Building Atoms with Arduino and Processing

BannerThis post is coming to you live from the Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire being held today at the London College of Communication.

The Atomic Arcade—an atom building game

The Atomic Arcade—an atom building game

The atomic arcade is an atom building game from Springtale funded as a science communications tool by the Institute of Physics. Whilst the game is still in early beta, it’s already made an appearance at the Dundee Science Festival.

I talked to Sonya Hallett—one of the people behind the intriguing game of proton smashing—about the game and why they brought it here to Maker Faire.

If you can’t make it here to the faire, you can also play the Atomic Arcade online.

The Elephant & Castle Mini Maker Faire is being held at the London College of Communication from 10am till 6pm. Entry is free to children (under 16) and students, tickets are £5 otherwise and available on the door.

An Arduino-Based Computer


While most of us think of Arduino boards as something to be programmed by a computer, there’s really nothing that says you can’t use an Arduino-style microcontroller as one. It could be argued that the Arduino is already a computer, but in the case of the DemUino, a small display is embedded into an old PS/2 keyboard. It might not be what a person is used to, but someone not familiar with what a “microcontroller” is would more readily, on some level, recognize this as a computer.



The software configuration is quite involved, including the author, “DemeterArt,” writing his own BASIC language. This “only” took around 2200 lines of code. The wiring also looks quite involved from the diagram provided.

Wow, a lot of work. Check out the demonstration below.

As noted by the original source, “The project had to be a minimum-cost-endeavor given the abundance of junk lying around in my home lab and my financial situation.” This sounds like the introduction to many interesting projects. If one had enough money, he or she might just boringly buy another toy to play with.

Personally, if I had an extremely abundant amount of money, I’d be tempted to hire my own staff of engineers and technicians to build more of the ideas that I come up with than I’m able to make myself!

MOMA Adds Arduino, Makey Makey, And More

Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers

Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers to the MoMA.

I’ve always said that one day I’d wake up and the Arduino would be in a museum. However, I’d sort of expected it to take a bit longer.

Back in 2004 the MoMA did something fairly radical, they held a show called Humble Masterpieces. In it they displayed elements of the museum’s permanent design collection—from Post-it notes, to paper clips, to Bic pens—that normally would, perhaps, be somewhat overshadowed by the Picassos or the Pollocks also held by the museum.

The design collection at the museum was begun in 1934, with the purchase of more than a hundred simple industrial objects—such as springs and calipers—that had been shown in the exhibition called Machine Art earlier that year. Over the years the collection has been expanded and the MoMA now houses over 3,800 design objects in its collection, ranging from a helicopter to a microchip.

In 2011 the MoMA acquired Botanicalls and Little Bits for the permanent collection. This fall they’re adding not just the Arduino, but also the Ototo, the Makey Makey, the Colour Chaser and the DIY Gamer Kit.

As design curators, we have an instinctive response to designs we find compelling, and when that feeling survives the passing of time, we know we’re on to something worthwhile. We believe our new acquisitions will withstand that test. All promise to make a difference…

Like Botanicalls and Little Bits before them, the five new arrivals are well known, and well celebrated in the maker community—the Arduino especially is seen by many as one of the building blocks of the next industrial revolution.

The first Arduino board ever made

Humble beginnings—the first Arduino board ever made

The Arduino started off as a project to give artists access to embedded micro-processors for interaction design projects, but it has grown far beyond its humble beginnings. It allows rapid, cheap, prototyping for embedded systems. It turns what used to be fairly tough hardware problems into simpler software problems.

We all know what it feels like to master a skill previously thought completely outside our abilities, or to unlock new possibilities of experience and thought. It’s exhilarating, life-changing, and (healthily) addictive, the same reason people keep coming back to see MoMA’s Pollocks and Picassos…

I think some things—like the maker movement they represent—can be levers that can help you move the world, and it looks like the MoMA agrees with me.

Raspberry Pi and Arduino Home Automation

Home automation made easy with the help of Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Home automation made easy with the help of Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Everybody knows that good things happen when you pair a Raspberry Pi with an Arduino, which includes everything from a Star Trek-like tricorder to a kegerator interface. One Instructables user (Electronichamsters) decided to take the boards and design an extensive home automation platform that’s able to monitor just about everything inside and outside of user’s homes.

Instead of using the boards for simple things such as automated blinds or lights, Electronichamsters ‘Uber Home Automation’ platform can monitor for water leaks, loud noises and even alert users when the mail arrives. His design makes use of a series of cheap wireless sensor nodes (PIR, heat, light, sound, etc.) that can be placed anywhere and on anything that needs monitoring. Those nodes relay the data to a wireless gateway and an Ethernet gateway (an Arduino Uno), which in turn sends the data to the Raspberry Pi.

Electronics basic design schematic gives users a rough idea of how the platform works

Electronics basic design schematic gives users a rough idea of how the platform works

The RPi then uploads the data to the internet where users can monitor using their smartphones. It even sends alert emails when something is amiss, allowing users to view the issues through a web cam. The whole setup costs a little over $270, assuming users already own a Raspberry Pi. Those that want to see the build process can head over to Instructables, which has a detailed list of parts and code to get things up and running. Want to know more… head over to project’s Indtructables page.

Ahh... the adhoc project enclosure... It may look crude but this sound sensor is very effective and can be placed anywhere

Ahh… the adhoc project enclosure… It may look crude but this sound sensor is very effective and can be placed anywhere


DIY Automatic Fish Feeder Using Arduino Nano

Yep, that’s a drill bit and it helps to deliver the right amount of food to your fish.

Yep, that’s a drill bit and it helps to deliver the right amount of food to your fish.


There are all kinds of automatic fish feeders on the market, however most just dump the allotted food in one lump and typically can’t be programmed for an entire week of use. While this may not be a problem for some aquarium enthusiasts, it was for Brian (from Belgium). The fish enthusiast has a rather large 100-gallon tank complete with live plants and colorful breeds of aquatic life but he has a very busy life and spends large amounts of time away from home.

While maintaining the plants or the cleanliness of the water aren’t issues when he leaves for a week, the fish still need to be fed on a regular basis. Obviously, there are automatic feeders on the market but hardly any with the ability to be programmed for long periods of time while delivering the correct food amounts.

The completed housing fish feeder with compartments for the motor assembly and food compartment.

The completed housing fish feeder with compartments for the motor assembly and food compartment.

Like the saying goes, ‘if it doesn’t exist, build it yourself’ and build it he did using a simple plastic container, an Arduino Nano, stepper motor and a drill bit. The fish food sits on an angle inside the bin and the Arduino is programmed to start and stop the motor, which turns the drill bit that ‘pushes out’ the prescribed amount of food. It’s used in conjunction with an ordinary electric timer that supplies the power for those prescribed intervals. It’s safe to say his fish will be fed anytime he needs to leave, however the tank still can’t clean itself. Brian posted his design on Instructables for anyone interested in building their own.

Arduino Leaks a Peek of Their Upcoming 3D Printer

Arduino, known for creating an easy-to-use microcontroller revolution, is about to launch its own 3D printer.

The Arduino Materia 101 made its global debut earlier today on the official Arduino twitter account with a photo of a boxy white and teal FDM printer and a note that Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi is showing the printer live on Italian TV. It also states that the printer will be presented next weekend at Maker Faire Rome.

In the image, the printer appears to have an LCD screen, a control knob, and a switch on the front plate. A filament spool holder with a matching color scheme sits attached to the right side. The mechanical bits are obscured, so details about its extruder or print bed size aren’t clear, but we’ll be looking forward to learning more shortly.

The machine is the biggest piece of hardware that Arduino has yet to launch. It’s an interesting move for the company, but not an entirely disconnected element, as many of the printer developments in the 3D community have used Arduino boards for control. Moreover, it further indicates how bigger companies are starting to embrace and release 3D printers — just last week, traditional power-tool manufacturer Dremel launched their own, the 3D Idea Builder at MakerCon.

Any further information about this printer? Please leave a note in the comments below. We’ll update as we learn more as well.

UPDATE: the Italian 3D printing site reports that the printer is a collaboration between Arduino and Italian 3D printer maker Sharebot, showing one additional angle of the machine.


UPDATE: From the Sharebot site, it looks like the Arduino Materia 101 has many similar features to the Sharebot Kiwi 3D. If this is indeed a rebadged machine, expect something with a 140mm x 100mm x 100mm print capacity (5.5in x 3.9in x 3.9in), that prints with 1.75mm PLA filament. While those prints are not particularly large, the overall size of the Kiwi machine is also diminutive at 310mm x 350mm x 330mm (12.2in x 13.77in x 13in). It also has print-from-SD card capabilities. We’ll continue to check if these indeed share the same specs. The Kiwi 3D starts at 696€ (~$882).

Every Ferris Wheel Needs An Arduino


Ferris Wheel 2


When I was a kid I had an Erector set, Size 8 ½, and learned how to build mechanical projects the hard way. There were no step-by-step instructions, no snap together parts, no video tutorials, just a bunch of really cool drawings and 169 nuts and bolts. I couldn’t wait to build the awesome projects in the manual like the motorized Bascule Bridge.

Erector Set Stock Shot

Nowadays the sets are gone from the stores, but fortunately dozens of them are available on eBay at very reasonable prices. Many of them need a little TLC but others have been tucked away in closets for over 50 years and are as good as new.

Several months ago I bought the same set I had as a youngster and decided to build the ultimate project, The Giant Ferris Wheel. The originalbelt that drove the wheel was made of string and tended to slip so I re-engineered the drive system to use a modern cog belt. Sweet! No slipping, just a steady rotation of the giant wheel at 5 RPM.

Ferris Wheel 4

As I watched it go round and round I felt something was missing. Music! Amazingly, I already had a triggerable MP3 board from SparkFun in my parts drawer so I added it to the baseboard. It was a snap to find carnival music on the internet and load it into the player. The sound made all the difference. It was just like I was walking down the midway.

Next came the lights. At Radio Shack I found some programmable LED strips and secured them around the circumference and spokes. The strips needed a microcontroller to run them so I added an Arduino Micro to send the serial data. I had fun generating a number of sketches that produced spectacular patterns of rotating lights.

Last of all, I just had to include a ticket dispenser, loading ramp, cute little characters to ride in the cars, a neat lever to control the motor and the obligatory Erector set tin building.

Ferris Wheel 3

The bottom line is this. It was great to revisit the various parts and pieces of the old Erector sets and to add modern accoutrements such as an Arduino and MP3 player. It challenged me to tackle new areas that I had not explored before and the end result was very satisfying.

Ferris Wheel 1


This project came to Make too late to be included in the latest issue, Volume 41: Best Toys For Makers. We really enjoyed it though and thought you would too! If enjoyed this, you’re going to love this issue, which can be purchased at your local book store as well as online through the Maker Shed.


Arduino-Based Vehicle Tracker With GPS+GPRS

Tracking a vehicle has never been easier with just a few components and a little knowhow

Tracking a vehicle has never been easier with just a few components and a little knowhow

Back in 2010 business marketing student Yasir Afifi found a tracking device (an Orion Guardian ST820) hidden underneath his car when he went to get his oil changed. 48-hours later the FBI came to his apartment to retrieve the device, which is understandable considering how expensive they are (around $6,000). With all the domestic spying going on by government agencies, why can’t the common citizens get in on the action as well?

Keeping in mind that you’ll probably be in a heap of legal trouble if you build one, Cooking Hacks has designed their own tracking device using an Arduino Uno as its foundation. The popular development board is paired with a GPRS+GPS SIM908 Quadband Module, one GPRS-GSM antenna and one GPS antenna to transmit the location of a vehicle in real-time. The device is powered by a 9-volt alkaline battery, making it quite small compared to the Orion but not small enough to plant on someone’s body undetected. But, perhaps you are aware – keeping track of the kids for example. No word on the longevity of a single 9V though. The device is great for those living in high-crime areas where vehicle theft is rampant as well as keeping tabs on your significant other. Jealous boyfriends are already placing orders… at Cooking Hacks

Cooking Hacks device assembles into a small package, easily hidden inside a vehicle

Cooking Hacks device assembles into a small package, easily hidden inside a vehicle

SMS messages alert the user to where the target vehicle is located

SMS messages alert the user to where the target vehicle is located

Rocket Scientists Are Arduino at Heart

The Carbon Origins Apollo data logger board

The Carbon Origins Apollo data logger board

This is the story of a group of college students who moved to the Mojave Desert, bought a house, painted it white, and turned it into a makeshift lab. Then they went out to launch rockets.

Talking to Amogha Srirangarajan from Carbon Origins

But they ran into problems, when they launched their Neptune 2 rocket,

“Our rocket exploded, and we didn’t know why, we needed a data logger …”

and because they’re makers, and all the data loggers they could find were too expensive or just not right for the job, they went ahead and built their own.

The Phoenix 0.2.1 launch in the Mojave Desert

Their Apollo board is less than two square inches in size and is packed with sensors — eleven of them.

“We called it Apollo, because it has eleven sensors …”

The tiny six-layer board has an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and GPS, and can measure temperature, pressure, humidity, light (both UV and IR), and it records audio. But the board also comes with Bluetooth LE and wi-fi onboard, an SD Card for logging data locally, LiPo battery management circuitry, and it has an OLED screen and a vibrating trackball. If you count them up, the Apollo has over 200 components, all packed onto that tiny two-square-inch board.

Carbon Origins talking at MakerCon in New York

Based around the same ARM Cortex-M3 chip as the Arduino Due, the board will be part of the Arduino at Heart program, and is completely open source. The board will ship with software making use of their own Arduino library that gives access to all of the onboard sensors. However the extra GPIO pins, not used by the onboard sensors, are exposed for use and Carbon Origins will be producing a series of smart shields to make use of those extra pins.

View All

The board is on display here at Maker Faire in New York this weekend, and will be arriving on Kickstarter in the next month or so, and we’ll be back talking to the Carbon Origins team when it does.



Arduino and Bruce Sterling Launching an Open-Source Apartment


You’ll soon be able to rent the “home of the future” on Airbnb.

The project, announced today at MakerCon by Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi, is a collaboration between the open-source microcontroller makers and futurist Bruce Sterling. Located in Arduino’s Turin, Italy headquarters (a former FIAT car factory), the apartment will serve as a test ground for the latest developments from the open source community, being outfitted with furniture from OpenDesk and a variety of hardware creations.

Unlike the usual concept homes of the future, however, this apartment will be more than a showcase — it will be a livable space that is available for anyone to rent on Airbnb. The inhabitants’ responses to the elements inside will be registered for the project’s research.

We caught up with Banzi after his announcement to get the details and hear about other endeavors coming soon from Arduino.