Tag Archives: DIY

CrowPi- A Raspberry Pi Kit to Learn Computer Science, Programming, and Electronics

CrowPi Kit for learning programming

Ever since the first Raspberry Pi was released back in 2012, millions of them have been sold worldwide and have revolutionized the learning industry especially in STEM Education. The Raspberry Pi has not only been used in the classroom but deployed into commercial applications as well.It has seen countless applications, and several projects have been built around it. The Raspberry is a single board computer but can be used for more than your general computer stuff. Just like the popular open-source hardware Arduino, the Raspberry Pi can be used for hardware prototyping. For that reason, the team at Elecrow is launching a new raspberry kit called CrowPi that will help learners, makers, enthusiast learn and apply the Raspberry in an entirely new way.

CrowPi is the brainchild of Elecrow Engineers, a company devoted to the open source hardware industry with the hope of making something that can help instantly solve computer science, programming, and electronics challenges more easily.

CrowPi Development Board

CrowPi is a development kit for learning basic computer science, practice computer programming and complete numerous electronic projects. CrowPi is designed for people that don’t want to do just basic things with the Raspberry Pi but do more. It is intended for people that are interested in electronics, the ones passionate about STEM education, or the ones that one to explore the dark web of the electronics world.

Unlike most development kit out there, the CrowPi is equipped with a 7-segment display which will give you the ability to keep learning, hacking, be building, and experiment anywhere you are. The CrowPi is an all in one kit that embeds everything you will need for doing most Raspberry Pi projects. It is convenient to carry the CrowPi around because of the nice case and compact layout.

The CrowPi is specially designed to help users develop their python programming skills. The kit provides printed user manual and step by step digital tutorial as shown below:

CrowPi Manual Snippet

The kit is compatible with the Raspberry Pi 2/3 and Raspberry Pi Zero, and includes LED indicators to show status of GPIOs and even comes with add-on camera (only available in the Advanced Kit version).

CrowPi comes in 4 kit variations; The CrowPi Basic Kit which comes without a Raspberry Pi and is available for $149, The CrowPi Intermediate Kit with a RPI Zero and is available for $179, The CrowPi Intermediate Kit with RPI 3B+ and is available for $209, and lastly the CrowPi Advanced Kit with RPI 3B+ and is available for $249. These kits are currently available for pre-order on their kickstart campaign at discounted prices and shipping is expected by July 2018.

Google Launches New DIY Artificial Intelligent Kit Powered by The Raspberry Pi Zero WH

The Google AIY (Artifical Intelligent Yourself) Project Team is no new and has been in existence for a while now. Their job is to deal with two significant parts of the AI community namely; voice and image recognition. Although they launched the first generation of AIY Vision and Voice kits that comes equipped with a Raspberry Pi last year, they have now modified the kits and this lead to the creation of a new generation of AIY Vision and Voice kits. Unlike the previous kits which made use of Raspberry Pi 3, the new kits which are smarter and cost-effective are based on the smaller Raspberry Pi Zero WH.

AN INTELLIGENT CAMERA

Due to the “continued demand” for the Voice and Vision kits mostly from parents and teachers in the STEM environment, Google decided to “help educators integrate AIY into STEM lesson plans and challenges of the future by launching a new version of our AIY Kits.” The new vision kit has a Raspberry Pi Camera Module V2 which can be easily assembled to create a do-it-yourself intelligent camera which cannot only capture images but also recognize faces and objects.

The Vision Kit comes with USB cable and a pre-provisioned micro SD card. Raspberry Pi Zero WH which the new kit was based on, has the same features as the Raspberry Pi Zero W. However, the Pi Zero WH comes with a soldered 40 – pin GPIO. It is also more flexible and less expensive than Raspberry Pi 3. The Vision kit is less costly as compared to the previous version because Pi Zero WH was used and can be bought for just $90. Other parts of the Vision Kit include; the cardboard case, a speaker, wide lens kit, standoffs and many more.

A SMART SPEAKER

 

The Voice Kit has most of the features found in Vision Kit but there are few differences such as the absence of a camera module and the presence of a Voice Bonnet Hat and Voice Hat stereo Microphone boards. If you argued that cardboard cannot talk, then you were wrong as the AIY Voice Kit has accomplished that already. The kit comes enclosed in cardboard and costs $50. It also has a speaker, wires, and even an arcade button.

The Voice Kit is linked with Google Cloud Speech API & Google Assistant SDK , can answer questions and perform certain tasks that has been programmed to do.

The new AIY Kits are available for purchase at US retailer Target:

The kit is expected to be available in the UK this summer.

The Google team is introducing a new way to interact with the Kits alongside the traditional use of “monitor, keyboard, and mouse” using a companion app for Android devices. The app aims to make wireless setup and configuration a snap. The app will be available alongside the launch of the new kits from the Google Play store. Google is also working on iOS and Chrome companion apps, which should be coming along soon.

More information about this development can be found on the Google AIY website

How to Get Started With The Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable device that enables people of all ages to explore computing and learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s also capable of doing most things you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-documents as well as playing games. In this how-to, you will learn how to get the Raspberry Pi up and running!

The Raspberry Pi

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Introduction to DigiSpark – A Smaller, Cheaper and Powerful Arduino board

The Digispark board is one of the smallest Arduino boards ever produced and is copyrighted by Digistump LLC. Although it is tiny, it is also very powerful and powered by an ATTINY85 chip clocked up to 16.5Mhz (about the same speed as Arduino Uno boards). So Digispark is simply a microcontroller board based on an ATTINY85 MCU that can be programmed using the Arduino IDE. The Digispark is similar to the Arduino line mostly in regarding the programming way, it is cheaper, smaller, and quite powerful.

DigiSpark Development Board
DigiSpark Board

Just as most Arduino boards come with a USB port for programming and sometimes as source of power, Digispark comes with an onboard USB connector that can be plugged directly into a computer for programming of the device. The board can be powered via the USB port which will feed 5V to the board or from an external source via its VIN pin that can accept ~7 to 35V which will be regulated down to 5V through an onboard 78M05 voltage regulator.

Digispark is measured at 25mm by 18mm and comes with 6 GPIO pins for input and output. Three of those pins are capable of PWM and 4 of them capable of ADC. It also comes with 2 LED indicators, 1 for indicating power while the other is connected to either pin 0 or pin 1 depending on the type of board purchased. It comes with 8k Flash Memory and about 6k left after the addition of the bootloader, this is relatively small as compared to the 32K on the Arduino UNO but it’s fine for small to medium-sized projects.

DigiSpark PinOuts

One of the great advantages of using the Arduino boards and platform is the ability to use the inbuilt Serial to print out messages to the Arduino Serial monitor, a tool that is very handy for debugging. Unfortunately, the ATTINY85 which is found on the DigiSpark board cannot support the Serial library used in Arduino, but can technically support SoftwareSerial using some hack around. Anyway, engineers at Digispark devised another user interface option which aids as a serial monitor.

Getting Started With DigiSpark

The Digispark runs the “micronucleus tiny85” bootloader version 1.02, an open source project. Of course, you don’t need to worry about burning the bootloader since the Digispark already comes with the bootloader pre-installed, but you will have to burn the bootloader yourself if you want to build your own Attiny85 digispark clone.

Furthermore, DigiSpark uses USB to communicate with the computer, so you should install the DigiSpark USB driver. To do this, you must download Arduino for Digispark which come with USB driver and extract the file (DigisparkArduino-Win32-1.0.4-March29.zip) to any folder, then execute DigisparkArduino– Win32\DigisparkWindowsDriver\InstallDriver.exe to start installing the USB driver.

Digispark is highly recommended to be used with the Arduino IDE 1.6.5+ and the Arduino 1.6.6 or 1.6.7 are not recommended. Make sure you have the Arduino IDE already installed. If you don’t have it already you can download it from the Arduino Website.

To start programming and working with Digispark, watch the full video below. If you are stuck or need some help, you can visit the tutorial page from Digispark here.

Digispark is a great way to jump into electronics, or perfect for when an Arduino is too big or too much. DigiSpark is available for purchase on the DigiStump website at a price of $7.95 and currently sold out and restocking will begin from May 2018. If you are like me that don’t like waiting that long, you can get a DigiSpark board for a relatively lesser price than the $7.95 from Aliexpress at about $1.7 or can be purchased on eBay as well.

Talking Pi is a Voice Control Module for The Raspberry Pi

Voice is the most simple and powerful medium. Everyone has it and it is the most personal way to convey our thoughts, messages, instruction, ideas, and questions. We have seen the rise of Voice Assistants like Alexa and Google Home; where someone can control things with only voice commands.

Talking Pi Module from JOY-iT

Mid 2017, Google released the Voice Kit – a voice recognition kit for the raspberry that makes it possible to add voice to any Raspberry Pi based projects. JOY-iT has released the Talking Pi, an intelligent, universal open source voice control assistant for the Raspberry Pi.

Talking Pi made by JOY-iT is a voice control module designed for the Raspberry Pi that will allow one to use voice commands to control home lighting devices, talk to machines, activate power outlets and so much more. Talking Pi gives you the possibility to add voice assistant to your raspberry pi.

Apart from taking Voice Commands, Talking Pi is equipped with some extra add-ons that could enhance the functionality of a Raspberry Pi at no extra cost. It is equipped with a bracket holding 433-MHz radio modules and an integrated motor control. With the radio module addition, you could possibly use your voice to remotely control objects – like switch on/off the bedroom lights, pilot your drone with only voice, pilot your RC car with voice commands and many more. The Talking Pi provides support for both the 433MHz radio sending and receiving unit, so not only can one send out you can also receive.

Talking Pi Pin Mappings

Talking Pi provides support for servo PWM control with a total of six addressable channels. The six-channel servo PWM can be used to control several robot’s motors and even make a complete six degree of freedom robotic arm. Furthermore, it is possible to address devices and circuits via the GPIO interface of the Raspberry Pi. The Talking Pi expansion module is also compatible with Google Home and the AIY project.

Measured at 64 x 10 x 54mm, the module will be ideal for size-sensitive applications. The module includes a stereo microphone added through an extra additional board and its integrated I2S sound output driver allows connection for a 3-watt loudspeaker.

Talking Pi plugged to the Raspberry Pi

This module is available and currently being marketed by Conrad Business supplies. The module is available for purchase on Elektor at a price of $42 and reduced price of $38 for its members. For more information about using the Talking Pi in your Raspberry Pi project, you can download the documentation pdf here.

Alexa On Every Device with the Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development Kit

Amazon’s Alexa is an intelligent voice-controlled personal assistant launched in 2014 and has been on an increasing demand ever since. First integrated into the Echo, the Alexa platform has been an exponential growth in the consumer industry.

Amazon’s Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development kit is a kit released by Amazon that will allow manufacturers to add high-quality Alexa voice experiences into their products, allowing Amazon to integrate Alexa into hundreds to thousands of products without necessarily building the products themselves.

This kit provides support for 360o tabletop far-field voice activation applications, as well ass applications that require voice-activation from one direction. It incorporates Amazon’s proprietary software and algorithm technology for “Alexa” wake word recognition, beam forming, noise reduction, and acoustic echo cancellation, and accurate far-field voice recognition in noisy environments and from long distances.

The development kit includes:

  • Two microphone array boards
  • A digital signal processor board
  • A Raspberry Pi 3 with the Amazon Voice Service (AVS) Device SDK
The 8-microphone board (left) and 7-microphone board (right)

The microphone board comprises of a 7 and 8 microphone arrays optimized for premium far-field audio performance, and the Raspberry PI 3 board can be replaced by any Linux embedded platform for production ready.

The Amazon Alexa Premium Far-Field Voice Development kit is primed for applications that include smart speakers, smart home, IoT devices, router and gateway devices, sound bars, and set-top boxes.

Major Device Technical Specifications:

  • Microphone Array Configurations –
    • 7 mic circular, 72.76mm diameter
    • 8 mic rectangular, 67.50mm x 22.50mm
  • Digital Signal Processor –
    • Intel’s dual DSP with inference engine
  • System Processor Support –
    • Raspberry Pi 3 Model B
    • Compatible with processors capable of running the AVS Device SDK
  • Power Supply –
    • 15 DC Volt Input
  • OS Support –
    • Raspbian Stretch
    • AVS Device SDK and supports most embedded Linux platforms

With the introduction of the kit, Amazon is lowering the barrier for any company to add Alexa to their products and hopes to make Alexa work everywhere and make it the most important and intimate computer in your life.

The ezPixel is an Upcoming FPGA based WS2812B Controller Board

FPGAs are field programmable gate arrays which basically means they are reconfigurable hardware chips. FPGAs have found applications in different industries and engineering fields from the defence, telecommunications to automotive and several others but little application in the maker’s world. Mostly, as a result of being largely difficult and high cost as compared to the likes of Arduino, but the introduction of the ezPixel and other similar FPGA boards is making this a possibility.

Prototype modules.

The ezPixel board, by Thomas Burke of MakerLogic, is a small size FPGA based circuit board that can be used to drive up to 32 strings of WS2812Bs, for up to 9,216 LEDs in total, a very first of its kind. These WS2812B programmable color LEDs have been a phenomenon in the maker’s world, being used in various Led Lights and creating of various Light Artworks. These popular LEDs comes in strings that can be cut to any length, and only require a single wire serial data connection to control all the lights in the string individually, and multiple strings can be stacked together to create large two-dimensional displays.

ezPixel description.

Most WS2812B controller boards can be used to control up to hundreds of these LEDs, but not thousands of them. The ezPixel board is a perfect fit for applications that use thousands of these LEDs. The ezPixel board is powered by the Intel MAX FPGA, a single chip small form factor programmable logic device with full-featured FPGA capabilities, and it’s designed to interface with other Micro-controllers or any SPI/UART host device. The ezPixel board serves as bridge between microcontrollers and long WS2812B strings. A user sets the length of each string using simple commands that are sent via the SPI or USB/UART communication link.

The following below are the features of the ezPixel:

  • WS2812B Smart Pixel Controller.
  • Up to 32 Strings can be controlled independently.
  • Up to 9216 LEDs can be controlled.
  • Communication:
    • USB/UART Interface.
    • SPI Interface.
  • Read/Write Pixel Memory.
  • FPGA – Intel MAX10M08 FPGA.
  • Dimension:
    • 1” x 3” (25mm x 76mm).
  • SPI Flash.

The ezPixel can run as a standalone display controller as a result of its serial flash memory chip, and this board is slated for a crowdfunding campaign in early 2018.

IoT Projects Is Now Easier With Bolt IoT Platform

Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most important technologies these days. It became an essential component of many hardware projects core. And in order to make it easier for developers, Bolt IoT platform appeared as a complete solution for IoT projects.

Bolt is a combination of hardware and cloud service that allow users control their devices and collect data in safe and secure methods. It also can give actionable insights using machine learning algorithms with just some few clicks.

The platform consists of three main components, Bolt hardware module, Bolt cloud, and analytics. The hardware module is a WiFi chip with a built-in 80 MHz 32-bit RISC CPU that operates at 3.3v. It also works as an interface for a set of sensors and actuators through GPIO and UART pins to collect data and react with it.

Bolt Hardware

The next part is Bolt cloud which used mainly for configuring, monitoring, and controlling connected devices. It is a visual interface enables users to setup hardware and prepare the system easily and quickly. In addition, there is a code editor to write and edit codes for the hardware. The special feature is that you can reprogram the system remotely!

Finally, the analysis and monitoring unit provide visualized insights based on machine learning algorithms. The collected data are stored securely on the cloud, and the reports are presented as graphs, charts, or any customized visualization.

Bolt IoT Platform Features

  • A Wifi or a GSM chip
    An easy interface to quickly connect your hardware to cloud over GPIO, UART, and ADC. Also, connects to MODBUS, I2C, and SPI with an additional converter.
  • Robust Communication
    Bolt is equipped with industry standard protocols to ensure a Secure and fast communication of your device data with cloud.
  • Security
    Bolt has built-in safeguards to secure all user data from unwanted third party intrusions and hacks.
  • Machine Learning
    Deploy machine learning algorithms with just a few clicks to detect anomalies as well as predict sensor values.
  • Alerts
    Utilize Bolt’s quick alert system providing invaluable information sent directly to your phone or Email. You can config the contact details and set the threshold.
  • Mobile App Ready
    Customize and control your devices through Mobile apps. Bolt gives you full freedom to design your own mobile app centered around your requirements to monitor and control.
  • Global Infrastructure and Easy Scalability
    Bolt lets you scale from prototype to millions of devices in just a few weeks time.
  • Over the air updates
    Simultaneously program or update all your Bolt powered IoT devices wherever they are. Bolt offers you unparalleled scalability and elasticity to help your business grow.

The scope of applications that may benefit from using Bolt is very wide, including environmental applications, smart cities, electricity management, and much more. Bolt is available for ordering in two packages, the first is for developers and the other is for enterprises. Developers option contains one Bolt unit with three free months of cloud services, and its cost is about $75.

At last, Bolt makers are launching a Kickstarter campaign on the 3rd of November 2017. If you are interested and want to know more about this platform, take a look at the official website and read this detailed features document. Update 6-11-2017 – They achieved the goal of $10,000 USD funding in just 5 hours from launch!

Get Sensor Data From Arduino To Smartphone Via Bluetooth

Hariharan Mathavan at allaboutcircuits.com designed a project on using Bluetooth to communicate with an Arduino. Bluetooth is one of the most popular wireless communication technologies because of its low power consumption, low cost and a light stack but provides a good range. In this project, data from a DHT-11 sensor is collected by an Arduino and then transmitted to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

Required Parts

  • An Arduino. Any model can be used, but all code and schematics in this article will be for the Uno.
  • An Android Smartphone that has Bluetooth.
  • HC-05 Bluetooth Module
  • Android Studio (To develop the required Android app)
  • USB cable for programming and powering the Arduino
  • DHT-11 temperature and humidity sensor

Connecting The Bluetooth Module

To use the HC-05 Bluetooth module, simply connect the VCC to the 5V output on the Arduino, GND to Ground, RX to TX pin of the Arduino, and TX to RX pin of the Arduino. If the module is being used for the first time, you’ll want to change the name, passcode etc. To do this the module should be set to command mode. Connect the Key pin to any pin on the Arduino and set it to high to allow the module to be programmed.

Circuit to connect HC-05 with Arduino
Circuit to connect HC-05 with Arduino

To program the module, a set of commands known as AT commands are used. Here are some of them:

AT Check connection status.
AT+NAME =”ModuleName” Set a name for the device
AT+ADDR Check MAC Address
AT+UART Check Baudrate
AT+UART=”9600″ Sets Baudrate to 9600
AT+PSWD Check Default Passcode
AT+PSWD=”1234″ Sets Passcode to 1234

The Arduino code to send data using Bluetooth module:

//If youre not using a BTBee connect set the pin connected to the KEY pin high
#include <SoftwareSerial.h>
SoftwareSerial BTSerial(4,5); 
void setup() {
 String setName = String("AT+NAME=MyBTBee\r\n"); //Setting name as 'MyBTBee'
 Serial.begin(9600);
 BTSerial.begin(38400);
 BTSerial.print("AT\r\n"); //Check Status
 delay(500);
 while (BTSerial.available()) {
 Serial.write(BTSerial.read());
 }
 BTSerial.print(setName); //Send Command to change the name
 delay(500);
 while (BTSerial.available()) {
 Serial.write(BTSerial.read());
 }}
void loop() {}

Connecting The DHT-11 Sensor

To use the DHT-11, the DHT library by Adafruit is used. Go here to download the library. When the letter “t” is received, the temperature, humidity, and heat index will be transmitted back via Bluetooth.

circuit to connect DHT-11 with Arduino
circuit to connect DHT-11 with Arduino

The code used to read data from the DHT sensor, process it and send it via Bluetooth:

#include "DHT.h"
#define DHTPIN 2 
#define DHTTYPE DHT11 
DHT dht(DHTPIN, DHTTYPE);
void setup() {
 Serial.begin(9600);
 dht.begin();}

void loop()
{ char c; 
if(Serial.available()) 
 { 
 c = Serial.read(); 
 if(c=='t')
 readSensor();
 }}
void readSensor() {
 float h = dht.readHumidity();
 float t = dht.readTemperature();
 if (isnan(h) || isnan(t)) {
 Serial.println("Failed to read from DHT sensor!");
 return;
 }
 float hic = dht.computeHeatIndex(t, h, false);
 Serial.print("Humidity: ");
 Serial.print(h);
 Serial.print(" %\t");
 Serial.print("Temperature: ");
 Serial.print(t);
 Serial.print(" *C ");
 Serial.print("Heat index: ");
 Serial.print(hic);
 Serial.print(" *C ");
}

Developing The Android App

The flow diagram of the Android app is illustrated below,

Flow diagram of the Android app
Flow diagram of the Android app

As this app will be using the onboard Bluetooth adapter, it will have to be mentioned in the Manifest.

uses-permission android:name="android.permission.BLUETOOTH"

Use the following code to test if Bluetooth adapter is present or not,

BluetoothAdapter bluetoothAdapter=BluetoothAdapter.getDefaultAdapter();
if (bluetoothAdapter == null) {
Toast.makeText(getApplicationContext(),"Device doesnt Support Bluetooth",Toast.LENGTH_SHORT).show();
}

The following part of the code deals with reading the data,

int byteCount = inputStream.available();
 if(byteCount > 0)
 {
 byte[] rawBytes = new byte[byteCount];
 inputStream.read(rawBytes);
 final String string=new String(rawBytes,"UTF-8");
 handler.post(new Runnable() {
 public void run()
 {
 textView.append(string);
 }
 });
 }

To send data, pass the String to the OutputStream.

outputStream.write(string.getBytes());

The complete source code of the Android application is attached here:  Arduino Bluetooth(Source)

Testing

Power up the Arduino and turn on the Bluetooth from your mobile. Pair with the HC-05 module by providing the correct passcode – 0000 is the default one. Now, when “t” is sent to the Arduino, it replies with the Temperature, Humidity, and Heat Index.

the application screen
the application screen

Learn Arduino Easily with The Arduino Inventor’s Guide

Are you looking for Arduino tutorials? Already over-whelmed by the guides and videos available on the internet? Sparkfun is making Arduino and electronics easier for you with its new book ” The Arduino Inventor’s Guide”!

First of all, the authors of this book , Brian Huang and Derek Runberg, are both working in the department of Education at SparkFun Electronics. Since they are experienced in electronics and educating engineering in schools, they are working towards making electronics easy and fun.

In fact, this 10-project guide is a project-packed introduction to building and coding with Arduino microcontroller. With each hands-on project, total beginners learn useful electronics and coding skills while building an interactive gadgets. Accordingly, this guide is within the introductory-level educational series introduced by No Starch Press and Sparkfun.

“We wanted to share the magic that happens when you build something interactive with electronics,” says Huang. “The goal is to teach real, valuable hardware skills, one project at a time,” adds Runberg.

Content of the book

  • Introduction
  • Electronics Primer
    101 electronics
  • Project 1: Getting Started with Arduino
    Blinking an LED
  • Project 2: A Stoplight for Your House
    A miniature traffic light
  • Project 3: The Nine-Pixel Animation Machine
    An LED screen that displays animated patterns and shapes
  • Project 4: Reaction Timer
    A fast-paced button-smashing game to test your reflexes
  • Project 5: A Color-Mixing Night-Light
    A light-sensitive, color-changing night-light
  • Project 6: Balance Beam
    A challenging ball-balancing game
  • Project 7: Tiny Desktop Greenhouse
    A temperature-sensing mini greenhouse with an automated fan and vent
  • Project 8: Drawbot, the Robotic Artist
    A motorized robot that you can control
  • Project 9: Drag Race Timer
    A racing timer for toy cars
  • Project 10: Tiny Electric Piano
    A tiny electric piano that you can actually play!
  • Appendix: More Electronics Know-How

Reviews

The Arduino Inventor’s Guide will appeal to the gadget freak as well as those who like to put their own spin on things.” —Microcontroller Tips

“This is probably the best Arduino starter book out there! I highly recommend it for every library and classroom.” —Sequential Tart

To sum up, the book is available for $30 on No Starch Press as a printed book and for $25 as an Ebook. In addition, you can check this page for more insights. Also download Project 2: A Stoplight for Your House, and the sketches, templates, and diagrams used in this book.