Tag Archives: Makezine

Atmel based smartwatch shines at Maker Faire Rome

Jonathan Cook’s Atmel based BLE smart watch has now not only been named the official winner of MAKE‘s Arduino Challenge, but has collected a “Maker of Merit” ribbon at Maker Faire — The European Edition recently held in Rome.

Powered by an ATmega644PA Microduino Core and an ATmega1284P microcontroller (MCU), the device features Bluetooth LE connectivity and in true Maker style, a 3D-printed case. As Cook notes, “The core of the watch consists of three small boards: A Microduino Core +, a Bluegiga BLE112 chip, and a voltage regulator.”


“The watch is the latest iteration of an ongoing BLE watch endeavor Cook has been exploring for the past nine months,” MAKE Magazine’s Mike Senese explained in a recent article.

In addition to the typical time and date functionality as seen in any watch, the Maker has sought out to develop an interface that any smartwatch wearer would want — email access, Facebook notification, Twitter updates, etc.

When he first started his project, Cook claimed that he had a series of goals in mind, such as building 100% Arduino-compatible hardware, insuring sufficient program memory, featuring at least one day’s worth of battery life, including BLE as both central and peripheral, and keeping it in a compact, convenient size.


Those interested in learning more about the 3D-printed smartwatch can access a detailed step-by-step breakdown of the build here.

Who’s talking about the Arduino Zero ?

The Atmel-powered Arduino Zero dev board was officially announced on May 15th, 2014. The board’s debut has already been covered by a number of prominent tech publications, including Ars Technica, HackADay, EE Times, Electronics Weekly, CNX SoftwareUberGizmoGeeky Gadgets, SlashGear, PC World, SemiWiki and Makezine.

Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica

“The Zero is a 32-bit extension of Arduino’s flagship Uno board, developed jointly by the Arduino team and Atmel, targeted at helping developers prototype smart devices. Based on the Atmel SAM D21 ARM Cortex-based microcontroller, the Zero includes Amtel’s Embedded Debugger—allowing developers to debug their projects without having to wire up another interface.


“It gives developers a huge boost in storage and memory over the Uno, providing 256KB of onboard Flash storage (compared to the Uno’s 32KB) and 32KB of static RAM (compared to the Uno’s 2KB). It can also emulate an Electronically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) of up to 168KB, while the Uno only supported 1KB of EEPROM.”

Brian Benchoff, HackADay

“The Arduino Zero uses an Atmel ARM Cortex-M0+ for 256kB of Flash and 32k of RAM. The board supports Atmel’s Embedded Debugger, finally giving the smaller Arduino boards debugging support.

“The chip powering the Zero features six communications modules, configurable as a UART, I2C, or SPI. USB device and host are also implemented on the chip [and] there are two USB connectors on the board.”

Max Maxfield, EE Times

“I’ve become a huge supporter of the Arduino, from the concept to the hardware to the software (IDE) to the ecosystem. I’m now using Arduinos and Arduino-compatible platforms for all sorts of projects, including my Infinity Mirror, my Inamorata Prognostication Engine and my BADASS Display.

“Each Arduino and Arduino-compatible platform offers different features, functions, capacities, and capabilities, which makes it possible to select the optimal platform for the project at hand using criteria such as size, cost, performance, and number of input/output pins. As of this morning, there’s a new kid on the block – the Arduino Zero, which has been jointly developed by Atmel and Arduino.”

Alasdair Allan, MakeZine

“While it shares the same form factor as the Arduino Leonardo—with 14 digital and 5 analog pins—all of the digital pins except the Rx/Tx pins can act as PWM pins, and the analog pins have a 12-bit ADC instead of the Leonardo’s 10-bit ADC, giving significantly better analog resolution,” writes Makezine’s Alasdair Allan.

“The new board comes with 256KB of Flash memory, and 32KB of SRAM. While the new board doesn’t have EEPROM, it does support 16KB by emulation, so Arduino sketches relying on this feature will still run without issue.”

Arduino Zero – official specs:

  • Microcontroller ATSAMD21G18, 48pins LQFP
  • Operating voltage 3.3V
  • Digital I/O Pins 14, with 12 PWM and UART
  • Analog input pins 6, including 5 12bits ADC channels and one 10 bits DAC
  • DC current per I/O Pin 7 mA
  • Flash memory 256 KB
  • SRAM 32 KB
  • EEPROM up to 16KB by emulation
  • Clock speed 48 MHz

Interested in learning more? You can check out the official Arduino Zero page here.

Atmel-powered MicroView is a Kickstarter champion

The Atmel-powered MicroView – which made its first official Kickstarter appearance last week – has already raised nearly $260,000 from over 3,000 enthusiastic backers.


For the uninitiated, MicroView is a chip-sized platform with a built-in OLED (64×48) display that allows Makers to see what the Atmel-based board is “thinking” without having to link with a PC.

 The device, designed by the Geek Ammo crew, is built around Atmel’s versatile ATmega328P microcontroller (MCU).

Additional key features and specs include:

  • Support for the Arduino IDE 1.0+ (OSX/Win/Linux)
  • Direct 3.3VDC – 16VDC power input, no power regulator required
  • Standard DIP package
  • Breadboard friendly or direct solder
  • Operating Voltage: 5V
  • Input Voltage: 3.3VDC – 16VDC
  • Digital I/O Pins: 12 (of which 3 provide PWM output)
  • Analog Input Pins: 6
  • Flash Memory: 32 KB
  • SRAM: 2 KB
  • EEPROM: 1 Kilobyte
  • Clock Speed: 16 Mhz

In addition to providing a wide range of tutorials, the Geek Ammo crew has developed a cross-platform MicroView course that takes Makers through a step-by-step process of building 11 different circuits including:

  • Blinking LEDs and creating various colors on an RGB LED
  • Obtaining readings from a potentiometer
  • Taking the input from a push button
  • Sensing temperature and light
  • Controlling actuators relays, motors and servos
  • Generating sound

The MicroView can be powered via a number of sources, including a coin cell battery, AA or AAA, USB, 9V (Square) and 12V (car).

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered MicroView? You can check out the project’s official Kickstarter page here and Makezine’s recent write-up here.

International Arduino Day is almost here!

Celebrated March 29, 2014, Arduino Day is a worldwide celebration marking the first successful decade of the Atmel-powered open source board.

It’s a 24 hour celebration – both official and independent – with Makers meeting up to share their DIY experiences.

Meanwhile, Make Magazine will be celebrating the milestone all through next week by showcasing a special lineup of top-rated Arduino projects.

“But we’re also looking to you, because we want to feature your original projects here on the Make blog. If you’re not going to be able to show off your project at your local Arduino event on Arduino Day, maybe you should show it off to the world,” writes MakeZine’s Alasdair Allan.

“Or maybe you’ve been itching for an excuse to sit down and build something new? Or [perhaps] someone [is] wrong on the Internet and you want to write the definitive guide teaching people how to use a particular sensor, widget, or gizmo, with the Arduino.”

Whatever the reason, Makers can send a summary of their thoughts to alasdair@makezine.com with “MAKE Arduino Day” in the subject line. Please be sure to include any technical details about the build, as well as some pictures, images and video links.

Of course we’ll also be celebrating Arduino Day here at Bits & Pieces with extra project coverage, so be sure to stop by and check out our blog posts about everybody’s favorite Atmel-powered board!

Swapping post-it notes for an Uno

Writing for Makezine, Tom Piluti says he often slaps post-it notes on the office door to alert co-workers of his whereabouts.

Unfortunately, removing or updating paper post-its notes without physically returning to the office is somewhat of a problem, especially if one is sick or on an extended vacation.

The solution?

Piluti built a remote text message display platform using an Atmel-based Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and a GSM shield.

“Once in the Arduino, the text message is extracted, manipulated a bit, and then displayed scrolling across a 16×2 LCD affixed to my office door,” Piluti explained.

 “To mount the display on the door, a bracket was made with an [Atmel-powered Makerbot] 3D printer, [with] a cable connecting the Arduino to the LCD.”

Kudos to Piluti, as the electronic post-it substitute is his very first project with an Arduino board.

“It is a combination of getting the GSM side of things to work and programming the message for the LCD,” he adds. “The display bracket was affixed to the door glass with transparent mounting sticky things. There are lots of opportunities to make tweaks to fit your particular needs, especially [in terms of] mounting the display.”

Interested in learning more about how Piluti replaced his physical post-it notes with an Uno-powered text display? You can check out his detailed blog post and sketches in Makezine here.

Learning the Maker way

Writing for MakeZine, Phil Shapiro notes that human beings are capable of learning in many different ways. However, says Shapiro, some methods of learning are clearly more tedious and stressful than others.

“Learning by Making is [a] more humane way [and] starts with learners having a purpose. They seek to create something, and in the process, they acquire the skills to do so,” Shapiro explained.

“When they learn by Making (often called project-based learning), the learning sticks because they have a reason for doing it. It’s the exact opposite of cramming their heads with stuff that they may never need or use in their lives.”

According to Shapiro, teachers who incorporate Making into their teaching are not at all interested in what their students cannot do. Rather, they tend to focus on the positive, emphasizing what their students are able to do.

“Teachers who incorporate Making follow the tradition of Annie Sullivan, who taught Helen Keller sign language,” Shapiro continues.

“The fact that Helen Keller was deaf and blind was irrelevant to Annie Sullivan. She sought a way to unlock Helen Keller’s language abilities and succeeded in that venture.”

As Shapiro points, huge numbers of students are dropping out of high schools across the United States. Can the problem be solved by urging students to stay school? Perhaps in some cases, says Shapiro, although a more realistic answer would probably be to make schools a place where students really wanted to be. 
Shapiro concludes his MakeZine article by recommending that all schools – whether public or private – adopt the Maker way of learning.

“If we changed our teaching methods from sit down to stand up, from passive learning to active learning, we might see a rapid reduction in dropout rates,” he adds.

”Treating human beings more humanely can never be a mistake. Learning by making is one of the most humane ways for students to learn.”

Atmel @ CES 2014: Days 2 & 3 in pictures

Atmel unveiled and showcased a number of new products at CES 2014, including the AvantCar console concept, ARM-based SAM G lineup, the second-gen maXStylus and a low-cost ZigBee Gateway.


As you can see in the pictures below, Atmel’s various technology zones attracted quite a bit of attention from conference attendees, especially the company’s MakerSpace which was well-stocked with Arduino boards, 3D printers and other Atmel-powered devices.

 As MakeZine’s Mike Senese notes, Atmel’s tricked-out CES 2014 MakerSpace illustrates just how mainstream the Maker Movement has become.


“Atmel has typically focused on the microcontrollers and components inside many consumer devices, a role that puts them squarely in CES territory. They also provide the processor inside most Arduino boards, connecting them closely with the world of making,” writes Senese.

 “Promising new low-cost Arduino-based development boards, as well as a nation-wide education tour for 2014, Atmel is staying firmly connected to Makers.”




























Video: Making goes mainstream at CES 2014

Writing for Makezine, Mike Senese says Atmel’s tricked-out CES 2014 MakerSpace illustrates just how mainstream the Maker Movement has become.

“Atmel has typically focused on the microcontrollers and components inside many consumer devices, a role that puts them squarely in CES territory,” Senese explains.

“They also provide the processor inside most Arduino boards, connecting them closely with the world of making.”

As Senese notes, Atmel MCU Applications Manager Bob Martin is one of the architects of the company’s CES 2014 MakerSpace, which is tastefully decorated with brown pegboard and well-stocked with a plethora of hand tools.

“With a variety of various Arduino-compatible boards, including the environmental sensing Smart Citizen, as well as various build projects like Martin’s obstacle-avoiding Hexbug hack, the area highlights how attractive making has become as a consumer endeavor,” Senese adds.

“Promising new low-cost Arduino-based development boards, as well as a nation-wide education tour for 2014, Atmel is staying firmly connected to Makers.”

ATMega32U4 MCU drives Multiplo’s robotic kits

Multiplo – powered by Atmel’s ATMega32U4 MCU – is now available in the Maker Shed. As Makezine’s Michael Castor notes, Multiplo is more than just a standard ‘bot kit. Rather, it is a comprehensive platform for building and learning robotics.

“It’s completely open-source, [with] all the components freely downloadable as STLs for 3D printing from Multiplo’s website,” Castor explained in a recent Makezine blog post. “[The ‘bots can be] programmed using one of two software packages: a version of the Arduino IDE called DuinoPack (optimized to work with Multiplo), or the graphics-based miniBloq [which offers] a drag-and-drop experience. The miniBloq code view lets [Makers] see the Arduino code in real time, making it a great first step into into robotics and physical computing.”

The Multiplo Starter Kit is recommended for those who want to begin learning the basics of robotics. It features the DuinoBot controller, two gear motors, an IR remote (plus sensor), two IR sensors, a pair of light sensors, mechanical parts, nuts/bolts, tools and a USB cable.

The more advanced Building Kit includes everything listed above in the Starter Kit, with the addition of two servos, an ultrasonic sensor, two LED beacons and mechanical parts such as gears and a gripper with touch sensor.

Both kits are available now in the Maker Shed. Additional information about the Atmel-powered DuinoBot controller can be found here.

Building an Arduino-controlled solar fountain

A tastefully designed fountain adds a certain decorative (and often functional) touch to a garden. But as Maker Jason Poel Smith found, it isn’t always easy to run a power cord outdoors, prompting him to opt for a solar-powered fountain controlled by an Atmel-based Arduino board.

A standard solar panel and battery provides power for the fountain and control circuit, while a small power inverter helps run the pump.

“The size of the solar panel determines how many hours a day the fountain can be on. If you want the fountain to be on all the time, then you will need a larger panel. If you only want it to run for a few hours each day, then you can get by with a much smaller panel,” Smith explained in a detailed blog post published on MakeZine.

“Meanwhile, the battery needs to be a 12V rechargeable battery  – preferably one that is designed for solar power applications. It should have a high enough capacity to be able to run the pump for a few hours on a single charge. [In terms of] the power inverter, it just needs to be strong enough to power the pump, [with] a small 80 watt inverter more than sufficient [for] most fountains.”

And last, but certainly not least, the control circuit in this project uses a relay to turn the fountain on and off, which can be achieved with a commercial shield or a DIY relay driver.

Interested in learning more? You can find a full list of instructions here on MakeZine.