Tag Archives: maker

Building a tinyAVR pocket sequencer

Earlier this week, Bits & Pieces took a closer look at an ATtiny85-powered ultrasonic ruler designed by a Maker named “bergerab.”

Today, we’re going to get up close and personal with an ATtiny pocket sequencer created by bergerab that uses the very same tinyAVR microcontroller (MCU). 

Built around the popular ATtiny85, the pocket-sized sequencer is fully programmable and usable in a studio setting.

“Besides making a pocket-sized sequencer, my goal of this project was to stretch the uses of the ATtiny chips to show how powerful they really are,” bergerab explained a recent Instructables post.

“This project is great for those interested in music and/or electronics, and by the end you will have one of the smallest, unique sequencers ever made.”

Aside from the ATtiny85 MCU, key project components include:


Perfboard (5 cm by 7 cm)
  • Two 10k potentiometers
  • Two tactile switch-buttons
  • Two two-way switches
  • A 7805 voltage regulator
  • Two 10uF caps
  • One 100uF cap
  • One 2k resistor
  • 8 LEDs
  • 74HC595 shift register
  • 1/4 inch audio female jack
  • Speaker/buzzer
  • 9v Battery (with connector)
  • (optional) 5cm by 7cm acrylic sheet

On the software side, bergerab uses a relatively simple sketch to regulate the device.

“In my design of this sequencer, I wanted the user to program the steps right when the device is turned on. To do this I used the ‘setup()’ function, [which] is executed when the ATtiny is initially given power, or if its reset pin is set to LOW,” he continued.

“I added a startup tone (which is a little arpeggio of a c major chord) to notify the user that they are in the frequency programming mode. In the main loop (‘loop()), the ATtiny is told to go through each step, and for each step, light the appropriate LED. Then play the note assigned to that step, at the specified note length. During this, the MCU is checking if the button (analogRead(pot)<30) is pressed. If it is, the program enters a function called ‘setSustain()’. In this function, the user can select the notes length, (via the button and potentiometer).”

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

Atmel AVR Man is live on Twitter!

We all know that with great Making there is also great obligation, which is why AVR Man has taken to Twitter, courtesy of Atmel!

Indeed, AVR Man will be assuming a more active role by acting as an official Maker liaison to the global DIY community.

Have a question? Simply tweet @TheAVRMan for an answer and follow along as he travels the world looking to bring ease-of-use, low power and high integration to Makers.

tinyAVR helps keep the time

A Maker by the name of Chris Gunawardena recently created a DIY minimalist LED clock powered by Atmel’s ATtiny84 microcontroller (MCU).

As HackADay’s Rich Bremer reports, the clock is equipped with a total of 24 LEDs, with one group designated for each hour, while the other displays five minute increments.

“The 24 LEDs are arranged in two concentric rings. To display the hour, both LEDs at the same angle are lit up. To show the minutes, just the inner LED is lit,” writes Bremer.

“If you are familiar with the ATtiny84 you know that it only has 12 in/out pins, which is significantly less than the amount of LEDs that need controlling.”

As such, Chris ended up using a number of 74HC595 shift registers to increase the IO pins on the ATtiny.

Essentially, the entire build is packed onto a protoboard with point-to-point wiring, which is housed in a basic tinted plastic case.

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

BuildersBot CNC Router is also a 3D printer

A Maker named “aldricnegrier” has designed an Arduino-based BuildersBot machine, which he describes as a CNC Router that is also capable of 3D printing.

“The BuildersBot works/moves within a three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, allowing the machine to position its tool (drill bit or hot end) in any location inside the three-dimensional work space,” aldricnegrier explained in a recent Instructables post.

“The X axis will move the tool from left to right, the Y axis will move the tool from back to forth and finally the Z axis will move the tool up and down inside the work area.”

Key BuildersBot components include:

  • 4 Nema 23 Motor dual shaft 425oz-in
  • 4 driver 4.2A 128MicroDriver
  • 3 power supplies (36V, 36V and 12V)
  • 1 Arduino Mega (ATmega2560)
  • 1 Ramps 1.4 Board (for CNC milling and 3D printing)
  • Smart controller LCD
  • 6 end stops
  • 5 meter LED Strip with remote control (IR)
  • Kress 1050 Spindle MFE

“The Buildersbot electronics enclosure is made from 7 laser cut acrylic parts, [with] all parts fitting together to make the enclosure. The enclosure houses the four Micro Stepping Drivers, three power supplies (36V, 36V and 12V), the Arduino Mega, a Ramps 1.4 board and two fans for cooling,” said aldricnegrier.

“The enclosure has rear holes for all exterior wire connections, [with] all stepper drivers mounted on an acrylic plate and positioned in the middle of the enclosure. The enclosure is closed using zip-ties. For extra fun there are four blue LEDs that light up the enclosure when power is on.”

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

1:1 Interview with Mel Li (Part 1)

In 2013 there were 100 Maker Faires held around the world with nearly 530,000 people in attendance. Among the events, there are players and exhibitors who showcase their creation to the spectators. Many young techies, savvy tinkers, and even academic researchers are turning to tinkering. According to Makezine, there are over 40 million people who are classified as being part of this broader creative class. Among this creative class, there lies a blend of creative professionals. They are estimated at nearly 40 million people, all who create for a living, and are involved in a variety of fields from engineering to biotech to education to small business. We are witnessing the rise of the creative class – the Maker Movement.

Among this creative class, there are also some Makers who love the blend of creativity, fantasy, and technology in fantasy role-play (also known as “cosplay”). They live and advocate artistry, practice creative fiction, or conduct game play by integrating experimental R&D into their lives. The integration of new technologies into the Maker movement allows people to bring their creative or artistic endeavors from fantasy into reality. Below we interview Mel Li, a Biomedical Engineer and Maker, whose work showcases an illuminating wearable technology. She participates in an entertainment technology fantasy role-play coupled with imagination and real-world integration, all made possible by the advent of embedded mediated digital technologies. Mel Li is a Biomedical Engineer by day and creative Maker by night. Today, this dual-role is adopted by many graduates and researchers who are technologists, passionately wielding technology for artistic expression, research and advancement.

TV: What is your opinion of the Maker Movement?

ML: For me, technology should not only be about practicality, but should also be creative and aspirational. It really exists in the mind and the imagination. Without creative visions from artists, writers, and engineers, we have goals to work towards. I think this is the root cause for a lot of transformative ideas and technologies. For example, Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk classic “Snowcrash” predicted a lot of the Internet and I think many sci fi aficionados can see that current technologies from Google Glass to Amazon quadcopters and self-driving cars owes a lot to creative influences. These advances are a motivation to learn more about the world around us… I think we’re living in a really exciting time. I want to be part of something important that makes a difference. “Making things” makes me feel resourceful; it makes me feel I can do things I did not know I could do.

Also, I am excited to be part of this super trend for wearables. There is a lot of “Maker Movement” in all of us. We have been making for countless centuries. Making is an attitude that isn’t the sole domain of the young, or the old. Today, the tools to build complex or innovative things are simply faster and more available to everyone. Using Arduino, I quickly realized I too could make creatively. It gives me a great feeling that I am a participant in this Maker Movement. A lot of modern technology is now simplified and easily broadcast. On Twitter, I can interact with famous and inventive people; I can tweet with Obama or communicate with the next contemporary cool inventor. 3D printing is not for small one time use or useless parts or useless created things. Technology in general is used to making things in a mass produced way. It’s all changing now. 3D printing is helping make highly personalized products. People make their wedding rings. Doctors and researchers make prosthetics and print unique designs for custom tailored patients. Even still, there are many more uses. Tech is becoming super personal and highly personal, it’s digitally produced, it can be tailored to fit your imagination.

Figure 2: Photo by Benny Lee

Photo by Benny Lee

Most importantly, you can express who you are to people by building their own things. These are the strong pillars, and can cause a resurgence of manufacturing. Prototyping phases are condensed. The risks have been removed with new instruments such as crowd-funding. You no longer have to think about high volume or highly invested factory models. It’s through crowd-funding where Kickstarter tied to R&D can make a lot of sense. Going to a hackerspaces and crowd-funded models to validate, get help, print out whatever is on your mind. Early phases can now be easily proofed and transparently evolved through open-source troubleshooting. The Maker Movement is important. It’s really the first time in digital technology where tools or ideas have become economically feasible and available.

Figure 3: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

TV: Can you talk a little about Arduino and AVR MCUs?

ML: Arduino is one of the best things that happened to Makers, artists and engineers. Arduino is such a great revolution. A lot of people close to me or in my lab research groups use it for personal or professional projects. For example, some have used it for persistence of vision (POV) bike wheel displays, others for piloting hobby drone helicopters for surveying hiking conditions. These machines are now our friends and part of the cast. Whether among friends or professional coworkers/collaborators, Arduino and Embedded design have become part of our discussion and rapport with one another.

This world had become much easier for entry and the barriers to learning are now far removed – allowing more and more people from other core disciplines to get more tightly involved with their ideas. It’s a deeply knitted thread into everything in our lives. In fact, this sort of technology is serving as an invaluable tool. It’s sort of an extension to our imaginations and thoughts.  We are now able to not only have a discussion on the topics or matter at hand, but we can actually work together to help demonstrate and move great ideas from concept to reality. For me, it would have been too taxing and exhausting if I had to program in basic using exotic and difficult learning languages which are really expensive to do without the helpfulness, openness and availability of open hardware, open source, Arduino IDE and Atmel. These things that use to be beyond our limits have now come closer to “easy.”  Now the more important question becomes what we are working towards.

Figure 4: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

TV:  How does imagination and creativity meet technology? 

ML: Imagination and creativity are important for seeing beyond what exists out there and instead looking forward to what could be. Technology is about obtaining the depth to make these dreams real. A lot of my spare time is in the depth of the research or personal build. Technical depth helps pull away the curtain of mystery and make things transparent. It unfolds the creativity with logic and fuses them together with others.

TV:  What is the pursuit?

ML: I like to blend fantasy with reality. I mean simply thinking about it, lots of the tech and smart electronics we use today were once unexplained or unimaginative a decade or so ago. The fantasy world helps unleash abstract concepts in my drawings and paintings. Now there is an availability of technology and lowered barriers for entry such as what you find with the ease of Arduino and forgiving Atmel AVR chips. It’s his ease-of-use which help provide a concrete bridge to formulating my day-to-day work. This technology provides a platform to someone like me, who is immersed into creative/research academia; a canvas to exhibit my work.

Figure 5: Photo by Mike Vickers

Photo by Mike Vickers

I have always been a big fan of the fantasy and game world. It’s a relief, pleasure, and balance, being also a research scientist trying to figure out and solve difficult problems. The electronic cosplay collection as a maker help stretch the imagination. The Maker work helps extend my parameters of creativity, lift any preconceived barriers and make thoughts elevate more open. With my graduate research work, the Arduino inspired fluorescent LED costume helps personify the notion of science and tech, where these two disciplines of study are typically not necessary known to be social. When you are in a gaming cosplay, it truly is really easy to share and quickly attract interest. Gaining interest in your project portfolio to present your maker work is not difficult.  When you are at an open convention, people will come up and talk to you… The best feeling is being able to share what you have created.

TV:  What is accelerating the Maker Movement?

ML: Arduino has been so fantastic, with cost and ease of use its primary valued traits. These platforms help me on the weekend. I really like to learn and use motor control and so I have used these controls in a bunch of projects. Time-wise, it’s practical and some of my projects usually took a weekend or week at most.  I used to play a lot of computer games. This led me to building my own computers then I tore things apart to break things and build them back again. It made me feel very knowledgeable and empowered. This whole Maker Movement which is being accelerated more by the Internet, Adafruit, Etsy, Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Sparkfun, Seeed Studio, crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, etc…  To me, it’s really doing things in a more sharply defined or distinct ways and building hardware. Making is an attitude that isn’t the sole domain of just the hacker, young techie, or the old adapting to what’s new. Creativity with raw materials, the introduction of digital tools, social sharing, communities, and thriving or developing potential market for wearables or IoT apply to today’s Maker Movement.

Together with the social sharing and instant accessibility, the Movement has become more active. We can find this in academia or even in a social community gathering where people get together with a shared common belief.  For example, Makers and hackers are some of the friends I have at Georgia Tech. We find new platforms to constantly test and stretch our imaginations. Some are building robots together and finding similar pursuits in chasing their imagination. This helps in the exchange of creativity and innovation but also with fostering interesting new ideas. Of course, this all happens when you build something that has a personal expression and share something very meaningful or passionate towards …  Technology has become very personalized.

Figure 1: Inspirational work from Anouk Wipprecht's fashion designs

Inspirational work from Anouk Wipprecht’s fashion designs

TV: How would you characterize yourself?

ML: Well for me, I’m at heart two coalesced into one. I’m a Biomedical Engineer and a Maker. I’ve recently completed a PhD program at Georgia Tech and I’m currently a postdoc over at the University of Washington. At the same time, I really enjoy personal projects. I love to research and create – expand the creative envelope and engage in pursuit of the imagination. This makes me a true Maker at heart. I enjoy pursuing my projects with wearable electronics and I created DIY laboratory automation. Through my creative cosplay and imaginations, I am very passionate around wearable technology as an expression. I have created wearable electronics, which are powered by the Atmel microcontroller and Arduino boards. For example, during this year’s Maker Faire (Bay Area), I showcased some items from my DIY laboratory automation projects which demonstrates how the Atmel MCU and Arduino can be used for low-cost, multi-channel optics control and fluorescence visualization.

Part Two of the interview with Mel Li can be read here.

1:1 with Quin Etnyre of Qtechknow

It’s without question that 13-year-old CEO and whizkid, Quin Etnyre, has already become quite an accomplished Maker changing the world – one Atmel powered Arduino board at a time.

During Maker Faire Bay Area 2014, Quin hosted the “QTechKnow Olympics” robotic challenge featuring Arduino, XBee and FuzzBots.

Quin was also presented with the Maker Faire Editor’s Choice award for his Atmel-based demos and projects.

So what does Quin want to be when he grows up? An educator, user experience designer and electrical engineer.

You can read more about Quin the Maker here, the FuzzBot on Instructables and visit his official website here.

Arduino Zero in my hot little hand

A buddy just walked by and showed me the new Arduino Zero that will be showcased at the Bay Area Maker Faire 2014 this Saturday and Sunday.


It’s nice working at Atmel Headquarters where stuff like this happens to me. Better yet, one of our brilliant Norwegian marketing engineers walked by and I asked him about the Zero. I said: “OK, it has a SAM D21 ARM Cortex M0+ chip, but what is that other big chip?”

He said: “Its the debugger chip, the same one we use on our Xplained Pro boards.”

I say: “A debugger, like you can use on our Studio 6 integrated development platform?”

He says “yup.”

Now I happened to have the Arduino IDE running on my screen, and I point to it and say “But the Arduino IDE does not have a debugger interface!”

And he just smiled and walked away.


So there you have it, maybe not right away, but one day soon, you will be able to actually watch the guts of an Atmel chip as it executes your code in an Arduino. You can see registers and memory values, and set breakpoints and all the other things a debugger does. I am a big fan of debuggers, as evidenced by two recent videos I did here and here. You can do it now with our debuggers or our SAM D21 Xplained Pro boards, but only in Studio 6.2. If you prefer the Arduino IDE, you might be able to debug soon using that.

Garage door gets an Arduino RFID upgrade

A Maker by the name of Jason955 has designed an RFID-controlled garage door opener using an Atmel-based (ATmega328 MCU) Arduino board.

As HackADay’s Rick Osgood reports, the Arduino acts as the brains of the operation while an off-the-shelf NFC/RFID reader module is tasked with reading the RFID tags.

“To add new keys to the system, [Jason] simply swipes his ‘master’ RFID key. An indicator LED lights up and a piezo speaker beeps, letting you know that the system is ready to read a new key,” Osgood explains.

“Once the new key is read, the address is stored on an EEPROM. From that point forward the new key is permitted to activate the system. Whenever a valid key is swiped, the Arduino triggers a relay which can then be used to control just about anything.”

According to Osgood, the system also offers access to a number of manual controls, including a reset button (erased EEPROM) and a DIP that switch that allows the user to select how long the relay circuit remains open (configurable in increments of 100ms).

As Jason955 points out, the opener pictured above is simply an initial design prototype, with the next iteration likely to be a prototype shield followed by a PCB.

“The top section of components (Arduino and breadboard) will be placed inside the garage and the bottom section of components (LED, buzzer, NFC/RFID reader) will be placed outside (in a project box),” he adds.

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

Time-lapse photography trigger on an Arduino Shield

A Shield is a plug-in mezzanine board that fits into Arduinos. I was looking for a remote trigger for my great Panasonic GH3 camera I use for some shots in my Atmel Edge web show. So I was delighted to run across this little time lapse trigger Arduino Shield that visual effects artist Dan Thompson is working on.


This is the circuit board layout for Dan Thompson’s time-lapse Arduino Shield.

That lucky happenstance led me to other Arduino-based time-lapse controllers like this one from “hacker3455”.


This is another Arduino-based time-lapse shutter controller.


And here is a yet another time-lapse Arduino on Hack-a-Day.



And if you want to get that “Bullet time” look like in the Matrix
movies, there is even an Arduino-based time-lapse dolly controller.



There are several controllers, like this one you can to pans and tilts with. Here is a little test video of the prototype:

Of course, the path software is critical and the community does not disappoint, with code like this, developed by Airic Lenz, the fellow that did the above video.

This is the kind of tech that South Dakota farmer Randy Halverson stunned the world with back in 2013. Here is a vid with the man himself:

Here is a video of an Arduino-based dolly in action:

And here is one more time-lapse controller from the wonderful folks at Practical Arduino.

Arduino in a cardboard box

If you went to Maker Faire New York, you saw Atmel’s tables had flashing LEDs on the edge.


The tables Atmel had at NY Maker Faire had LED strips built into them.

Those strips were powered by these custom “Arduinos in a box.” The cardboard box was perfectly in keeping with cardboard tables, made by chairigami.


We created a battery-powered Arduino to run the LED lights on the cardboard tables.


Inside the box is an Atmel-powered Arduino, as well as the battery pack used to run the board and LED strip.


This side has the D-sub connector used to connect to the LED strips. There is also a power connector if you don’t want to run on the internal batteries.


The boxes have a cut-out for the USB connector, should you need to do some emergency programming on the show floor.


A nice touch is the Velcro strip on the back of the battery pack that holds it to the side of the box. You can see the “ECO” (engineering change order) where the USB hole was on the same side, but that got changed in the prototyping stage. Every product tells a story.

Be sure to check out the Atmel booth at Maker Faire Bay Area (Silicon Valley), World Maker New York (in Queens), and in just a few weeks (April 6-7, 2014) we will be at Maker Faire @ Shenzhen (China).