Tag Archives: DIY Maker

Reading the Maker’s Alphabet

Maker’s Alphabet – which recently hit Kickstarter – is an illustrated book that celebrates traditional DIY creativity and new ways of Making.

Authored by Melody Quintana and Sneha Pai, the book contains a total of 26 adventures that helps bring unique creative DIY projects to life.

“Right now, we’re design grad students at the School of Visual Arts, which means we spend most of our time tinkering,” the duo explained.

“In past lives, we collectively studied animation, illustration, literature and society. We’ve had stints as a writer and strategist (Melody) and an animator and educator (Sneha). When all is said and done, we think being a maker is about embracing learning by doing. We want to make a book that inspires kids to do just that.”

Quintana and Pai say they are carefully crafting all aspects of the book, from big illustrations to little typography details and thoughtful verses to playful layouts. Ultimately, the two envision a final “artifact” that will shine on any shelf, coffee table or desk.

Perhaps most importantly, the book was written and illustrated to inspire kids of all ages to go out into the world and make. Current content and sketches include: Atmel-based Arduino boards, breadboarding, 3D printing, origami and even basic fashion design.

A companion e-book will also be available for young Makers, allowing readers easy access to the book across multiple devices. In addition, the digital version contains links to electronic resources for each letter, empowering Makers to read more about anything that piques their interest.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

Soft electronics with Atmel MCUs

In a recent ReadWrite article, Lauren Orsini notes that soft electronics rocked the spotlight during Tech In Motion’s Wearable Technology Fashion Show, with models showing off accessories and clothing that lit up, matched moods and collected or displayed personal data.

As Orsini points out, a lot of wearable activity is centered around companies like Arduino and Adafruit. Both offer wearable electronic platforms powered by versatile Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs).

“Building electronics with your hands is certainly a fun brain exercise, but adding crafting into the mix really stretches your creativity,” says Becky Stern, Adafruit’s director of wearable electronics.

“Sewing is fun and relaxing, and adorning a plush toy, prom dress, or hat with a circuit of tiny parts can make you feel like you’re some kind of futuristic fashion designer. Playing with sensors and conductive textiles breaks electronics out of their hard shells and makes them more relatable.”

Indeed, just like their IoT DIY Maker counterparts, the soft electronics community has adapted various Atmel-powered platforms specifically for wearables, including the Arduino Lilypad (ATmega328V) (developed by MIT Media Lab professor Leah Buechley) and Adafruit’s very own Flora (ATmega32u4), which can be easily daisy chained with various sensors for GPS, motion and light.

“There aren’t any hard numbers on the DIY wearables community, but it’s clear from browsing members’ projects on Instructables that this group is far broader than your typical collection of electrical engineers,” concludes Orsini. 

”Stern also noted that there are 10,000 copies of Flora in the wild, [with] the company shipping them worldwide. According to Stern, it’s simple. Make electronics touchable and watch them take off.”

AVR programming with Elliot Williams (MakerShed)

So you’ve designed a plethora of cool DIY Maker projects with Atmel-based Arduino boards. Want to take the next step with stand-alone Atmel AVR microcontrollers (MCUs)? 

Written by Elliot Williams, Make: AVR Programming will help you discover how the AVR’s built-in hardware peripherals can be harnessed to solve various design issues, allowing Makers and engineers to fully benefit from working with Atmel’s AVR-based hardware.


“The Arduino platform is great to learn the basics on. But if you’re a hacker on a budget and you’d like to make a swarm of robots, you’re going to want to use the AVR chips directly,” said Williams. 

”This book focuses on interfacing between the real world and the virtual world throughout. The two together open up infinite possibilities for creative projects.”

As the author notes, nearly everything in the book is project-oriented. Makers will learn microcontroller basics, as well as intermediate and advanced topics.

For example, you can:

  • Respond instantly to as many external events as your AVR has pins
  • Build an inexpensive footstep detector
  • Build circuitry to drive DC and stepper motors as well as other demanding loads
  • Make your projects talk by storing voice sample data in the AVR’s non-volatile memory
  • Learn to speak SPI and I2C

“Bottom line: If you’ve had some experience programming an Arduino, and you’d like to get to know the AVR chip more intimately, Make: AVR Programming is the book you need,” Williams added.

Interested? You can purchase Make: AVP Programming for $45 at the official MakerShed here.

IR control with the Trinket and Gemma

Adafruit’s Trinket and Gemma are both powered by Atmel’s ATtiny85 microcontroller (MCU). Although the duo only recently hit the streets, the ‘boards have been used to power a wide range of Maker projects across the DIY spectrum. Today, we’re going to be taking a closer look at how to use the devices to determine the IR codes from your remote and trigger specific events.

“Trinket and Gemma are perfect for small projects needing to receive some external event, triggering your own defined output,” explained Adafruit’s Mike Barela. “[Our] project uses the Adafruit IR Sensor to first receive IR commands from a remote, then to use those codes in controlling a project of your own.”

According to Barela, the above-mentioned project simplifies the process of obtaining codes and using them to scale to the limits of the ATTiny85 processor in the Trinket and Gemma boards.

In terms of wiring, check out Adafruit’s diagram shown below.

As you can see, the IR data pin links to the Trinket GPIO #2 (Gemma Pin D2) and is connected to power and ground. To read codes, you will need to connect Trinket GPIO #0 / Gemma D0 to a serial to USB board such as the FTDI Friend receive RX pin (cross connect).

“To demonstrate how the Trinket or Gemma may process IR commands into an action of your choice, a piezo speaker is connected to Trinket Pin GPIO #1 (Gemma Pin D1) to output a tone when a certain IR code is received,” Barela continued. “Going further, you can use an IR code to change NeoPixels, a servo, a solenoid, or any other output.”

Interested in learning more about IR control with the Atmel-powered Trinket and Gemma? Mike Barela’s official tutorial on the Adafruit website is available here, while additional information about Atmel’s versatile ATtiny can be found here.