Last minute Evil Mad Shopping and Projects

Lit up segments spell out the letter M   Segments visible

Time to make some LED Micro-Readerboards as ornaments for your tree this year? Watch the short video introduction to see what they do: display a message one character at a time.

This is one of the open-source holiday electronics projects that we released last year. Our up-to-date build instruction are here, including source code. We also have an FAQ about this project, a page of technical data about it, and a discussion forum if you need help with it. The version 2.0 kits (which are still available at the Make Store) use a seriously awesome ultra-high brightness, deep red 16-segment alphanumeric display for long battery life.

As of today, you can also buy the LED displays alone– just the thing for your own custom microcontroller project, alphapov display, name tag, or ornament.

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Jellybean versus the mechanical mouse
Next, the Interactive LED Panel Kits (as seen in the interactive LED coffee tables that we designed with Because We Can) now come with these beautiful black printed circuit boards. Pictured above, JellyBean combats a mechanical mouse on a table made with a special-order kit that has all green LEDs.

Quite a few of these tables have now been built and there’s even a new instructable from Deadly Computer about the process of building one. During the past month we’ve slowly caught up with the huge waiting list to get a kit, so it’s much easier to get one now. We have even made up some extras of the most popular kit combinations (8 panel with all blue LEDs or blue + white LEDs), which are available in stock to buy right now, shipped to arrive before Christmas to US addresses.

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bugStickers

Finally, we have some new multipurpose stickers for sale. Quite possibly the best gift in the world for the software developer in your life.

“These handy stickers will increase the visual appeal of many different items. If you happen to take them to any big box electronics stores, please bring your camera and post pictures in the Evil Mad Science Auxiliary.” We’re waiting for those action shots.

[Product Page]

Instructables: Micro-Readerboard Build

MAKEKits wrote up an article on Instructables about assembling and reprogramming our little LED Micro-Readerboards.

They suggest assembling the project with a socket so that you can take the microcontroller off and reprogram it in an external programmer.

Another way to build it with a socket is how we’re demonstrating here, in this test fixture for the project.

This setup has a tiny piece of perfboard that connects a 20-pin DIP ZIF socket and a socket for the 18-pin LED display. Thus, both the AVR microcontroller and the LED display are socketed, and can be easily removed. This fixture is used primarily to test programmed AVRs. Since the chips are swapped out regularly, the ZIF socket makes sense, even though it’s more expensive than a regular DIP socket.

ZIF Side   LED Side

Tester Board

LED Micro-Readerboard, version 2.0

 

LED Micro-Readerboard spells out MAKE

We’ve just finished updating the LED Micro-Readerboard (formerly the micro-readerboard LED ornament) to version 2.0. This version features longer battery life, the use of a standard common-cathode LED display, and a new set of phrases including optional holiday phrases. It’s an open-source project so you can download the code, order some parts, and go to town.We are also making it available as a kit, exclusively through the Make Store. The kit features a remarkable high-intensity LED display that enables vastly improved battery life.

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Learn about microcontrollers at TechShop

 

Coming up real soon now: Three microcontroller-oriented classes, on Saturday afternoons at TechShop, at different levels of skill and with different emphases:

 

 

  • Sat. June 9, 1:00 PM: Make a Micro Readerboard
  • Sat. June 16, 1:00 PM: Introduction to AVR Microcontrollers
  • Sat. July 7, 1:00 PM: Choosing a Microcontroller

The classes are held at TechShop, a San Francisco Bay Area “open-access public workshop,” located just off of 101 in Menlo Park, where you can go use a wide range of tools to make things, and take all kinds of classes.
   
Make a custom LED Micro-Readerboard

Next Saturday, June 9, I’ll be giving a fun little class, suitable for anyone with a bit of soldering experience (even youngsters), where you can customize the phrases in and assemble an LED Micro-Readerboard. It’s a cute little thing that spells out a preprogrammed messages (e.g., your name), one letter at a time, on a single-character alphanumeric display. These are much like the ones that we programmed to be holiday ornaments a few months ago, but these are actually extra-spiffy version 2.0 micro-readerboards with higher brightness and better battery life. And, if you take the class, you get to choose what messages to put on your readerboard and take it home. It’s a neat, self-contained project that’s a great example of what you can do with a little AVR microcontroller.

(UPDATE: Second class added on June 30, also at 1:00 PM.)

And speaking of AVR Microcontrollers….

 

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Introduction to AVR Microcontrollers

Saturday, June 16, 1:00 PM

You may have noticed that a number of our interesting projects are based around AVR microcontrollers. AVR microcontrollers are powerful and inexpensive single-chip computers that are available in a wide range of sizes. They also happen to be remarkably easy to program in C, using entirely free and open-source tools that run on Macs, Windows, and Unix-like operating systems. In this practical introduction to AVR microcontrollers, we’ll take it from the beginning so that you can go home and use AVRs for your own cool projects. Some topics to be covered include: different types of AVRs and how to pick one, what kinds of programmer you should get, how to install the software tools, how to get started actually programming them, and how to download and run your code on the microcontroller.

Choosing a microcontroller

Finally, on July 7, I’ll be giving a repeat of this introductory microcontroller class, called Choosing a Microcontroller. This large-format seminar is designed to be a broad introduction to the capabilities and variety of single-chip computers, as well how to actually pick one for a given application. It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at the variety of range of micros, from four-bit micros that have a 4-bit wide data path — and actually cost four bits– to AVRs and PICs, basic stamps and Arduinos, to 32-bit gorillas with names like ARM, Blackfin, and Coldfire. So, we’ll try and cut through the fog and help you figure out where to get started.

If you’ve heard people getting excited about or doing cool things with microcontrollers and want to learn more, this might be a great introduction to the field.

Sign up for these and other TechShop classes here.

(By the way, it’s hard to tell what types of things people want to learn about. So, if you have suggestions for other classes that you’d like to see taught by the Evil Mad Scientists, you can E-mail us or leave comments here or in the forums.)

Learn how to make cool things at TechShop

This spring, I’ll be teaching several classes on Saturday afternoons at TechShop. TechShop is a San Francisco Bay Area “open-access public workshop,” located just off of 101 in Menlo Park, where you can go use a wide range of tools to make things. They have full-size milling machines and lathes, welding and rapid-prototyping equipment, Lego, sewing machines, computers, and well… just look at this list of equipment. (Seriously.)

One of the things that TechShop does is hold classes on a variety of topics. These are inexpensive (typically ~$30) drop-in classes that anyone can take without a long-term commitment. Many of them are short “safety and basic usage” classes that teach you what a given machine can do– and how to do it without killing yourself. Other classes teach simple and specialized skills like soldering for kids, blacksmithing, or silk screen printing. I’ll be teaching three (or four, depending how you count) classes, each of which will be held on a Saturday afternoon at Techshop.

Technical Graphics with POV-Ray

The first class is called “Technical Graphics with POV-Ray,” and is a hands-on workshop where you’ll learn how to use POV-Ray, a free cross-platform raytracing program that lets you make killer 3D graphics and animations. You can see some example images that I’ve made in POV-Ray (including the TechShop logo above) here, and master works in the POV-Ray hall of fame here. This is a two-part workshop with part 1 on 3/31/07, 1-3 PM, and part II on 4/7/07, also 1-3 PM.

Make a custom LED Micro-Readerboard

On April 14, I’ll be teaching a little soldering class, suitable for anyone with a little bit of soldering experience (well, anyone whose age takes at least two digits to express in base-10 integers), where you can customize the phrases in and assemble an LED Micro-Readerboard, like the ones that we programmed to be ornaments a few months ago. But, since it’s not the holiday season, perhaps you want to make yours into an LED Micro-Readerboard Nametag instead!

Choosing a microcontroller

Finally, on April 21, I’ll be giving a large-format seminar that’s an introduction to microcontrollers, called Choosing a Microcontroller. This is designed to be an introduction to the capabilities and variety of single-chip computers, as well how to actually pick one for a given application. It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at the variety of range of micros, from four-bit micros that have a 4-bit wide data path — and actually cost four bits– to AVRs and PICs, basic stamps and Arduinos, to 32-bit gorillas with names like ARM, Blackfin, and Coldfire. So, we’ll try and cut through the fog and help you figure out where to get started.

If you’ve heard people getting excited about or doing cool things with microcontrollers and want to learn more, this might be a great introduction to the field.

Sign up for these and other TechShop classes here. Sign up early, since space may be limited!

Also, if you have suggestions for other classes that you’d like to see taught by the Evil Mad Scientists, you can E-mail us or leave comments here.

LED Holiday Project Kits

Animated GIF of ornament

We have written instructions for building two sweet microcontroller-based electronics projects for the holidays: an alphanumeric LED christmas tree ornament and an LED mini-menorah (hanukkiah).

These are open-source projects; You can download and modify the source code, use it to program your own microcontroller, and solder the microcontroller to some LEDs to help make your own holiday decorations.

If programming microcontrollers is not your idea of a good time, we understand. Not everyone has (1) access to a microcontroller programmer, (2) the time and (3) the desire to modify the firmware of their christmas tree ornaments.

Low-cost open-source holiday project kits brought to you by Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

In order to help our fellow citizens Evil Mad Scientists with their holiday projects, we have put together electronic soldering kits for these projects. (Updated: November 2007)

CompletedWhite

 

LED mini-menorah kits are now available at our new web store.

 

Lit up segments spell out the letter M

 

 

Kits for version 2.0 of the open-source LED Micro-Readerboard project are now available at the Make Store.