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New Project: Build a MakerShield

Step-by-step guide to building your own prototyping shield.

New Project: Build a MakerShield

If you aspire to do more than blink an LED with your new Arduino or Netduino, you need a prototyping shield that allows you to build a circuit. After listening to our readers and customers, we created a new kind of prototyping shield that supports the needs of noobs as well as advanced users. Introducing MakerShield!

Unlike conventional prototyping shields, Maker Shield lets you create circuits the way you want, and easily change them without having to solder. All of the MakerShield’s major components and pins are user-assignable, allowing you to jump from any component header pin to any pin on the microcontroller. Make all the changes you want. Just jump and go!

The MakerShield’s potentiometer lets you switch between 5V or 3.3V signals, so the growing numbers of Netduino users can use MakerShield too.

Being able to change the pins connected to the onboard LEDs, button, and potentiometer allows beginners to learn Arduino software with ease, while more advanced users will appreciate the convenience of the onboard components, the incredible flexibility, and the ability to stack another shield on top — the MakerShield uses stackable header pins and retains the original ICSP pin locations of the Arduino.

Steps

Step #1:

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New Project: Build a MakerShield

Compare the kit contents to those listed on the product page in the Maker Shed.

Step #2:

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  • First we will add the red and green LEDs. The LEDs have 1 long lead and 1 short lead. The long lead goes into the hole labeled (+) on the PCB. We recommend putting the green LED on the right side (side with the logo) and the red on the left side, but choice is yours.
  • After you put the LEDs into the board, flip it over and bend the leads outwards so they will stay in place while you solder them.
  • After you solder the leads, clip them close to the board.

Step #3:

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  • Next, add the matching resistor for each LED. They are inserted into the board at locations R1 and R2. Resistors are not polarized, so you can place them in either direction. Notice how the resistor is standing up, or "tombstoning." This board is packed with components, and this is a great way to save space!
  • The second picture shows the resistor for LED2. It is soldered in the same way as LED1.

Step #4:

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Next, we'll add the buttons to the board. They snap in place at locations BTN1 and RESET (possibly BTN2). Flip the board over, solder the leads, and trim. Easy!

Step #5:

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  • Now we will add the power filtering capacitors. They aren't polarized, so their orientation doesn't matter. Add them to the area of the PCB by the "tx" and "rx" pins. Make sure they match the silkscreen and are placed in the correct holes.
  • Next, bend the leads out, the same as you did with the LEDs and resistors, and solder them in place.

Step #6:

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  • Adding the ICSP header. It's much easier to add the ICSP header pins by placing them in the appropriate spot on the PCB (labeled ICSP) and flip the board over on a flat surface. This holds the pins against the board and makes soldering a snap.
  • Note: Be sure to trim the leads on the back. They need to be as flush as possible.

Step #7:

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  • Solder the 3.3V - 5V jumper pins. Use the same method for soldering in the 5v - 3.3v 3-pin header. The short ends of the pins should be placed through the board and soldered. The long leads will be facing up, or on the topside of the board.
  • Next, go ahead and add the included jumper so you don't lose it! This jumper allows you to select either a 3.3v signal from the potentiometer, or a 5v signal.

Step #8:

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  • Adding the power and user selection header pins. Now we can add the 8-pin female header (with the short pins!) on the PCB at the top of the board.
  • Note: Be sure to use the 8-pin header with the short pins!
  • You can use a little piece of tape to hold the female header pins in place, or you can hold it with your finger and solder 1 pin to hold it in place. I wrap the solder around my PanaVise to keep it steady. Easy!

Step #9:

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Use the same technique to solder in the 4-pin female header pin (with short pins!) to the location on the bottom of the PCB labeled "BTN1, LED1, LED2, POT1".

Step #10:

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  • Now it's time to solder in the stacking header pins. Place the header pins in the PCB on the left and right side. You should have two 8-pin female headers on the right side and two 6-pin headers on the left. After you place them through the board from the front, carefully flip the board over on a flat surface and solder at least one pin of each header section.
  • In the second picture, you can see that each header has one pin soldered to the PCB. Now you can flip the board over and make sure all the stacking header pins are in alignment. Once they are aligned, go back and solder all the remaining pins. DO NOT TRIM THESE PINS!

Step #11:

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  • The last step is to solder in the potentiometer. We solder this in last because it has a long shaft and would interfere with soldering in the female headers.
  • The potentiometer only fits one way. Orient it properly, bend the leads out a little, and solder in place. The last step is to trim the leads. You're done!

Step #12:

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Make sure the pins are all lined up and plug it into your favorite micro-controller. Now all you have to do is plan on what you're going to make!


  • Stavman

    The jumper is a standard PC motherboard jumper. You may already have some. If not, Radio Shack has them for cheap. If you just want to test, don’t tell anyone here, but you can take a small strip of Aluminum foil and wrap it around the two jumper posts you want to short. A little trickier method is using 28-30 gauge bare wire and wrap around the two jumper posts. It’s called wire wrapping, an “old” technique of creating circuits

  • Michael Castor

    Ivo,

    The Arduino Uno you have is a revision 3. It has a few extra pins broken out that are not used by the MakerShield. Just make sure the footprint of the MakerShield lines up with your Arduino and it will work just fine!

    Regarding the coloration, the shade of blue on the Arduino can vary slightly with each production run but it sounds like you may have received an Arduino revision 2 (even though we’ve been putting the R3’s in the kits since November).. do you think you could send a picture of it to mcastor (at) makezine.com?

    We’ll get it worked out for you!

  • William McCracken

    Thanks for the TDD program. This helped me find an issue with my potentiometer!

  • louaiabuosba

    Thanks for posting this! My shield actually works, I’m a bit surprised.

  • Marc

    Get a mini breadboard, peel off the back exposing the adhesive, and stick it on. That’s it!

  • http://gravatar.com/usermanual Usermanual

    While very helpful, this walk through does not discuss that you should adhere the mini-breadboard that comes with the “Ultimate Micro Controller Pack” to the shield. There are also other tutorials here for how to test the shield via the LED’s once you have everything assembled.

    • Robarino

      Attaching the mini-breadboard is completely optional. Did you not notice the perfboard pattern? The reason there is a perfboard pattern on the board is if you wanted to make something more permanent and solder your circuit directly to the makershield. Attaching the mini-breadboard would obstruct that.
      FYI, You don’t actually have to adhere the breadboard to the makershield to use it.

  • TWRackers

    This is not a comment about the Shield above, but about the assembly instructions as presented.

    First, the links on the page do not work properly; all you can see on the page at a time is Step #1 and one other step, determined by which numbered link you click under PROJECT STEPS. And the VIEW ALL does nothing.

    Second, for those of us whose computer and work bench are in different rooms, there should be a way to display all steps at the same time so they can be printed together. Even if I had to print this entire web page to get them.

    Third, and this relates to the entire web site: I can’t find a “web site support” link anywhere. That’s where these comments should have been posted to guarantee someone who works the web site would get the above information and do something to fix them for future readers.

    Once I’ve had a chance to assemble and test out my Shield, I’ll post some feedback about it.

  • Allan Caine

    I found that the View All link works fine. I found the shield very easy to assemble. I did find that the pot is actually too large and rubs up against the header.

    • TWRackers

      Correct, the web page has been fixed since my comment above was posted. All the links that weren’t working properly now behave as expected.

  • TWRackers

    I can now comment on the MakerShield itself. In fact, the first one I built went together so well, I bought a second one.

    It turns out the prototyping space on the Shield is EXACTLY the correct size for either of the two smallest breadboards (one red, one blue) in the MINI BREADBOARD AND JUMPER WIRE PACK that I picked up at Radio Shack (part# 276-0327). They have adhesive backs, so I placed the blue one on one MakerShield for prototyping, and left the other board as is for more finalized designs.

  • therealjoshbrown

    I’ve assembled this shield. Without the shield the Arduino will upload fine, but with the shield attached the sketch cannot find the serial port. Any tips? Have I done something wrong?

    • TWRackers

      Naive guess would be a solder bridge somewhere, I can’t see an open circuit causing that.

  • jag1973

    Two things:
    1. Complaint: My kit came with a short Pot, stuck between the jumper and the power and user selection header pins – Sucks – not like the now show in the pic.
    2. Advice: Will you kindly have a link to all the MakerShield projects. Thanks!

  • Mark H Harris

    Greetings,
    Pros: MakerShield is useful. The board and components are excellent quality — I was particularly impressed with the PCB itself (very nice, easily solderable). The instructions were clear and the project was intuitive and easy (for a skilled electrical engineer, VERY easy). The MakerShield is a permanent addition to my two lab Arduino Uno boards. I added the white plastic solder-free bread-board to my units. Thanks.
    Cons: The board has a couple of serious flaws, that if were corrected would improve the user experience especially for beginners and NOOBs: 1) the BTN2 Reset and the POT should be ‘reversed’ on the board… place the button in the corner, and place the POT where the button is now. Fingers rub on the voltage header when trying to use the POT, and the board would be more aesthetically pleasing and symmetrical (for us OCD types) if the button layout symmetry matched the LED symmetry (just switch the BTN2 with the POT)
    Con: 2) Defining BTN2 Reset is presumptuous. We already have a Reset button on the lower primary board (which is still easily accessible). Leave BTN2 alone, do NOT label it ‘Reset’ and bring its pin out to the peripheral header along with BTN1, POT1, LED1, LED2. That would give another button without taking up more space on the bread-board.

    It would also be handy if the plastic ‘block’ solder-less breadboard had one or two horizontal common bars for gnd and Vcc (but this is minor).

    I recommend this board highly for beginners and experienced engineers alike. Thanks MakerShed!

    Mark H. Harris
    Rochester, MN

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