What’s Cool in Arduino — Meet the Arduino Leonardo


It’s no secret that makers of all skill levels are adopting Arduino — the open source ecosystem of microcontrollers, add-on “shields,” sensors, and code — to bring all kinds of DIY projects to life. In this column I’ll bring you cool new stars in the Arduinoverse, and I hope you’ll tell me about great stuff you’re finding at whatscool@makezine.com.


Arduino Leonardo

The Arduino Leonardo (makershed.com/leonardo) made its first retail appearance at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012. If you were lucky enough to attend, you may have picked up one from the Maker Shed store. If not, don’t worry — now you can get them online.

Leonardo is a very different kind of Arduino, yet it still works as elegantly as previous versions of this amazing little microcontroller. At its heart is the ATmega32U4 chip, which eliminates the need for a secondary processor for USB communications. This not only lowers the price of the board, but also allows it to be used as a virtual keyboard or mouse! Imagine the new possibilities for letting your projects interact with computers.

Mintronics: Menta

This kit was designed in New York City by open source hardware pioneer Adafruit Industries, in partnership with MAKE and Maker Shed (makershed.com/menta). It’s an Arduino-compatible microcontroller that fits perfectly inside everybody’s favorite enclosure, the mint tin — complete with onboard prototyping area and shield compatibility.

And check out the 3D-printed Menta enclosure created by Tod Kurt (aka todbot). Tod uploaded his design files to Thingiverse (thingiverse.com/thing:23809) so you can easily download and modify the design. It’s perfect if you want a little more height for stacking shields or adding jumper wires, sensors,
or battery packs to your Menta.

Arduino Wireless Proto Shield

This new shield (makershed.com/mksp13) allows your Arduinos to easily communicate with each other and with your computer from 100–300 feet. It was designed to use Digi’s XBee radio modules, but any wireless module with the same footprint will work. Arduino also sells a version with an SD memory card slot.

Arduino Ethernet

This microcontroller integrates an Arduino and the popular Arduino Ethernet Shield. By downloading and using the Ethernet library in your Arduino sketches, you can connect all kinds of projects to the web, like Matt Richardson’s Snail Mail Push Alert system for his iPhone (makezine.com/go/snailpush) and Chris D’Angelo’s tkts Ticker Tape gadget that researches and prints out Broadway theater ticket discounts (makezine.com/go/tixticker).

Now you don’t need a separate shield for web connectivity — just plug and play with Arduino Ethernet (makershed.com/mksp9).

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