi-LTSP, not an upgrade, so if you’re already running Raspi-LTSP, you’ll need a new installation to get PiNet running on your server (PiNet will automatically update your SD cards the first time you boot up your Raspberry Pis after installing it, so you don’t need to make any changes to those yourself). To make everything as easy as possible, a migration utility has been included in every Raspi-LTSP release since November to allow you to migrate user data and files to PiNet; read the migration guide for help doing this.

PiNet desktop

The Raspberry Pi desktop with PiNet is like the one you’re used to

Here are some of the things that other people have said about PiNet/Raspi-LTSP:

PiNet is already used across the world in over 30 different countries. To give it a go in your school, all you need is an old computer, a router and some networked Raspberry Pis! To get started, head over to the PiNet website at and hit Get Started!

The Oldland CPU 32-bit FPGA Core

via Hackaday » hardware

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) let you program any logic you’d like onto a chip. You write your logic using a hardware description language, then flash it to the FPGA. You can even design your own processor and flash it to the chip.

That’s exactly what [jamieiles] has done with the Oldland CPU. It’s an open source 32 bit CPU core that you can synthesize for use on an FPGA. Not only can you browse through all the Verilog code in the Github repo, but there’s also a bunch of tools for working with this CPU core.

Included with the package is oldland-rtlsim, which lets you simulate the processor on a PC. The oldland-debug tool lets you connect to the processor for programming and debugging over JTAG. Finally, there’s a GNU toolchain port that lets you build C code for the device.

Going one step futher, [jamieiles] built a full SoC around the Oldland core. This has SPI, UART, timers, and more features you’d expect to find in a microcontroller. It can be flashed to the relatively cheap Terasic DE0-Nano board.

[jamieiles] has also ported u-boot to the processor, and the next thing on the list is the Linux kernel. If you’ve ever been interested in how CPUs actually work, this is a neat project to look through. If you want more open source CPU cores, check out OpenCores.

Filed under: FPGA, hardware

It’s about us: meet the people working at Arduino

via Arduino Blog


Today we are adding to Arduino website a new important page. It’s called About Us and presents all the people working at Arduino, side by side with the Arduino founders, from different locations around the world.

Our big team, with its multifaceted skillset, takes care of the complexity of an open-source hardware project like Arduino, made by the Hardware, the Software, the Design of all the artifacts and the user experience, the coordination of these activities by the Management, and of course the work with its Community of volunteers and enthusiasts.

This almost invisible works helps Arduino thrive and hopefully makes it easier for you to learn electronics and have fun!

Come meet us on March 28th in all the official locations of Arduino Day!


New Product Friday: The Build Upons

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Hello again. This week we have a few products and a couple product-specific videos. Don’t worry, the Friday New Product Post Video didn’t go away, we just did individual videos again this week. Let’s get right to it, here are the products for this week.

Build Upons LED - PTH (10 Pack)

$ 9.95

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could integrate LEDs into your Danish-made interchangeable plastic building block system? The Build Upons let you do exactly that! They snap directly into your favorite name-brand building bricks and work like a normal LED. Each 10 pack comes with 2 of each of 5 colors. Want to see them in action? Check out this video:

Teensy LC

$ 12.95

The Teensy LC is a breadboard-friendly development board with loads of features in a, well, teensy package. The LC is a low cost version of the popular Teensy that has a lot of the same features, but at a lower price. The processor on the Teensy also has access to the USB and can emulate any kind of USB device you need it to be, making it great for USB-MIDI and other HID projects. The 32 bit processor brings a few other features to the table as well, such as multiple channels of Direct Memory Access and an I2S digital audio interface! There are also 4 separate interval timers plus a delay timer! It’s a cool little board.

 FEZ Spider Tinker Kit

$ 159.95

The FEZ Spider Tinker Kit is a 100% open-source (hardware and software) .NET Gadgeteer compatible mainboard running .NET Micro Framework. This tinker kit enables users to program the FEZ Spider and its add-on modules from Microsoft’s Visual Studio using C# or Visual Basic, allowing developers to take advantage of the extensive built-in libraries for networking, file systems, graphical interfaces, and peripherals. Nick put together a little demo and explains what’s included in the kit. Let’s watch.

Classic Nick. That’s it for this week. We’ll be back again next week with more new stuff, so be sure to check back then. Thanks for reading and watching.

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Dear Arduino community, we need to talk

via Arduino Blog

This is the message Massimo Banzi’s just published on the forum.


Today is the day of a solar eclipse, some of these are once in a lifetime events.

Arduino is definitely one of the events that will define my life along with many other people’s life.

I’m feeling incredibly blessed to have contributed to create this amazing community which gathered around the idea that we can empower people to master complex technologies and unleash their ability to create with them.

Dear community I’m sorry I didn’t comment earlier, I was keeping quiet to try to find a resolution to our internal issues that would not damage you, the community.

We’ve been so committed to keep the issues internal that for a year we haven’t receiving any royalty from the boards made in Italy, but we continued to work hoping to find a solution. I’ve told the story to Make read it if you want to know more.

Now the other party has abandoned the negotiating table and, after a lot of recent events, the cat is out of the bag. I owe you to be part of what is going on.

We created Arduino based on a set of values that have enabled the community to grow, touch any kind of people and contribute to changing the world a bit.

I am here to say that we will continue to fight so that Arduino stays true to those values. There is only one Arduino and there is only one Arduino community. We’re strong, we’re having a positive impact on so many people’s life.

We have so many news we want to share with you but be patient until Arduino Day, let’s celebrate together the amazing community we are (261 Global events!!!) , and you’ll know more.

I’m sure you have a lot of questions an we’re going to try to answer them in due time, compatibly with the fact that lawyers are involved and I can’t say too much.

An eclipse is just a temporary moment of darkness, but soon after the sun comes back shining.

The sun is about to come out, wear your sunglasses!!

Massimo Banzi with David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe , David Mellis