Tag Archives: Flutter Wireless

Building a smart irrigation controller with Modulo

The brainchild of Erin Tomson, Poseidon is an irrigation controller based on Modulo, Raspberry Pi and Flutter boards.

Like many of us, Erin Tomson has vegetable garden in her backyard. While having fresh, organic crops right outside your door seems like a great idea, often times it can become a daunting task having to constantly water the plants. And though there are a number of commercial sprinkler systems available to automate and monitor the process, the Maker decided to take it upon herself to devise her own irrigation controller with the help of Modulo boards, Raspberry Pi and Flutter Wireless.

Modulo Kickstarter photographs

For those unfamiliar with Modulo, the tiny set of modular circuit boards — which is wrapping up an extremely successful campaign on Kickstarter — provide DIYers with an easy-to-use, hassle-free way to devise electronic projects. Each board is equipped with its own little processor (ATtiny841) that communicates with an ATmega32U4 driven Controller. Makers then can slide their modules right into the so-called Modulo Base which securely holds them in place.

Dubbed Poseidonthis recent project is comprised of three parts: the Modulo hardware that controls the system and provides a visual display of its status, a Raspberry Pi running the Open Sprinkler Pi software and Flutter Wireless modules to command the remote sprinkler valves.

As Tomson notes, piecing together the hardware was pretty straightforward. The Pi connects to a Modulo Controller via USB. Each valve is then linked to a pair of outputs on a Modulo Motor Driver, which in turn, provides power to the valve with positive and negative polarity to turn it on/off.

“I used Galcon 3652 valves, but any DC latching solenoid valve should work. For AC valves, you’d need to connect relays between the motor driver and valves,” she adds.


As for its web interface, the Maker ran Open Sprinkler Pi software that enabled her to display the various zones, set schedules, delay water based on weather forecasts, as well as manually operate the sprinklers. In order for the program to control the Modulo hardware, Tomson wrote a plug-in using the Modulo Python API to handle the outputs.

What’s more, should a garden be too far away from a home’s Wi-Fi network, she was able to add wireless connectivity to Poseidon through Flutter’s boards. Those units are equipped with an Atmel | SMART SAM3S Cortex-M3 MCU, while an ATSHA204 crypto engine keeps it protected from digital intruders. This allows Makers to easily (and securely) develop projects that communicate over a half-mile across a house, a neighborhood, or in this case, a backyard.

Tomson connected the Flutter controller over USB to the Raspberry Pi, which relays commands to the Flutter board and transmits them wirelessly to the remote station. Out in the garden, a second Flutter module is connected to a Modulo Base with another motor driver and color display.


“This secondary flutter setup controls the vegetable garden’s sprinkler valve and also show’s the system’s status. It’s a simple setup that works great,” the Maker reveals. “DC sprinkler valves like these don’t require very much power so you can even run the remote station off a solar panel and battery!”

With spring in full swing and summer just about here, make sure your garden and lawn are cared for with this DIY irrigation controller. Want one of your own? Head over to Modulo’s official project page here.

11 projects we saw and loved at MakerCon

Here’s a look at some of the impressive projects from MakerCon 2015.

Maker Week is well underway and safe to say that MakerCon kicked things off with a bang. There, we had the chance to engage in several lively discussions, listen to industry thought-leaders and visionaries, as well as receive hands-on demonstrations from some of today’s rising startups. As we walked through the historic Palace of Fine Arts during the two-day event, we couldn’t help but note the collection of innovative gizmos and gadgets on display at MakerCon Showcase — which is essentially a mini Maker Faire in itself. From a pancake printer to a smart aquaponics system, the showcase had it all. Here’s a handful of the impressive projects we had a chance to get up close and personal with… (For the rest of you, we’ll be sure to catch up with you at Maker Faire!)



Currently live on Kickstarter, Modulo was founded by former Pixar engineer Erin Tomson as a way to take the hassle out of building electronics. The set includes a series of tiny chips, each equipped with its own little processor (ATtiny841) responsible for the operation and communication with a controller board (ATmega32U4). These modules easily slide right into a Modulo Base that securely holds them in place and electrically links the devices without the usual tangle of wires.



As its name would suggest, PancakeBot allows Makers to print out flapjacks into just about any design one can imagine. Not only developed to inspire, entertain and bring out the creativity at home, the machine has some serious commercial appeal for brands wanting to make a lasting impression. The ATmega2560 based breakfast bot uses a proprietary system to extrude the ingredients as it glides over the griddle, while the combination of compressed air, a special vacuum and an on-board interface helps control batter flow.



Santa Barbara startup Zymbit debuted the first three products within its evolving Internet of Things suite: the Zymbit Orange edge device, the Zymbit Iris interactive display and Zymbit Connect software. The platform is being billed as the first pre-configured hardware and software solution that is a finished, secure, out-of-the-box-ready product for seriously creative Makers and developers looking to get their connected prototypes off their desk and into the market in days, not months.

Flutter Wireless


Born out of his own frustration of wirelessly connecting two Arduino boards, Taylor Alexander went on to invent Flutter Wireless, which not only gained enormous popularity among the DIY crowd but garnered over $150,000 on Kickstarter back in 2013. The $36 wireless Arduino with a half-mile range lets users develop mesh networking protocols and smart devices in an efficient yet inexpensive manner. It’s perfect for robotics, consumer electronics, wireless sensor networks, and educational platforms. Flutter is packed with a powerful Atmel | SMART SAM3S Cortex-M3 processor, while an ATSHA204 crypto engine keeps it protected from digital intruders.



The brainchild of Shenzhen startup EVOL, uArm is a desktop 4-axis parallel-mechanism arm, modeled after the ABB industrial PalletPack robot. The project is comprised of laser cut acrylic or wood parts, powered by standard RC hobby servos and controlled by an ATmega328 embedded custom board.

Kijani Grows


Kijani Grows produces and installs smart aquaponics gardens for homes, schools and corporate settings. The latest version of its garden kit is driven by a Linux/Arduino controller board (Atheros AR9331 and ATmega2560) that enables the system to remotely detect and respond to physical environments.



Makers Jesse Vincent and Kaia Dekker are looking to revolutionize the traditional QWERTY layout with their butterfly-shaped keyboard that places a greater emphasis on the thumb, lessens the stress on your pinkies, and offers a more natural position for the hand and wrist — something that may prove to be a lifesaver for those suffering from carpal tunnel or arthritis. Keyboardio puts keys such as control, alt, delete, shift and a new ‘function’ button under the typists’ palms, all within easy reach of the thumbs. What’s more, the gadget is Bluetooth-enabled permitting users to switch between devices and carry it from one meeting to the next.



Jason Huggins built a robotic contraption capable of mimicking the human touch as way to test and automate new software applications on mobile devices. Programmed with Node.js, Johnny-Five and Arduino, Tapster is entirely open-source and can be configured specifically to a user’s liking.

Future Make Technology


While many of today’s 3D printing products rely on a feed of ABS/PLA plastic that is heated and extruded through a hot nozzle, the Future Make crew seeking to change that with the launch of their 3D pen Polyes Q1. Unlike other devices on the market, photo-polymer ink is spit out of a cool nozzle and immediately solidified when exposed to blue LED light. What this means is no more nasty smells or burns!



Gigabot, re:3D’s flagship technology, gives Makers the ability to 3D print industrial strength, extremely large objects at an affordable price point. With a build envelope of 24” x 24” x 24” and a robust aluminum frame, the machine can construct objects up to 30 times larger than competing desktop models.



In an effort to revolutionize the boombox, one South Carolina startup has digitally fabricated an open-source, Arduino-compatible Bluetooth speaker kit for Makers.

Scout is a 3D-printable, Flutter-based RC car

This remote control car is screwless, wireless, and full of awesomeness. 

Certainly not new to the Maker Movement, Taylor Alexander has spent a life of hacking and transfiguring electronics. At the early age of five, he would break objects down and rebuild them as something entirely different. This included taking parts from old cameras and stereos, then transforming them into electric cars.


Born out of his own frustration as to how difficult it was to wirelessly connect two Arduino boards, the Maker went on to invent Flutter, which not only gained enormous popularity among the DIY crowd but garnered just over $150,000 on Kickstarter back in 2013. The $36 wireless Arduino with a half-mile range lets users develop mesh networking protocols and connected devices in an efficient yet inexpensive manner.

As you can imagine, the processor is perfect for an assortment of applications, like robotics, consumer electronics, wireless sensor networks and educational platforms. Flutter is packed with a powerful Atmel | SMART SAM3S Cortex-M3 MCU, while an ATSHA204 crypto engine keeps it protected from digital intruders. This enables Makers to easily (and securely) build projects that communicate across a house, a neighborhood and beyond, as in the case of the 3D-printable remote control car named Scout.


Scout is an experimental vehicle that can be constructed by anyone using a 3D printer with at least 165mm of travel in one axis. The original prototypes were printed using an ATmega2560 based Ultimaker, a Maker-friendly machine which he highly recommends. Impressively, Scout doesn’t use any screws, and instead, simply snaps together using interlocking parts and clips. This allows the whole vehicle to be disassembled and reassembled in just a few minutes.

The current vehicle was crafted pretty quickly over the course of a few weekends as a mere proof-of-concept. What this means is that it admittedly comes with a few flaws, for the moment at least. However, the Maker does encourage his fellow Github community to share their input to help improve its design. Despite the flaws, which Alexander reveals below, the car is quite capable. So much so that it can even pull off 10-foot wheelies. How ‘bout that?!


“A short list [of flaws include]: The right angle mounting of the motor creates a week point with the bevel gears. The wheels are supposed to slip on, but using my printer they need to be hammered into place with a mallet. The steering requires a piece of bent piano wire, and should be replaced with a printed linkage. The body shell easily comes off, and so tape should be wrapped around the body of the system. There is no hole in the body shell for a power switch, so without modification the tape needs to be cut to toggle power. After agressive driving the motor gets hot and eventually wiggles in its mount,” he writes.

Aside from the Flutter wireless board, the project consists of eight 608 Skate bearings, a metal gear servo, a brushless quadcopter motor, a quadrotor propeller adapter, four toy car tires, and of course, some batteries and other electronic components. To see how Alexander put these pieces together, well you’ll have to head over to his Github page here. In the meantime, watch it in action below!

Home, smart home

By Taylor Alexander, Co-Founder of Flutter Wireless

As founder of Flutter Wireless, a company that is building new hardware for the internet of things and connected devices movement, I spend a lot of time thinking about how this new technology will affect our lives. Right now computers are all relatively separate workstations, with tasks isolated to one individual machine. We may check email on our phone and on our desktop, but only recently have companies begun making it fluid to switch between the two. As our software advances and connectivity becomes more widespread and robust, we will begin to see programs that run across multiple machines simultaneously. I’d love to open an app on my phone and stream music to every device with speakers in my house, for example, rather than needing to buy a “home speaker system”. Ultimately, I see our home networks evolving into a single computing entity with many access points. A common home or cloud access point could provide services across multiple devices simultaneously. I could send one stream simultaneously to my living room TV and my kitchen tablet, for example, so I can catch up on a TV show while preparing dinner. As our homes become more connected, we will have increasing freedom with how we use computing to improve our lives, and entirely new possibilities will come out of these new use cases. Below is a story I wrote imagining a time maybe a decade from now, when the connected home is perhaps as commonplace as self-driving cars.

I hope you enjoy it, and that it prompts you to dream of what else a connected home can do for you.

I live in a connected home. Every electronic thing in my house is controlled by the home system. Not toasters or blenders or the fridge — not things that only sensibly need physical access. Those things have their own local user interface, though some may report back to the home. The microwave, for example, communicates photos of food to the server for analysis, but you can only turn it on from its front panel. The interface panel is just a touch-oled with images for its interface controlled by the home. In default mode it just has 3 buttons, and they change based on what I put in. Put in my favorite mug with a clear liquid and you just get a big “hot water” button. The house interface on my phone shows graphs that prove that the cook time it chose is optimal based on my use of this cup in this microwave every morning since I started my new job, but honestly… I never look at it, since it never fails. Usually when I’m using the house interface on my phone, it’s to control the music or change the channel.

I took a YouTube class in the living room last month, and the inductive charging in my new coffee table means that I could leave the interface open for the whole hour of class without draining its battery. The home has a local content stream it can serve to any audio or video device with a speaker box or cheap HDMI streamer. The audio channel let’s me do things like play music, talk with my friends, or control the lights and temperature.

I also have interface pads in the rooms. Interface pads are like the interface on the microwave – they have a touch-oled and an audio system for voice interaction. Four microphones mean it can pick up quiet conversation even with the fan on, and it blocks out other sounds like the TV like they aren’t there. This makes it feel like the system is in my head. I’ll mutter to myself “I wonder if I turned off the coffee pot”, and the system sometimes butts in and tells me. Usually I have to address the house to get it to listen, but I’m running some software that let’s me play back my ramblings when I am deep in thought, so right now it’s live all the time. This lets it answer questions without having to repeat myself. If I think out loud, sometimes the house is a pretty good assistant.

We call ours Hiro, and while he can’t tell me everything without a manual query at a terminal, he’s pretty good at answering basic questions about the world. Anything with a clear answer like… how deep is the English channel, how much money did I spend last month, or who won the gaming competition last week… those questions Hiro answers well. Of course he’s also great for taking notes for me and reading them back so I can edit them. He’ll read anything I want. He’s been reading me Steinbeck and Plato lately, and in the mornings I’ll usually have him read the news. Last night I streamed live ocean sounds from a beach in Madagascar as I slept.

In the mornings I read my emails on the terminal in the kitchen while I stir my coffee. I keep work emails out of the morning routine, but read what my mom is up to over a bagel and eggs. I fill my foodbox once a week and it serves up a hot bagel and fresh eggs every morning. It only fits a few types of meals but it’s enough for all my breakfast and lunch for a week, and using it beats rummaging through cold storage for all the pieces. It will slice bagels and fruit, even core an apple, and it has refrigerated dispensers for eggs, cream cheese, peanut butter and jelly, even mustard and mayonnaise. It has a small compartment for fresh meat and cheese, so I make sandwiches for lunch. The machine prepares the bread and washes itself, just like it does with my morning bagel, egg, and yogurt. It tracks the age of each perishable, and the deliveryman brings by fresh food weekly for things like meat and eggs. It even breaks the eggs and cooks them, and stores the shells in an oxygen free environment with the apple cores, until I empty the canister.

I charge a tablet on the kitchen table, and use it to watch last night’s news footage. I use the house interface app, which shows me stuff I probably want to watch. Anything I don’t want to watch on the tablet screen I can throw to any TV too. I am studying be a paramedic, so I’ll usually stream class to both displays at night when I’m cooking and cleaning. There are so many times where I need my hands for one thing but can use my mind and voice for another. The tablet was pretty good for that before, but with Hiro I don’t need to bring anything with me. I can wander to the other room mid voice chat without ever losing my train of thought. When I talk to friends, its like they’re in the same room and follow me around. With Hiro’s chat interface I can log into voice chat rooms with friends. Its like we’re sitting in a room together, either quietly working, having a meeting, or just watching the news together. I feel like I always have my friends with me.

A computer block and a storage block that I keep in the office control the whole system. All my home computers store data on the storage block, and the computer block runs Hiro’s software. We have phone and tablet apps along with interface panels, and cheap HDMI dongles on the TV. Voice is usually handled by the interface panel most rooms have. But there is a voice-only interface panel that is the cheapest. It skips the touch display on the large interface for a four-button fob and voice control. You can plug headphones and speakers into that one for a custom speaker setup, but by default the internal speaker is pretty good. It still has four microphones so we usually don’t use an external for that, just output.

It cost about a two grand for the whole system, but that’s the lights, computer, audio tactile pucks and 4tb storage brick. I saved up for one summer when I was in college and got this system. Its been around for a few years so the CPU takes longer to recognize my food scans from the microwave than the new models, but its a few milliseconds difference – 250 maybe – I don’t worry about stuff like that.

All in all, my connected home system was the best purchase I made since switching to a self-driving car.


Send your hearts fluttering with an ARM-powered wireless platform

taylor-alexandor-Flutter-WirelessA talented Maker by the name of Taylor Alexander, co-founder of Flutter Wireless, has recently gained a large amount of support for the company’s innovative wireless electronics development platform based on Arduino.

No novice to DIY, Taylor has spent a life of hacking, making and transfiguring things to have them do all sorts of different actions than these electronics were originally made to do. At the early age of five, he would break things down and rebuild them to create something entirely different — taking parts from old cameras, stereos and other electronic components, then transforming them into electric cars. From early on, it was evident Taylor was an innovator in the ‘making.’ Now, as everyone has witnessed, there are crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, a startup incubator platform where individuals like Taylor and his co-founders can create value from their extraordinary talents and early fundamental interest.

Not only has Kickstarter offered a new way of doing things, but the platform is reshaping the business and creation cycle for people with talents in technical and creativity. The site has enabled people to get financing, allowing inventors to obtain the investment needed much faster at the early stage of incubation and product development. This money can then be better used to scale faster and prove its concepts early on via social acceptance and crowdfunding with the merits of community and validation.

The powers of the Maker Movement — a fabulous combination of getting the media, bloggers and influencers onboard, riding pre-existing trends, thinking outside the box, conducting frequent demonstrations, all while responding to the ideas and wants of the community. Arguably the most important aspect of the DIY revolution is the validation and acceptance of the community wanting to endorse and witness an idea come to fruition. At an individual level, it’s an exciting and opportunistic time for an inventor or anyone looking to contribute to the landscape of technology or where it is going. These are some of the most compelling reasons as to why Flutter Wireless is able to prove innovative ground, validate their product ideas and infuse the necessary capital to promote more success across communities. As in its Kickstarter’s illustration, the wireless electronics development platform can be communicated from of a large 3,200 ft (1km) usable range. It is packaged with a powerful Atmel ARM-based SAM3S processor, coupled with integrated encryption using Atmel’s ATSHA204 cryptographic chip as the device to secure it’s system.

So, how does this wireless platform work? Well, as the Flutter Wireless site explains:

“Creating Flutter networks are easy, even if it’s just two boards. Specify networks in Arduino code or configure Flutter with our mobile app. Once configured, devices can enter and exit the network seamlessly. This makes it extremely easy to set up a network at home (or anywhere else) where all of your projects can reliably communicate. Flutter is like a second network for your devices.”

In fact, in the landscape of connecting devices and IoT, an individual building out of a wireless project shouldn’t have to be too expensive. “Flutter was built from the ground up with cost in mind, that’s why our boards start at just $20. We’ve worked hard to keep costs as low as possible and deliver you a quality product you can afford to use in as many projects as you’d like,” explains Taylor. flutter-basic-and-flutter-pro-with-atmel-arm-cryptography The startup extraordinaire Taylor has helped further the ecosystem development by leveraging the concepts of “shields” and designing a handful of various protocol shields for Flutter. It’s really focused on individuals who want to get started quickly and build heterogeneous nodes of connected devices on a network. The Flutter boards come shipped with breakout boards and socket headers, combined with the power of connectivity to various protocols (Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy or conventional Bluetooth 2.1). The Flutter Wireless platform is comprised of the network shield which connects to your home router, creating a bridge between mobile devices (M2M) the Internet and Flutter. For a wireless system, the important factors are range and reliability. According to Flutter Wireless Kickstarter:

We use WiFi everyday, but take a few steps down the driveway and coverage quickly becomes scarce. Flutter is a different kind of wireless system, completely self-contained with over a half-mile range. This allows for a wireless platform without borders, and no longer being chained to a router means your projects are free to follow you out the front door, through the yard, and down the street.”


As previously discussed in Bits & Pieces, the combined Flutter Wireless Development platform is quite comprehensive, considering it’s Kickstarter and crowdfunding origins. Flutter Wireless comes packaged with Atmel’s ATSHA204 to ensure maximum secure storage and protection of encryption keys. Flutter is designed to address security and wireless in a combined package. The platform is comprised of a design, which encompasses a special cryptographic hardware (Atmel’s ATSHA204) that integrates cryptography into every communication layer of the software. In essence, this gives the user ultimate control over who can and cannot communicate with their devices.

The project is given strengths by making it accessible via the Open Source community – ensuring the possibility of enhancing the roadmap by contribution to improve upon Flutter Wireless foundation though the power of the community. Furthermore, Flutter’s wireless concept seamlessly routes messages across a varied number of connected devices to reach their destination. It’s sort of like a lily pad of daisy chaining across many nodes or protocols. With that said, there is a world of potential in the IoT buildup for a number of reasons. Arduino already has a big open-source following. First, this is already proven (via the Maker Movement and Maker Faire) and it’s one of the easiest ways to bridge the physical and digital worlds together. Flutter Wireless can be a node in a larger mesh network, which could be useful for large public projects. (i.e.  Let’s say, a hobbyist or passionate drone user wants to fly his drone to the next town over, keep it connected across RC and mesh networks all within good range and security).

The winning formula:

ARM + Encryption + Easy Development + New IoT-Based Radio + Mesh + Shields + Open Source + Community + Crowdfunding = Thousands of lines of agile code, mesh support, tagging, and various protocol features required to support IoT buildup

Potential applications for Flutter Wireless include:

  • Quadcopters
  • Landscape sensors
  • Agriculture remote sensor installations
  • Remote security implementations
  • Crowdsourcing spectrum analyzers
  • RC hobbyists

Flutter still finds itself under development and continually evolving. The prototypes were designed with the Sparkfun Arduino Pro Mini for rapid development and proof of concept. Out of this ideated adventure, a new generation of boards are in the process being developed with Atmel SMART™ ARM-based SAM3S, a very affordable, versatile and powerful ARM core processor with a capacity for speed and storage space to suit any designer’s connected device project.

More details can be found via the Flutter Wireless website. Devices found within this innovative wireless development platform can be found at Atmel’s product ARM processors page and said security components can be located on Atmel’s Cryptography product page.