The Bathtub Becomes Automated and Arduino-Compatible

raptor_demon’s Arduino Compatible Bathtub Controller: complete with soothing bubbles

raptor_demon’s Arduino Compatible Bathtub Controller: complete with soothing bubbles

After a grueling 3-hour workweek, there’s nothing like coming home and soaking in a hot bubble bath. The problem is, most of us are too tired to even attempt to turn on the water, much less pour in the bubble-bath concoction. Lucky for us, inventor raptor_demon has made it remarkably easier to turn on the hot water and add our bubble flavor of choice with the help of an Atmel microcontroller.




His design uses an Arduino-compatible Atmel ATmega328P microcontroller to trip three relays, one for a fill-valve and pump, one to dispense soap and for the drain-valve and pump. Filling the tub with water is time-based rather than using a floatation-switch, which is calibrated manually. To monitor the temperature of the water in the tub, raptor housed another Atmel microcontroller sealed inside of a rubber duck (my favorite part). The duck sends the temperature data wirelessly (using a 434MHz transmitter) to the other controller (AKA- Bath Computer v2), which can then be monitored on an Adafruit LCD Shield.


Using his setup allows users to take a bath by just pressing a button on the control box rather than doing everything by hand, because taking a soothing bath shouldn’t be an ‘manual ordeal’. Raptor is looking to upgrade a future version for use within an IoT environment and integrate it into smart-home platforms. I can see it now… one button for remote bath running… then flooding. Do that yourself at Instructables!


Leah Buechley: Crafting the Lilypad Arduino

Leah Buechley

Photo: MIT Media Lab

I’ll never forget the first time I heard about Lilypad Arduino. I was astounded and said, “You can make LEDs light up and you stitch it with conductive thread? How does that work?” It wasn’t until years later, after experimenting with the board that I finally got to meet Leah Buechley, the inventor. She was giving a talk at University of the Arts in Philadelphia about artisanal technologies. She amazed me with her discussion of mixing classic crafts with electronics, and better yet, it was said in a lyrical tone which reminded me of my favorite teacher from 8th grade. Who was this woman that made art and technology magically merge? I was determined to learn more.

A few years later her name popped up for a workshop at Shakerag Workshop in Tennessee called “Crafting Electricity”. This was highly unusual, because it was for artists. Leah was normally only found at MIT or at global conferences. Needless to say, I went out of my way to sign up. There she was, eyes smiling, as she enchanted us all with the story of how electricity was like a waterfall, and how we as artists could control that flow. I never thought of electricity in that way before, as I had always feared it. As we experimented with the Lilypad, conductive paint and conductive thread, I soon learned that electricity was my friend, as well as the other artists with me. The workshop was only a week, but we all connected quickly and combined crafts like woodworking, felting, paper cutting, mixed media, and natural objects with electronics. We were making moss into switches, can you imagine? It was a life changing moment for me, and for a few others in the group. We had been struck by Leah.

Leah herself was first struck by Etextiles when she discovered conductive thread and fabric at University of Colorado Boulder. This was back in 2005 when she was pursuing her grad degree in Computer Science with the Craft Technology group under advisor, Mike Eisenberg. She started looking at the work of Maggie Orth and Joanna Berzowska, pioneers that knew how to combine tech and design in a beautiful way. She liked what she was seeing.

 I just loved the materials. I loved the juxtaposition of this really feminine beautiful decorative thing (textiles) with this techy, nerdy guy thing (electronics)… that contrast. One of the things that’s most exciting for me about the medium is that material and cultural contrast.

Leah ended up doing something controversial, changing her PHD topic midstream from Cellular Automata to Etextiles. That sounds easy, but the university had never seen wearables, so she was experimenting completely on her own. She started to construct projects with LED matrix displays, like a tank top and beaded bracelets. Although she didn’t have formal training in fashion, she had always been crafty and had taken plenty of courses as an undergrad in theater, art and photography. Many are aware of her quilt square project, which many educators are still copying today. The squares use metal snaps and have the ability to communicate and be arranged in different patterns due to the circuit layouts. Not only is it a fun class project, but it is a great example of an important mission in Leah’s life – inspiring future techies.


Photo: L. Buechley

Her research group was geared to education and technology, especially new ways to get kids interested in STEM (science, tech, engineering and math). They were brainstorming ways to get kids and novices interested in Etextiles, which is where Nwanua Elumeze enters the story. You may recognize Nwanua’s name from Aniomagic, a company that currently creates tiny controllers for Extextiles. Back then, Nwanua was in the same lab as Leah, and they often collaborated on projects. He taught her electronics – especially PIC microcontrollers. To further their mutual interest in education, they created an e-sewing kit together. Students were interested, but they wanted more – it needed to be programmable. Microcontrollers needed to be in the mix, and Leah just happened to have a fresh idea.

I started to play with ways to make more complex circuit boards out of fabric. I developed a way to build circuit boards out of laser cut fabric, and then once I could do that, I could put microcontrollers in a sewable package. This let me give microcontrollers to kids in my workshops.

By now it was 2006, and the first rough Lilypad kits had been born. They were square fabric circuit boards and were used in workshops with high school kids. Of course there was no company at the time; Leah would just make a batch of these to take into a class. The experiment proved interesting and it led to Leah’s first published paper about wearables “A Construction Kit for Electronic Textiles”, which talked about a workshop that she and Nwanua taught with microcontrollers. One of the things Leah struggled with was the type of controller being used. She wanted to use surface mount because they were less bulky than the typical through-hole style. The question was how to get them to be stable enough on fabric.

Orig Lilypads

Photo: L. Buechley

I was trying to make traditional right angle circuits, but then I realized I was working with fabric and I could do really different stuff. I realized that if I made traces that were really fat at one end, and then got skinnier as they led up to the microcontroller, they could work for surface mount components on fabric. This led me to the flower-like design for LilyPad.

The second version of the Lilypad had found its root; it was a flower shape with a small controller attached in the center and covered with plastic resin. Something to keep in mind is that we are talking about a time period that pre-dates Arduino. Leah was using Atmel AVR chips for her projects and the avr-gcc programming tools. It was not easy to install the tools back then, so imagine the difficulty in teaching classes. Despite the challenges, classes were happening, and girls were getting excited about engineering and computing.

It was a great way to bust open the stereotypes associated with technology. That was one of my main reasons for wanting to make it commercial. It seemed like this was really a cool social disruptor.

Photo: L. Buechley

What Leah was witnessing with her classes was the spark of the DIY movement. Arduino was just getting started and a little company called SparkFun Electronics was selling some parts they were making in a small two room set-up on hot plates. Leah was picking up parts at SparkFun one day when she got into a conversation with Nate Seidle about a commercial product. Obviously that went well, and what followed was them making a copy of her fabric circuit board. Eagle files were exchanged, edits happened and revisions were made. In October 2007 the Lilypad Arduino was released, and boards sold out quickly to excited DIY fans that had already been seeing projects online. The addition of Arduino made everything simpler to use.


The Etextile movement had been launched and Leah’s work sprouted in many directions. Shortly after Lilypad, MIT Media Lab hired her and she founded the Hi-LowTech research group. They explored connections between different ways of making – high tech and ancient. The bigger question of who makes and why they make are something that Leah knows well.

Building stuff and making stuff is one of the things that people find great satisfaction in … I know I do. That is some fundamental human impulse that connects to all sorts of things … like our need to be productive, our need to do things well, and our need to connect with other people and our need to be proud of the stuff we’ve done… our need to kind of show off a little, and get praised. Our need to give the world something that we think is valuable, our need to think about things and solve problems. There are just so many things it connects to; it’s really powerful.

Once I discovered I could bring a drawing to life as a physical object with lights and sounds, there was no turning back. Leah has impacted so many that I hate to box her in as just the inventor of the Lilypad or the instigator of the DIY wearable movement. Think of her as another Rachel Carson – someone that develops a sense of wonder in all beings and creates a safe place to explore, share and connect. We are the waterfall and powerful things can happen when we learn how to harness that energy. Love you, Leah Buechley.

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.

Wearables at Camp Galileo with Arduino Woman

Hello World!  My name is Tenaya Hurst and I teach at Camp Galileo – The Tech Summer Camps at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose.  My class is titled Wearable Technology (and I get to teach Circuits & Electronics and Maker Studio).  Students know very little about the class before attending, but they do know that electricity will be involved…and some of them may have heard that I am Electric myself!!


My students are so sweet

My students are so sweet

Monday we start by introducing basic sewing techniques, because after all the original Wearable Technology is sewing itself.  Cave People were Makers before all of us, and they figured out how to secure 2 pieces of material together.  We focus on running stitch as this is what we’ll be using for our technology.  We also learn 3 different variations of hemming stitches.  The students practice in napkins I obtained after my friend’s wedding.  4 sides, 4 stitches to practice.  We also practice sewing buttons because those are similar to the surface mount LEDs.


Tuesday is for Technology and Trashion.  Using trash or refuse to create art and fashion can be so much fun.  More than just bubble wrap dresses, many materials can be repurposed and reused to make something super unique.  I encourage the kids that Trashion is more than just using trash, the maker has to adjust and adapt the materials, paint, cut, twist, weave, etc.  The students also enjoy receiving their Arduino Woman wearable tech kit using the Lilypad coincell battery holder.  We learn basic circuits in parallel because those are the best to use for Lilypad circuits for LED brightness.  We have the students draw out their plan for their design and where the positive track of their thread will go versus their negative thread.

Wednesday, we keep working towards our Maker Faire – Fashion Show goal.  There is no theme for the fashion show other than every camper has the opportunity to use 10 LEDs of different colors and I encourage T-shirt redesign, Trashion, and accessories to be part of their creations.  My assistants and I are busy working with each student individually to make sure that they understand the connections and how to not short circuit their design!

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Thursday, we rehearse our runway walk, poses, and blue steel puckered look!  My students know to show off their LEDs and make sure the audience can see their work!  Some students are deep in the failure phase of engineering so we try our best to get everyone’s circuit working reliably by today.

Friday is the full on Maker Faire and Fashion Show.  Students start making right away, they absolutely can’t wait to get started.  The room is all decked out in faire-ness and the runway is set.  We have just a few hours for the finishing touches and then the parents and guests arrive for our show!  I begin the show by talking about our class and what we’ve accomplished in our brief week together, praising the innovation and dedication of my students and staff.  I explain a little about who I am and some details about the Lilypad and my wearable technology kits.  Then the fashion show begins to 2 songs that I recorded, especially for the event, and each student takes the runway by themselves or with a fellow maker.  It is truly special to see their confidence and poses and LED creations.  Following the show, we have a paparazzi frenzy and I get to meet all the parents.

WearableWeek_Badge_small_bur01This week, July 14-19 2014, we’re exploring wearable electronics of all kinds on Make! If it is electronic and belongs on your body, we’d love to hear about it! You can find all of our wearable articles by going here.

Adam Savage on Maker Faire’s Growth, Arduino, and the Biggest Project He’s Never Made

Following his presentation of the “10 Commandments of Making” at the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire, Adam Savage took a few minutes to chat with us on a variety of make-themed topics.

Always an interesting and entertaining conversationalist, Adam discussed his observations about the growth of the Faire, some of the inspiration he’s found from the exhibitors through the years, his thoughts on Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and other prototyping boards, the time-saving tools in his workshop, and the ultimate project he’s never built.

And of course, all this happened with him riding inside a metallic, fire-breathing dragon.

You have to love the magic of Maker Faire.

Arduino Prototyping with your Android Phone

1Sheeld allows for rapid Arduino prototyping by leveraging your Android device.

1Sheeld allows for rapid Arduino prototyping by leveraging your Android device.

Most of us have some form of Android device which is chock-full of sensors and actuators. Wouldn’t it be convenient if we could access those easily to speed up prototyping? That’s the idea behind 1Sheeld. Via a Bluetooth connection, this shield connects with and exposes the device’s sensors, actuators, and selected app APIs for easy access by the Arduino.

This shield will plug into most Arduino boards and will work at either 3.3 or 5 volts. The version of Bluetooth it supports is 2.1 and the minimum Android is version 2.3. Having such a wide range of compatibility ensures 1Sheeld will be useful in the vast majority of situations.



Connecting Arduino to Android wirelessly is only half the story. The other half is the Android app and all the access it unleashes. Currently there are 30 items to select from in its main menu. Sensors available include accelerometer, GPS, light, and more. Actuators include buzzer, flash, speakers, etc. while the APIs are available for Facebook, email, Twitter, and more. There are 30 items on the list now, their target for this year is to increase the list to 100 items. It’s available now for preorder for $50 at

1Sheeld marries Arduinos to your Android phone for prototyping. Brilliant.

1Sheeld is one of the startups at this weekend’s Maker Faire Bay Area.

littleBits Arduino Module Unveiled

The snap-together electronics platform littleBits just became a bit more powerful thanks the new Arduino module, which will be released this weekend at Maker Faire Bay Area. The tiny board sports an ATmega 32U4 chip (like the Arduino Leonardo) and is programmable through the Arduino IDE.

“This is the first time we have a programmable littleBits module,” said Paul Rothman, Director of R&D at littleBits. “It’s something that our community has been asking for for a while and it’s something we’ve been really interested in providing, but wanted to do it in the right way.”

The Arduino module works with the rest of the bits in the littleBits platform and features have been added to help with compatibility. For instance, two of the outputs can be switched between a pulse-width modulation mode and an analog voltage mode. Serial connections are broken out so that multiple modules can communicate together. And there are solder pads, allowing you to access more IO pins, I2C, or ICSP if you’re an advanced maker.

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“The partnership with littleBits is exciting and moreover logical,” said Massimo Banzi, Arduino’s co-founder and CEO. “We work together in the same direction, to make electronics easier for everyone, artists, designers, makers, students and other do-­it-­yourself enthusiasts.”

The new module will be available online and at Maker Faire for $36. A bundle containing 9 modules, including battery and power ­will also be sold for $89 so that new users have everything they need to get started right away.

First Look at the new Arduino Zero

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Hinted at yesterday by Massimo Banzi during his keynote speech at MakerCon, Arduino has just officially announced their latest board—the Arduino Zero.

On the surface the board may look very similar to the Arduino Leonardo, but there are big differences. Powered by a 32-bit ARM Cortex M0+ core, the Atmel SAMD21, the new board is significantly faster than the traditional 8-bit Arduino boards, running at 48MHz, and is much more capable.

While it shares the same form factor as the Arduino Leonardo—with 14 digital and 5 analog pins—all of the digital pins except the Rx/Tx pins can act as PWM pins, and the analog pins have a 12-bit ADC instead of the Leonardo’s 10-bit ADC, giving significantly better analog resolution.

maker-faire-bay-area-logo-2014The new board comes with 256KB of Flash memory, and 32KB of SRAM. In comparison the 8-bit Leonardo which uses the Atmel ATmega32u4 comes with just 32KB of Flash memory and 2.5KB of SRAM. While the new board doesn’t have EEPROM, it does support 16KB by emulation, so Arduino sketches relying on this feature will still run without issue.

Like the Arduino Due, the first Arduino micro-controller to be based on an ARM core, the new Zero runs at 3.3V while there is a 5V power pin on the board in the usual place, it looks like the voltage of the rest of the digital and analog pins is 3.3V rather than the normal 5V—so any shields you use with the board will have to be 3.3V compatible.

One of the interesting differences about board layout of the Zero is the addition of an extra micro-USB port. While information is pretty thin on the ground at the moment, the SAMD21 supports both USB Host and Device mode, so it’s possible that that extra port is to support that functionality. Although its also possible that this USB port could be dedicated to support Atmel’s Embedded Debugger (EDBG) as this is the first Arduino board to support this feature. EDBG is an interesting addition—it provides a full debug interface without the need for additional hardware.

The first prototypes of the new board will be on display at the Arduino (#204), Atmel (#205) and ARM (#405) booths at Maker Faire Bay Area, which kicks off in just two days time. So see you at the faire, the greatest show (and tell) on Earth!

3D-Printed Smart Watch Wins Our Arduino Challenge, Heading to Maker Faire Rome


With an Arduino-compatible brain, Bluetooth LE connectivity, 3D-printed case, and open-source approach, Jonathan Cook’s BLE smart watch is the winner of our Arduino Challenge, and will be headed to Maker Faire Rome this Fall.

The watch is the latest iteration of an ongoing BLE watch endeavor Cook has been exploring for the past nine months. In addition to time and date functionality, he’s building interfacing that any smart-watch wearer would want — email, Facebook notification, twitter updates, etc., and hopes to have the community further the platform as well.  “I see this first as an open source “pebble” type project,” Jonathan explains.

Jonathan will be sharing the full how-to with Make readers at an upcoming date, as well as documenting his build notes on

Our Arduino Month contest, part of the 10-year anniversary of the hugely popular prototyping board, received an incredible amount of highly impressive entrants (thank you to everyone that submitted) and we look forward to sharing some of those projects in future posts as well.

In its first year, Maker Faire Rome 2013, co-curated by Riccardo Luna and Arduino cofounder Massimo Banzi, brought over 30,000 makers and attendees together to celebrate the Maker Movement with decidedly European flair. This year’s event, happening October 3-5, aims to top that.

We’re excited to see Jonathan there!



Growing Grit: My 8th Grade Garduino Project


I have never had what some call a “green thumb.” I’ve mostly had a “brown thumb.” That is, I always forget to water, or I don’t water the right amount. Or I forget to give the plant the right amount of sunlight. It never seems to work out. So I was excited when Mr. Goodin, my Makerspace teacher at Grand Center Arts Academy in St. Louis, Mo., gave me the assignment to make a self-maintained garden that would automatically take care of itself, thus eliminating any human error on my part. I knew this was going to be a very complicated project because it had to react to its surroundings. With that in mind, I started with some research. I knew I would be mainly working with Arduino, and after some searching, I found other projects similar to what I was thinking about, called “Garduino.” I thought this was an awfully clever name and adopted it myself.

This is my Garduino prototype that I made in the very beginning so that I could start to see how my Garduino would turn out.  As with most prototypes, my Garduino turned out drastically different because of all the problems I hit along the way.

Here’s my Garduino prototype that I made in the very beginning. As with most prototypes, my Garduino turned out drastically different because of all the problems I hit along the way.

I started to think about what functions I wanted my Garduino to perform. I knew it needed to respond to light and water intake. I wanted my Arduino to measure the light intake of the plant over the course of one day and turn on a grow light for the remaining hours of light that the plant would need. The water would be a little more complicated. The Garduino would have to measure the moisture levels in the soil and turn on a pump to water the plant if there was not enough moisture in the soil. There were two galvanized nails in the soil, and when there was more water in the soil, there would be a stronger circuit that the Arduino would read, because water is a conductor of electricity.

I hit many problems along the way, which helped with instilling “grit,” the trait of not giving up even when you hit obstacles, something my grade school principal, Tom Hoerr at New City School, was also very focused on. One of my biggest challenges was with troubleshooting the code, which is something I have come to find very tedious. To try to get through the code and understand it better, I made a video of myself explaining each part of the code. This helped to clarify what I really understood and what I needed to focus on understanding.

I also had many problems with the circuitry, which has many small wires that are all close, tight, and complicated to make work. I had to figure out which part of my circuit was malfunctioning. Nothing was working, everything was stopped. I had to take apart all my circuits and put them back together. I found that my light circuit was connected to my water pump and vice-versa. I overcame these problems and that is how I am grittier today than when I first started.

This is my circuit and Arduino. Behind them are PowerSwitch Tail IIs from Jameco, which  are basically safer versions of relays.

This is my circuit and Arduino. Behind them are PowerSwitch Tail IIs from Jameco, which are basically safer versions of relays.

In the code, the light works by measuring the light intake over a short period of time. If there wasn’t enough light, the lamp would be turned on for a period of time equal to the 14:24 ratio, so that my plant would eventually get 14 hours of light a day. For the watering system, there is the galvanized nail circuit that measures the moisture in the soil. If the measurements get below a certain current, then the water pump is programmed to turn on. After 10 seconds, it will turn off, remeasure, and then turn on again if needed.

Here you can see my plant lamp and sprinkler head over my basil plant.

Here you can see my plant lamp and sprinkler head over my basil plant.

​This is my basil plant up close; you can see the galvanized nails and the photocell.

​This is my basil plant up close; you can see the galvanized nails and the photocell.

To make my Garduino more organized, I had clear aquarium tubing taped around my box leading to a sprinkler head I made by poking holes in a bottle cap. I made a special shelf for my electronics and the Arduino so that they wouldn’t get wet. (Special thanks to the Missouri Environmental Educator Association for funding my project.)

This is the finished product of my Garduino.

This is the finished product of my Garduino.

In Makerspace (the name is pretty self-explanatory) we are allowed to make anything we can think of, from a 3D-printed quadcopter to a magazine-page turner, if we fill out a design form, a sheet where we explain our idea and get feedback on it from peers. We have boxes everywhere filled with all kinds of things for making, like plastic containers, game pieces, old electronics, Arduinos, and much more. The possibilities are endless.

This year I’ve worked on smaller Arduino projects, like getting an LED screen to say what you want it to, or unlocking a lock when you knock a particular way. Then I made an Arduino-controlled “Aurora Borealis” costume skirt that I programmed to blink randomly. For my spring project, I chose to make a Bluetooth glove that you can connect to your phone so you can “talk to the hand.”  I hope to have as much fun and learn as much as I did with my Garduino.

This is the light-up skirt I made before I started on my Garduino.

This is the light-up skirt I made before I started on my Garduino.