Tag Archives: ATmega32

Maker hacks a Sphero into a mini Star Wars BB-8

Well, it didn’t take too long before a Star Wars fan created his own working BB-8 droid.

By now, it’s a safe assumption that many of you have already seen the initial trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If so, then you, like countless others, have probably fallen in love with BB-8 — a cute robot that was unveiled during both the teaser and an onstage presentation at the Star Wars Celebration. If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for?


When industrial designer Christian Poulsen first laid eyes on the adorable ball rolling around, it didn’t take long before he realized that he ’needed’ to build one of his own. The Maker was able to accomplish this feat by sawing an AVR powered Sphero 1.0 in half with a hacksaw, using polyurethane foam surfaced with spackle for its head, and adding a neodymium magnet disc to connect the two. From there, the only other thing left was to don its exterior with an empire-approved paint job.


Not only did Poulsen complete the project it in a day, he can also drive his BB-8 via Bluetooth using his smartphone’s Sphero app. While the droid may be remote-controlled, the Maker says it does note that it indeed has a mind of its own. Since the newly-attached head will cause an unbalance to the Sphero’s built-in gyroscopes, BB-8 will only be able to travel in one direction unless you give it a helpful push.


“Because it’s now more top-heavy and tends to lean, the gyroscope will try to correct the lean, and it will keep on rolling in whatever direction it’s pushed,” Poulsen notes.

Don’t lie, you know you love this BB-8. If you want one of your own, head over to the Maker’s step-by-step guide on MAKE: Magazine and get making! While not too much has been said around Sphero’s involvement in the actual BB-8’s creation, Lucasfilm’s president Kathleen Kennedy did mention the Boulder, Colorado-based startup in a recent Fortune Magazine interview.

MAID Oven suggests meals based on your cooking habits

Room by room, appliance by appliance, it’s clearer than ever that our homes are becoming increasingly smarter. Ranging from talking fridges to embedded utensils, one area in particular experiencing an emergence of connected devices is the kitchen. In an effort to make cooking simple, social and fun for everyone, Palo Alto-based startup SectorQube has introduced the latest intelligent machine: the MAID Oven.


Powered by an Atmel ATmega32L, the MAID (Make All Incredible Dishes) Oven is an all-in-one device that can learn your eating habits, like daily caloric intake, and then suggest new recipes for you based on its pre-programmed optimization algorithms — which are driven by an ARM processor. The appliance functions as a microwave, convection oven and top-heater, meaning that it can whip up anything from a bag of popcorn or Eggo waffles to a birthday cake for a family celebration.

MAID boasts touch, voice and gesture controls, as well as 6-inch capacitive touchscreen. However, for those times your hands are messy, wet or simply full, just tell MAID what to do next via voice commands or gestures.


With its Internet connectivity, a user can access countless crowdsourced recipes from chefs and cooking enthusiasts from across the world. Not sure what you feel like for dinner? You can search for recipes based on a variety of ingredients, type of dish or just ask MAID to recommend a dish.

MAID can even improve a recipe you cook over and over again, in order for the end product to better suit your taste. As its creators note, every time, temperature and ingredient quantity adjustment you make to suit your taste is recorded and then added as input to the optimization algorithm.


For those on a diet and/or monitoring food intake, the smart device can track your calorie requirements, cooking habits and daily activities all from your phone and smartwatch, thereby playing the role of a personal dietician recommending a healthy balanced diet for you.

“The MAID app is an integral part of the MAID ecosystem. The app shows notifications when the dish is ready. Also, MAID app has activity tracking feature that tracks what the user is doing. It helps MAID to calculate how much calories has the user burnt and then based on that, suggest a healthy diet for the user. MAID app can be used to remotely operate MAID – preheat MAID for cooking, create a recipe from MAID app and cook from MAID oven and more,” a company rep writes.

Think this smart appliance would be the perfect addition to your kitchen? Recently launched on Kickstarter, MAID Oven is currently seeking $50,000. Pending all goes well, the SectorQube team hopes its backers will be able to enjoy some delicious holiday dishes come late 2015.

Having fun with Atmel’s AVR32 microcontroller

We all know that Atmel’s versatile AVR32 microcontroller lineup can be used for a wide range of serious applications.

But what if you wanted some R&R time with the microcontroller? As the program Joshua, programmed by Professor Falken in WarGames famously asked: “Shall we play a game?”

I know I would. And although playing “Global Thermonuclear War” with a link to WOPR is probably not an option, there are at least two other titles that are – as you can see in the videos below.

The first game lacks sound (the audio track is obviously overlaid), although it is definitely fun to watch. The second – Space Pong – is somewhat more interactive and does appear to boast real-time audio.

What’s that you say? Digital games simply aren’t your thing? Well then, how about a nice physical game of chess with the ATMega32-powered Buttercup?

ATmega32 in your home-built DNA sequencer

The May 2013 issue of Circuit Cellar magazine has a great article by Fergus Dixon, who uses an Atmel ATmega32 microcontroller to operate a DNA sequencer.

One of the dozen ways to sequence DNA is to apply a reagent to the DNA sample. If the reagent reacts with the base pair on the end of the DNA strand it splits the pair and emits a tiny burst of light. If it is a double pair the burst of light is twice as strong. Then you just work your way up the DNA strand “zipper,” breaking the pairs and recording which of the 4 pairs you just broke. Now you understand why it took years to sequence even a short DNA strand.


Here is a control board from a DNA sequencer designed by Fergus Dixon

Fergus had the usual engineering fun you might expect when doing something this cool. The flat-black box he housed the light sensor in had a tiny hole. Light variance in the room showed up as noise. He had to figure out a method to drive stepper motors so they were smooth and got to 3000 RPM. He designed reagent solenoid injector drivers that worked off of 100V pulses, while also fiddling with the SPI ports. My consultant buddy John Haggis swears that any serial interface will take up 6-person months of labor.

I used to laugh at that – but I now think he is right. You have to get the hardware working, develop protocols, test for exception conditions – yeah, I can see six months just getting two devices to talk to each other.

You can see that Circuit Cellar has some great articles. The same May 2013 issue has an article on a wi-fi connected energy monitor, a serial port to SPI programmer, a G-code CNC router, a MIDI communication device, and a reprint of a radiation monitor – like a Geiger counter.

Now I can’t show you these articles on-line, since Circuit Cellar is a print magazine. And you have to give them 50 bucks a year to get it. You can get it as a digital pdf if you want to save trees. Its $85 a year for the both print and digital versions. There are large discounts for two- or three-year subscriptions. Best of all, you can give them something like $225 and get every single issue in history on a thumb drive. Then with your combo subscription you can add your monthly pdf to the archive thumb drive, and still have the print edition to impress your friends and boss.