Make: Volume 79 — 2021 Boards Guide

Looking back at the electronics scene in 2021 will likely be as much about what wasn’t available as what was new and exciting. Global manufacturing complications from Covid-19 meant that chips and components were in short supply across the board, from consumer electronics to cars to maker-focused dev boards. But despite the shortages, in Make: Volume 79 we look at the new microcontrollers, single-board computers, and FPGAs that you’re going to love getting your hands on!

First up, we talk to Raspberry Pi’s founder and CEO Eben Upton about the company’s surprise move to silicon manufacturing with the RP2040 microcontroller chip, their partnering with other board makers, and an unexpected new product announcement. Next, learn what you can do with the new Programmable I/O on the RP2040 chip. And, use our handy flowchart to transfer your messy breadboarded project into an elegant, usable circuit board. Then, get info on the latest boards — in dazzling augmented reality — and compare more than 100 new and popular microcontrollers in our Make: Guide to Boards special insert.

Plus, 39 projects to explore, including:

  • Build a mini replica TV from The Simpsons that’s always playing one of you favorite episodes
  • Bring Insta filters into the real world with a DIY film wigglegram camera lens
  • 3D-print a cheap wood lathe that really works!
  • Assemble a light-up, configurable USB macro keypad to speed up work apps, gaming, streaming, everything!
  • Amateur Scientist, Remaking History, Toy Inventor’s Notebook, book excerpts, and much more!

Special Insert: Make: Guide to Boards

2021 Check out specs and info on the latest microcontrollers, single-board computers, FPGAs — in dazzling augmented reality. 110 boards for you to compare!

On the cover: New FPGAs, microcontrollers, and single-board computers give makers a lot to get excited about this year. Photos: Mark Madeo and Brandon Withrow

Table of Contents


Welcome: The New BMOC

New college makerspaces are designed to encourage students to become innovators and creators.Page 06

Made on Earth

Backyard builds from around the globe.Page 08


Shop Tour

Take a peek inside Eirik Paye’s clever pop-up backyard woodshop.Page 12

Best Maker Schools 2021

College bound? Make: has compiled the inaugural “Best Maker Schools in Higher Education” listings.Page 14

Cool School

Meet the expert instructors ready to help build your maker skills through our Maker Campus courses.Page 18


State of Boards

From no chips to new chips, 2021 has been the craziest year.Page 20

Pi’s the Limit

Eben Upton talks about Raspberry Pi’s most exciting release yet — the RP2040 microcontroller — and reveals the new Pi Zero 2 W.Page 24

PIO Primer

Learn how to use the Programmable I/O on the RP2040. Page 30

Mighty Modules

If you’re taking your microcontroller or SBC project to market, these pluggable boards can help.Page 34

Circuit Board (Re)Flow Chart

So you’ve breadboarded a project… now what? Page 40

Meet the Board Makers

Meet two small companies — Krtkl and Hackboard — making your projects smart with FPGAs and SBCs. Page 48

Hack Attack!

Here are 17 electronics projects to try on this year’s hottest hardware.Page 50


Build a Simpsons TV

Ay, caramba! There’s always something good on — when you print, solder, and code this tiny tube.Page 54

DIY Film Wigglegram Lens

Salvage three disposable cameras to build this funky 3D-printed, 3D lens for your SLR. Page 64

Hot Keebs

Build a light-up USB macro keypad to speed up work apps, gaming, streaming, everything! Page 72

Muon Flux

Time-dilated cosmic rays are passing through you right now! Catch them with a DIY muon telescope. Page 82

Amateur Scientist: Cosmic Dust & Space Debris

Tweak the Make: twilight photometer to detect micrometeors and orbital junk 400 miles high. Page 86

Turn It Up!

Learn basic wood turning with this cheap 3D-printed wood lathe powered by a sewing machine motor. Page 90

Remaking History: Raise Water by Fire

Re-create Thomas Savery’s proto-steam engine — the first industrial machine to use fossil energy. Page 94

Isolating DNA, the Blueprints of Life

Take the first step to genetic engineering at home.Page 100

New From Make: Projects

The latest cool stuff from 104

Toy Inventor’s Notebook: Fabricate a Costume

Use these tips to build cosplay props from your favorite show or game. Page 106

1+2+3: DIY Air Filter

When the Air Quality Index is hazardous, use this easy DIY filter to create a “clean air” room in your home. Page 110

Skill Builder

Make a Motor Move

Micro servos are the easiest way to animate your robotic creations. From our new book Robot Magic. Page 112

Block-Based Programming

Don’t write code? Try drag-and-drop, snap-together visual programming for all kinds of makers. Page 116



Gear up with the latest tools and kits for makers.Page 122

Over the Top

Farewell, Dear Friend

Remembering our friend and colleague Patrick DiJusto, a kind, funny, and enthusiastic member of Make:.Page 128