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Fidget spinners — so hot right now!

[Ben Parnas], and co-conspirator in engineering inanity [Greg Daneault], brought to the recent Boston Stupid Hackathon in Cambridge, MA, their IoT-enabled Fidget Spinner…. spinner. A Spidget Finner. Yep, that’s correct: spin the smartphone, and the spinner follows suit. Stupid? Maybe, but for good reason.

Part satire on cloud tech, part learning experience, a curt eight hours of tinkering brought this grotesque, ESP32-based device to life. The ESP can the Arduino boot-loader, but you’ll want to use the ESP-IDF sdk, enabling broader use of the chip.

Creating an app that pulls data from the phone’s gyroscope, the duo set up the spinner-bot to access the WiFi and request packets of rotational data from the smartphone via a cloud-based server — the ‘spincloud.’ Both devices were enabled as clients to circumvent existing IoT services.

[Parnas] stipulates that — theoretically — you could control as many spinners as you can imagine with this setup, but one is quite enough of a silly idea for us. Ridiculous or not — if you learn something, then it’s probably worthwhile! So keep hacking away at those ideas and you might be able to justify it to all the people with concerned stares.

To start, you can tell them you’re in  good company.

Filed under: Android Hacks, Arduino Hacks

A class in Brazil was given the assignment to make a board game. [Marcelo], presumably, heard his son lamenting how lame it was going to be if the board was just cardboard with some drawings on, and came to the rescue.

 fusion between Operation and one of those disease transmitters at the doctors office
A match meant to be.

Working with the class, they came up with the rules of the game. We’re not certain what those are, but it involves a regular game board, a flashing light circle with numbers, and a fusion between Operation and one of those disease transmitters commonly found at the doctor’s office. You can try to puzzle them out from the video after the break.

The brains of the board is an Arduino with an external EEPROM for all the sound effects and other data needed for this construction. Everything is laid out on a beautifully done home etched PCB. It’s too bad the other side of the board isn’t visible.

We’re sure the kids learned a lot working with [Marcelo]. It would have been nice if a traveling wizard came to some of our earlier classes in school and showed us just how much cool stuff you can do if you know electronics.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

If you want to sell a toy for the toddler crowd, it ought to be pretty close to indestructible. A lot of toys out there are just plain nonsense game-wise and therefore waste their beefy potential. [2dom]’s wife was close to throwing out such a toy—a Little Tikes Goofy Ball. The thing literally does nothing but let you push its big buttons in. After some time passes, it pops them back out again and giggles. Game over. [2dom] rescued it from the trash and turned it into a toy that plays math games.

[2dom] removed the existing board and replaced it with an Arduino Pro Mini and a Darlington array that drives the motor that pops the buttons back out, the speaker, and a Nokia 5110 screen. Upon startup, the user chooses between addition, subtraction, and multiplication questions using the appropriate button. Questions appear in the middle of the screen and multiple choice answers in the corners.

Choose the right answer and the ball cheers and shows one of a few faces. Choose the wrong answer and it makes a buzzing sound and shows an X. There is an adaptive level system for the questions that [2dom] doesn’t show in the demonstration video after the break. For every five correct answers, you level up. His 3- and 5-year-olds love it. For more advanced teachable moments, there’s this toy-turned-enigma-machine.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

“I am a maker in the making”

architecture, arduino, arduino mega, Electronics, Featured, lasercut, learning, maker, mega Commenti disabilitati su “I am a maker in the making” 

Rishalaser running on Arduino Mega

Moushira Elamrawy is an Egyptian multidisciplinary designer and technologist based in the city of Cairo and founder of Rishalaser, a new concept for laser cutters that is opensource, portable, DIY, and easy to use. She wrote a piece on iAfrikan about becoming a maker and discovering Arduino. It’s an inspiring text and we want to share it on this blog.



Confession: I used to be an architect (possibly still am!), and then I started tinkering with things.
The architecture engineering school I graduated from did not have a workshop space. The first time I met a CNC router in real life was three years after i graduated.

It is hard to discover what you don’t know even exists. Which is somehow, why I had zero imagination of how those awesome Theo Watson installations could possibly work.

I had no business fiddling with electronics whatsoever. My coding and programming skills were limited to some knowledge of ActionScript, some C, and that was about it.

I read about Openframeworks, installed it, went through examples, tutorials and thought “Nice, I can change parameters that in return would change behavior, fantastic..but ..then..what?!”

Rishalaser running on Arduino Mega

By that time, I was an architect working in Morocco, between an office that was based in Fez and a construction site based in a beautiful small southern village close to the Algerian borders, called Mhamid ElGhizlane. It normally took me a little over a day and a half to travel from Fez to the construction site.

I had a radio, which I considered my companion in those interesting border areas. Before Morocco, I was living in Sinai mountains, working on a similar desert development project, where the radio would normally catch signals of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jordan. The Moroccan Sahara, on the other hand, got me signals from Algeria, with lots of different dialects. Radio feels like travelling within time within places. It makes you really feel the distance you crossed.


In May 2012, I attended a beginners workshop for Arduino, lead by Bilal, who was visiting Egypt. During the workshop, I controlled an LED via Arduino.

It was magical.

I never used the board before, I barely understood any syntax, yet in 15 min, I did something cool . . that actually works. Arduino: I am in Love, I thought.

It is easy. It is just that starting alone isn’t easy. Going back home, I went through some examples and I felt oh..I can do stuff. I can do all these stuff actually. Oh, wait, there is also: Processing!

By September 2012, I moved to Barcelona for my masters, which started by a fabrication course in Fablab. I was Alice in wonderland. Then physical computing course started, and Alice’s wonderland was getting more vast.

Everything was awesome. The exact skill set that I wanted to learn. But I needed more, a lot more, time to absorb this whole new world. I thought of taking a gap year, but then, week after week, it turned out that once the ball gets rolling everything is accelerated.

Thanks actually to my sister for pushing me to trust that the ball will get rolling. She herself was moving from translation to graphics design one year before me. It is a family thing.

Arduino was THE treasure.

At the end of the day, all those fantastic surreal systems that I was fascinated by could be done with some components and an Arduino. The amount of associated open source resources is tremendous. The forum is awesome and people actually respond.

Through Arduino, I learned more about microcontrollers, I could program standalone circuits. Then the ball kept rolling, I learned eagle, I can mill some boards, I can solder (err, that was troublesome!), I can interface stuff, I can build sensors, I can work with data, I can build RF sensors, then I became obsessed with antennas, signal processing, and RFID.

I am still learning and learning, but it is much easier now.

Coming from this background, I always go back with time 4 or 5 years ago and recall how I used to react to a “closed box” new technology?

How life would have changed if machine interaction have been made easier, or basically how my life would have changed if machines had the opportunity to step out of their labs and talk to more people.

Making technology more portable and more accessible, is one reason why I started the mobile operated laser cutter project last year, of course, the project would have never been realized without the team that continued with enthusiasm.

Another wonderful project that I just co-started is Jebaleya Talks, with the hope of giving voice to women of Saint Katherine village in Sinai, by introducing them to smart textiles! Well, lets see how this will evolve..

While working in the desert in Sinai, the project foreman was my mentor, his words of wisdom still echo in my ears

“Everything comes along..with patience. If you could just wait”.

Apparently, he had a point!

E-mails are a distraction.

Meetings are boring.

Regular jobs suck your inner clock.

Take a sabbatical and learn what you want to learn and start anew.

At least try.

Oh, and during your sabbatical, give Arduino a try, it might change your life as well.

Let’s just hope that Arduino founders will keep embracing the same energy they started the project with, and that the big whales leave Arduino alone, so that it stays, open and libre just as how it helped liberate many creative energies and minds.

Keep reading on iAfrikan


Arduino Protection: How to Make Sure Your Project Won’t Kill Your Arduino

arduino, learning, Ohm's law, resistor Commenti disabilitati su Arduino Protection: How to Make Sure Your Project Won’t Kill Your Arduino 

An Arduino Breadboard ProjectOK, so you’ve bought one of the Arduino boards, downloaded some development software, and figured out how to talk to the Arduino to do simple tasks. Now you want to introduce Arduino to the outside world, so you’ll have to learn something about electronics in order to keep that “magic smoke” (more like the odoriferous black cloud of doom!) from escaping from your new little workhorse.

The easiest way to get the Arduino practicing safe outside world contact is to use one of the many “shields” that are available. These are circuit boards which are especially created to interface the Arduino and plug right on to the Arduino board.

With the aptly named shield in place (a staggering multitude of shields are available!), you can freely experiment with interfacing without fear of turning your Arduino to toast. You might cook the shield, but the Arduino will probably survive. So if you’re working solely with shields, you can breathe your sigh of relief now, bookmark this page for future reference, and get back to your tinkering project.

* Photo Credit: g.p.macklin, distributed under a Creative Commons license.

But I Want to Build my Own Homebrew Shields!

The Ohm’s Law is your friend

If you are a courageous soul, you may want to homebrew your own physical interfaces to the Arduino. When you do, there is one very strict rule that you need to follow:

Obey the Law!

“Always use a current limiting resistor so you never exceed the maximum source or sink current that the Arduino can handle”

Current Limiting Resistors* Photo Credit: oskay distributed under a Creative Commons license.

An Assorted Resistor Kit is a Great Starting Point

Joe Knows Electronics 1/4W 86 Value 860 Piece Resistor Kit

Assorted Resistor Kit by Jow Knows ElectronicsI recently bought this kit for myself, and I am happy with it. The resistors come nicely packed and well-organized.

There is a label on top of the box, as well as separate labels that you can stick to each individual bag.

This nifty kit contains 10 each of the 86 most common resistor values, ranging from 0 Ohm to 10M Ohm.

Law? What Law?

Ohm’s Law: a snapshotOhm's Law Triangle Diagram

In the diagram to the right you can see a simple circuit illustrating the three variables whose relationship is defined by the Ohm’s Law: Voltage (V), Resistance (R) and Current (I).

The law states that “the current (i) between two points of a conductor is directly proportional to the potential difference (V) across these two points” and is described by the following mathematical expression:

V = IR, where V is the voltage (in volts) across the points marked “+” and “-” in the circuit, R is the resistance (in ohms) of the conductor (the zig-zagged portion in the circuit) and I is the current (in amperes) that flows through the conductor.

For a complete explanation of the Ohm’s Law, read this Wikipedia article.

* Image credit: the two images that were merged together here were kindly released into the public domain by its creators.

Array of LEDs

An Example of Ohm’s Law Applied to a Circuit

A simple Arduino experiment to flash LEDs

OK, so here’s a simple example:

One of the experiments you can perform with the Arduino is a device that can flash Light Emitting Diodes. An LED exhibits a very low resistance in the forward bias direction, so if you apply voltage in that direction from one of the Arduino IO pins without protection, a very large current will flow. This is likely to destroy the LED AND the Arduino in one nifty little “pop.”

Some LEDs have an internal current limiting resistor which prevent this, but it’s best to not take that chance unless you are absolutely sure (redundancy intended). You should put a resistor between the IO pin and the LED anode to keep the current under control.

The value of the resistor is determined by the current rating of the LED and a little math, using, you guessed it, Ohm’s Law!

Let’s say that the LED draws about 10 milliamps of current when fully lit. The Arduino IO pin will usually supply 5 volts in an active high state, so with Ohm’s Law, the voltage divided by the current will equal the amount of resistance required (we’ll ignore the internal voltage drop on the diode here for simplicity).

Doing the math (5 volts divided by .010 amps) yields a resistance value of about 500 ohms. Resistors aren’t available in exactly 500 ohm values, but we can find one at 510 ohms.

There! Now your Arduino is safe from harm!

* Image credit: generously shared under a Creative Commons license by cibomahto, on Flickr.

Want to Get Your Hands “Dirty”?

Here’s a great hands-on volume to keep you mildly challenged and highly entertained!

arduino workshop project book

John Boxall of tronixstuff fame does a great job writing tutorials on his blog, and he now has made it even easier for us to play with the Arduino by bundling 65 awesome projects in his book “Arduino Workshop: A Hands-On Introduction with 65 Projects“.

The 65 DIY projects in this book go from basic to intermediate to sophisticated, as your knowledge of and comfort with the Arduino grow. (I guarantee it will. The learning journey this volume takes you on is painless and fun!)

With fun projects such as digital thermometers and dice, secretly coded lock, GPS logger, binary quiz game and several more, the “Arduino Workshop” will take you from apprentice to sorcerer!

Hint: modifying projects to do things differently or to extend functionality highly encouraged!

But wait!

There’s more!

There is one more thing to say about the Arduino.

Although the single IO pins have individual values, when you view the IO pins as a port and use several simultaneously, there is also a maximum amount of current that can be drawn or dissipated by the combined group.

If you decide to manipulate the port registers,

you must calculate the TOTAL current for all pins in a B, C, or D port configuration by adding the individual values and making sure the sum doesn’t exceed the total allowed for the group.

There are several Arduino web sites that can provide exact values of current and pin configurations for all the different Arduino boards.

A good starting point is the official Arduino website, at More specifically, this reference article on port manipulation.

And, of course, last, but not least, HAVE FUN tinkering with your new Arduino board!

Arduino Protection: How to Make Sure Your Project Won’t Kill Your Arduino originally appeared on Tinker Hobby on February 18, 2014.

OK, so you’ve bought one of the Arduino boards, downloaded some development software, and figured out how to talk to the Arduino to do simple tasks. Now you want to introduce Arduino to the outside world, so you’ll have to learn something about electronics in order to keep that “magic smoke” (more like the odoriferous […]

Book Review: Arduino Adventures

arduino, Electronics, Kids, Kids & Family, learning Commenti disabilitati su Book Review: Arduino Adventures 

arduinoadventuresAuthors James Floyd Kelly and Harold Timmis teach kids how to use Arduinos, using a science-fiction angle to engage their readers.

Read the full article on MAKE

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