Atmel Maker Community Panel

This week is Maker Week in New York, and on Friday, September 20, Windell will be moderating the Atmel Analyst Panel: The Maker Community and Education. Panelists will include Massimo Banzi of Arduino, Quinn of QTechKnow, Reza Kazerounian, Bob Martin and Sylvie Barak of Atmel, Brian Jepson of Make Books and AnnMarie Thomas of the University of St. Thomas. The event will be at the Hilton Manhattan East at 11:00 am, and walk-ins are welcome. You can contact pr@atmel.com for more information about attending.

Doomsday Atomic Alpha Clock Five Project

From the complete overkill department, evilandy posted in the forums about his project which hooks up an Alpha Clock Five to a GPS module, a WiFi module, a WWVB Atomic radio receiver, two TXCO RTC modules and two microcontrollers because, well, we’ll let him tell you:

I wanted a clock that would display precision time and date in “all” worst case scenarios. If this clock does not show the precise time then it’s time to gather up food, water, ammunition, and the family and head for the underground bunker!

The keyswitch, fire button, and covered toggle are nice touches. Thanks for sharing your project, evilandy!

Lego and Arduino Projects Book

Our friends John Baichtal of Make Magazine, and Adam Wolf and Matthew Beckler of Wayne and Layne have recently released their collaboration, Make: Lego and Arduino Projects, with a forward by our other friend, Erin RobotGrrl Kennedy.

If that all-star cast isn’t reason enough to check it out, the book is about combining Lego and Arduino, key gateway drugs into engineering and electronics. To accompany the book, they’ve created Bricktronics, a library for use with Arduino and Lego and a set of accessories to help with the physical interfaces, including a shield that allows you to plug your Lego NXT accessories into your Arduino. In an article over at Make, John points out that models and code from some of the projects from the book are up on github, so you can already get started playing.  Neat stuff!

GPS time on the Alpha Clock Five

assembled  Alpha GPS 15Alpha GPS 5  Alpha GPS 13

William Phelps recently wrote to us with alternative firmware for Alpha Clock Five, our oversized alphanumeric LED clock/data display kit. His firmware adds two very welcome features: Automatic daylight saving time (DST) correction, and automatic time setting via a GPS module.  It works remarkably well.

Here, we’ll show you how to hook it all up and how to use it.
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The Art Controller

Art Controller

Today we’re releasing a new open source kit: A stand-alone, microcontroller-driven relay module called the Art Controller.

The Art Controller project was originally suggested by our friends (and Maker Faire regulars), San Francisco Bay Area kinetic artists Christopher T. Palmer and Nemo Gould.  Amongst other things that they build are amazing mechanical sculptures that need to run for a little while after a visitor presses a button or inserts a coin into the slot.

The long-established solution for driving electronic artwork (along with many similar endeavors) is to use a timer relay module; a little stand-alone board with a relay controlled by a timer.  There are several types of these: fancy programmable modules, bulletproof industrial types, and simple low-cost boards with a 555 timer and a pot that you turn to adjust the delay.  As we understand it, Christopher and Nemo go through the latter type like jellybeans.  But, what they realized that they really wanted was something just like that, except that you could reprogram it if you wanted to.

Art Controller

Hence the Art Controller.   It’s a low cost stand-alone relay module, with an on-board AVR microcontroller, an ATtiny2313, that manages the timing and I/O.

It can be used as a replacement for one of those basic 555-based relay boards, but it’s considerably more flexible in terms of timing range and functionality:

  • The timing is adjusted with an 8-position DIP switch, rather than a knob.  This cuts down on guess-and-check, but also gives a huge range. With those 8 little switches, you can select times from 1 second to 31 hours. (The ranges are 1-31 seconds, minutes, or hours, plus a few intermediate ranges.)
  • It can work as a one-shot timer or a continuously repeating timer.
  • There’s an option to trigger automatically upon turn-on (reset).
  • There’s a separate cancel input, so you can build a “STOP” button.
  • There’s an option to cancel a trigger if you push the “START” button a second time.

It comes preprogrammed, and all of those adjustments can be done with switches and wiring— handy if solder is your favorite programming language —so no computer or programming are actually required to get that far.

But, when that’s not enough, the on-board microcontroller can be reprogrammed in situ (using the board’s AVR ISP programming header) to handle the most specialized applications, potentially taking advantage of up to 16 free digital I/O pins.

And that’s pretty neat. 

Art Controller

Beyond the obvious applications in DIY projects, automation, and controlling art projects, we think that this is also going to be a fantastic relay board for education. It starts out as a (well-designed) simple function timer relay board, but can optionally transition to a full-on microcontroller development board when you’re ready for it.

So that’s the Art Controller in a nutshell: a versatile, easy to use, low-cost relay board that you can reprogram if you want to.

There’s plenty more detail on our product page: The Art Controller at Evil Mad Science.

And, special thanks to Christopher T. Palmer and Nemo Gould for a great project idea!

Halloween Projects from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

The Great Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories Halloween Project Archive!

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, and our collection of Halloween projects continues to grow. Every fall we update it to include our latest projects for the season. In the list that follows, we’ve organized dozens of our Halloween projects into categories: costumes, pumpkins, decor and food.

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The 4313 has landed.

ATtiny4313-PU

One of our all-time favorite chips is the ATtiny2313.

It’s a little 20-pin AVR microcontroller that we’ve used in dozens of projects, including our high tech holiday decorations, some of our coolest pumpkins, our (digital) Larson Scanner, and some wacky papercraft– to name a few. It’s one of those few chips that we used often enough to justify a custom breakout board.

But… if there’s one thing that the ’2313 is short on, it’s memory. With 2 kB of flash (program) memory and 128 bytes of RAM, it’s perfect for tiny single-purpose projects. But, it’s oh-so-easy to run up against that memory limit. And, that’s why we were so excited when Atmel began to announce their then-forthcoming ATtiny4313 in late 2009.

Unfortunately, it’s often a long delay between when a chip is announced and when it’s actually available through distribution. Sample quantities have been floating around for half a year or so, but– and finally– a big box showed up in the mail, and so here they are.

4313 - 3

Now, programming it. There are very few changes between the ’2313 and ’4313. Mainly, it’s what you’d expect: memory sizes (Flash, SRAM, EEPROM are all doubled), and the device signature is different.

Recent versions of AVR-GCC already support the ’4313, and so it’s relatively straightforward to recompile an existing program (say, the Larson scanner firmware) to run on the ’4313. There are some minor inconsistencies between the “io.h” header files for the two chips, and those inconsistencies can cause compiling to fail. For example, the register name “WDTCSR” (for watchdog control register) works on the ’2313, but the ’4313 io.h file lists that same register name as “WDTCR.” So, if you run into a place where AVR-GCC is confused after switching chips, you might be able to solve the issue by comparing that register name in the “io.h” files for the two chips.

Now, for programming the chip with avrdude, things are slightly more complicated. Avrdude does not yet natively support the ’4313, but fortunately, you can add the new chip definition by editing the avrdude.conf file on your system. (On my Mac, where I use Crosspack as the AVR toolchain, I found that file at /usr/local/CrossPack-AVR/etc/avrdude.conf ) The ’4313 code block can be added right below the ’2313 code block, and you can download that code block here (via this mailing list post). So, a couple of steps, but works like a charm.

There aren’t a whole lot of these to go around right now, but we’ve put some of our ’4313 chips into little dev kits that you can pick up at our store. Let’s see how long they last. ;)