Category Archives: Maker Movement

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.


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.”


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


“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.


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]


What’s the temp in your house? This Arduino-based Nixie tube thermometer will tell you

Because every engineer loves a good Nixie tube thermometer.

If you want to know the temperature, normal digital thermometers, or increasingly the Internet, are usually good enough. Visually though, it’s hard to beat the warm glow and retro look of a Nixie tube. What better way to display this than with a three-digit tube display like Luca Dentella’s build.


His process is outlined in a series of 10 posts that can be found here, or you can just skip to the completed version. The “brain” of this display is a Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4). It uses a thermistor-style temperature sensor, which has a resistance than changes depending on the temperature, to tell how hot it is.

The display is, of course, three nixie tubes. The first thing that’s interesting about the setup is that the third tube shows “°C.” Dentella is using an “IN-19A” tube for this purpose, which can also reveal a number of other symbols. In this case, it shows the degrees Celsius value at all times.

The other interesting part of this design, besides the generally clean layout and printed circuit board use, is that each tube has a programmable LED under it. This allows for a unique coloring, and could certainly have produce many interesting visual effects. Perhaps in another life, this type of display could serve as a sound level meter, with the LEDs pulsing on and off to the beat of the music.


This 3D-printed, Arduino-powered robotic mower will take care of your lawn for you

Build your own Ardumower for less than $300.

Mowing the lawn; it’s a nice slice of solitude and exercise for some, and an arduous task for others, to be avoided at all costs. If you fall into that second category, then the Ardumower might be for you. According to its description,“With this download project you can build your own robotic lawn mower at a fraction of the cost that one would have to apply for a commercial one.”


The mower itself is an interesting build, with a nicely sloped canopy and driving wheels that resemble something found inside of a clock. Housed inside is an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and a motor driver board for control. Two 12V electrical motors are used for locomotion around a yard, while another motor turns the cutting blade.

The robo-mower is kept within your yard using a boundary wire fence to tell it when it has reached the limits of its domain. As seen in the video below, it also has some obstacle avoidance capability, though it would likely be best to keep it in an area free from animals, children, and irresponsible adults!

If you want to assemble one yourself, you can do so for about $250-$300 — a fraction of the cost of its commercial counterparts. A manual, which is available for $12.16, claims to give step-by-step directions to build your own Ardumower (or maybe two for larger lawns!), as well as info on how to create the boundary fence.