Adafruit began their Feather ecosystem endeavor last year with the introduction of the Feather 32u4 Basic Proto, a tiny (51mm×23mm×8mm) development board outfitted with an ATmega32u4 SoC, 20 GPIO pin-out and an onboard prototyping section. What made the board unique was its integrated battery charger (for LiPo batteries), making it a portable board that could be used anywhere.
Since then, Adafruit has released over a dozen different renditions to their Feather ecosystem, each with their own different features. What’s more, they can be used as stand-alone modules or connected together for additional functionalities. Most of the boards feature the same base hardware in terms of microcontrollers, form factor, rechargeable battery and proto-board, however each feature a unique hardware addition that sets them apart from the rest.
For example, the Feather 32u4 Adalogger has an integrated SD card slot to store information; the 32u4 Bluefruit LE offers Bluetooth connectivity and the HUZZAH features built-in Wi-Fi thanks to an ESP8266 Wi-Fi add-on module. The Feather ecosystem also features Wings, which are additional hardware modules that connect to the Feather boards via pin-out and include everything from LED displays to radio modules as well as relays (latching, power, etc.), stepper and DC motor control boards. The Feather ecosystem lets users sort through and pick the board that best suits their application. There is already a large fan base among makers using the ecosystem and created some interesting projects. Here are several that make use of the tiny proto-boards. (More about the specific boards after this link)
DaveGun (from Instructables) designed a wireless sensor array using Adafruit’s 32u4 Radio board that alerts users wirelessly when the sensors are tripped. His platform uses four remote PIR sensor modules connected to Adafruit’s Pro Trinket and RFM69HCW Transceiver Radio Breakout boards, housed in their own 3D printed case.
When the sensors are tripped, they send a signal to a handheld module outfitted with the Feather 32u4 Radio board and TFT display that shows the sensor hit-count along with a vibrational notice. Each sensor package works independently and reports their own hit-count when tripped so you can visualize where intruders are located. See more at DaveGun’s Instructables page.
Kinetic Designs’ Russell Grokett took advantage of Adafruit’s HUZZAH with ESP8266 Wi-Fi module in order to create an ISS (International Space Station) tracker. His ISS Pointer Tracker uses the Feather board along with a small servo and stepper motor to actuate an LED pointer that can move in Azimuth and Altitude in order to track the celestial station.
A Raspberry Pi acts as the tracker’s brains and does all the number crunching to get a bead on the station as the HUZZAH was deemed too limited in memory (4MB of Flash, 32KB SRAM and 80KB DRAM respectively). Of course, Russell’s Pointer Tracker can be used to track any celestial object, not just the ISS. All that is needed is to program the device to follow whatever the user wants based on its coordinates in the sky. See the build at Russell’s Instructable.
This last project focuses on posture while in a seated position. Christopher Rush designed his DIY Posture Sensor in an effort to maintain back and shoulder health that often becomes taxed while working at a desk all day.
The build is simple and a great project for those new to using development boards and uses an Adafruit Feather 32u4 Basic Proto board along with a 3-axis accelerometer, 3V vibration motor and battery pack.
He then used code adapted from Adafruit’s Sensor and MMA8451 libraries to monitor the wearer’s position while seated. More accurately, it monitors the Y-axis and alerts the wearer when certain value thresholds are exceeded in both directions (forward and back). See more of Chistopher’s build at the project’s site.
Small, specialized, development boards let anyone design pro devices. Having a community backing your board of choice, like the Adafruit Feather or Arduino community, raises your ability to “movie hacker” level instantly. The size, price, and learning curve are perfect. No excuse to not make your ideas reality. I’m immediately thinking of some Halloween Effects and using a Feather.