Tag Archives: ArduSat

Ardusat gives young Makers control of satellites in space

Ardusat lets students to launch experiments in space and collect data from an orbiting satellite.

Ask any classroom of kids what they want to be when they grow up, and undoubtedly a few imaginative youngsters will answer emphatically with “astronaut!” With that lofty goal in mind, Salt Lake City-based startup Ardusat has partnered with satellite-based data provider Spire to launch a program that would bring space exploration to the classroom, allowing students to use programmable sensors onto satellites. And sure, while satellites may conjure up images of bus-sized contraptions, many of those now going into orbit are nearly the size of a softball.


As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, Ardusat is a first-of-its-kind open satellite platform that enables students to easily design and run applications, games and experiments in space, while also steering onboard cameras to take pictures. Since being first successfully launched back in August 2013 and transferred onto the ISS, Ardusat has already found its way into more than 40 schools that incorporate its space kits. What’s more, the company recently attained $1 million in seed funding from Space Florida, Fresco Capital, Spire and other undisclosed investors, and hopes to use the money to expand its program.


Ardusat is designed to give ordinary people the chance to easily program and control over 25 different integrated sensors including spectrometers, barometers, magnetometers, radiation measurement devices, gyroscopes, accelerometers and thermometers. Aside from those, each kit contains an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), a breadboard, LEDs, jumper wires, resistors and a USB cable.

The space kits mimic the function and size of actual satellites that are currently overhead. Once students complete their project inside the classroom, Ardusat tests their codes and sends the so-called “CubeSat” to one of the actual satellites. These CubeSats then orbit the Earth at nearly five miles per second, collecting a variety of data that students can actually use.


While a classroom full of space kits may cost over $2,500, the curriculum and the online resources are available for free. Beyond that, an individual unit, which designed for three to five students working together, will only set you back $150. Interested in learning more? Head over to their official page here.

Creating a machine to track activities in lower Earth orbit

SATELLITEN works by tracing the paths of satellites in real-time on a paper map.

Satellites are used for nearly all modern-day achievements, from communication and navigation systems to environmental monitoring and military purposes. Since the launch of the Sputnik 1 in 1957, more than 6,600 of them have gone into orbit, of which about 3,600 remain in space with only 1,000 or so still operational today. Yet, GPS accounts for just 24 of these active extraterrestrial objects. That’s why Berlin studio Quadrature has developed a custom-built machine that is capable of keeping tabs on the number of satellite flyovers and plotting them in real-time.


SATELLITEN works by tracing the satellite pathways on a paper map with pen, all within a 10 centimeter square area, as they fly overhead. By scribbling the journeys in ink until each capsule leaves the horizon will eventually result in an almost entirely blacked-out square, or as its creators call it, “a temporal window, showing the seemingly arbitrary but highly structured activities in lower Earth orbit.” The device uses its own position as a starting point and old atlases of the area as a benchmark for its drawings, while relying on a database maintained by the U.S. Air Force to track the lines of satellite activity.

“For a long time, maps and atlases used to be one of the only sources for geographical knowledge. Now the paths of the satellites start to form on top of the familiar neighborhoods, thus setting the normally invisible traffic in relation to our usual habitat. But as time passes the lines of the satellites will obliterate the well-known streets and cities, overwriting not only the information the map originally contained but as well the marks left by the preceding satellites,” the team shares.


In order to make this project possible, Quadrature used a number of stepper motors, motor drivers and sensors, which were driven by a combination of Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Interested? Check out the project’s official page to learn more.

Rewind: 13 products inspiring the next generation of Makers

With Computer Science Education Week in full swing and the holidays just around the corner, we’ve decided to list some of our favorite creations from this year that are inspiring the next generation of Makers to not only tinker around, but pursue STEM disciplines.



Created by Ayah Bdeir, littleBits was launched with hopes of making DIY hardware accessible to everyone of all ages. While making things with electronics can be a difficult feat, the company’s open-source, modular components easily piece together to form larger circuits. Young Makers can even connect real world ’things’ to the Internet, program IFTTT recipes, and sync it all to an Arduino using its ATmega32U4 powered module.



Drexel University professor Pramod Abichandani and a team of three undergraduate students recently developed the ATmega32U4 driven LocoRobo, a low-cost robot capable of being wirelessly programmed with minimal to no effort. Born out of his own frustrations with bots, Abichandani aspires to advance programming and robotics education for everyone — from first-graders to more experienced Makers — by combining a world-class programming ecosystem with a high-quality device.

Chibitronics Circuit Stickers Starter Kit


With Chibitronic stickers, young DIYers are able to make nearly any surface glow, sense or interact. An imaginative and simple way to create fun electronics projects, the kit not only allows users to easily affix their circuit sticker to a number of materials, but can even connect conductive materials like copper tape or even conductive paint to create elaborate designs, art project and entertaining birthday cards. What makes Chibitronic unique is its ability to converge the familiarity of stickers with electronic components, such as LEDs, sensor circuits and programmable MCUs (ATtiny85).

MaKey MaKey


Think of MaKey MaKey as an invention kit for the 21st century, which gives young Makers the power to transform ordinary objects into Internet-connected touch pads. Powered by an ATMega32u4 MCU, the MaKey MaKey has been on the scene since Jay Silver successfully funded the project back in 2012, attaining nearly $570,000 in Kickstarter pledges. When a user touches an object that is hooked up to the board via alligator clips, i.e. a banana, a connection is made which sends the computer a keyboard message. In essence, the computer considers MaKey MaKey as a regular keyboard (or mouse), meaning it can work with pretty much all programs and webpages.



Developed by UX design from Slice of LimeNübi aims to teach basic programming skills to kids of any gender. The creation is described by its creator as an Internet-enabled toy that takes the form of a creature who just arrived on our planet and needs to be taught about everything, from colors to music to temperature. The toy is embedded with a series of sensors that enable it to wirelessly communicate like an RFID chip with other devices in its environment, such as a motion detector or light sensor. Kids use an accompanying flower-like wand, equipped with an [Atmel basedArduino-controlled RFID reader, to talk to Nübi.



A group of Harvard University researchers have developed an $11 tool to educate young Makers on the fundamentals of robotics. Dubbed AERobot (short for Affordable Education Robot), its team hopes that it will one day help inspire more kids to explore STEM disciplines. The bot  can move forward and backward on flat surfaces, turn in place in both directions, detect the direction of incoming light, identify distances using infrared light, as well as following lines and edges. With a megaAVR 8-bit MCU as its brains, most of its other electronic parts were assembled with a pick-and-place machine, and to reduce costs some more, used vibration motors for locomotion and omitted chassis. AERobot is equipped with a built-in USB plug that also allows it to be directly inserted into any computer with a USB port.

ArduSat Space Kit


Ask any classroom of kids what they want to be when they grow up, and undoubtedly a few imaginative youngsters will answer emphatically with “Astronaut!” With that lofty goal in mind, Spire (formerly Nanosatisfi) launched its ArduSat program to bring space exploration to the classroom. ArduSat is the first open satellite platform that enables the general public to design and run applications, games and experiments in space, while also steering onboard cameras to take pictures on-demand. More specifically, ArduSat is designed to give ordinary people – like students  – the chance to conduct experiments by controlling over 25 different integrated sensors including spectrometers, magnetometers, radiation measurement devices, gyroscopes, accelerometers and thermometers. With its space kit, ArduSat is supplying individual classrooms all of the tools they need to carry out space exploration. Each set contains an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), a series of sensors, LEDs, and other components. By linking the sensors to the Arduino, students can measure levels of temperature, luminosity, and magnetic fields. Currently, more than two dozen schools are using ArduSat, with plenty more to follow.



While the team may not have been able to garner its $105,000 Kickstarter goal, ScratchDuino is an incredibly customizable and accessible robot-building platform that any young Maker would find helpful in their tinkering endeavors. The educational platform’s ease of use will help foster the robot design process for Makers both young and old. Featuring plastic encased parts designed for extended durability and kid resiliency, ScratchDuino includes two light sensors, two contact sensors, two reflective object sensors, and an infrared eye. At its heart lies an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) programmed with the Scratch language, which was developed by MIT.

XPlorerBoard Student


Recently launched on Kickstarter, the XPlorerBoard Student is described by its creators as a fun and quick way to learn electronic circuits and programming. This revolutionary electronics system easily plugs into a Mac or PC, which enables Makers to run programs on its built-in ATmega328 MCU, which is also preloaded with the Arduino bootloader. The XPlorerBoard’s iPad and Android InventIT application features over 50 inspiring experiments, ranging from motion-activated burglar alarms to ping-pong video games.

Bare Conductive


When you think of painting, electricity isn’t probably the first thing that comes to mind. However, Bare Conductive is changing the game with its ATmega32U4 based Touch Board that lets Makers transform nearly all materials and surfaces into a touch sensor. Simply connect anything conductive to one of its 12 electrodes and trigger a sound via its onboard MP3 player, play a MIDI note or do anything else that you might do with an Arduino or Arduino-compatible device. Meanwhile, Bare Conductive’s Electric Paint — which works with a wide-range of materials from plastic to textiles — provides a great platform for discovering, playing, repairing and designing with electronics.



Coming off an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, Pi-Bot is a uniquely designed and affordable kit for anyone interested in building and programming robots. Designed by the STEM Center USA crew, the hands-on learning platform is based on the versatile ATmega328. 

According to STEM Center USA CEO Melissa Jawaharlal, the team designed the Pi-Bot from the ground up to optimize functionality and ensure affordability to its widespread audience, ranging from students to experienced engineers. The kit currently uses standardized C programming language (specifically meant for its Maker-oriented audience), and offers flexibility with its modular chassis, and line following and ultrasonic distance sensors.

Hummingbird Duo Robotics Kit


BirdBrain Technologies (a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff) recently debuted its Hummingbird Duo, a robotics kit powered by an ATmega32U4. The Duo controller serves as the core of all new Hummingbird kits, with a second Atmel chip, an ATtiny24A, tasked with controlling motors and servos. Part of the fun of constructing a robot with this innovative kit is that it’s building material agnostic, meaning a Maker can anything that may be lying around!



Mirobot – created by Ben Pirt – is an an ATmega328 powered DIY robotic kit designed to help teach children about technology. Not only is the open-source bot fun to build and simple to start programming it to draw shapes, the chassis is laser cut and snaps together quite easily. Once connected to a Wi-Fi network, Makers can browse through its on-board webpage and experience its Scratch-like visual programming tool. In fact, Mirobot can even be be programmed in several different ways, including a web-based GUI which is similar to LOGO, albeit with drag and drop.

ArduSat launches, open-source in space!

Ardusat is the first open satellite platform that allows the general public to design and run applications, games and experiments in space, while also steering onboard cameras to take pictures on-demand. More specifically, ArduSat is designed to give ordinary people – students, teachers and individuals – the chance to conduct experiments by controlling over 25 different integrated sensors including spectrometers, magnetometers, radiation measurement devices, gyroscopes, accelerometers and thermometers.

As planned, ArduSat was successfully launched on August 4th.

The satellite’s destination? The International Space Station (ISS).

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Nanosatisfi CEO Peter Platzer recently told NPR that Atmel-powered Arduino technology was key to Ardusat’s philosophy.

“I’ve really wanted to use something that everyone across the world can use, that has wide appeal to everyday people,” Platzer explained. “There really was no alternative.”

Indeed, Arduino boards are used to power a wide range of electronic designs and DIY hobbyist creations including robots, desk lamps, environmental sensors, 3D printers and now, even satellites.

Arduino-based satellites for the homebrew masses

Arduino boards are used to power a wide range of electronic designs and DIY hobbyist creations including robots, desk lamps, environmental sensors, 3D printers and even satellites.

Indeed, the San Francisco-based Nanosatisfi is currently prepping two Arduino-powered satellites (ArduSat) for launch on an unmanned HII-B rocket, which Kickstarter backers have “rented” to snap pictures, broadcast a message or conduct experiments, including monitoring radioactivity levels generated by space phenomena such as sun storms and background activity.

According to Nanosatisfi CEO Peter Platzer, Arduino technology is key to the company’s philosophy.

“I’ve really wanted to use something that everyone across the world can use, that has wide appeal to everyday people,” Platzer recently told NPR. “There really was no alternative.”

To be sure, ArduSat is designed to give ordinary people – students, teachers, individuals and enterprises – the chance to carry out experiments by controlling over 25 different sensors integrated in the unit, (spectrometer, magnetometer, radiation, camera, gyroscope, accelerometer, temperature, etc.)

As noted above, the goal of the ArduSat project is to make space accessible to consumers, relatively cheaply.

Unsurprisingly, Atmel-powered Arduino boards are also widely used in the art world, with Alberto Gaitán, a Washington, D.C.-based artist, telling NPR  that Ardunio’s popularity is “growing, and growing fast.”

For example, an artist by the name of Joyce Yu-Jean Lee told NPR she wanted to use the Arduino in her next video art project.

“I’ve been wanting for a very long time – since graduate school – to work with sensors to make my videos interact with the viewers,” she explained. “I’ll have a solo show in the fall. I think I can get it down by then.”

And why not? As Arduino’s Massimo Banzi says, you don’t need anyone’s permission to make something great.

Hardware Innovation Workshop kicks off the run-up to Maker’s Faire

Maker’s Faire can probably best be described as the ultimate DIY electronics show. Held at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds, the event is a huge science fair for the general public, where Do-It-Yourselfers take center stage and roam around unleashed (usually on their segways), wearing propeller beanies and flashy LED pins.

Atmel will be attending the festivities, so be sure to check us out at booth #625 where we’ll have MakerBot demos and an “IoTorium” – an emporium of awesome Internet of Things devices. We’ll also be showcasing PuzzleBox’s brain-controlled helicopters, alongside the cool riders from Faraday Bikes, smart watches and hackable Hexbugs.

In the meantime, we thought you’d enjoy a quick rundown of the Hardware Innovation Workshop, which kicked off the Maker Fair festivities last night. A number of startups were on the premises showing off their impressive wares, including Spark Devices, Dash Robotics, Nano Satisfi and Lockitron.

The Spark Core is an Arduino-compatible, Wi-Fi enabled, cloud-powered development platform designed to simplify the development of Internet-connected hardware.


The device, which recently tipped up on Kickstarter, managed to hit its initial funding goal within 75 minutes and has thus far raised $276,420 – with 17 days to go.

Meanwhile, Dash is the world’s first foldable, programmable, origami robot that you can build yourself. Inspired by nature, the lightweight Dash runs like the world’s fastest animals and fits in the palm of your hand.


NanoSatisfi strives to offer affordable access to space exploration with the baseline ArduSat (Arduino – satellite). Essentially, Nano Satisfi is the first open platform allowing the general public to design and run their own space-based applications, games and experiments – all while steering onboard cameras and snapping pictures.


The baseline model of the satellite uses Arduino Nanos mounted on a custom PCB, although the NanoSatisfi crew is also eyeing the most recent Arduino models like Leonardo, Due and Megas.

And last, but certainly not least, the aptly named Lockitron allows users to secure their doors from anywhere in the world with their smartphones, while allowing instant access to be shared with family and friends via a two-button app.


Lockitron can be controlled by API endpoints, or programmed directly thanks to its Arduino-compatible ATMega microcontroller.