Official Arduino Day: Call for volunteers, projects, talks

via Arduino Blog

If you live in Boston (USA), Torino (Italy), Malmo (Sweden), Budapest (Hungary), Bangalore (India) you could come and participate to one of the 5 official Arduino Day events on Saturday, March the 28th by our local offices and hosted at MIT Media Lab:

And there is more! You can take part of the event not only as a visitor but also as  a protagonist. Today we’ve opened the call for volunteers, projects and talks. You’ll be having fun with us and Arduino!

Are you interested? These are the requirements:

– Must be comfortable with simple Arduino hardware and software
– Must be able to explain Arduino concepts to visitors without overwhelming them with technical details ;)
– Must be able to engage in friendly conversations with strangers

We’ll offer as a token of appreciation an official Arduino t-shirt, lunch, and a discount coupon for our online store!

Are you interested? Fill the form. We’ll ping you back! Thanks!

According to Pete #41: Boost Regulators

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Pete’s back! Last month’s episode on buck regulators and home LED lighting was a hit, so this time around Pete is continuing the discussion with an explanation of boost regulators. As a bonus, you get to watch Pete’s Yoda coffee cup magically relocate itself around the desk throughout the video.

Leave any questions in the comments, and we’ll have another According to Pete for you next month!

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Announcement: Creative Technologists 2015-16

via Raspberry Pi

Hey everyone!

After much preparation we are super happy to announce an exciting new project from the Raspberry Pi Foundation.


Creative Technologists

The Raspberry Pi Creative Technologists is a mentoring programme for creative people interested in technology aged 16 – 21 years old. If your passion is the creative arts, and you’re wondering how you can use technology to enhance that, this is for you.

Ben and I are heading up the programme, and the first year will run from April 2015 to April 2016. We will provide individual and group mentoring via online video chats, industry networking and technical support. It’s free to participate. As well as costs of food, travel and accommodation, each participant will also receive a Raspberry Pi 2 starter kit and a £300 materials grant, and the group will receive a £1000 grant for exhibition costs.

Applications are now open and the deadline is 9am on 31st March 2015.

We are both certified Arts Award Gold Advisers – so participants will have the opportunity to complete Trinity College London’s Arts Award Gold accreditation; a Level 3 Award, a QCF credit value of 15, and 35 UCAS points.

We will also have some amazing partners helping us out with mentoring and site visits: Victoria and Albert Museum Digital Programmes, Writers’ Centre Norwich, FutureEverything, Pimoroni, Saladhouse and Hellicar&Lewis.

For full details on the programme, and how to apply, visit the new Creative Technologists page.

Connecting a telegraph with 21st century networks

via Arduino Blog


Twitter telegraph is a project by Devon Elliot making telegraph sounder tap out Twitter messages using Arduino Uno. It’s an interesting attempt to connect technology rooted in the 19th- and early 20th-centuries with 21st-century networks:

A local architectural heritage project spawned a wider interest in railways and roundhouses. One of the related technologies of railways in the 19th century was the telegraph. Having acquired an old telegraph sounder, we wondered if it could tap out Twitter messages.

An Arduino UNO was used to test and control the telegraph sounder. The coils on the telegraph were tested with power drawn from the Arduino’s 3.3V and 5.0V pins. Momentarily powering the telegraph from the Arduino confirmed that the coils still worked, and the device made satisfying clicks in response from the electromagnetic action of the coils.

With it confirmed that the telegraph is still operable, the Arduino UNO was then used to control the sounder. Mark Fickett’s Arduinomorse library was a quick route to controlling the telegraph in Morse code timing. Using that library, string characters are converted into Morse code, and a digital pin on the Arduino goes high and low, as if to turn an LED on and off. That pin became the control pin for the telegraph, and simple circuit was built using a transistor, resistor and diode to control the telegraph without damaging the Arduino’s digital pins. This circuit is common for connecting relays to Arduinos.

The final step was adding an Adafruit FONA to the Arduino. The FONA connects to cellular phone networks, and the Arduino UNO can interact with it by sending and receiving actions to and from the FONA. In this case, the FONA connects to the cellular network and the Arduino checks the FONA periodically to see if there are any SMS messages available. If there are, the Arduino starts to read through them, convert them to Morse code, and tap them out on the telegraph.

The completed device can be operated from batteries if necessary, providing operation anywhere a cellular signal can reach. The cellular connection provides wireless connectivity with the FONA handling the connection, rather than the Arduino.

To package it up, the Arduino UNO and FONA were attached to a piece of acrylic. That board was then mounted under the telegraph sounder’s resonator. Four holes were pre-existing in the resonator’s base and used for mounting, so no permanent alterations were made to the historic components.

See it in action:

OK Google, Open Sesame

via Hackaday » hardware

There are a myriad of modern ways to lock and unlock doors. Keypads, Fingerprint scanners, smart card readers, to name just a few. Quite often, adding any of these methods to an old door may require replacing the existing locking mechanism. Donning his Bollé sunglasses allowed [Dheera] to come up with a slightly novel idea to unlock doors without having to change his door latch. Using simple, off the shelf hardware, a Smartwatch, some code crunching and a Google Now app, he was able to yell “OK Google, Open Sesame” at his Android Wear smartwatch to get his apartment  door to open up.

The hardware, in his own words, is trivial. An Arduino, an HC-05 bluetooth module and a servo. The servo is attached to his door latch using simple hardware that looks sourced from the closest hardware store. The code is split in to two parts. The HC-05 listens for a trigger signal, and informs the Arduino over serial. The Arduino in turn activates the servo to open the door. The other part is the Google Now app. Do note that the code, as he clearly points out, is “barebones”. If you really want to implement this technique, it would be wise to add in authentication to prevent all and sundry from opening up your apartment door and stealing your precious funky Sunglasses. Watch a video of how he put it all together after the break. And if you’re interested, here are a few other door lock hacks we’ve featured in the past.

Filed under: Android Hacks, hardware

AMA with SparkFun CFO Rich & Modular Robotics

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

SparkFun’s CFO is a human man named Richard Parker. In addition to being the king of occasionally-sensical, riddle-based company-wide emails, Rich is in charge of inventing and enforcing the numbers that keep SparkFun in business (no pressure, pal).

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Here is Rich giving his welcome lunch & learn after joining SparkFun, which he delivered in a beautiful evening gown.

By now you are probably full of questions for Rich, including but not limited to, “What’s it like sharing a name with a fictional shipwrecked tiger?” so this is a good time to let you know that at 3:00 MT today, Rich is hosting an AMA on our YouTube channel! You can ask him questions in the comments; the video is below.

Since the theme of this AMA is the Business of Electronics, we also have a special guest joining us! Lucas is the financial director for Modular Robotics, local friends of SparkFun and creators of the Cubelets and MOSS robotics systems. He’ll be joining Rich to answer your questions about the business behind the business; it promises to be an adventure & we’ll see you at 3:00!

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Introducing the Qduino Mini!

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

SparkFun is no stranger to the world of Kickstarter. In April 2014, we partnered with GeekAmmo to bring you the incredible MicroView, a chip-sized Arduino-compatible module that absolutely smashed its fundraising goal. We also brought you the MaKeyMaKey, another wildly successful Kickstarter project, which we helped design and manufacture.

So when Quin Etnyre, of Qtechknow fame, approached us with his great idea for the Qduino Mini, we were excited to get involved. Quin tagged us as an ideal manufacturer of his design because of our commitment to open source (the Qduino Mini is 100% open sourced) and our chops in the world of Kickstarter fulfillment.

We’ve known Quin for several years (and in fact sell many of his ArduSensor Learning Kits). Not only is he a talented hardware designer for a 14-year-old, he’s just a plain ol' talented hardware designer.

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Meet the Qduino Mini

The Qduino Mini is a tiny, Arduino-compatible board with some really cool features perfect for hundreds of embedded designs. The board includes the following features:

  • A battery charger circuit - Just plug into USB and it charges the battery with the auto switching circuit - there’s no extra charger needed & no digging the battery out of your project.
  • A battery fuel gauge - Tired of guessing when your project will run out of juice? We’ve got you covered - it has a simple monitor library for your battery so you can remind yourself when it needs a little extra juice.
  • An ultra-small, ultra-thin, ultra-light design - The Qduino Mini itself is 1in x 1.5in (2.6cm x 3.9cm) & 0.18oz (5 grams), perfect for quadcopters, drones or high-altitude balloon projects. Both the Qduino Mini and the batteries (LiPos) used to power the board are super compact & thin, just right for embedding in your projects.

Check out Quin’s Kickstarter video to learn more about this great board:

As we mentioned above, the entire design is open source (which we love!), so you can customize and change it to suit your needs.

Click Here to Get Your Qduino Mini!

We are very excited about Quin’s latest design, and we hope you’ll join us in supporting this great new product! Head over to Quin’s Kickstarter page for lots more details on the board and to grab one of your own!

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Welcome James to our Education Team

via Raspberry Pi

If you visited us at the Bett Show in January, or came to Picademy in October or February half term, then you will recognise James Robinson as one of our education team volunteers. He is a well-established member of the Computing At School community, as both a CAS Master Teacher and CAS Hub Leader for Cambridge. He is also a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and a frequent attendee of Cambridge Raspberry Jams.


I’ve known James for roughly a year now. He is a hugely successful and experienced teacher whose opinion I have sought on regular occasions. We also seem to keep bumping into him at Computing education events like the CAS Conference, and PyconUK as well as at community events like Piwars. It seemed like we were destined to work together!

James says:

I have always enjoyed tinkering with technology and understanding exactly what’s going on under the surface. To learn more, I studied Computer Science at university, and graduated with first class honours. This enhanced my passion for the subject, and I worked at IBM for a while. I initially trained as a maths teacher, but within a term I was leading an ICT department in a middle school, and offering training to non-specialists. Most recently I worked at Soham Village College as lead teacher for Computing. I am very excited about the introduction of Computing to KS3 and 4, and enjoy testing and developing projects with students. My current interests and projects include: using Raspberry Pi in the classroom, Minecraft Pi, Sonic Pi and High Altitude Ballooning. Looking forward to working on the weather station and getting more schools involved with Pi in the sky!

As part of the Foundation’s Education Team, James will be writing educational resources for the website (especially schemes of work for teachers of KS4), as well as continuing to assist with Picademies and other outreach. James has the best case I’ve ever seen for all his Raspberry Pi bits and bobs, and as soon as I saw it I knew he would fit in around here.



SparkFun Inventor’s Kit (for Arduino Uno) – V3.2

via Pololu - New Products

The SparkFun Inventor’s Kit has everything you need to construct a variety of circuits that will teach you how to use an Arduino Uno to read sensors, display information on an LCD, drive motors, and more. No previous programming or electronics experience is necessary, which makes this a great way for beginners to get started with embedded systems. Version 3.2 adds a new Simon Says circuit with all the LEDs and tactile buttons needed to complete it.

Nordic NRF24L01+ – Real vs Fake

via Hackaday » hardware

[zeptobars], the folks behind all the decapping hard work and amazing die shots are at it again. This time they decided to look under the hood of two identical looking Nordic nRF24L01+ chips.

The nRF24L01+ is a highly integrated, ultra low power (ULP) 2Mbps RF transceiver IC for the 2.4GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) band. Popular, widely used and expensive – and the counterfeit foundries are drawn to it like honey bees to nectar. But to replicate and make it cheaper than the original, one needs to cut several corners. In this case, the fakes use 350nm technology, compared to 250nm in the original and have a larger die size too.

These differences mean the fakes likely have higher power usage and lower sensitivities, even though they are functionally identical. The foundry could have marked these devices as Si24R1, which is compatible with the nRF24L01 and no one would have been wiser. But the lure of higher profits was obviously too tempting. A look through Hackaday archives will dig up several posts about the work done by [zeptobars] in identifying fake semiconductors.

Filed under: hardware

A collective instrument capturing breathe with paper windmills

via Arduino Blog


Cata Sopros is interactive sound installation running on Arduino Uno and created by Elas Duas, a multidisciplinary studio based in the city of Guimarães (Portugal). If you translate the title from portuguese it means: Breathe Catchers. In fact the project is a collective musical instrument made with paper windmills transforming the users’ breathe into sounds:

The windmills have inbuilt electret microphones that were connected to an Arduino Uno. The sensor data was then sent to MaxMSP and the sounds were played with Ableton Live. The video was shot at the cloister of the beautiful Alberto Sampaio museum in Guimarães, Portugal.

Enjoy the video:

What’s All the Fuss About Lithium Batteries?

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Lithium batteries are intertwined with so many of our electronics, anywhere from cell phones to battle bots to our circuit boards. How can you not purchase these? Over the last couple of months, you may have noticed a delay with our order processing if you purchased any number of our lithium batteries. But…why?

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These little puppies are what’s causing all the trouble.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is responsible for creating laws for anything that goes up in the air. Groups like TSA and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are branches that have more specialized rules: TSA oversees transportation for people and businesses and IATA deals with lots of international trade including the handling of dangerous goods. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has similar rules and provides us with all of the guidelines for shipping using a ground service. Lithium ion and lithium metal just so happen to be on the long list of items labeled as a dangerous good, which means putting these in a box for shipping requires a bit more special handling.

The rules and specifications are long and incredibly dry to read, so hopefully this can be made as fun as possible. The first thing we have to look at when there is a battery is how is it packaged, and then what the watt hour rating is. Packing is broken down to the following groups: Battery Only, Packed With Equipment, and Packed In Equipment. Once we know that information, we follow a complex-looking chart from IATA to see what category it falls into. The one below is for lithium ion.

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Yay flowchart!

You will notice in each of the boxes at the bottom they have a PI, or packing instruction, along with a Section. This directs you the big IATA regulation book for even more specifications on how many can ship and what documentation and stickers are needed.

Here is what the process looks like from inside SparkFun: We receive your order and it is flagged for review putting the order into the famous “Exception” status. Each order is reviewed by a human in Customer Service to see what types of batteries have been ordered, where it is shipping and what method is being used for delivery. Not all lithium ion batteries can ship in the same package if it is shipping via an air method (2 day, overnight, international, etc.). Additionally, some shipping carriers have limited the destinations to where lithium metal batteries can ship internationally. Once all of those things have been taken into consideration, we put together the documentation that needs to go on the outside of the package, including the stickers that indicate there is a lithium battery in the box.

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Sticky situations always call for stickers.

To be able to sell these batteries to you we have gone through process changes, as well as Hazardous Materials training. It has taken a lot of work to go through all of our items that are batteries by themselves, batteries packed with a kit, or battery installed in an item to figure out what is required for it to ship. While this has been a very manual process for us, we are working on automating how the order is reviewed. This means that in the future, orders with batteries will have a lot less delay before they’re shipped out.

If you are one of the many customers who have placed an order with us containing a battery, thank you for hanging in there with us while we iron out all of the wrinkles. We know it has been a difficult process but we will be turning those battery frowns upside down soon. :)

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She said yes

via Raspberry Pi

Matt Broach made this box, which contains a Pi, to propose to his girlfriend Jackie.

Box o' love

She’s now his fiancée. The box does something at the end of this video that made my heart go boom-biddy-boom. Beautiful job, Matt.

Congratulations to you both from everybody at Pi Towers!