Tag Archives: electronics

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.

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.

3D Printed Objects that can connect to Wi-Fi without any Electronics

The world has seen an exponential growth of the Internet of things, where things are becoming connected. Every physical object is giving the chance to be connected to the internet and emit some data about itself with just the addition of some chips, and some form of wireless interface. Your Electric kettle can basically tell you when it’s ready or even prepare itself down for you.

Researchers have estimated will we have billions of connected objects in the coming years which are already creating security and privacy concerns. Concerns like; what if my device gets hacked, infected with malware or my mission-critical device suddenly losses it’s power. What if we still could achieve this connectivity possibility without having to rely on much electronics? Researchers at the University of Washington have created a range of 3D-printed plastic objects that can communicate with a router even though they’re not connected to the internet and don’t contain any electronics.

The researchers at the University of Washington have found ways to create connected objects with only 3D printed parts and an antenna. They receive funding from the National Science Foundation and Google.

First; they design and 3D printed a combination of plastics like springs, switches, knobs, gears and copper filaments to serve as an antenna. Then, they leverage a technique called “Backscatter Techniques” to transmit the signal to Wi-Fi enabled device. Backscatter systems use an antenna to transmit data by reflecting radio signals emitted by a Wi-Fi transmitting device or a router. Information can be embedded in those reflected patterns and can be decoded by a Wi-Fi receiver. In this case; the antenna is used to reflect the radio signals back to a Wi-Fi receiving device which could by a smartphone and physical motion on the antenna, like a regular tapping cause some form harmonics on the transmitted signal, where this harmonic will serve as the embedded information.

The 3-D printed gears (in white) and spring (blue spiral) toggle a switch (white box with a grey surface) made of conductive plastic. The switch changes the reflective state of a 3-D printed antenna (gray strip) to convey data to a WiFi receiver. Mark Stone/University of Washington

For example – as you pour a fluid ( a liquid detergent, water or even fuel) out of its containing bottle, attached to it a 3D printed gear on the outlet. The speed the gears turns will tell how much fluid content is left and if connected to some form of a switch that can bounces on and off an antenna due to the movement of the gears will make the antenna transmit those changes out with the reflected Wi-Fi signal. The receiver can track how much fluid is left and when it dips below a certain amount, it could possible automatically send a message to your Amazon app to order more or an SMS to notify you of current status.

The team has printed several objects and tools that were able to sense and send information to other connected devices: a button, a wind-speed measuring device, a dial, and a movable gear. When they’ve moved – such as when the button is pressed, the dial is turned, the wind blows through the devices, and so on – the antenna will transmit this change to receiving unit and some actions can be taken. Those devices can then be used to interact with the internet – the button turned on a computer, the dial scrolled a web browser, and a slider controlled a digital slider.


This whole communication is unidirectional, means it can only transmit information and not receive back. The team’s work opens up the possibility of adding internet connectivity to everyday items. You can have a water flow measurement device that could, in theory, be incorporated into the design of any bottle, so if you’re running out of juice, detergent, or milk, the speed at which liquid is flowing over the sensor could alert the web to reorder that item for you.

The team is making their 3D models available to the public so that anyone can utilize these objects at home.

Electronics Cheat Sheet Poster

A quick reference in learning and debugging your electronics projects.

Terahertz Electronics – Way To Bridge The largely-untapped Region Between 100GHz and 10THz

The terahertz (THz) region, which is based on 1THz frequency, separates electronics from photonics and has been difficult to access for ages. Semiconductor electronics cannot handle frequencies equal to or greater than 100GHz due to various transport-time related limitations. In other hand, photonics devices fail to work below 10THz as photon’s energy significantly drops to thermal energy. Terahertz Electronics (TE) is a new technology that extends the range of electronics into the THz-frequency region.

The Terahertz Gap
The Terahertz Gap

The main goal of Terahertz Electronics is to build a bridge between low-frequency “Electronics” and high-frequency “Photonics”. Since these devices use photon-electron particle interactions, as photon energy “hv” decreases below thermal energy “kT”, the device ceases to operate efficiently unless it is cooled down. At the low-frequency end, electronics cannot operate above 100GHz as transport time is dependent on drift and diffusion speeds of electrons/holes. As a result, a large region between 100GHz and 10THz remained inaccessible. Terahertz Electronics solves this problem efficiently by cleverly incorporating electronics with photonics.

Terahertz electronics technology offers practical applications in high-speed data transfer, THz imaging, and highly-integrated radar and communication systems. Surprisingly enough, It does not use semiconductors. Instead, it is based on metal-insulator tunneling structures to form diodes for detectors and ultra-high-speed transistors for oscillator based transmitters.

One drawback of the Terahertz Electronics is, it requires high-frequency radiation sources. Lack of a small, low-cost, moderate-power THz source is one of the main reasons that THz applications have not fully materialized yet. Scientists are trying to find a solution to this problem. They created a compact device that can lead to portable, battery-operated sources of THz radiation. This new solid-state T-ray source uses high-temperature superconducting crystals that contain stacks of Josephson junctions. So, even a small voltage, around two millivolts per junction, can induce frequencies in the THz range.

Mercury arc lamps generate light in terahertz
Mercury arc lamps generate light in terahertz

TE devices are extremely fast and they are made entirely of thin-film materials—metals and insulator. Hence, it is possible to fabricate Terahertz Electronics devices on top of complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) circuitry—a technology for creating integrated-circuits circuitry or on an extensive variety of substrate materials. In TE devices, charge transport through the junction occurs via electron tunneling. Further research and development will make Terahertz Electronics a reality in not-so-distant future.

A Bench Power Supply using computer PSU

As we know, PSU in computers provides various DC voltages, 3.3V, 5V and 12V. These 3 levels are the most common ones needed in our labs, so usually PC PSUs are used by a lot of makers and hackers as their personal bench power supply. The PSU has a standard connector called ATX, you can reach all of the voltages levels using it.

[Supercap2F] hacked his own PSU into a bench power supply and published the project details. Supercap2F’s power supply design include:

  • PIC18F1220.
  • 16*02 LCD as a user interface.
  • Three switches for user control (select/move).
  • Relays controlled by PIC18F1220 to switch outputs on/off.
  • Fused Outputs: +3.3V, +5V, +12V and -12V.


[Supercap2F] published the circuit designs (PCB&SCH) and source code for PIC18F1220 over Github.


Via: Hackaday

Electronics & Arduino Reference Cards


Adafruit has published some new Business card-sized references for Arduino and basic electronics. Adobe Illustrator format files are available for download on their github.com repository.

Adobe Illustrator format. These are sized for Overnight Prints‘ standard business card template; full color, double-sided…rounded corners are optional but add a touch of class (and won’t cut off any information). Creative Commons license, feel free to print your own, remix and share!

Electronics & Arduino Reference Cards – [Link]