Tag Archives: Arduino Pro Mini

Make an automatic ice fishing jig

An automated spin pike decoy for DIY ice fishing.

If you’ve spent most of your life in a relatively warm climate, chances are you think of ice fishing as sitting inside a shack with a line through a hole in the ice, waiting for a fish to bite. Although this type of fishing is certainly done in northern climates, its more violet cousin, spear fishing, is also accomplished using a jig to attract actual fish to the “spearing zone.”


The exciting part of this would seem to be actually “catching” the fish, and making the jig bounce around is likely quite boring. Naturally, this problem is best solved using an Atmel-based development board, an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) in this case, to automatically control the jig via a small hobby servo.

The fishing setup featured on JigBuddy.com is a relatively simple build, and should cost around $50 for the parts. A potentiometer controls the jig’s speed, while an on/off switch powers the Arduino board directly, saving complication over using it as an input.

Though a relatively easy build, there is some project box cutting involved, so if you care more about catching fish than finishing an interesting project, that’s also an option to buy one for just under $90 plus shipping and handling. Perhaps your machine could also be used as a cat toy during the summer!



Watch this 3D-printed sculpture create an optical illusion

Math and art come together to blow your mind.

A group of German Makers have developed an animated, kinetic sculpture that produces a controlled 3D zoetrope optical illusion. Flux was designed to play with the eye’s perception of space and depth without using any sort of strobe or camera. Simply turn it on and watch it ‘deform.’


As you can see in the video below, a 3D-printed hemisphere rotates at a certain speed while emitting a specific light frequency based on the Fibonacci sequence. (For those unfamiliar with this sequence, it begins with zero then one, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.)


Inside the device lies an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) that controls the motor speed by checking the actual speed with a Hall sensor and an Arduino Mini that shutters its 20W LED 48 times per second.

Be prepared to have your mind blown…

This tennis racquet grunts like Sharapova (and others) when you swing it

A racquet that makes quite the racket.

Conventional wisdom says that tennis players grunt because it helps them apply the maximal force when they strike the ball. However, don’t be fooled, these noises are totally unnecessary and downright annoying. In fact, there are top names in the game like Maria Sharapova whose screams routinely top 100 decibels. This has led many, including the legendary Martina Navratilova, to call into question whether or not the behavior is actually a form of cheating.


Cognizant of this, Maker Seiya Kobayashi has come up with a hilarious solution for this problem: a racquet that does the grunting for you. You simply select one of four notable noisemakers — Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal — and the aptly named Grunting Racket will take care of the rest.


This allows you to focus on your footwork and hitting the ball, while the combination of an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328), an accelerometer and speaker emits the obnoxious sounds. Additional components include a LiPo battery, an Adafruit Audio FX Sound Board and a button on the grip that lets you choose the player. These electronics are all housed inside the racquet’s handle. Kobayashi employed both Arduino and Processing sketches along the way to prototype his idea.

How it works is fairly simple: When a value from the accelerometer exceeds a particular threshold, the sound board will play one of the four tones. You can see (and hear) it action below!

[s/o to fellow tennis players Artie Beavis and David Scheltema]

Adding more range and LEDs to an electric longboard

This Maker added more battery, more range and LED underlighting to his electric longboard. 

Boosted boards are electric skateboards that when used by Andrew Rossignol got about seven miles of range out of the box. This worked great when he lived in New York City, but after moving to Silicon Valley, Rossignol needed more range to reach his office, now 10 miles away.


Naturally, the Maker didn’t accept this limitation and added 288Wh of high-discharge lithium-ion batteries to the 99Wh of batteries that came with the board. With this extra power, he was able to travel over 13 miles on his first ride, ending with a “fuel gauge” that still read 20%.

This would have been impressive enough, especially given his great explanation of his battery choice and wiring scheme, but he didn’t stop there. Instead, he decided to add LED lighting controlled by an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) in the form of programmable strips. These were attached to the sides and front of his board.


For the color, he came up with what he calls “Boosted Orange” to match his board, also known “#FF1900” in more specific terms. For now he only has one animation programmed for the strips, but has plans to make more, and is even considering adding an inertial measurement unit. This would allow the board to sense motion and sync the lighting accordingly. That certainly sounds like an amazing effect, so hopefully he’ll be able to make that modification!


Intrigued? You can check out Rossignol’s project here.

Optimizing crop irrigation with Arduino

To optimize crop yield, this group of Makers developed an Arduino-based irrigation system that uses sensors and a weather station.

As part of a recent hackathon in Madrid, one team of Makers created a grid system to optimize crop field irrigation through an array of soil moisture sensors and a weather station.


Crop Squares (inspired by alien crop circles) was initially conceived as a way to make the irrigation process both sustainable and efficient by continuously reading and sending sensor data. However, the ultimate goal is that that one day, the system can implemented in developing countries and rural areas with scarce resources.

For its prototype, the group employed an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) along with moisture sensors in potted plants to detect moisture levels, and a Raspberry Pi was used to garner weather data for the area under surveillance. Meanwhile, data was wirelessly transmitted through an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module. As a way to show off its automated potential, an Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32U4) was tasked with reading another moisture probe and activating a servo motor that pushed up a water bottle to perform the irrigation process, whenever levels dipped below a predefined threshold.


The project features a graphical touchscreen user interface running Dizmo software that shows a map of the field along with collected sensor measurements. Rectangles assigned to each soil sensor change their colors (green, yellow and red) depending on moisture levels. According to its creators, the display could even share weather station results for that area in real-time.

On the backend, the Makers compiled Node.js runtime and installed the Node-RED workflow tool to deliver sensor information via the IBM Bluemix IoTF MQTT Broker. They also wrote Python scripts based on Adafruit’s libraries to read data from the weather station sensors and broadcast them through MQTT.


Intrigued? Check out their entire project here.

This smartwatch strap turns hand gestures into commands

Carnegie Mellon University’s Human Computer Interaction Institute has come up with a way to translate hand movements into commands for your smarwatch.

Most smartwatches today have tiny touchscreens, which aren’t always the easiest things to navigate. As a way to make browsing menus, answering calls and reading messages more intuitive, a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Institute have developed a prototype gesture-sensing strap that can see inside a wearer’s arm and track the movements of their muscles. While it may still be a while before such a product is commercially available, Chris Harrison and Yang Zhang are well on their way to making it a reality.


The concept is based on electrical impedance tomography (EIT), a technique commonly found throughout medical and industrial settings. However, these devices are large, expensive and cumbersome to wear. What you will notice is that Harrison and Zhang’s unit, named Tomois exponentially smaller and less invasive, allowing it to be integrated into consumer electronics typically worn your wrist, like a smartwatch strap.

A simple EIT setup involves one emitter that sends out a high-frequency AC signal captured by a receiver. This data can be used to calculate the impedance between the electrodes and interpreted as desired. Multiplying and multiplexing the number of emitters and receivers can produce many path combinations and subsequently generate a two-dimensional map of an object — or in this case, the muscles inside a user’s wrist. With enough measurements gathered, an image of inside the arm can be mapped and analyzed in a way that’s quite similar to PET and CT scans.


To test their theory, the researchers built a prototype band with eight electrodes that each send a small electrical signal through the wearer’s arm, and then capture its strength coming out the other side. An Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) was interfaced with a bio-impedance sensing board, and transmitted the calculated impedance to a laptop over Bluetooth.

Although the images generated by Tomo are pretty low-res, they are still able to provide enough detail for a machine learning program to distinguish between a wide variety of hand and finger gestures being performed, such as swiping, pinching, giving a thumbs up, or our favorite, the Spider-Man.

As a proof-of-concept, Harrison and Zhang modded a Samsung Gear watch to demonstrate how Tomo can augment interactions with nothing more than hand movements. For example, envision being able to sift through a list of messages, and grasping to open one or stretching your fingers to close it. Or picture answering the phone by doing nothing more than clenching your fist and dismissing an incoming call with a flick of the hand. Pretty cool, right?

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s paper here, or see it in action below!

Open your garage door with this DIY keypad

Tired of being locked out of your house? Build an Arduino-powered keypad.

SamJBoz often found himself in the same predicament: he would arrive home, only to realize that he didn’t have his garage remote. Subsequently, like any good Maker would do, he decided to design a simple keypad with a four-digit access code that would grant entry to him, his family and any other friends he’d wish to give quick access whenever a handheld remote was not available.


He’s been using the system for roughly a year now, and has yet to encounter any problems. The device itself runs on a 5V Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328), and consists of a 4×4 keypad, a small custom PCB and a few other electronic parts.

The keypad allows for up to 10 four-digit pin numbers, has a user set master pin number to create and delete user pin numbers, and flashes two-color error codes if something goes wrong.


Have you ever come home to find the door locked and your keys elsewhere? Well, luckily SamJBoz has provided all of the documentation and files on GitHub so you too can build your own and avoid finding yourself in those situations.

1:1 interview with Hackaday Prize finalist MW Motors

Did you know that 80% of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel? With only days left until we learn which project will walk away with this year’s crown, we recently sat down with each of the potential winners to get to know them better. 

The problem that LUKA EV is attempting to solve is a rather big one. Mindful that internal combustion engine cars pump billions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere each year, this group of Makers has set out to devise an open source platform that’ll unlock the possibility for cost-competitive, all-electric automobiles to be built and sold locally, on a global scale. The brainchild of MW Motors, the electric vehicle — which should land somewhere in the ballpark of $22,445 when all is said and done — is capable of achieving top speeds of around 80 mph and a range of over 185 miles. Although the concept of an e-car is a far cry from new, using in-wheel hub motors to power it isn’t so ordinary.

What’s more, this project will introduce a revolutionary technology to the production line, reducing weight and eliminating a great deal of unnecessary parts along the way. LUKA EV will feature head, side, indicator and brake lights, door handles, wing mirrors, windshield wipers and everything else you’d find on its more conventional counterparts. As for charging, it can be plugged into any household wall socket and juiced back up in a few hours.


We had the chance to sit down with MW Motors founder Maurice Ward to get his thoughts on the project, the Hackaday Prize and what the future has in store for the groundbreaking platform.

Atmel: What is LUKA EV?

Maurice Ward: The LUKA EV is an attempt to build the first highway capable electric car driven by in-wheel hub motors.

Atmel: How did you come to the idea for such a vehicle? Moreover, what inspired you to enter the contest with your project?.

MW: We’ve been curious for a while about why no one has made a car using in-wheel hub motors. And the mission of the Hackaday Prize matched perfectly with our philosophy: we want to “build things that matter,” particularly in the so-called green space.

Atmel: Speaking about the Hackaday Prize’s theme, how are you hoping LUKA EV changes the world?

MW: The goal with LUKA EV is to prove that electric cars can compete with Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars with no subsidies. If a group of Makers can build a production car that can compete well with established auto manufactures in terms of price and quality, we will be able to demonstrate that our concept has merit. Aside from that, open sourcing pretty much everything allows anyone to follow along, and if what we do works, anyone can set up a production site in their shed — or build a massive factory — and easily replicate our process. If hub motors work, cars will be fundamentally lighter. This matters. Lightness is critical. Getting EU certification will ensure that our documentation is of such a high standard that Makers, designers and car enthusiasts alike will be able to use the instructions and construct cars on the platform themselves.


Atmel: What’s different about LUKA EV’s process opposed to those employed by car manufactures? What’s your vision for the next five years? Where do you see the project going or what/who would you hope will pick up the project and use it?

MW: As eluded to above, it’s the world’s first production car that utilizes in-wheel hub motors — that’s pretty different. In the next five years, our vision is to not only reveal that the method works, but to become EU certified and eventually sell some vehicles. Once that’s achieved, we hope many other people will begin building the car or others based on the LUKA platform. The more people that create a car and share it on the platform, the better it will get. We hope big car makers do something similar. Our mission is for electric cars to compete on a level playing field with an ICE car; as a result, the e-car should be as good as and as affordable as today’s common set of wheels.

We do not mind if individuals, small companies or major multinationals copy our ideas. We hope everyone is inspired by our project. We have already proven that a car can be designed, built and made highway legal in under a year for very little money. Everyone said that was impossible. We are not just making cars, we are proving that anything is still possible with a minimal budget yet rich in commitment. Great things can still come out of sheds even if governments do their best to tilt everything toward big organizations.

Atmel: As we know, the Maker Movement has opened the door for everyone from hobbyists to tech enthusiasts to hardcare engineers to tinker around. What’s your personal background?

MW: Personally, I have owned a company for the last 20 years. It does diverse things, primarily warehousing and transportation but some transformational manufacturing as well. My experience has shown me that it’s difficult to do anything in big companies. “The organization” (in general) is great at some things. However, bringing a good idea to life quickly is not something an organization is particularly good at. This is especially true if the idea happens to be something large, such as a car.

There is a team of people involved with the LUKA EV. In addition to myself, there are four guys who work at the IT department in my company, each of whom have donated their time to the project. Various other employees and friends have also contributed their time, ideas and expertise. We have now employed one full-time person and one contractor to work full-time on the project.


Atmel: What are some of the core pieces of hardware embedded?

MW: Well being that it’s a car, there’s a lot of hardware! The chassis, the body, the battery pack, the in-wheel hub motors, steering, suspension, brakes, the list goes on. Much of our work has been spent designing and creating the control systems for the various bits of hardware. For example, the BSM we designed uses 16 Arduino Pro Minis (ATmega328).

Atmel: What hardware products or projects are you also building at the moment?

MW: In addition to the LUKA EV, we are working on four other projects. A wind turbine, a solar generator, a foldable ocean freight container and a graphene super capacitor. All projects (bar the super caps) are described on Hackaday.io.

Atmel; Why pick Atmel chips?

MW: They were the obvious choice. We have years of positive experience working with Arduino. It is a very good starting point. It is an easy way to get great results quickly.

Atmel: What advice would you offer other Makers when getting into hardware and embarking on a new project?

MW: The number one thing is to have fun. Any other advice really depends on the project you’re involved in. If it’s just for enjoyment, just make sure you have fun. If you;re setting out to make an actual product that may be sold someday, think about the end game before you start. Think about hard things like certification. Think about serial or mass production. You need to design a product for mass production. Designing a functional prototype that has not considered for mass production means you have to start at the very beginning again if you want to actually produce it. Oh, and…. Have a budget and stick to it! Projects can get terribly expensive.

Aside from that, be inclusive and try to build a team. Yet, keep in mind that someone has to have the vision and be the leader or else nothing will ever happen. Teams sometime just mean a talking shop. Remember: building is about doing stuff, not talking about stuff!

Also, jot down a list of objectives before embarking on the project. Stick to them like they are a religion. If yo let one slip, suddenly they all slip… Getting a project finished is more about project management than about your actual building skills. Do not pay too much attention to negative comments online. Most of these come from people who have never made anything before. Just know that whatever it is you are doing, it is likely that someone thinks what you are doing is amazing. Do the project for you and for those who think it is amazing — even if that is just one other person!

Atmel: Any plans to launch a startup and perhaps even take to Kickstarter/Indiegogo?

MW: We definitely won’t be launching a Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding campaign. We are not looking for any investors at this time. However, we have already started a company. Another project goal is to show that things can be done on a shoestring budget. We certainly do not want to spend other peoples money. We have seen too many car projects that burn through hundreds of millions with no results. We will prove that cars can be built and sold without the need for massive equity, and will do so without any debt. Whatever we do will be done with our own money — and hopefully with some Hackady prize money!


Atmel: We couldn’t have planned that segue if we tried. So, if you do win the grand prize, are heading to space or taking the cash?!

MW: We have to take the cash. Cash will be used to ensure that the platform can be maintained for years to come.

Atmel: Anything else you want to tell us and our followers?

MW: The knowledge of the entire world is available to you via the Internet. Our car build would have been impossible without it. The body of our car came from Gaming. We bought a 3DS file for USD $100. That was the body fully designed in 3D. That probably saved us two years and possibly millions of dollars in design costs. The web allowed us find off-the-shelf suppliers of almost all components implemented in the LUKA EV. Suppliers from all over the globe are now available at the touch of a button. We’re lucky that we have 3D printers, welding, FRP, hardware and software skills. But, even if you do not, all these things can be found in seconds with a simple Google search. If you know nothing about a topic, you can be up to speed in a day even on complex topics just be reading all the scientific data that is freely available. In other words, the web enables normal people in sheds access to information and a supply chain that multinational companies could only have dreamed about 30 years ago. The Internet makes everything possible and it takes away all the excuses.

HaD should be encouraged. I see governments all over the world funding research. Some of the papers I read that are the result of hundreds of millions of dollars in “collaborative research” are a little sad. The research takes five years and the result is that they conducted a bunch of surveys, and possibly did some deeply scientific, non-practical research. I wonder what would happen if the Maker community got support like that? I hope more and more people join Hackaday, as it will help improve basic skills and set the stage for everyday people showcase the things they can make.

Don’t miss our other interviews with fellow HaD Prize finalists Chris LowOpenBionicsEric WilliamEyedrivomaticRadu MotisanReiner van der Lee and Rory Aronson!

1:1 interview with Hackaday Prize finalist Reinier van der Lee

Did you know that 80% of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel? With only days left until we learn which project will walk away with this year’s crown, we recently sat down with each of the potential winners to get to know them better. 

As a result of California’s latest drought situation, farmers are finding themselves cutting back on water consumption. The same goes for growers harvesting crops with relatively low water requirements, such as wine grapes. And while the IoT has yielded a number of H2O-conscious smart irrigation devices into the agricultural market, California vineyard-owner Reinier van der Lee has taken a DIY approach by developing a sensor-driven conservation system. Impressively, he was able to save 25 percent, or 430,000 gallons, of irrigation water resulting in a cost reduction of $1,925 — not too shabby for a platform that only cost roughly $600 to implement.


Atmel: What is Vinduino?

Reinier van der Lee: The Vinduino project (Vineyard + Arduino) develops low-cost, easy-to-build and rugged tools for optimizing agricultural irrigation, helping to save at least 25% irrigation water. Project deliverables to date include DIY gypsum soil moisture sensors, a handheld reader and a remote sensor platform for continuous monitoring of soil moisture. There is ongoing development and collaboration to optimize and automate irrigation.

Atmel: What inspired you to start the Vinduino project?

RL: The Vinduino project started out of necessity to make the irrigation in our Temecula vineyard more efficient. We had irrigation managed by our vineyard management company. They decided when and how long to irrigate. My concern, apart from the labor cost, was that I had no control over water use in another year of severe drought.

Atmel: Moreover, what inspired you to enter the contest with your project?

RL: Due to the continuing drought in California, measures were implemented to restrict urban water use. For example, you can only wash your car at a carwash, and lawn sprinklers are restricted to three times per week. I realized that agricultural use of available irrigation water is five times more than urban use (8 million acre feet for urban use versus 42 million acre feet for agriculture). Subsequently, saving on agricultural irrigation is much more effective.

Although I was already sharing Vinduino details on my vineyard blog, entering the contest helps my goal to promote to a wider audience and find more opportunities for collaboration.


Atmel: In line with the Hackaday Prize’s theme, how are you hoping Vinduino changes the world? What’s the mission?

RL: Drought is a global problem. 36 countries are in a permanent state of drought, and global warming is likely to make things worse.
This project provides the tools and lessons-learned to make agricultural irrigation more efficient. The data we collected in our vineyard shows that 25% saving is achievable, while maintaining crop production. Entry level setup is a handheld reader and a couple of gypsum sensors. Assuming high volume production, total cost can be kept to less than $25.

Being able to save this much water at such a low cost has the benefit of making Vinduino applicable regardless of the socio-economic circumstances. In fact, poor farmers in India can benefit just as much from this project as gentleman winegrowers in California.

Atmel: Surely, Vinduino isn’t the first water-conscious conservation system out there… what makes it different? What’s your vision for the next five years? Where do you see Vinduino going or what/who would you hope will pick up the project and use it?

RL: During this project we collected sufficient data points to show that the savings potential was indeed realized. Soil moisture projects for Arduino are abundant. However, Chinese-made moisture sensors do not survive very long in the field. I came up a gypsum sensor that uses stainless steel electrodes. They are simple to build, low cost, and most of all, have proven longevity.

Another Vinduino improvement is measuring soil moisture at different levels, in and below the root zone. This setup allows you to manage irrigation water to stay within the root zone, not drain below the roots where it is off no use to the plants, thus further increasing irrigation efficiency.

I found that my gypsum sensors, and the same is true for commercial Watermark sensors, can produce their own voltage (concentration cell effect), causing a misreading of moisture level on the Arduino. I have not seen this reported before, and have changed the reader interface to cancel this effect out.

With improved irrigation efficiency, there is a risk of salt deposit in the root zone. Increased soil salinity is sometimes called “silent killer”, as it can significantly affect plant health and reduce crop production. The Vinduino handheld meter can also be used as a soil and water salinity meter. Best of all, it only requires header pins for salinity probe electrodes; additional cost for adding salinity measurement is only a few cents.

Understanding irrigation during a plant growing cycle takes time. Collecting more data and collaboration will provide more insight and ideas for further optimization. The next step is to provide a “ready to use” agricultural irrigation management solution that can be implemented fast and easy. Being a finalist in the Hackaday Prize is already a head turner and will hopefully open doors to design and manufacturing opportunities.


Atmel: As we know, the Maker Movement has enabled everyone from hobbyists to tech enthusiasts to hardcore engineers to tinker around. What’s your personal background?

RL: I am educated in electronics and avionics engineering. However, early in my career I decided to pursue product marketing. Too many interests for one single lifetime; ham radio, computers, winemaking, grape growing, Arduino and I used to play bass guitar.

Atmel: What are some of the core pieces of hardware embedded?

RL: The Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) is the core component of my project. The Vinduino handheld reader is basically an Arduino and a display. For connectivity, I use the popular ESP8266 Wi-Fi module, and for long range, I like using the Appcon modules. To keep average power consumption low, I employed a RTC module to wake up the Arduino from deep sleep.

Atmel: What hardware products or projects are you also building at the moment?

RL: The Vinduino project is not done. There is ongoing development and collaboration to optimize and automate irrigation. Currently, I consider using an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and Electric Imp as the central node for multiple vineyard measurement and irrigation controller nodes.

Atmel: Why pick Atmel (and Arduino) chips?

RL: Many companies try to make products for the Maker community, but only a few “get it” like Atmel. I am hardware oriented, and only just recently became capable of writing C++ code for the Arduino. I would not have been able to be where I am today with this project, if there had not been a supportive community with forums and solution examples to learn from.

Atmel: What advice would you offer other Makers when getting into hardware and embarking on a new project?

RL: My answer is basically the same as the one to the previous question. It’s important to pick a development platform with a supportive community and open source hardware, so competition keeps costs at a reasonable level. Especially for sensor projects where you do not need measurement updates every second, go for a power efficient solution rather than powerful processors.


Atmel: Any plans to launch a startup and perhaps even take to Kickstarter/Indiegogo?

RL: If there’s any lesson to be learned from making it to the top 10 of both Hackaday Prize and Hackaday Best Product category, it is that you should aim for the moon to make it into space. So yes, I am not dismissing anything. I am openminded and excited about future opportunities to further develop the Vinduino Project.

Atmel: And… if you win, will you be heading to space or taking the cash?!

RL: Winning a trip to Shenzen sounds already good to me. Anything beyond that, I’ll make that decision when I get there.

Atmel: Anything else you want to tell us and our followers?

RL: Participating in the Hackaday Prize has been an awesome journey. Thanks to the contest, this project transformed from a vague idea to improve irrigation for my own purpose, to a clearly defined project that has the potential for improving many lives. As a result, the goal of achieving water savings became more important than the means (getting the project to work technically), making the project more meaningful.

Don’t miss our other interviews with fellow HaD Prize finalists Chris LowOpenBionicsEric WilliamEyedrivomatic and Radu Motisan!