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Hardware Roundup

Take one look around online communities, crowdfunding sites and marketplaces, and it won’t be difficult to find countless pieces of hardware powered by Microchip technology. From entry-level robotics controllers and nostalgia-sparking retro gaming devices to teeny-tiny breakouts and high-performance development kits. That’s why we have decided to start compiling a list of noteworthy hardware on a regular basis.  

 

To kick things off, here are 10 boards that you might want to embed in your next build.  


Serpente  

 

Inspired by the Digispark, Arturo182’s incredibly popular Serpente series of low-cost development boards are designed specifically for Adafruit’s CircuitPython. All three open source, ATSAMD21E18A-based boards are virtually the same, with the exception of their USB connector: The standard Serpente is equipped with a female USB Type-C connector, the Serpente Plug C with a male USB Type-C connector, and the Serpente Plug uses the board itself as a Type-A USB plug. If you’re seeking a quick yet flexible prototyping tool, you can pick one up on Arturo182’s Tindie Store or over on Adafruit for $15.  

 

BB Q10 Keyboard in PMOD Format 

 

Another awesome unit from Arturo182 making its rounds on social media as of late is his BB Q10 Keyboard PMOD, which enables you to easily add a BlackBerry-like QWERTY keyboard to your project with only a few pins. The board, which comes with CircuitPython and Arduino libraries, leverages its ATSAMD20 Arm Cortex-M0+ MCU to poll the keyboard and put key press information into a FIFO. An I2C interface can be used to read the FIFO, configure some of the functionality of the chip, and control the keyboard backlight. The key information can be received via polling or interrupts. Arturo182 is currently selling the BB Q10 Keyboard on Tindie for $13.50.  

 

CircuitBrains Deluxe  

 

Created by Kevin Neubauer in hopes of lowering the barrier of entry to CircuitPython boards and badges, the CircuitBrains Deluxe system-on-module (SoM) crams an ATSAMD51J19 Arm Cortex-M4 into a one-square-inch module with castellated edges and through holes. This “just add solder” configuration allows you to design a project without having to worry about a complex microcontroller board layout, flash storage, bootloader, or firmware. It’s even small enough to fit into narrow spaces and wearable. the CircuitBrains is part of Microchip’s Get Launched program and will be coming soon to Crowd Supply. Until then, you can check it out on Neubaeur’s site.  

 

Snekboard  

 

Keith Packard has devised a unique ATSAMD21G18A-driven development board that lets you construct robots using LEGO Power Functions motors and switches, and then program them with CircuitPython or the simpler Snek language. Measuring just 48 x 48 mm – the same size as 6 x 6 LEGO studs – the board can be housed inside a LEGO enclosure and attached to a project. It is powered by a 3.7V 900mAh LiPo battery, which fits under the board and charges over USB while the board is being programmed from the host. Packard’s SnekBoard was successfully funded on Crowd Supply and you can order your own for $79.  

 

Ultra-WideBand Feather  

 

Those working on robotics projects where localization is required may be interested in Prototyping Corner’s Ultra-WideBand Feather, which packs an ATSAMD21 MCU and a Decawave DWM1000 IEEE802.15.4-2011 UWB-compliant wireless module into the Adafruit’s Feather form factor. It features an SWD interface for programming and debugging applications, a USB-C connector, an onboard RGB LED, and integrated LiPo charging handled by an MCP73832 controller. The custom Feather is available on the Prototyping Corner’s website for $89.95. 

 

LoraPaper  

 

Robert Poster returned to this year’s The Things Conference with an updated design of his LoraPaper device, an E Ink node that only requires ambient light to operate. The Things Network-connected unit sports a 2.1” ePaper display, along with a solar panel, an energy harvesting charge controller, and an ATmega328P MCU providing Arduino IDE compatibility. You can find more details on this neat little gadget on GitHub or follow its progress on Poser’s Twitter account.  

 

FreedomWing  

 

Developed by AbleGamers and A.T. Makers , the FreedomWing is a Feather-compatible adapter that connects Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller to a power wheelchair through its 9-pin port. The design works with an Adafruit Feather M4 to translates the input from the joystick into commands the Adaptive Controller can understand. Beyond requesting a FreedomWing from AbleGamers through a grant, the non-profit organization will soon release the blueprint for free so that those with the know-how and materials at hand can make their own for as little $37.  

 

gbpxl (Game Boy Printer XL) 

 

Nintendo may have stopped selling the Game Boy Camera years ago, but thermal printers are still common these days. Which is why Vaclav Mach came up with an ATmega4809-powered adapter to serve as an interface between the two. Although originally intended for the Epson TM-T88 family, the plug-in has been configured to with most ESC/POS printers assuming they use the RS-232 serial interface. Vaclav is offering the gbpxl in kit form on Tindie for $20, which includes all the necessary parts to get up and running. He has also uploaded the schematics and code on GitHub for those who would like to recreate his project.   

 

SparkFun Qwiic Pro Micro - USB-C  

 

The Pro Micro has been a fan-favorite for quite a while. However, the SparkFun team decided it was time to revise the original Arduino-compatible board with a few additional features, including a reset button, a Qwiic connector, USB-C, and castellated pads. As the team puts it, the new Qwiic Pro Micro can be thought of as “the Pro Mini except with an ATmega32U4 on board and full USB functionality.” At the time of writing, the board is on backorder but will be available soon for $19.95.  

 

OpenChronograph 

 

Recently spotted on Reddit, the OpenChronograph is an ATmega328P-based drop-in replacement board that converts hybrids smartwatches, like those from Fossil and Skagen, into Arduino-compatible wearables. The PCB is outfitted with an ultra-low-power real-time clock, a pressure/altitude/temperature sensor, an MPU-9250 IMU, and support for a total of three hands. More details can be found on the OpenChronograph’s GitHub page.  

 

Seeduino XIAO  

 

Seeed Studio has launched the latest member in its Seeeduino family: the XIAO. This thumb-sized, SAMD21G18-powered dev board is not only breadboard-friendly but ideal for wearables and other space-constrained projects. The XIAO is now being sold by Seeed Studio for less than $5.  

 

GetWired  

 

Built around the well-known RS-485 communication standard, GetWired is an easy-to-use wired home automation solution from Domatic. This Arduino-programmable platform relies on the open source MySensors protocol and provides plug-and-play compatibility with a range of open source home automation controllers such as Domoticz and Home Assistant. GetWired consists of a various modulees, all centered around an ATmega328PB-based MCU and RS-485 transceiver board. These include a two-channel AC relay shield, a four-channel 12-30VDC lighting dimmer for white, RGB, and RGBW receivers, as well as a switchboard-mountable Ethernet gateway. Those wishing to learn more can check out Domatic’s Crowd Supply page, where the team just wrapped up a campaign.