This STEM kit will inspire the next generation of inventors


Tio is a new way for kids to play, learn and explore their imagination. 


What do you get when you combine plastic blocks, magnetic wheels and a mobile app? A car that can drive and race around your living room, a merry-go-round that can revolve and flash coded messages, a robot that can lift and carry objects, and a butterfly that can flap its wings, among countless other creations that Tio makes possible

With hopes of “inspiring tomorrow’s inventors,” Tio is a DIY kit that people of all ages can use to build smartphone-controlled gizmos and gadgets out of everyday objects, like recycled and craft materials, old LEGO bricks, obsolete toys and even 3D-printed parts.

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The set includes a pair of motorized building blocks with built-in LEDs, magnetic mounts, two wheels, two pulleys, two adapters, four adhesive tabs, 30 stickers and a personalized storybook that will introduce children to the “imaginary worlds and guide them through their first creations.” It even includes nine pop-and-fold invention templates — a helicopter, a crawler and a windmill, to name a few — to help the youngsters get their feet wet before exploring more advanced materials.

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What’s cool is that you can customize and program your projects wirelessly via Tio’s accompanying iOS/Android app. This app has several modes, each of which enable you to control features like speed, direction, LED colors, rotation and patterns. With a simple tap or swipe of your screen, Makers can configure their project to record and play back movements. Although more experienced users can code their devices, those just starting out will take comfort in knowing that this skill is not required to join in on the fun.

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So whether you’re looking to unleash your creativity with 3D prints, build your own LEGO robot or breathe new life into old toys, Tio may be the connected platform for you. Help inspire the next generation of inventors and head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the team is currently seeking $69,255. The first batch of units is expected to ship in September 2016.

You may need a magnifying glass for this mini ATtiny10 breakout board


“I lost one in the carpet and I’m hoping to find it before the vacuum does.”


The super small ATtiny10 is a high-performance, low-power 8-bit MCU that combines 1KB of Flash memory, 32B SRAM, four general purpose I/O lines, 16 general purpose working registers, a 16-bit timer/counter with two PWM channels, internal and external interrupts, a programmable watchdog timer with internal oscillator, an internal calibrated oscillator, a four-channel A/D converter, and four software selectable power saving modes. The device operates between 1.8-5.5V.

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But what really makes this chip stand out is its minuscule size. Because of this, the ATtiny10 doesn’t use the normal in-system programming port like its much larger siblings. Instead, this particular AVR employs a Tiny Programming Interface (TPI), which only requires power, ground, data, clock and a reset pin. Connecting these pins to the proper programming header is fairly straightforward, and with the right layout, you can cram everything into a breakout board that’s tinier than a typical 8-pin DIP.

Well, this is exactly what Dan Watson has done. The Maker has created a mini breakout board for the ATtiny10 that’s so small, you’ll lose it. “Literally,” he adds, “I lost one in the carpet and I’m hoping to find it before the vacuum does.”

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The PCB itself is 0.25” x 0.325″ and uses 0.050″ header pins. The breakout could actually be made smaller, but turns out, Watson ran into the minimum PCB size limit on OSHPark. Despite its form factor, he was able to include a 100nF bypass capacitor, a power LED and a user LED on pin PB1 — that pin is also the clock pin for the programming interface, so it flashes when the board is being programmed.

Admittedly the board was a bit difficult to use and program, and is “certainly not breadboard compatible due to the small pitch headers.” To overcome this issue, Watson built a small landing pad for it, which adapts the 0.050″ headers to 0.1” headers. The landing pad has a 6-pin TPI programming connector, which enables the ATtiny10 to be configured using the Atmel-ICE development tool.

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In any case, Watson is now the proud owner of a shrunken-down board that can fit pretty much anywhere. And since you can do plenty of things with 1KB, it’ll be interesting to see what the Maker comes up with. Some possible ideas include designing a pint-sized drone, building a swarm of cybernetic bats, showing off your fine soldering skills to friends, making digital fireflies, or simply incorporating it into a project’s PCB by adding 0.050” male headers to the board. Intrigued? Head over to the project’s page here.

Top 10 IoT technologies for the next two years


Gartner has revealed a list of the top technologies that will unlock the Internet of Things’ full potential in 2017 and 2018.


Fresh on the heels of CES and Mobile World Congress shows, Gartner has compiled a list of the top 10 Internet of Things technologies that should be on every company’s radar over the next two years. Among the key takeaways include security, device management and low-power, short-range networks. According to the firm, this handful of principles will have a broad impact on organizations, affecting everything from business strategy and risk management to a wide range of technical areas such as architecture and network design.

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So without further ado, Gartner’s top 10 IoT technologies for 2017 and 2018 are:

IoT Security

The IoT introduces a wide range of new security risks and challenges to the IoT devices themselves, their platforms and operating systems, their communications, and even the systems to which they’re connected. Security will be required to protect IoT devices and platforms from both information attacks and physical tampering, to encrypt their communications, and to address new challenges such as impersonating ‘things’ or denial-of-sleep attacks that drain batteries. IoT security will be complicated by the fact that many ‘things’ use simple processors and operating systems that may not support sophisticated security approaches.

IoT Analytics

IoT business models will exploit the information collected by ‘things’ in many ways, whether that’s understanding customer behavior, delivering services, or improving products. However, IoT demands new analytic approaches. These tools and algorithms are necessary now, but as data volumes increase through 2021, the needs of the IoT may diverge further from traditional analytics.

IoT Device (Thing) Management

Long-lived nontrivial ‘things’  will require management and monitoring. This includes device monitoring, firmware and software updates, diagnostics, crash analysis and reporting, physical management, and security management. The IoT also brings new problems of scale to the management task. Tools must be capable of managing and monitoring thousands and perhaps even millions of devices.

Low-Power, Short-Range IoT Networks

Selecting a wireless network for an IoT device involves balancing many conflicting requirements, such as range, battery life, bandwidth, density, endpoint cost and operational cost. Low-power, short-range networks will dominate wireless IoT connectivity through 2025, far outnumbering connections using wide-area IoT networks. However, commercial and technical trade-offs mean that many solutions will coexist, with no single dominant winner and clusters emerging around certain technologies, applications and vendor ecosystems.

Low-Power, Wide-Area Networks

Traditional cellular networks don’t deliver a good combination of technical features and operational cost for those IoT applications that need wide-area coverage combined with relatively low bandwidth, good battery life, low hardware and operating cost, and high connection density. The long-term goal of a wide-area IoT network is to deliver data rates from hundreds of bits per second (bps) to tens of kilobits per second (kbps) with nationwide coverage, a battery life of up to 10 years, an endpoint hardware cost of around $5, and support for hundreds of thousands of devices connected to a base station or its equivalent. The first low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs) were based on proprietary technologies, but in the long term emerging standards such as Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) will likely dominate this space.

IoT Processors

The processors and architectures used by IoT devices define many of their capabilities, such as whether they are capable of strong security and encryption, power consumption, whether they are sophisticated enough to support an operating system, updatable firmware, and embedded device management agents. As with all hardware design, there are complex trade-offs between features, hardware cost, software cost, software upgradability and so on. As a result, understanding the implications of processor choices will demand deep technical skills.

IoT Operating Systems

Traditional operating systems such as Windows and iOS were not designed for IoT applications. They consume too much power, need fast processors, and in some cases, lack features such as guaranteed real-time response. They also have too large a memory footprint for small devices and may not support the chips that IoT developers use. Consequently, a wide range of IoT-specific operating systems has been developed to suit many different hardware footprints and feature needs.

Event Stream Processing

Some IoT applications will generate extremely high data rates that must be analyzed in real time. Systems creating tens of thousands of events per second are common, and millions of events per second can occur in some telecom and telemetry situations. To address such requirements, distributed stream computing platforms (DSCPs) have emerged. They typically use parallel architectures to process very high-rate data streams to perform tasks such as real-time analytics and pattern identification.

IoT Platforms

IoT platforms bundle many of the infrastructure components of an IoT system into a single product. The services provided by such platforms fall into three main categories:

  • Low-level device control and operations such as communications, device monitoring and management, security, and firmware updates
  • IoT data acquisition, transformation and management
  • IoT application development, including event-driven logic, application programming, visualization, analytics and adapters to connect to enterprise systems

IoT Standards and Ecosystems

Although ecosystems and standards aren’t precisely technologies, most eventually materialize as APIs. Standards and their associated APIs will be essential because IoT devices will need to interoperate and communicate, and many IoT business models will rely on sharing data between multiple devices and organizations.

Many IoT ecosystems will emerge, and commercial and technical battles between these ecosystems will dominate areas such as the smart home, the smart city and healthcare. Organizations creating products may have to develop variants to support multiple standards or ecosystems and be prepared to update products during their life span as the standards evolve and new standards and related APIs emerge.

Interested in reading more? You can find a more detailed version of Gartner’s analysis here.

Maker mods his NERF blaster into a fully-functional Halo 5 MA5D


A DIY weapon for Humans vs. Zombies — with an ammo counter, scope and all!


Jeremy Chang is a big fan of Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ), a live-action game where players try to survive a post-apocalyptic world using soft toys like socks and foam dart guns. Well, in this case, the Maker decided to do something a little different and add another layer of roleplaying to his HvZ experience by modding his NERF blaster to resemble a Halo MA5D assault rifle.

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This device boasts a number of impressive features, which range from a digital ammo counter to a functional scope. Based on the fictional United Nations Space Command weapon, the 3D-printed replica certainly looks ready to obliterate zombies.

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In order to get the iconic shape of the MA5D, Chang used some 3D-printed part to upgrade his blaster. On the inside, Chang employed an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) to detect trigger pulls, a few reed switches in the chamber to determine the current ammo count and an Adafruit 128×64 OLED lit with a NeoPixel LED. (The color on the screen change as the percentage of ammunition goes to zero.) The display even has a functional mission timer and will reveal if the clip is not fully closed. Aside from all that, a 5V scope adds a nice finishing touch to the MA5D prop.

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Intrigued? You can check out Chang’s entire build here.

Reach is an all-in-one 3D printer, laser cutter, plotter and mill


… and it costs less than $300.


If you’re like most of us, chances are you’ve played around with a 3D printer at some point. But as you know all too well, the market only has a few affordable options for the everyday enthusiast: there are the sub-$500 plastic units with non-accesible parts, and then there are RepRaps with their fragile fames that require frequent adjustments. With hopes of solving all of these issues, Nate Rogers and his team have developed the Reacha high-quality, versatile machine with an all-alluminum frame, a large build area, as well as interchangeable modules for cutting, engraving, plotting and milling.

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The Reach has everything you’d expect from a DIY 3D printer kit, such as auto-leveling, a 200mm x 200mm x 215mm volume, a heated bed and a geared extruder. It boasts V-Slot extrusions, Delrin V Wheels and a sturdy frame comprised of 1/8” laser-cut aluminum plates. With an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and RAMPS 1.4 shield at its core, NEMA 17 stepper motors, a precision 8mm lead screw and GT2-20 pulleys, the Reach is capable of achieving 90mm/second print speeds with an accuracy of 50 micron layers. As you would expect, the Reach works with pretty much all 1.75mm filaments ranging from PLA and ABS, to Nylon and NinjaFlex, to faux metal.

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As a Maker himself, however, Rogers knew that a 3D printer in today’s market was a dime a dozen. And so, he and his crew enhanced the Reach’s capabilities using detachable toolheads: a laser for cutting and engraving, a plotter and a light mill, which together create the ultimate all-in-one machine that will be a welcomed fixture on any workbench or at any Makerspace.

An upgrade kit will soon also be available for an extra $70, which consists of a full graphics LCD screen with SD card reader, an MK2 heated bed, a 100K thermistor and an improved power supply. The Reach supports most open source software, including Sketchup, Meshlab, Repetier, Cura and Inkscape, and is currently compatible with Windows and most Mac operating systems.

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Sound like the $259 device for you? Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Rogers and his team have already doubled their $40,000 goal. Delivery is slated for summer 2016.

Have your Arduino let you know when your package arrives


How to program your Arduino to query the FedEx API every time someone comes to your door in order to determine whether that person was delivering a package.


If you’re expecting a package, and can’t be bothered to go to the door to actually check and see who is bothering you, Adafruit has your solution. That’s because they’ve developed a guide, which will teach you “how to program your Arduino to query the FedEx API every time someone comes to your door in order to determine whether that person was delivering a package. Then, you’ll program the board to use the Zendesk API to alert you if a package was delivered.”

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Physically, this task is fairly straightforward, involving only an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) with a Wi-Fi shield (AT32UC3) for communication, and an infrared sensor to detect whether or not someone is at your door. Setting up the software, as you might suspect, is somewhat more involved, including getting a Temboo account, a Zendesk account, and obtaining FedEx developer keys.

If you’re thinking about doing this project, it’s much easier to obtain the FedEx keys than you might suspect, and what you need to do to set everything up is laid out in a step-by-step procedure. On the other hand, if you’re expecting something from UPS or the U.S. Postal Service, you might still need to actually go to the door and see what it is. Besides, you’ll have to get the package eventually!

For another idea on how to interface devices in your house with the Internet, why not check out this Amazon Echo controlled wheelchair experiment?

This system lets you experience the hidden politics of networks in everyday products


Politics of Power explores how a mass-manufactured products could behave differently depending on the nature of its communication protocol. 


If the U.S. presidential election took place tomorrow, and only power strips were running, at least we would now still have a choice of candidates and political ideologies. Shunning the two party system, design consultancy Automato has decided to create a three types of power strips, each with its own method of distributing electricity.

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“With a growing number of networked and autonomous objects as well as the outbreak of fields such as ‘the IoT,’ communication protocols used by connected products are increasingly important as they act as the network’s backbone. Since the end product is ‘black-boxed’ to the user, we often assume that all nodes of a network are equal,”the team writes. “But is it? For example, in a home, two appliances in the same network must be working at the same time, but because of a power shortage, they cannot run in parallel. This bring us to question, who should be given the priority and why?”

Politics of Power is an exploration into these questions on a micro-scale by employing a simple ubiquitous gadget, the multi-plug. These power structures include the generally democratic and physically circular “Model D,” featuring five plugs all running at 220V. In this system, a delegate (socket) is elected and it’s power grows until it’s unplugged. “Model M” is somewhat more repressive, with one plug running at 220v, two plugs at 180v, and three plugs at 110v.

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Finally, the “Model T” power strip is most repressive, with one one plug running at 220v, while the other four have to be content with 5V. They protest their situation at times by blinking power on an off, however the leader can shut power off to them if it so chooses. It is noted that this strip can turn into a “Model D” if the leader is taken out of the equation, though one might suspect another socket would rise to power in a violent power grab.

Politics aside, these power strips are controlled by an Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4), with a phase detector to sense changes in current. Meanwhile, a TRIAC gate circuit is used to control the power output to the sockets.

The whole setup is quite interesting, both visually and as a social commentary. This project offers a simplified way of looking at what’s at stake in debates over net neutrality, peer-to-peer networks, encryption backdoors and other modern-day controversies. And as smart devices continue to emerge throughout our daily, it certainly makes us wonder: Who’s actually in charge of making the decisions? Meaning, what are some of the hidden rules, structures and logic behind products such as power strips that were often thought of as being ‘neutral?’ You can see the results in the video below.

[h/t Creative Applications]