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thechipperboard Chipper Board: ATtiny Programming Shield

As a 17-year-old high school senior, living in Atlanta, GA, I love building electronics projects. A perfect afternoon is one spent with fellow aspiring engineers in our school’s robotics club. Next fall, I am entering Georgia Tech, where I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the Robo Jackets, learning how to use all of the tools in the Inventor’s Studio.

A staple of many hobby projects, Arduino has been the core behind many of my early projects, as I learned the concepts behind transistors and potentiometers. As my knowledge increased, though, I learned that an Arduino Uno was simply not required to control 16 LEDs, which could instead be multiplexed.

This is where Atmel’s ATtiny chips come into the picture. These fantastic bite sized chips are, in many respects, just as powerful as an Arduino Uno, but are a fraction of the cost and size. The tradeoff, however, is the lack of a simple programer for chips like the ATtiny84 and 4313. This trade off, invariably involved programming on a breadboard with a mess of jumper wires everywhere. One would discover, after moving the chip into place on the project, that there was a bug in the code, as all the while, the legs on the ATtiny were taking a real beating from the fiddling around. I would repeat this maddening process again and again before I realized that this needed a fix.

I needed a fix that would incorporate my newly learned skills, using Cadsoft Eagle. I set about creating a circuit board that would eliminate the breadboard and would allow me to use an Arduino board, which so many hobbyists already have, instead of buying an AVR programmer. It would also, though, have to support people who had an AVR programmer and wished to use it.

Three versions of the board later, my efforts finally came to fruition. On a shield, one third the size of an Arduino, I managed to fit all of the components needed to program an ATtiny and debug it, without the messy and unnecessary constant prying of chips out of DIP sockets and rewiring.

After discovering and refining my newfound ease in programming ATtiny chips, I wanted to share this product with other people. My hope is that hobbyists everywhere will fall in love with ATtiny chips the same way that I did and have the ability to use them to their fullest abilities, with the tools already at their hands. That is why I have started a Kickstarter campaign to spread the Chipper Board and love of ATtiny chips.

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