Archive | October 2012

Programming an Atmel AVR with an Arduino

After spending time working with the Arduino platform there will come a time when you may want to start directly programming the microcontroller or smaller, cheaper versions such as the ATtiny series. To do so requires a seperate programmer, however if you have an Arduino it can be used as one, saving some money. To help us along Michael Holachek has created a video tutorial on how to use the Arduino as an AVR programmer. It is clear, articulate and easy to follow:


For the matching notes to his video, click here. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.


If you’re interested in working with the bare microcontrollers, but not quite ready to give up the Arduino bootloader – we’ve got you covered with our new ATmega328P MCUs with Arduino Uno bootloader:


This is the same Atmel AVR ATmega328P microcontroller used in the official Arduino Uno, as well as our ElevenEtherTenUSBDroid, and other boards. Perfect for building your own Arduino-compatible project directly on a breadboard or on a custom PCB, or for replacing the MCU in an existing board. Comes with the Arduino Uno bootloader pre-installed. Better still, it even has a special label stuck on top with details of the pinout, so you don’t even need to look up the datasheet when connecting it up in your project! For more information and to order, click here!

Control and read Arduino I/O from a PC

Arduino enthusiast Rohit Gupta has written a useful Windows-based program to interface with an Arduino board. It would be useful for testing hardware connected to digital output pins and also reading the values returned from analogue inputs – great for testing prototype hardware without having to insert temporary testing code in sketches. However you do need to upload Rohit’s sketch to interpret the commands from the PC. Watch the following snazzy video for a demonstration:


Visit Rohit’s instructable for more information and the software download. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.

If you’re looking for another way to control your Arduino project, consider the Internet by using our Freetronics EtherTen. Apart from being fully Arduino Uno-compatible, it has onboard Ethernet, microSD socket, full USB connection (no pesky FTDI cables needed) and supports optional Power-over-Ethernet:

Control AC sockets with an Android phone and Arduino

Enthusiast Mario Böhmer has published a method to control AC mains sockets safely and remotely using an Android phone and Arduino. instead of attempting to rewire the mains sockets he simple hacked into the remote control for some remote-control mains outlets, and has the Arduino digital outputs tapped into the remote buttons with optocouplers. Then the Arduino listens via serial to a PC for text sent by the Android phone – which runs a custom app to simply turn the outlets on or off. For example:

Visit Mario’s website for more information, a video demonstration and the required code. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.


If you’re looking for an Arduino-compatible board with inbuilt USB host shield in order to experiment with the Android developer kit, look no further as we have the Freetronics USBDroid board:

Apart from being a fully Arduino Uno-compatible, it has onboard microSD socket and the full USB socket and host-mode controller. As well as the Bluetooth application described above, this is the ideal platform for developing peripherals or projects based around Android devices with ADK (Android Developer Kit) functionality, but without requiring a USB host controller shield stacked onto an Arduino. For more information and to order, visit the product page here

The Portable Arduino Electronics Laboratory

Enthusiast Jason Welsh has used a 3D printer to whip up an interesting folding portable electronics laboratory casing. It can hold an Arduino board, a shield, and some random parts in a seperate drawer – or instead of the shield a small solderless breadboard. The whole case is held together with M3 screws, and you can download the design files yourself from Thingiverse. In the following video Jason runs through his creation:


An interesting creation, and certainly useful for the mobile experimenter. For more information and the download flies click here. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.


If you are new to Arduino, join in with our range of Arduino-compatible hardwareprototyping shields and module range. A good start is the Freetronics Eleven, the Arduino Uno-compatible board with onboard prototyping space:

Create your own custom Arduino shield in ten minutes

Although making your own circuits and redesigning them to fit into Arduino shields is simple and fun, there will finally come a time when you need to consider making your own shields. And frankly, that’s one of the great things about the Arduino platform – you can do it yourself. In doing so you would have to learn one of the PCB design tools and after a few nights lay down what is hopefully the correct layout. However things may change, as there is a new web-based service called – an online PCB design tool which allows you to export the gerbers and design files to send off to a PCB factory. One of the founders Karel has created a video demonstrating how to design your own shield, including creating your own part footprints – in the following video:


And there you have it – a process that was once almost out of reach is available to everyone. For more information about, click here. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.


Although designing your own PCB is fun, if your circuit is easily made up consider building the circuit on a ProtoShield – it makes your project all the more professional, and easier to enclose. We have a range of shieldsincluding basic PCBsshort versions and our ProtoShield Pro with SMD LEDs:

Tutorial: Arduino button de-bouncing in software

Generally when people are using a button or sensor with similar types of contacts, there is some “bouncing” due to the switch contacts and thus a pull-down (or up) resistor and capacitor may be used. However this can often not be the optimal solution, especially when trying to minimise the parts used – or someone may have forgotten to include hardware de-bouncing in the design. This leads us to investigate a small Arduino sketch example by Instructables user “delphino-999”, who has devised a way of de-bouncing using interrupts. 

It’s a clever solution and leaves room for adjustment to take hardware factors into account. To run through it yourself, click here for the example. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.

If you’re an experienced Arduino user and interested in more advanced Arduino topics such as interrupts and hardware design – get yourself a copy of “Practical Arduino” by Jonathan Oxer and Hugh Blemings:


Create your own Arduino-based designs, gain an in-depth knowledge of the architecture of Arduino, and learn the easy-to-use Arduino language all in the context of practical projects that you can build yourself at home. Get hands-on experience using a variety of projects and recipes for everything from home automation to test equipment. For more information and to order, click here

DIY “Simon” Game with Arduino

Those born in the 1970s and earlier may recall the electronic game by Milton Bradley called “Simon” – where four colour panels would illuminate in a random sequence, and the user would have to reproduce that pattern by pressing matching buttons before the time ran out. Although the game itself was simple in theory, it was quite addictive and the cause for many competitions. You can also recreate this yourself with an Arduino board and a few basic components by following the guide by Instructables user “mpilchfamily”. Their version has been constructed on a breadboard yet remains faithful to the original version, for example:


Not bad at all, and it leaves room for more experimentation. To learn how to make your own, click here. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.

If this type of project interests you and you’re new to the Arduino world, check out our new Experimenter’s Kit for Arduino:

The package includes a wide variety of parts, sensors and modules including: a servo motor, lights, buttons, switches, sound, sensors, breadboard, wires and more. Furthermore a Freetronics Eleven Arduino-compatible board is included to make this an extensive hobby experimenter, inventor and starter kit. However we don’t leave you alone to figure it all out, included is a great project and instruction booklet, plus access to a supporting web page and software examples. In other words – this is everything you need to get started for a fun range of electronics and Arduino related projects! 

So to get started or for more information and to order, check out the product page.

Make your own Arduino Word Clock

Building a clock is almost a rite of passage in the Arduino community, and Arduino forum member Riva has certainly moved forward and created a great word clock. Using 128 LEDs, a lot of prototyping board, and a non-board Arduino circuit using a pre-programmed microcontroller, the results are very good. What finishes the clock well is the housing and the quality of the laser-printer clock face. And unlike other simple word clocks, the display can become one large scrolling text unit as well. Here is the clock in action:


Kudos to Riva for their excellent clock. For build and design instructions, head over to their forum post. And for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.


For your own projects that require working with real time and date – consider using our super-accurate real-time clock module. Based on the DS3232, it has a temperature-controlled crystal oscillator for accurate time keeping, battery backup and 236 bytes of non-volatile memory for user data. For more information, see our modules page

Log temperature with a Gnu/Linux system and Arduino

Software engineer Nico Waldispühl has documented in detail a simple way of logging temperature measured from DS18B20 temperature sensors via an Arduino board. The data is the fetched from the board using a PC runnning a Perl fetch script and logged. Furthermore the  data can also then be charted using the URL-based Google Charts API for a pleasant result:

For more information including all the required code, check out Nico’s website hereAnd for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.


To get started with your own temperature-controlled projects, consider using our TEMP: DS18B20-based temperature sensor module:

… or our HUMID: Humidity and Temperature sensor module based on the popular DHT22 sensor unit. Both modules are fully documented and easy to get started with. These are only two of over a dozen of our sensor and output modules

Arduino LCD game: Mugwump

Once more Emmanuel Turner has ported another game to work with an Arduino and our LCD Keypad Shield. In this instalment he brings us the classic game “Mugwump”. The game consists of an imaginary area mapped out into ten by ten locations, and four “Mugwumps” are randomly located in each. Your player moves about this area, scanning for a Mugwump, and once all four are found the game is over. It’s a classic game from the 1970s that translates easily into the Arduino language. 



For more information including the sketch and other interesting Arduino projects, visit Emmanuel’s siteAnd for more, we’re on twitter and Google+, so follow us for news and product updates as well.

Instead of building your own LCD module onto a breadboard, save time and move forward with the Freetronics LCD & Keypad shield which contains a bright 16×2 character LCD and five buttons that can be read from only one analog input pin: