What Is This, A Microcontroller Board For Ants?

You youngins probably don’t remember this, but a few years ago there was an arms race on Kickstarter to create the smallest Arduino-compatible microcontroller board. Since then, a few people have realized they can make more money on Kickstarter through fraud or potato salad, and the race to create the smallest ‘duino board petered out.

It’s a shame [Meizhu] wasn’t part of the great miniature Arduinofication of Kickstarter, because this project would have won. It’s an Atmel ATtiny85, with USB port, resistors, diodes, reset button, LED, and pin headers, that is just 72 mils larger than the PDIP package of the ‘tiny85. Outside of getting a bare die of ‘tiny85s, there isn’t much of a chance of this board becoming any smaller.

[Meizhu] was inspired to create this board from [Tim]’s Nanite 85, which up until a few days ago was the current champion of micro microcontroller boards. With a bit of work in KiCAD, the new board layout was created that is just a hair larger than the 0.4″ x 0.4″ footprint of the PDIP ATtiny85. There were a few challenges in getting a working board this small; you’d be surprised how large the plastic bits around pin headers are, but with some very crafty soldering, [Meizhu] was able to get it to work.

Infrared-controlled Light Switch

If you’re looking for your first electronics project, or a project to get someone else started in electronics, [Vadim] has you covered. Back when he was first starting out in electronics he built this infrared-controlled light switch that works with a standard TV remote control.

[Vadim]’s first few projects ended up as parts for other projects after they were built, so he wanted to build something useful that wouldn’t ultimately end up back in the parts drawer. The other requirements for the project were to use a microcontroller and to keep it simple. [Vadim] chose an ATtiny2313 to handle the RC-5 IR protocol and switch the light.

The circuit still has a switch to manually control the lights, preserving the original functionality of the light switch. The rest of the design includes a header for programming the board and another header for tying into the high voltage lines. This is a great project for anyone who knows what they’re doing with mains power but is just getting started with microcontrollers. If properly designed and implemented you’ll never stumble across a room to turn the lights out again!

Perhaps mixing high and low voltages on the same circuit board doesn’t spark your fancy or you can’t modify the light switch in your place of residence? Check out this mechanically-switched light switch.

 

Simple Touch Controller Frees Up USB Port

touch screen demonstration using text

[typ.o] was working on a Raspberry Pi project and found himself running short on USB ports. The project required a touch screen interface, which takes up one of the ports. Since he was only using the screen in text mode, he decided to ditch the original USB controller and make his own.

The ever popular Attiny85 is deployed to handle the task, and is interfaced between the resistive touch panel and the Raspberry pi, using only three pins from the GPIO port. The Attiny85 runs off the 3 volt supply from the raspi, so no level shifter is needed, helping to keep his board super simple.

The calibration and calculation of the touched character location is done by a Python script running on the raspi. [typ.o] is a fan of the KISS principle, and it shows. Be sure to check out his site for all source code, schematics and a video demonstrating this simple but effective solution.

A Tiny Robot Family

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of young electronics hobbyists cut their teeth with BEAM robots – small robots made with logic chips and recycled walkmans that tore a page from papers on neural nets and the AI renaissance of the 80s. Twenty years later, a second AI renaissance never happened because a generation of genius programmers decided the best use of their mental faculties was to sell ads on the Internet. We got the Arduino, though, and the tiny robot family is a more than sufficient spiritual successor to the digital life of the old BEAM bots.

The tiny robot family is [shlonkin]’s growing collection of small autonomous vehicles that perceive the world with sensors and act with different behaviors. They all contain an ATtiny85, a small battery, two motors, and at least one phototransistor and a LED. One robot has left and right eyes pointing down, and can act as a line follower. Another has a group of LEDs around its body, allowing it to signal other bots in all directions. The goal of the project is to create a whole series of these tiny robots capable of interacting with the environment and each other. Video of the line follower below.

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DUO Decimal – a Minimalist Single Board Computer

duodecimal

If you’ve ever struggled to fit your program into the RAM and ROM of a small micro, you’ll appreciate [Jack’s] creation, the DUO Decimal. DUO Decimal is a small single board computer running on an Atmel ATtiny84. The ’84 has 8KB flash memory, 512 bytes of SRAM, and 512 bytes of EEPROM. Not as bad as a the old days, but still tight by today’s standards.

User input to the DUO Decimal is through two buttons. Output is via a 7 segment numeric LED display. Not the easiest for typing in long programs, but on par with the switches and blinkenlights of the past. 3 bits of GPIO are available for connections to your own circuits.

[Jack] didn’t just design a board, he designed an entire language. DUO Decimal is programmed in an interpreted language called DUO Decimal Numeric Code (DDNC). There are 47 DDNC commands, covering everything from basic math to list manipulation. Programs can be entered through the buttons, or save your fingertips by downloading them through the AVR isp interface. The entire C code for the DUO Decimal, including the DDNC interpreter is available on [Jack’s] website.

[Jack] created several example DDNC programs, including a 6 function calculator with trigonometry, a Mandelbrot set tester, and an implementation of the rock paper scissors game. There’s even a platformer action game, though graphics on a single 7 segment display are simplistic to say the least.

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Solderless Noise-o-Tron Kit Makes Noise at Chicago Makerfaire

Noise-o-Tron

Anyone who’s manned a hackerspace booth at an event knows how difficult it can be to describe to people what a hackerspace is. No matter what words you use to describe it, nothing really seems to do it justice. You simply can’t use words to make someone feel that sense of accomplishment and fun that you get when you learn something new and build something that actually works.

[Derek] had this same problem and decided to do something about it. He realized that in order to really share the experience of a hackerspace, he would have to bring a piece of the hackerspace to the people.  That meant getting people to build something simple, but fun. [Derek’s] design had to be easy enough for anyone to put together, and inexpensive enough that it can be produced in moderate quantities without breaking the bank.

[Derek] ended up building a simple “optical theremin”. The heart of this simple circuit is an ATTiny45. Arduino libraries have already been ported to this chip, so all [Derek] had to do was write a few simple lines of code and he was up and running. The chip is connected to a photocell so the pitch will vary with the amount of light that reaches the cell. The user can then change the pitch by moving their hand closer or further away, achieving a similar effect to a theremin.

[Derek] designed a simple “pcb” out of acrylic, with laser cut holes for all of the components. If you don’t have access to a laser cutter to cut the acrylic sheets, you could always build your own. The electronic components are placed into the holes and the leads are simply twisted together. This allows even an inexperienced builder to complete the project in just five to ten minutes with no complicated tools. The end result of his hard work was a crowded booth at a lot of happy new makers. All of [Derek’s] plans are available on github, and he hopes his project will find use at Makerfaires and hackerspace events all over the world.

The p.u.l.s.e Parking Light

[Anool]’s brother loves his motorcycle, and when he came across a ‘breathing LED’ mod for the brake light, he had to have one. Being tasked with the creation of a pretty cool mod, [Anool] came up with p.u.l.s.e., an extremely small LED controller and a slight tip ‘o the hat to Pink Floyd and the second or third greatest CD packagings.

The circuit is a slightly Apple-inspired mod for the  parking light that keeps the lamp fully lit when the Neutral Detect line on the bike is high, and slowly pulses the LED in a ‘breathing’ pattern when the Neutral Detect line is low. Not a lot of logic is needed for something this simple, so [Anool] turned to the ATtiny45 and the Arduino IDE to accomplish his goal.

[Anool] created a circuit in KiCAD that would plug in to the lamp socket of his brother’s bike. A cluster of LEDs replace the T10 lamp inside the parking light, and a small amount of code takes care of the logic and breathing effect. It’s a great mod, and the astonishingly small size of the board puts him in the running for the smallest Arduino we’ve ever seen.

Videos of the light in action below.

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