Tag Archives: YouTube

Super Awesome Sylvia is at the White House!

Sylvia Todd – aka Super Awesome Sylvia – has been creating and making things since she was five. Sylvia, who learned how to solder when she was 7, also hosts her very own MAKE YouTube show.

Today, Bits & Pieces had the opportunity to interview the young Maker about DIY culture and Making at the very first White House Maker Faire – which Atmel is proudly attending.

Atmel: Who, or what inspired you to become a Maker?

Sylvia: I was inspired to be a Maker/make things when I went to the very first San Mateo Maker Faire in 2006 when I was 5. That event and the ones after it showed me that making is fun, interesting, and [helps] you learn lots of new skills. After that weekend, I wanted to solder and build and take apart things even more!

Atmel: How do you feel about being chosen to attend the very first Maker Faire at the White House?

Sylvia: I am so happy and honored that I was invited to attend the White House Maker Faire. It is pretty amazing that after being inspired by the Maker Movement to create my show back in 2009, I eventually became one of the people that helped others get into Making!


Atmel: How do you think the Maker Movement democratizes the tools and skills necessary to design and create just about anything?

Sylvia: I think the Maker Movement helps give us the knowledge resources to create lots of stuff, through sharing! The internet allows us to find and share projects, sell projects, and even show others how to make things. Sharing how to’s and project details really can inspire people to get out there and make something, even if it’s not exactly what they’re trying to make, it helps them learn by doing.

Atmel: What projects of yours are powered by Atmel-powered Arduino boards or stand-alone MCUs?


I have a book coming out next moth that shows three super simple Arduino projects for beginners, all using the Arduino Uno as the base. I am also going to use the Arduino in many other projects and might soon design a custom circuit board around the ATmega328 MCU for a kit. One of my older projects was an Arduino and GPS powered RC car that could navigate around my house, and one of my latest ideas is a sensor that senses when the mail truck comes and tells me by switching on a servo to ring a bell.

Atmel: How do you think the Maker Movement and DIY culture make the world a better place?

Sylvia: I think the Maker Movement will change the world because when you have lots of people thinking of new ideas or inventions and sharing their work and results, we could solve really big issues faster! Also when kids grow up in an environment of making, they’ll be more willing to fix or reuse things instead of just throwing them away, and they’ll be making themselves smarter about the world at the same time. Making stuff rocks!

Video: Fast booting Atmel’s SAMA5D33-EK

The TimeSys crew recently posted a YouTube video illustrating a major boot time reduction for Atmel’s SAMA5D33-EK.

The fast boot – which can be seen in the side-by-side comparison video above – is facilitated by Warp!! This licensed app for embedded Linux is designed to significantly reduce the amount of code and memory access required at boot time, loading an application in seconds. 

You can read more about boot time reduction with Timesys here.

In other SAMA5D3 news, the new $79 Atmel SAMA5D3 Xplained evaluation kit (ATSAMA5D3-XPLD) – a low-cost, fast prototyping and evaluation platform for microprocessor-based design – is now officially available at the Atmel store here.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the board, which is built around Atmel’s SAMA5D3 ARM Cortex-A5 processor-based MPU, is packed with a rich set of ready-to-use connectivity and storage peripherals, along with Arduino shield-compatible expansion headers for easy customization. In addition, the platform is a perfect target for headless Android projects, while a Linux distribution and software package facilitates rapid software development.

Video: Designing a trainable robotic arm

A YouTube user by the name of navic209 has designed a trainable robotic arm built around Adafruit’s Analog Feedback Micro Servo and an Atmel-powered Arduino board that can be easily “taught” to move in a specific pattern.

Once the “train” button is pressed, users simply move the arm and gripper in a specific pattern, while an Atmel-powered Arduino board stores the relevant positions in EEPROM. The arm is then fully capable of precisely replaying the various motions.

According to navic209, the trainable robotic arm was inspired by Baxter, an entirely new robot targeted at manufacturing environments. Indeed, Baxter performs a variety of repetitive production tasks – all while safely and intelligently working next to people.

Interested in learning more about the Atmel-powered trainable robotic arm? The Arduino sketch is available on Github, while Adafruit’s Analog Feedback Micro Servo can be purchased here. The micro servo robotic arm is available on Thingiverse, along with the micro servo gripper (also on Thingiverse).

12 year old CEO shows off Atmel powered robots

Meet Quin, CEO and founder of QTechKnow. Unlike most CEOs, Quin is just 12 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from running a wildly successful electronics blog, his own YouTube channel and amassing a ton of loyal friends and fans on Twitter. The mini maker has a major passion for electronics and especially Arduino, having racked up a plethora of advanced projects and even making his own PCBs.


Atmel caught up with Quin at Maker Faire in San Mateo last weekend to examine a couple of his creations, the Fuzzbot and the Android DiceBot.

Fuzzbot is an awesome, fast, fully autonomous small Arduino robot which uses the compact Pololu ZumoBot Chassis kit for a great drive system, and uses a Parallax Ping sensor to sense proximity, to make it fully autonomous.


Quin says he likes to think of the Fuzzbot as a cheap and hackable “mini Roomba” because it uses a Swiffer Duster on the back to pick up any unwanted dirt off of the floor.

Quin programmed the Arduino code using the simple Pololu ZumoBot library, and used the Ping library to interface with the Ping sensor.  The FuzzBot also has a pan/tilt servo for the Ping sensor, and can be used with the Servo Arduino library. You can check out the parts Quin used in the picture below:


DiceBot, on the other hand, is an electronic dice that fits into an Android figurine.  It has a 7-Segment display, a 74HC595 shift register, an accelerometer, and an ATmega328p (the Arduino microcontroller).


Quin said he used his Pineapple library to drive the 7-Segment LED with the 74HC595, his Quasi-duino core for the ATmega328p without the clock, and the free Arduino IDE to program the ATmega328p.

Here are the parts Quin used when putting together Dicebot:


Getting up close and personal with Atmel’s tinyAVR

So Atmel’s tinyAVR tech has been in the news lately, popping up in the Agent smart watch which recently debuted on Kickstarter and the uber-cool ShuttAVR mod for cameras.

As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, the Agent smart watch combines the SAM4S and tinyAVR MCUs to provide extended battery life – consuming less than half the power of competing platforms. Essentially, the tinyAVR MCU handles maintenance tasks and events while the ARM-based SAM4S deals with the operating system and related apps. This combination optimizes power use and enables the larger SAM4S microcontroller to remain in sleep mode for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, “balthamos89” used the versatile AVR ATtiny25 to help build the ShuttAVR,  a device which allows cameras to snap pictures at precisely defined intervals.

“I happened to have some AVR ATtiny25′s lying around, so I popped open the IR remote for the camera and poked around a bit. Though, I poked around a bit too much and ended up with a broken IR remote,” he explained.

“Determined, I ripped out the old chip and soldered a new switch. I had to add in code for handling the IR signaling, but I ended up with a functioning remote. Not only that, but it had intervalometer capabilities as well.”

So let’s take a closer look at Atmel’s tinyAVR technology which resides under the hood of a growing number of cool devices these days.

First off, all tinyAVRs are based on the same architecture and compatible with other AVR devices. Features like integrated ADC, EEPROM memory and brownout detectors allow users to design applications without adding external components. tinyaAVR also offers up flash memory and on-chip debug for fast, secure, cost-effective in-circuit upgrades.

“The tinyAVR offers an advanced combination of miniaturization, processing power, analog performance and system-level integration,” an Atmel engineer explained. “Simply put, the tinyAVR is the most compact device in the AVR family and the only device capable of operating at just 0.7V. And there’s nothing really tiny about that. Plus, tinyAVR designs can be coupled with Atmel’s CryptoAuthentication tech for an extra level of security against hackers and cloners.”

It should also be noted that the smallest tinyAVR measures only 1.5mm x 1.4mm. This  means makers, modders and engineers can all employ the tinyAVR as a single chip solution in small systems – or use it to deliver glue logic and distributed intelligence in larger systems.

“The AVR CPU gives the tinyAVR devices the same high performance as our larger AVR devices,” the engineer continued. “Flexible and versatile, they feature high code efficiency that lets them fit a broad range of applications.”

As expected, tinyAVR offers a high level of integration, with each ping boasting multiple uses as I/O, ADC, and PWM. To be sure, even the reset pin can be reconfigured as an I/O pin. Oh, and yes, the tinyAVR also features a Universal Serial Interface (USI) which can be used as SPI, UART or TWI.

On the power side, where most microcontrollers require 1.8V or more to operate, the tinyAVR boosts the voltage from a single AA or AAA battery into a stable 3V supply to power an entire application.

So if you do use tinyAVR tech in your next maker, hacked, modded or industrial project, be sure to drop us a line and let us know! In the meantime, additional information about Atmel’s extensive tinyAVR lineup can be be found here.

ATtiny25’s are inside this ShuttAVR

YouTube user “balthamos89” wanted to snap pictures at defined intervals, but didn’t have an intervalometer handy. To make matters worse, software specifically coded to trigger the camera via a PC burned through his camera battery within 30 minutes.

“I needed something that would last days,” balthamos89 explained in a YouTube post. “So, my options were to buy an overpriced external power supply, or build something that can take photos that didn’t interface through USB. My camera doesn’t have support for a wired trigger, so IR was my only option.”

Balthamos89 said he thought it would be fun to strap in a microcontroller into pre-existing hardware, so he decided to gave it a try.

“I happened to have some AVR ATtiny25’s lying around, so I popped open the IR remote for the camera and poked around a bit. Though, I poked around a bit too much and ended up with a broken IR remote,” he continued.

“Determined, I ripped out the old chip and soldered a new switch. I had to add in code for handling the IR signaling, but I ended up with a functioning remote. Not only that, but it had intervalometer capabilities as well.”

Pretty cool, eh? If you want to try building your own version of the AVR ATtiny25-powered ShuttAVR be sure to check out the the relevant files on GitHub.

A closer look at a light-sensitive MIDI controller

Ah, the 90’s. Along with many others, I remember it fondly as the golden age of personal computing. I mean, who can forget the days of AdLib/Sound Blaster cards, Doom, BBS door games like Solar Realms Elite and MIDI files?

The truth is, each of the above-mentioned subjects probably deserves its very own nostalgic blog post, but today we’re going to focus on MIDI.

For the uninitiated, MIDI is an acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a technical standard or protocol that allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers and other related devices to connect and communicate with one another.

Although MIDI technology has been around since the 80’s in one form or another, it achieved widespread mainstream popularity in the 90’s alongside the rise of the PC. While MIDI may be somewhat old school for some, many hobbyists and modders proudly continue its legacy.

Case in point? A light-sensitive, Arduino-powered MIDI controller which popped up on YouTube just a few days ago, courtesy of Jacob Clarke.

“I’ve finally started messing around with Arduino properly. Found an old light sensor in my electronics stuff and decided to try my hand at rewiring a MIDI to USB cable I had lying around,” wrote Clarke.

“A few hours later I had a light sensitive MIDI controller working! This can be powered completely independent to a computer if need be (and into any synth). For the sake of making it ‘nice sounding’ I added a bit of code to round the notes into a pentatonic scale.”

Clarke says he has bigger plans in mind and will likely disassemble his creation, but it does serve as a good starting point and certainly makes for a fun video! If you are interested in trying this yourself,  the Arduino sketch has been posted to PasteBin and is  available here.