Tag Archives: MiniBloq

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 a custom LEGO MCU system

A Maker by the name of J. Benschop has created a custom electronic LEGO system powered by an Atmel microcontroller (MCU).

“The main board consists of a [number of components, including an] ATMega328, nRF24L01+, a protection diode and stabilizing capacitor,” Benschop explained.

“The  ATMega328 is running at 5V while the nRF24L01 requires 3.3V. However, I needed the IO pins to run at 5V and although the nRF24L01 requires a lower supply voltage, all interface pins can handle 5V.”

As the Hack A Day crew notes, the enclosure for the LegoDuino is compatible with other LEGO bricks, simply because it is made from a 6×16 plate (three blocks high), with sufficient space for the electronics, three AA batteries and IO headers.

On the software side, Benschop decided to go with the Minibloq programming environment, as the Arduino IDE was somewhat too advanced for his nine-year-old son to take on.

“I downloaded [Minibloq] and found that I could add my own blocks relatively easily. For the LegoDuino target in Minibloq, I copied the ArduinoUno target. I modified minibloq.h to use my defined port names as well as the minibloq target board definition (main.board),” wrote Benschop.

“I also added some of my own programming blocks and the Arduino NewPing sensor (instead of the existing Ping sensor). [Plus], I copied the DCMotor programming block and modified it into a LegoMotor programming block. And I added some special power button [along with] LED support so the power button can be used to turn the LegoDuino on and off, but also to power off the LegoDuino after a fixed time. This way, the batteries will not be drained when my son forgets to turn it off.”

Interested in learning more? Additional information about Benschop’s custom electronic LEGO microcontroller system can be found here.

Sparki the Arduino robot is going places with Atmel’s Atmega32u4RC

Sparki is an easy to use Arduino-based robot that offers a fun introduction to programming, electronics and robotics. Although Sparki is simple enough for beginners, the ‘bot is packed with more than enough features to satisfy more experienced Makers.

The robot is powered by Atmel’s Atmega32u4RC paired with with a custom serial/HID hybrid Arduino bootloader. Additional key hardware specs include an NRF24L01+ data radio, 128×64 LCD, an ultrasonic distance sensor, accelerometer, 3x light-sensing phototransistors, 5x line-following and edge detection sensors, IR bounce for gripper, RGB LED, buzzer, IR transmitter/receiver/remote, TL serial port for expansion, a port for Bluetooth serial module, 2x geared stepper motors and a marker holder for drawing.

“Sparki is ArcBotics’ answer to robotics in education. After our first successful Kickstarter for Hexy the Hexapod, a low-cost open-source Arduino robot designed to be an intro to advanced robotics, we were approached by many who asked if we had anything for beginners. When we looked around, we saw that other educational robots were very expensive, difficult to use, lacked features, or had closed designs,” an ArcBotic rep explained on Kickstarter.


“However, we know that the interest in programming and robotics from people of all ages is enormous. So we thought, why not design an adorable new robot that lets people of all ages enjoy robotics, while offering them a wide range of [fun] possibilities?”

On the software side, ArcBotic has partnered with the folks at MiniBloq to bring drag-and-drop programming to Sparki, all while developing free tutorials and lesson plans.

Currently, Sparki can be used to teach a number of introductory robotic concepts, including edge avoidance, line following, maze solving, wall avoidance, room navigation, object retrieval and shape drawing. More advanced concepts include PID loops, pathfinding algorithms, signal filtering and heuristics.

Sparki has raised over $184,000 from close to 1,600 backers. Additional information about the ‘bot can be found on Sparki’s official Kickstarter page here.