The Board Room

Computers & Mobile Technology
The Board Room

The number of exciting new microcontrollers hitting the market is growing daily, incorporating features like wireless communication and built-in motors. We asked the teams behind nine of the latest boards to each share a favorite project that uses their device.

Mojo graphic equalizer

1. Mojo

Easy-to-use FPGA development board.

Giant Graphic Equalizer

To demonstrate the power of the Mojo board (, we built a huge (2.5’×1.25′) equalizer consisting of three sheets of laser-cut acrylic forming a 10×10 grid of rectangles, each with three RGB LEDs for a total of 900 LEDs. The LEDs are driven with MOSFETs that are directly controlled by 70 of the 84 digital IO pins the Mojo features. The equalizer also has an onboard microphone that is connected to one of the Mojo’s analog inputs, something not often found on FPGA boards. To perform live audio visualization, the Mojo continuously samples the microphone, storing samples in a buffer. Once the buffer is full, the samples are fed into an FFT that performs the frequency analysis. The output from the FFT is then used to generate a frame for the display in full 24-bit color and a frame rate of roughly 190 frames per second. The display is double buffered and synced to prevent any artifacts. All of this is accomplished using only roughly 20% of available space in the Mojo!


tinyduino gps cat collar

2. TinyDuino

Arduino-compatible, smaller than a quarter.

GPS Cat Collar

Our 9-year-old male cat Conley loves to roam around the neighborhood for hours at a time, and we have no idea what he’s doing or where he’s gone — until now. We decided to create a GPS tracking device for him using a TinyDuino (, a miniature Arduino compatible board that’s smaller than a quarter and extremely light. This GPS device records the position and logs the data every second to an attached microSD card. When he gets back to the house, we can pull out the microSD card, put it in our computer, and check out where he went using Google Maps.

Check out Volume 37 for a full how-to!


spark core wifi for hardware

3. Spark Core

Wi-fi for internet-connected hardware.

Simple Security System

Why pay $49 a month for a security system when you can do it yourself? We paired a Spark Core ( with a PIR (passive infrared) motion sensor to create a simple security system that generates an internet “event” whenever motion is sensed. By pairing this project with Twilio, the cloud communications service (think APIs for SMS text messages), we made a system that sends you a text message every time it detects motion. Take it one step further to add geolocation information from your phone, and you could make it text you anytime motion is sensed while you’re away from home.


moti smart motor

4. Moti

Smart motor with Arduino-compatible board.

Smartphone-Controlled Turntable

We wanted to build a turntable that can be scratched from a tablet or phone. Our programmable smart motor, Moti (, makes this pretty straightforward, as it has an Arduino-compatible micro, motor driver, and continuous encoder built in. We laser-cut the body out of plywood and added some audio electronics pilfered from an old record player. A Bluetooth shield was attached directly to the breakout pins on the Moti, and it was slotted into place. We fired up the Moti app, which automatically detects the motor and offers graphics to control its speed and position. Just spin the dial, and the motor follows. Our friend Rob designed a custom interface using JavaScript to control the turntable through Moti’s RESTful API, and we had a turntable you can scratch with a virtual record. DJ Moti in the house!


udoo music player


For Android, Linux, Arduino, and ADK 2012.

High-Quality Music Player

Tsunamp is a free and open source Linux distribution that transforms UDOO ( into a high-quality music player. It’s designed to achieve excellent sonic results in a user-friendly environment. Basically, when you flash Tsunamp into UDOO, it becomes a standalone audio player which can then be controlled using mobile phones, PCs, Macs, and tablets, thanks to UDOO’s built-in wireless adapter. It can retrieve a music library stored on a NAS or a USB drive, play web radio, and even act as an airport receiver. Grab it for free at



6. Digispark

Cheaper/smaller than Arduino, with ATtiny85.

Bluetooth-Controlled Robot

Many makers use the Digispark ( for projects that communicate with a host computer, because it is able to emulate a keyboard, mouse, joystick, or send data directly. One of the more complex and memorable standalone projects built with the Digispark is the CamBot by Dave Astolfo. The CamBot is a Bluetooth-controlled robot built from Legos, a Digispark, a Digispark Motor Driver Shield, a cheap Bluetooth module, a wi-fi webcam, and some motors. The bot is used to check hard-to-reach places, such as heating ducts, and it can be controlled from a smartphone, allowing the driver to control it and see the video feed. Dave did more with a single Digispark than most projects that use full-blown Arduinos. We can’t wait to see what our users come up with next!


jeenode networked energy monitor

7. JeeNode

Arduino-compatible, with Atmel 8-bit RISC.

Networked Energy Monitors

The Western Cooling Efficiency Center at University of California, Davis, used the low-power JeeNode ( prototyping kit to build groups of networked devices (communicating via the built-in 915 MHz radios) to motivate and monitor simple energy-saving actions in students’ apartments. The devices were able to run off two AA batteries for the two-month study without dying!


bleduino game controller

8. BLEduino

Arduino-compatible with Bluetooth Low Energy.

Smartphone Game Controller

In the Virtual Controller project, the BLEduino ( is used to play classic video games on the computer by serving as a receiver for a virtual controller on your phone.  When the iPhone app registers a button tap it sends a command to the BLEduino, which then maps it to keyboard strokes on the computer. (The BLEduino app is a really important aspect of our board since it provides all of the UI and libraries necessary to communicate with the BLEduino.) The BLEduino creates the keystrokes by simulating a normal keyboard hooked up to the computer via the USB port and receives the commands via BLE.


tinyg 3 axis mill

9. TinyG

Multi-axis motion control system.

Computer-Controlled Three-Axis Mill

TinyG ( is a complete embedded multi-axis motion control system on a single board. It makes industrial-grade control affordable and accessible while still being powerful enough for professionals. It’s used in pick-and-place machines, small industrial production lines, and other applications that require precise motion control. Othermill ( is a portable, computer-controlled three-axis mill that uses the TinyG controller. Othermill is precise enough for detailed electrical and mechanical prototyping work, yet compact and quiet enough for home use.

volume 36

This article first appeared in MAKE Volume 36, the Boards Issue. Pick up the full issue for more!

6 thoughts on “The Board Room

  1. robert lee says:

    Very kool! Any chance of getting more detail on how to make the motion detector?

  2. Zach Supalla (Spark) says:

    Hi Robert – the hardware design for the PIR motion detector circuit, based around the Spark Core, is open source and can be found here:

  3. Don Cole says: is no more. Any details on where the project will end up?

Comments are closed.

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