Tag Archives: Maker Community

Arduino Day 2015 set for March 28, 2015

Mark your calendars! One of the biggest Maker ‘holidays’ is just around the corner. 

As Makers, there’s one special occasion that we just can’t help but love: Arduino Day! It is a 24-hour celebration – both official and independent – where hobbyists, tinkerers and even some experienced engineers from all over the world come together to share their DIY experiences. This year, the second annual ‘holiday’ is slated for March 28, 2015.


2014 saw more than 240 user groups, Makerspaces, hackerspaces, fablabs, schools, studios and educators throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia involved in planning activities, workshops, and events for a wide range of audiences and skill sets. Those needing a refresher can tune-in to Massimo Banzi’s official announcement from last year here.

“You can attend an event or organize one for your community. It doesn’t matter whether you are an expert or a newbie, an engineer, a designer, a crafter or a Maker: Arduino Day is open to anyone who wants to celebrate Arduino and all the things that have been done (or can be done) with it,” the team writes. “The events will offer different types of activities, tailored to local audiences all over the world.”

As far as official events are concerned, the company has organized five of them in Torino, Malmo, Bangalore, Boston and Budapest. Meanwhile, local events are put together by the community, just supported and curated by the Arduino crew. If you’re interested in creating a get-together at your Makerspace, you can do so by submitting an application.


Like we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel is at the very heart of nearly ever Arduino board on the market today, thereby helping tinkerers bring their wildest creations to life.

Indeed, as our resident Wizard of Make Bob Martin noted, our 8- and 32-bit MCUs have been the chips of choice for Arduino since the boards first hit the streets way back in 2005 — as you can see in the first prototype below. More specifically, he attributes the success of Arduino to its easy-to-use, free cross-platform toolchain and simple do-it-yourself packages with Atmel MCUs.

“These factors helped initially steer the Arduino team to choose our AVR microcontrollers – and today, both our AVR and Atmel | SMART ARM-based MCUs,” Martin explained.


In addition to young Makers and educators, it’s no surprise that the open-source electronics platform has even become increasingly popular among experienced designers, architects and engineers as well.

Now just a few weeks away, you can follow along with Arduino’s official countdown and locate an #ArduinoD15 meet-up near you! In the meantime, as you get started on your next project to celebrate the occasion, you can find out which Atmel based ‘duino is right for you here. Of course, we’ll also be celebrating Arduino Day at Atmel with extra project coverage, so be sure to stop by and check out our upcoming blog posts around the Maker favorite platform!

littleBits announces bitLab, an App Store for hardware

Taking one step closer to its mission of “putting the power of electronics in the hands of everyone,” litteBits has announced the launch of bitLab, a marketplace for user-generated hardware. Comparable to Apple’s App Store, bitLab allows Makers to create their own littleBits modules and share them with burgeoning DIY community.


“When Apple launched the App Store, many apps were games, many were frivolous. I remember a lot of fart apps,” explained littleBits Founder and CEO Ayah Bdeir. “But now 6 years later, there are more than 1.3 million apps that have distributed nearly $15 billion to the software developer community. We believe the same thing will happen with hardware ­developers just need one common platform to develop on, a supply chain that powers it, and a marketplace for community and distribution.”

According to the company, anyone with a working prototype of a new Bit can submit it for community consideration. In contest-like fashion, littleBits will then select the ones receiving the most votes, examine them for viability and put them into production, with the creators receiving a 10% royalty.


“We’re breaking down the barriers of entering the field of hardware. We want to democratize the hardware industry, to revolutionize it and make it accessible,” Bdeir tells Forbes. While anyone with a laptop and a little coding skill can make an app, and 3D printing is opening up manufacturing, the hardware industry hasn’t gone through that. “It’s still largely closed, very top down, really prohibitive to non-engineers.”

In its latest blog, littleBits writes:

For the hardware community, the bitLab means our community can come together and develop on one common platform, add in a seemingly incremental innovation, and see the innovation multiply. The hardware developer community has often been distributed, decentralized and considered by the outside world to be secondary to the software developer community. We believe a big part of that is because the community has not had one common platform to develop on, with a supply chain as a backbone, coupled with a marketplace to grow its distribution. But even more importantly, we haven’t seen this happen in hardware because of one simple fact: making hardware modular is an extremely difficult and complex problem. It’s difficult to create a system, a product line, and a supply chain in which one module can be added to the others and work in every which way. Over the past many years, this is exactly what we have done with littleBits. We have made the largest modular hardware library in the world. With the bitLab, a hardware developer that has created an exciting new sensor circuit or has an idea for a new digital interaction can create a module (or multiple) and leverage the entire littleBits library with its sensors, switches, wireless transmitters, power, actuators and other modules without having to recreate them. Every new Bit multiplies the power of the rest of the modular platform. And it grows exponentially from there.

Similar to how the app store opened up Apple’s API to developers, littleBits has open the doors to a world of electronic modules, via its Hardware Development Kit that is now available. “It’s a proprietary connector basically creating entry points into the system,” Bdeir reveals to Fast Company. “With that and the rest of the HDK, which also includes a perf board, tinkerers can plug in whatever they can think up and make it work with other bits.”


In recent months, littleBits has taken huge strides to stretch the limits of imagination. Around Maker Faire Bay Area, the company launched its Arduino module. This programmable ATmega32u4 powered Arduino at Heart component enabled Makers to easily incorporate sketches into their littleBits circuits.

A few months later, they launched another pillar of “power,” the cloudBit. In what the company hoped would alter the perception of littleBits from toy to tool, the electronics kit manufacturer announced a new component that empowered any littleBits creation to the become an Internet-connected ‘thing’ without the need to solder, wire or program for basic projects.

Now, the newly-unveiled bitLab is the first of its kind in the field of electronics. “Even though it may seem obvious that hardware needs an app store, building a genuine app store that can allow every new “app” to interoperate with every other app and its underlying platform is complex,” the company writes.

bitLab is an evolutionary successor to dreamBits, an open forum where littleBits users can suggest new modules they’d like to see produced. While countless Makers have already showcased their creativity and added a number of ideas to the site, Bdeir is hoping bitLab will now experience a domino effect. In other words, as more Bits join the library, more people will think of different and new ideas.


Partners who took part in the bitLab beta include some of our friends as well as fellow Arduino At Heart members including Arduino’s Massimo Banzi, MaKey MaKey‘s Jay Silver, Bare Conductive‘s Matt Johnson, Korg‘s Tatsuya Takahashi, Gabotronics’ Gabriel Anzziani, Backyard Brains’ Greg Gage, and and Bleep Labs’ Dr. Bleep.

“We want people to say, ‘There’s a Bit for that,’ and if there isn’t one, they will make one,” Bdeir concludes. Interested in learning more? Read littleBits’ entire announcement here.

The Maker Movement continues to grow as a technological and educational revolution, demonstrating its true potential to today’s young Makers. Ayah Bdeir will be joining Massimo Banzi, Quin Etnyre, and Atmel’s Bob Martin and Daniel Ujvari for Saturday’s Maker Faire panel on the MAKE: Live Stage as they explore the ways in which DIY culture is influencing young Makers and helping to create tomorrow’s industry innovators.


Don’t forget to join the Atmel team in Queens this week for the 5th Annual World Maker Faire! Undoubtedly, this year will be amazing as an expected 750+ Makers and 85,000+ attendees head to the New York Hall of Science to see the latest DIY gizmos and gadgets, as well as a number of the Makers mentioned above. Once again a Silversmith Sponsor of the event, Atmel will put the spotlight on everything from Arduino to Arduino-related projects


Linduino is a USB-isolated Arduino

My pals over at Linear Technology have developed the Linduino board to drive their ADCs (analog to digital converters) and DACs (digital to analog converters) as well as temp sensors and other devices. The board is not a clone of an Arduino, that would be pointless for them. Linear Tech sells analog chips, not Maker boards.


The Linear Technology Linduino board uses the same Atmel chip as a Arduino Uno, but has isoalted USB and more dc power.

So the first and most essential difference is that in addition to the normal shield headers on an Arduino, there is a header that Linear Tech has used for years to drive their demo boards. This computer interface function used to be done with their DC590 interface board. Indeed, the firmware that comes shipped with the Linduino emulates that board, so you can run the original Linear Tech interface program on your PC, and it can’t tell if its the old board or a Linduino.


The Linduino board will accept all the Shield mezzanine boards for Arduino, but has this extra header to control Linear Tech demo boards as well.

But wait, there is more. So much more. Linear tech also used one of their USB isolators on the Linduino board. This means that the board and what you plug into it are galvanically isolated from the computer you have the USB plugged into. This means you can measure things off a car or an audio system without worrying about ground loops polluting the measurement. Its as handy as a hand-held DVM (digital voltmeter). My former employer Analog Devices also makes bidirectional USB isolators and there may be others that have come to market. You might make your own isolator, but the great thing about the Linduino is that all the system engineering is done for you and the firmware works.


The Linduino has a LMT2884Y-USB isolator module on it so your PC is not electrically connected to the Linuduino or its Shields or Linear Tech demo boards.

Since Linear Tech is also a power supply chip company, they beefed up the power supply on the board, using a switching regulator to replace the linear regulator on the Arduino. This means you can get 750mA out of the power system. Since a USB can’t supply this much power, that means you have to feed the board with an external wall wart. Now you have the power to drive actuators or other heavy loads.


Linear Tech also beefed up the power system with a 750mA switching regulator that will not get hot even at full load while dropping for a high input voltage.

Dan Eddelman worked on the Linduino as did Mark Thoren, my pal from Linear Tech. Tomorrow I will plug in the beast and  show how to get it working. I did have a few glitches the first time.


Mark Thoren, shown here giving his daughter some STEM instruction at the Silicon Valley eFlea, helped develop the Linduino.

Just like Atmel’s demo boards, Linear Tech is selling the Linduino pretty much at cost. This can give you a great foundation to build an isolated data acquisition and control system for cheap. And don’t forget, all the Arduino shields plug into the board and work with the existing libraries and firmware and available open source code. Linear Tech used the same Atmel chip as the Arduino, so this is not just “shield compatible,” is is truly compatible with an Arduino.

Why brands need to recognize Maker culture

Writing for the UK-based Guardian, Dan Northover says DIY Maker culture is beginning to have a significant impact on today’s consumers.

“Mike Senese, executive editor of Make Magazine, believes our culture is transforming from a top-down consumer culture to a more one-to-one DIY culture focused on Making,” Northover explains.

“[Clearly], access to social media, 3D printers, affordable sensors and circuitry are changing the way millennials view brands. Top-down control simply doesn’t work for those belonging to the so-called Generation Y, instead they expect to immediately influence brands and modify products to suit themselves.”

Richard Goldsmith, director of social media at Mark Anthony Brands, confirms the DIY trend will prompt more brands to offer customizable open source design files for their customers to modify.

“There are plenty of them out there already. MakieLab founder Alice Taylor started with a simple idea to let people make their own dolls using 3D printing. This has since extended into laser-cut dolls clothes and MakieLab games,” says Northover.

“Last year Campbell’s Soup ran the Hack the Kitchen competition for mobile app creators, while Starbucks is tapping into the maker community’s creativity with Mystarbucksidea.com and Nokia has released the design files for its phone cases so people can customize them and make their own.”

As Northover notes, there is clearly a significant industry shift towards the DIY Maker culture.

“[True], nobody really knows where that’s going to take us. [However], what we do know is that teens of today will grow up with Maker culture as second nature, and soon we’ll all need to realize that the idea of making isn’t reserved just for handcrafted bikes or artisan pickles,” he adds.

New AVR devices bolster Atmel’s MCU lineup

Atmel has confirmed that it will be launching 6 new 4k-16k Flash devices in its flagship AVR Mega MCU family during the second quarter of 2014.

“With over two decades of MCU experience and leadership, Atmel is investing in innovative technologies and ideas to enable product differentiation for 8- and 32-bit embedded MCU designers,” said Reza Kazerounian, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Microcontroller Business Unit, Atmel Corporation


“[We] deliver highly sophisticated, yet easy-to-use 8-bit AVR MCUs allowing everyone from professionals, hobbyists, students and makers to develop embedded designs that could lead to the next ‘killer app’ in the dawn of the Internet of Things (IoT).”

As Reza notes, Atmel has a long tradition of investing in the Maker community, with the vast majority of Arduino boards on the market powered by Atmel’s versatile AVR MCUs.

“As a leader in microcontrollers, we are committed to providing differentiated MCUs that are easily accessible and easy-to-use for all communities,” Reza explained.

“With over 200,000 loyalists in our AVR Freaks community and 1.2 million Arduino development boards in the Maker community, our AVRs have definitely made a significant impact in today’s Maker and hobbyist circles. With over 65,000 active users in our Studio 6 integrated development environment, we are making it easier for all designers to access our tools.”

The new AVR MCUs – manufactured using advanced 130-nm CMOS technology – will be fully supported by Atmel Studio 6.2, the integrated development platform for developing and debugging Atmel ARM Cortex-M and AVR MCU-based applications.

“The new devices will deliver a unique combination of performance, power efficiency and design flexibility. Optimized to expedite time-to-market, they are based on the industry’s most code-efficient architecture for C and assembly programming,” Reza added.

“[Our] extensive AVR portfolio, combined with the seamlessly integrated Atmel Studio development platform, makes it easy to reuse knowledge when improving designers’ products and expanding to new markets.”

Interested in learning more about AVR? You can check out our comprehensive device breakdown here.

Building a robot army with the ATmega328 MCU

The Robot Army crew has debuted a DIY Delta Robot kit powered by Atmel’s versatile ATmega328 microcontroller (MCU) for the rapidly growing Maker community.

The kit includes all mechanical pieces in grey and neon yellow plastic (the yellow fluoresces under black light), spacers, brackets, ball bearings and hardware required for assembly. In addition, the kit is packed with electronic components, PCB and wire harnesses.

A more specific hardware breakdown is as follows:

  • 1 brain board PCB
6 arms
  • 3 servo paddles
3 servo brackets
  • 1 end effector
6 base spacers
4 PCB spacers
12 steel balls
3 Power HD servo motors
  • 2 acrylic mounting plates
1 RGB LED with wire harness
1 dome light defuser
  • Hardware required for assembly (M3 socket head cap screws)
1 AA battery holder with switch

The ‘Hex Brain’ PCB, which drives all the servo motors and the colored LED, is powered by Atmel’s ATmega328 MCU, with all pins accessible for use. The brain also includes programming headers so Makers can easily reflash the chip’s memory.


On the software side, the PCB is loaded with example code to implement the inverse kinematic math needed to drive a delta robot. Although there are several available routines, the basic skeleton code can be used as an outline for more advanced projects.

Interested in learning more about building a robot army with Atmel’s ATmega328 MCU? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here.

Securing offline passwords with Atmel MCUs

Over the past few months, Bits & Pieces has featured a number of DIY offline password keepers built around Atmel microcontrollers (MCUs).

First up is the official HackADay Mooltipass. Powered by Atmel’s ATmega32U4, the device is equipped with an easily readable screen, a read-protected smart-card (AT88SC102) and flash memory to store encrypted passwords.

Next up is the USBPass. Designed by a Maker named Josh, the platform comprises an ATmega32U2 MCU, USB connector, three buttons and a few passives chips. Like the Mooltipass, the USBPass is connected to a computer via USB and read as an HID keyboard.

The latest Atmel-powered offline password keeper to surface in the Maker community and on the HackADay website? Cyberstalker’s ATMega32U4-packing Final Key, which includes a single button and LED, all neatly enclosed in a 3D printed case.

According to HackADay’s Mathieu Stephan, the Final Key is linked to the host computer via USB and recognized as a composite comm device/HID keyboard, requiring Windows-based devices to install drivers.

“AES-256 encrypted passwords are stored on the device and can only be accessed once the button has been pressed and the correct 256 bit password has been presented through the command line interface,” Stephan explained. “Credentials management and access are also [executed by] the latter.”

Interested in learning more about the ATMega32U4-powered Final Key? You can check out the project’s official page here.

ezLCD GPU and Arduino Uno on a single PCB

EarthMake has debuted the arLCD (Version 2.0) at Atmel’s official CES 2014 booth (MP25958). EarthMake founder Randy Schafer describes the $89 device as a smart 3.5″ color touchscreen LCD Arduino combo board that brings easy-to-program, smartphone-like user interfaces to the Maker Community.

“Release 2.0 is endorsed by Arduino by being part of the Arduino At Heart program,” Schafer explained. “It also includes firmware enhancements that free up shield pins, adds a second hardware serial port and [offers] an in-circuit programmer, freeing up 512 bytes of sketch memory.”

According to Schafer, the platform will allow Makers to more easily design products equipped with a smartphone-like graphical interface. Indeed, with the arLCD Arduino Library and the Arduino Shield I/O, DIY Makers can create 3D printer controllers, robot interfaces, home automation controllers, wireless sensors and even kinetic art.

“With over 300 I/O shields compatible with the arLCD covering every wireless, I/O, and protocol standard embedded systems, development is like building with blocks,” said Schafer. “Macros and GUI widgets allow users to build a user interface prototype fast – within hours, not days.”

Key arLCD tech specs include a 3.5 inch, 320 x 240 resolution, 65K colors, 250 nit brightness LCD with integrated resistive touchscreen. Additional features? A 16-bit GPU, 4 megabytes of flash memory and USB 2.0. The arLCD – which operates from 6 to 9 volts – draws less than 200mA and provides a -20 to 60°C operating temperature range.

“This is a full featured, ‘smart’ ezLCD GPU with the Arduino Uno (ATmega328) on the same PCB,” said Richard Obermeyer, Vice President of Engineering at EarthMake.

“The arLCD flash drive give users the ability to simply copy fonts and bitmaps to the arLCD from a PC via USB, [while] the Arduino IDE [facilitates] rapid product development with Windows, Linux and OSX operating systems.”