Modulo is a simple, modular solution for Makers looking to build powerful electronic devices.
When it comes to developing DIY projects, we as Makers love modularity. This was true back in the ‘50s when interlocking LEGO bricks, and even earlier, in the sticks-and-spool days of Tinkertoys. With that in mind, it’s no wonder why one Northern California startup has gone ahead and devised a set of swappable modules that will enable users to easily design electronic systems without ever having to assemble a circuit board from scratch.
Each Modulo is equipped with its own little processor (ATtiny841) — aside from the mini color display that is driven by an Atmel | SMART SAM D21 — tasked with handling its operation and communicating with an ATmega32U4 driven Controller board. Using a connector on its back, Makers can easily slide their modules right into the so-called Modulo Base which securely holds them in place — no breadboard, wiring and soldering mess! What’s more, those wishing to use a Spark Core, Photo or Electron instead of the Controller can do so by selecting a Spark Base.
“This vastly simplifies the process of building and programming devices, since you only need to deal with high-level concepts (e.g. get temperature or set motor speed) not I/O pin mappings, wiring, data sheets, and registers,” the Modulo Labs team writes.
The Arduino-compatible Controller boasts six I/O ports that can be used as digital or analog inputs and digital outputs. Four of the six ports can even be used to control servos or output a PWM signal. Additionally, each port has its own power and ground pins to help keep things nice and neat, while circuitry on the board will protect it from any potential wiring mishaps.
As with a number of other DIY dev kits, Modulo is offering a wide range of components for its initial Kickstarter run. Among the initial modules are a color OLED display, a push-button illuminated knob, a motor driver, a thumb joystick, a temperature probe, as well as I/O and extension cables. In other words, all of the necessary resources a Maker would need to get started with their gizmo or gadget. Four modules can be connected to the Base at anytime, however for larger projects, these can easily be daisy chained together.
When used with a Mac, Windows or Linux computer, a Maker will have the ability to manage all of their modules using Python over USB. The ATmega32U4 embedded board can also act as a bridge, enabling users to control their modules from Python running Raspberry Pi. Beyond that, they can choose to use the Arduino IDE to reprogram the controller or connect to the Internet with Spark. Communication between devices is accomplished through the standard I2C bus.
So, what can you make with this development kit? For starters, though its creators highlight a variety of projects ranging from an intelligent water system to keep your grass nice and green to an automated fish feeder for Nemo to a tea-brewing robot for your crumpets, the possibilities are endless.
“Modulo couldn’t exist without the amazing work of the open-source community, and it won’t exist without your generous support. We want to give back, so we plan to make the hardware, software, and firmware all open and available for you to use and modify. We’ll also provide eagle CAD files and firmware that you can use to create Modulos of your own design,” Modulo Labs founder Erin Tomson notes.
Looking for a simple yet powerful modular solution to construct a DIY project? Look no further. Head over to Modulo’s official Kickstarter page, where its team has already well exceeded its $10,000 goal. Shipment is expected to begin in November 2015.