Tag Archives: electronics

ISP Shield Kit, version 2.0

ISP Shield 2.0

Earlier this spring, we released our open-source ISP Shield for Arduino. After using them for a while, we’ve found a few ways to improve the design, so today we’re releasing version 2.0.

ISP Shield 2.0

The ISP Shield is an Arduino “shield” (daughtercard) that makes it easier to use your Arduino as an AVR ISP programmer. It can be used to burn bootloaders onto new AVR chips, from directly within the Arduino programming environment, either in the on-board ZIF socket or on an external target board. More generally, it can also be used as a general-purpose AVR ISP programmer, using avrdude with the programmer type specified as “avrisp.”

ISP Shield 2.0

One of the tricky things about using the ISP shield is that there is a known incompatibility between Arduino-as-ISP and Arduino boards that have auto-reset capability. Version 2.0 of our ISP shield design fixes this, by adding the ability to temporarily disable auto-reset on the Arduino. Auto-reset override is an optional, jumper-selected feature that can be turned on and off.

(The other jumper shown above allows you to select whether or not the ISP shield provides 5V power over the ISP interface, a handy feature for programming chips on simple target boards.)

ISP Shield 2.0
The ISP Shield 2.0 is also our first printed circuit board to feature the OSHW logo— the first of many, we hope. :)

The ISP shield kit is available at Evil Mad Science, and complete documentation is available at the Evil Mad Science Wiki.

Solving an old surplus mystery


Several years ago, we came across this interesting artifactat one of our local electronics surplus shops, and couldn’t really make heads or tails of it. But after the passage of the aforementioned several years– along with several dozen interesting suggestions from our readers –we haven’t been able to get much closer to an answer.

But then, at this month’s Electronics Flea Market, we came across what appears to bea related chunk of hardware:

Ampboard - 2
Continue reading Solving an old surplus mystery

Geek Books!

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred

We recently received review copies of four relatively new books from No Starch Press. Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred is a collection of technically oriented how-to projects covering a lot of the same ground that we cover in our projects here; sewing projects, music projects, electronics projects and others.

Lego Idea Book

The other three books are Lego Technic Idea Books: Fantastic Contraptions, Simple Machines, and Wheeled Wonders. And these are a phenomenal collection of assemblies and subassemblies providing the kind of masterful insight into Lego construction that comes from many years of careful study.

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred by David Erik Nelson is largely descriptive, with diagrams and pictures sprinkled throughout. It covers an amazing range of activities and skills, including sewing, glueing, woodworking and soldering. There’s even a nice how to solder section.

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred

Interestingly, none of the electronics projects requires programming. Shred refers to music, as many of the electronics projects are audio based. Many of the non-electronics projects are also musically inclined, but there is plenty for everyone in this book, from boomerangs to rockets.

Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred is a good introduction to making stuff, and is clearly oriented toward doing things with kids. It would be nice if it had full-color photography. Some of the projects have supplemental material which is worth checking out on the Snip Burn Solder Blog.

Lego Idea Book

The Lego books, by Yoshihito Isogawa are slim and nearly wordless. The main exposition happens in the table of contents, where the symbols that head each section are described.

Lego Idea Book

The body of the books unfold with beautiful full-color photography. The contraptions are cleverly constructed of different colors to make the mechanisms and assembly clear.

Lego Idea Book

Many of the assemblies seem obvious in retrospect, but the thought that went into them is deep and clear.

Lego Idea Book

Not all of the assemblies are obvious at first glance, and many are quite complicated, like this gear reduction assembly that allows two speeds in addition to direct gearing. For anyone who loves Lego, prototypes in Lego, or loves mechanical assemblies, these books are definitely required viewing, and we’re not sure how we lived without them for so long.

(Full disclosure: we received these review copies from No Starch Press, and Evil Mad Science is mentioned favorably as a resource in Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred as a resource. That could have influenced our opinion. Also, we like Legos.)

AVR Basics: Reading (and writing) flash contents

Programming on a target board

From our forums comes this interesting question:

   “Is it possible to download the contents of an ATmega168/328, essentially backing it up so that it can somehow be restored later?

For example: Let’s say I have lost the source code to a very useful program currently residing on a 328, but I need to flash it with a different sketch temporarily, then restore that original sketch. This would be useful in the case that the chip was soldered directly onto a board – a big mess to try to replace.
Is this possible in some way, perhaps by altering an ISP programmer?”

The answer is that yes indeed, it is possible– with a couple of exceptions that are worth mentioning. And on occasion, it’s even very useful. Continue reading AVR Basics: Reading (and writing) flash contents

Fall Field Trips!

Tailgating for electronics guys

First up: the last Electronics Flea Market of the year is tomorrow, Saturday, October 9 in the morning at De Anza. We’ll be there, and if you’re anywhere near here, you should be, too!

RoboGames 2006

Coming up soon: Combots Cup V at the San Mateo Event Center on Saturday, October 23 and Sunday, October 24. Combots is the annual heavyweight robot combat championship.

“This event highlights the best combat robot teams in America and their 220 pound flame-throwing, blade-spinning, titanium shearing robots of destruction! Whether you’re a sports fan or techno geek, ComBots puts on the best robot events in the world! If you missed seeing fighting robots at Maker Faire this year, or are longing for RoboGames, here’s your chance to see them again.”

We’re thrilled to announce that ComBots is offering EMSL readers a 20% discount on ticket prices (adults normally $20, kids $15). Coupon is valid for advance ticket purchases until Oct 20th. Buy tickets here and use the coupon code EMSL-1337 for your discount when you check-out!

We’ll be there all day on Saturday, so come say hi!


That same weekend: East Bay Mini-Maker Faire is on Sunday, October 24 at the Park Day School in Oakland. We’ll be bringing our Egg-Bots and showing off a few of their Halloween related applications.

We hope to see you there!

Robogames 2006 photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under cc-by-nc license.

Electronics Flea Market, 8/2010

Fleamarket_2010_08_14 - 08

We’ve just posted a few pictures from last weekend’s fantastic Electronics Flea Market at De Anza College in Cupertino.

Fleamarket_2010_08_14 - 15

One interesting thing that we came across: a set of leadframes not so different from those that might be made from that photomask that we wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

Fleamarket_2010_08_14 - 01

Only one two more flea markets left this year, September 11 is the next one; mark your calendars and we’ll hope to see you there!

(For a few more, check out photos from another electronics flea market a couple of years ago here.)

Corrected 8/16/10: two more flea markets left for 2010– Sept. 11 and Oct. 9.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories: Year 4


Happy birthday to us! Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has now been around for four years. We’ve collected some interesting projects from this past year to celebrate.

Microcontroller and Electronics Projects:

Tabletop Pong
Tabletop Pong

Moving from breadboard to protoboard

Revenge of the Cherry Tomatoes

drink making unit
Drink making unit

pin 1
Finding pin 1

xmega - 2
Say hello to xmega

Adding a Chronodot to Peggy 2

Meggy Twitter Reader
Meggy Jr RGB Twitter Reader

twisted wire bundle
Twisted Wire Bundles

LED graph
Some thoughts on throwies

rovin pumpkin
Rovin’ pumpkin

ADXL335 - 10
Accelerometer with an AVR (updated)

LEDcalc - 20
Wallet-size LED Resistance Calculator


seeing magnetic fields
Seeing Magnetic Fields

Ice Spikes
Ice Spikes

opposition effect in clover
Opposition effect

Kitchen Science 18
Litmus Candy

Beans day five
Gibberellic Acid and Giantism in Sprouts

Simple LED Projects:

fake seven segment display
Fake seven segment display

LED-lit sea urchin
LED-lit sea urchins

Edge Lit Cards
Refining edge-lit cards

Food Hacking:

Ice Cream Gyoza -13
Ice Cream Gyoza

Lemon Pickle
Lemon Pickle

The array

coffee bean cooler
DIY coffee bean cooler

Marmalade 30
Marmalade: easier than it looks

AtomicCookies 7
Atomic Cookies

asteroids cookies
Asteroids (the edible kind)

Crunchy Frogs01
Crunchy Frog

Kit Projects:

Bulbdial Clock Kit

Peggy 2LE

LED Hanukkah Menorah Kit

Larson Scanner
Larson Scanner

D12 bag8
Handbag of Holding Kits

Crafty Projects:

arecibo 2
SETI Scarf

scrap acrylic
Scrap acrylic shelf

24 hour tombstones

ipad 3
iPad lap stand

Custom iron ons 10
Custom iron-on techniques

Geek Design:


Typographic Coasters
Typgraphical Character Coasters

Ornamental Components 08
Ornamental Components

Cat String 6
Radio controlled string

Bookend - 9
Bookends for physics geeks

Lego business cards-2
Lego Business Cards

Tie Stools2
Portable Stools

And, don’t forget, you can win a Peggy 2 or one of 13 other prizes in our clock
concept contest
, going on this week.


Tricks of the trade: Twisting wire bundles

Wire Twisting - 23

A common problem that you may come across when building “a box” to do something– whether a one-off gizmo or bona fide scientific instrument –is the rats nest of wires. A similar problem occurs when you need to run a bunch of basic wires out from your box to other devices. Unless there’s a standard cable lying around that does exactly what you need, you can end up with messy tangles of wires outside of your box as well.

There are many well-known solutions of course, as varied as elegantly laced wiring harnesses, cable tiesand teflon spaghetti sleeving, heat shrink tubing and cold shrink tape, and (possibly for the brave and/or insane) duct tape and paperclips.

Wire Twisting - 25

One of the other basic methods– well known to many people who build electronics –is to twist wire bundles with a hand drill and a friend. This is a quick and awesome trick that makes durable cables, short or long, exactly to your specifications, and shockingly fast.
Continue reading Tricks of the trade: Twisting wire bundles

And now, a few words form our sponsors…

Popular Electronics, July 1976

Well, someone else’s sponsors, actually.


We recently came into possession of this July 1976 issue of Popular Electronics, and scanned a few of the vintage ads– including a few from companies that you might recognize.

Continue reading And now, a few words form our sponsors…