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    This project is a collaboration with my 6 year old grandson and is also my offering in the open Arduino contest to celebrate the birthday of Arduino and Element14.


    Project Objectives

    Create a device which will alert older siblings when their two year old toddler sister is getting into stuff she shouldn't - especially the Lego model that was just completed.  Or, for the more technically oriented:

    • Install the ESP8266 core into the Arduino IDE with the Board Manager
    • Learn how to use ESP-NOW, a point to point protocol works on the ESP family using the Arduino IDE
    • Experiment with different sensors, especially the RCWL-0156 "radar" sensor

    Most of all, have a bit of fun.



    My grandson recently came to visit and was excited to tell me that he had a good idea for a project that also served a pressing need.  Specifically that his two year old sister was constantly getting into things (e.g. the Lego project that he had just completed) and it had to be stopped.  I asked him to draw up a proposal and here it is:


    Little Sister Alarm


    He is just learning to read and write so I will interpret it for you.  The object in the upper left is a waterproof bracelet that transmits the location of the toddler by radio.  The object lower right is a waterproof thing that you can put on your wrist that has a screen, beeper, and LED to alert you when the toddler is somewhere she shouldn't be.  They are waterproof because they are planning to go to a waterpark and it might get wet.


    Back in the day, when I was a boy and way before the Arduino, I would have solved the problem like this:

    Old school method

    It pretty well explains why I became a mechanical engineer and not an electrical/electronics engineer or computer science major.  Clearly this will not do and an Arduino is required.


    One Approach

    Keeping track of and managing two year olds is one of the hardest things on the planet.  They are among the wiliest and most clever of all creatures.  If we can pull this off it could be worth a fortune! 


    The constraints are:

    • I need to build it in the next week or two because that is the next time I will see my client (grandson) and he wants it yesterday
    • It needs to be suitable for little kids
    • It needs to be Arduino based or at least use the Arduino IDE


    Here is an approach in line with what my grandson imagined:

    • Bracelet for the toddler that has a Bluetooth beacon run off of coin cell
    • Station(s) that could be placed near Lego or other desired locations that would detect signal strength of the Bluetooth beacon from the bracelet and send Bluetooth or Wi-Fi signal warning when the toddler was close
    • Smartwatch that would buzz and light up on the client's wrist when warning is received and show the location of the toddler


    Let's Get Real

    That approach is not going to happen.  I don't have the materials on hand and there is only a week or two.  These might be useful....


    • Two ESP8266 Wemos D1 Minis
    • HC-SR04 distance sensor
    • PIR sensor
    • RCWL-0516 "radar" sensor


    There are many other ways of detecting and sending notice of human presence, but these are the ones readily available to me.


    I don't have much experience with the ESP8266 so this will be a good learning experience.  The project will be divided into two phases:  a concept selection phase where the sensors at hand are tested and a build phase where something that will work as a first pass is created.  During the concept selection phase code will be separately developed for the hardware and then combined into one test package.  The three sensors could potentially complement each other and all included in the final product or perhaps only one will be needed.


    Disclaimer:  This is a fun project.  However, the code and hardware that follows only demonstrates concepts.  Transmissions are not secure, the code is not fully tested, and the hardware does not make a reliable security system.


    Lets Get Started




    This project will use the Wemos D1 mini, an easy to use ESP8266 board that can run on the Arduino IDE and is shown above.  They can be purchased from the usual Chinese and internet sources.  The github page is here for the Arduino implementation and it also has links to documentation and the boards manager.  I had no problem installing it via the boards manager in Arduino 1.8.4.  I did run into a conflict with my virus protection software (McAfee) which occasionally would not let it compile on Windows 10.  Microsoft virus protection ran without a problem.


    To learn more about the ESP8266 I watched the YouTube videos by Andreas Spiess and highly recommend them if you are unfamiliar with the ESP family.  In episode #172 he discusses ESP-NOW which is a point to point method for connecting two or more ESPs to each other using the Arduino IDE.  It is small, fast, and does not require connection to an internet access point.  Among the constraints of ESP-NOW are:

    • Limited to 250 bytes per transmission
    • Only 20 ESP devices can be connected (10 with security enabled)

    The advantages include:

    • Since a router / connection is not necessary it can be operated anywhere
    • Faster than connecting to the internet
    • Lower energy requirements
    • Lower overhead

    Watch the videos by Andreas for much more information.


    I developed a "Hello World" sketch using ESP-NOW based on code by Andreas and posted it here on Github.  It consists of a send and receive sketch which I recommend you try if you are following along.  I use a C style struct for the data and display it on the serial monitor when both sending and receiving.  It is not secure in any way, form, or fashion.




    Shown above is the RCWL-0516 "radar" sensor.  Once again, Andreas has a YouTube video on these sensors which he covers in episode 135.  There is considerable discussion on the internet about how these work and whether they are really radar and I suggest interested persons to google.  Their origin seems to be detection for turning lights on and off in a way similar to how PIR sensors are sometimes used.  They are quite inexpensive and again can be found in the usual Chinese sources.  An interesting feature is that they can "see through walls" as I will demonstrate shortly in a video.  A simple sketch I developed can be found here on Github.  It sends message to the serial terminal when motion is detected.  Note that there is a pause between readings that is set by the sensor and cannot be changed in the code.


    NOTE WELL:  The ESP8266 is not 5v tolerant and this is a 5V device.  In the sketch linked above I have described how a voltage divider can be set up to reduce signal voltage to 3V3.


    PIR Sensor



    Members of Element14 will be familiar with PIR sensors and their use.  The PIR sensor I used has a delay set by the hardware before it signals high again after a trigger which cannot be changed in firmware.  I have posted my own short sketch on Github for the ESP8266.


    NOTE WELL:  The ESP8266 is not 5v tolerant and this is a 5V device.  In the sketch linked above I have described how a voltage divider can be set up to reduce signal voltage to 3V3.




    Again, I imagine that most Element14 members and users of the Arduino are familiar with Ultrasonic sensors as seen above.  The inexpensive version here is readily available from Chinese sources.  The theory is described in some detail in my Github code for the ESP8266 linked here.


    NOTE WELL:  The ESP8266 is not 5v tolerant and this is a 5V device.  In the sketch linked above I have described how a voltage divider can be set up to reduce signal voltage to 3V3.


    Putting It all Together


    Sending Unit

    Sending Unit

    It is time to put it all together and the sending unit can be seen above.  From left to right there is the RCWL-0516 radar, the PIR sensor, the ultrasonic distance sensor and the ESP8266.  Note the voltage dividers being used to protect the 3V3 pins on the ESP8266.  All of the sensors are being powered by a 5V rail coming from the ESP8266.  The pins being used are the same ones outlined in the individual sketches above.


    My code can be found here on Github.  If you have worked through the sketches above it shouldn't be too hard to follow but I am available if there are questions.


    Receiving Unit

    Receiving Unit

    The receiving unit can be seen here.  Left to right is the ESP8266, a red LED that toggles when the "radar" goes high, a yellow LED that toggles when the PIR goes high, and a blue LED that toggles when meaningful changes occur in the distance sensed by the ultrasonic sensor.  Output is also sent over the serial connection to the Arduino terminal if connected.


    Watching it Work

    Finally, here is a video of the concepts being tested.  It works



    Next up:  I hope to put something together that is safe and will withstand the abuse of children for at least a short while.

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    Unleash the Power of Bluetooth.


    Integrate Bluetooth one of our 10 "Hero" boards into your project for the chance to win a prize package worth up to $2000.


    The Bluetooth Design Challenge will choose 20 sponsored challengers to receive one of our10 Hero Boards  and Power it up with a $150 Shopping cart.


    In this story, our Hero, Bluetooth wireless networking, is sweeping the globe and being employed as the go-to wireless connectivity standard for a wide variety of electronic devices today. From IoT devices to smartphones to beacons, Bluetooth connectivity is inspiring creativity and imagination while empowering the extreme possibilities of new product design. Let’s face it: Bluetooth is limitless, so let's unleash it powers with the Bluetooth Unleashed Design Challenge Participants will be tasked to create and build a prototype that uniquely showcases the unlimited possibilities of Bluetooth with the use of one of the 10 Hero Boards. Unleash your Bluetooth superpowers and help save this world..


    Example applications could include:


    • Tracking Pets

    • Local Bluetooth Sensor Network

    • Extend your cell phones sensors

    • Bluetooth Controlled Electronic Home Appliances

    • Advertisement Beacons

    • Bluetooth Home Automation

    • OBD-2 Bluetooth

    • Marketing Nodes

    • Multiplayer Games

    • Audio Systems

    • Home Automation


    The Bluetooth Unleashed Design Challenge will have up to 20 sponsored Challengers who will each receive one “Hero” Board and a $150 Shopping Cart on any element14 transactional site.


    But anyone can join the Challenge as a non-sponsored Challenger.


    Here's how: Choose one of our Hero Boards with Bluetooth and integrate them into your project, as well as post 10 blogs about your design journey in the Bluetooth Unleashed space Bluetooth Unleashed Design Challenge


    What are Design Challenges?

    Design Challenges are 11 week long build challenges where applicants submit a project idea to a panel of judges. The best 20 applications are sent the official challenger’s build kit and spend the next 11 weeks building and blogging their progress on the element14 community. After the 11 weeks are over, the judges choose which projects and blogs deserve the prizes and glory that comes with being a Design Challenge winner.


    The deadline for application submissions is 11th April 2018.


    All Challengers must build their projects in accordance with the Challenge's Terms and Conditions. All projects must utilize Bluetooth and one of our 10 Hero Boards

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    There are educational versions of both CircuitStudio and Altium Designer available by special request (they are not available to order online). There are no 'free' versions (so please don't ask) however at around $100 to $150 they are low cost options worthy of consideration. The software is identical to the full commercial version but differs in licensing terms - the licenses are for a set period of 12 months rather than lifetime, the software should not be used for commercial projects and the user is not entitled to technical support (you can still make use of the user forums).


    So which to choose.. that is the question. Each product has its own strengths in terms of use in an educational environment, follow the questions below to help decide which is best for you.


    Are students being trained for specific industry roles?

    If the aim is to train students in the use of a particular CAD package then it makes sense to use that software in the learning environment be it CS or AD.


    Is it a classroom teaching situation with many students?

    AD features floating licenses which allow installation of the software on a large number of computers (e.g. a teaching lab) with the number of licenses purchases enabling that many students to make active use of the software. This style of licensing is easy to administer because it is centralised and there is no need to worry how many copies of the software are installed. CS uses node locked licenses and so requires more effort to install on each computer and the number of computers should ideally match the number of licenses.


    Are students expected to use the software away from class?

    The floating license feature of AD will work across a network so if students can access the campus network then the licensing should continue to operate and allow students to use the software outside of the computer lab. If students do not have access to the network and require standalone use then CS has the concept of standalone licenses where the main license can be installed on a classroom computer and a secondary (standalone license) on the students computer (e.g. laptop).


    Are you running an advanced PCB design course?

    AD, as an industry standard high end package, has many features dedicated to complex and high speed board designs. If the teaching course requires use of rigid-flex designs, very high speed circuits that require trace and impedance matching, advanced design rules, repeated circuit elements and similar then AD is the best choice. If the opposite and it is a beginners course then the more modern ribbon interface of CS could well be an advantage.

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    Dear Community,


    I would like to seek some advice for my first ever DIY project / hack.


    I recently built a new PC, and I made a mistake on selecting the components. I bought a PC Case that is compatible with ASUS Aura Sync RGB lightning, but I made the mistake of selecting a motherboard that does not bring an RGB header to the table.


    Since it is too late to be sorry, I was looking into other solutions for my problem. My graphics card - an ASUS Strix 1080 A8G - has a 6-pin connection for the LED on it's backplate / fan shroud. Could anyone tell me what kind of connector is this? (Sorry for the blurry image)


    Since the card is still well-covered by warranty, what my plan would be is to buy a plug and a header with the same type, then disconnect the plug from the card, connect to the bought header, do the custom wiring between the new header and the plug.


    This way if anything happens to the card later down the road, I could simply remove the DIY component and then RMA the card.


    Thank you so much for the help!


    Best Regards,


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    Hello, I am currently receiving a large number of messages from your mailing lists.  I have tried several times to un-subscribe by following the link in the emails, and each time your web-page reports "Use this interface to stop ALL emails from this community. Successfully unsubscribed email notification settings".  Yet I continue to receive emails.

    Could you please unsubscribe me from all your mailing lists.

    thank you,

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    GraspIO's Cloudio is a comprehensive development suite that serves as both an educational device for tech enthusiasts interested in physical computing as well as a helpful prototyping tool for experienced makers looking to harness the full power of the Raspberry Pi. Comprised of three components—a Raspberry Pi add-on card, a mobile app available on iOS and Android devices, and the GraspIO IoT Cloud—Cloudio offers a wide array of applications ranging from voice assistance to sensor monitoring.


    Powered by an Atmel AVR ATmega32U4 8-bit microcontroller, Cloudio includes three digital output ports, three ADC ports, and various on-board sensors amongst other features. The mobile app features an intuitive drag and drop method of programming that allows users to quickly map out various actions directly from their phone or tablet. Cloudio also allows for IFTTT (If This Then That) functionality as both an action and a trigger, with integration possible with thousands of apps and smart devices.


    Speaking to the product's appeal among individuals who might not have extensive physical computing experience, Hari Kalyanaraman, Global Head of Emerging Businesses at element14, notes, "Cloudio's intuitive drag and drop-based mobile app makes it very easy for anyone to prototype and build IoT applications using the Raspberry Pi in minutes. Element14 is strongly committed to fostering innovation and helping startups bring their ideas to life. Our manufacturing and distribution partnership with Graspio is a perfect example."


    When asked about the inspiration behind the product, company co-founder Shanmugha T S explained that "the goal of the GraspIO company is to make the world of robotics and IoT less technical and more practical for prototyping, play, and learning." He recognized the popularity of the Raspberry Pi and decided to utilize this device as a platform for his own product that would grant novice makers further accessibility into the world of IoT, while also appealing to experienced builders.


    Despite marketing Cloudio as a device designed for both beginners and experts, Shanmugha acknowledges that the company is primarily operating within what he describes as "a developers and makers ecosystem." This is due in part to what has traditionally been perceived as a steep learning curve that deters novice tech enthusiasts from feeling comfortable engaging with a product such as Cloudio. But Shanmugha remains confident that, "[GraspIO has] a very good role to play in the education setting" since the product can be effectively utilized by all, including those individuals without extensive engineering backgrounds.


    During the development process, the GraspIO team experienced challenges concerning varying performance speeds across different models of the Raspberry Pi. Shanmugha wanted to ensure that Cloudio was compatible with each generation of the Raspberry Pi without compromising the overall user experience. Unsurprisingly, when used in conjunction with the newer models of the Pi, the team noted that Cloudio operated much faster when compared to the older Pi computers. Shanmugha admits that his team has not yet reached a full resolution regarding performance speeds across Pi models, but he is satisfied with the fact that Cloudio still provides the user with a positive experience, even on the early generation Pi computers.


    After developing a working prototype, Shanmugha, along with co-founder Kishore Varma, presented Cloudio at an IoT contest hosted by the University of Cambridge's Robinson College. It was here that the partners met representatives from element14 who saw great potential in the product and were interested in developing a working relationship with the company. Shanmugha immediately recognized the value that element14 would provide for GraspIO "in terms of experience, management, distribution, and manufacturing," calling this relationship "a homerun" for the company.


    The democratization of physical computing is a goal as ambitious as it is noble, but nevertheless it's one that Shanmugha has adopted as his company's slogan and one that he hopes to bring to fruition within his lifetime. He looks forward to "building a future where [students] are not only going to carry books and tablets; they're going to carry one single-board computer," and he wants to ensure that the GraspIO platform can empower those same students and help them harness the full potential of the computing power at their disposal.



    If you are interested in learning more about Cloudio and how the product functions, you can check out the recent RoadTest that was hosted on the element14 Community. There, you'll find in-depth product reviews, descriptions, images, and videos submitted by Community members who tested the product and demonstrated its various applications.


    For more information regarding how Premier Farnell can support your startup initiative, visit us

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    What Prototype Would You Like to See as a Commercially Available Product?


    If you're a regular viewer of The Ben Heck Show then you know a new episode is released every week. What you might not realize is that a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure tight schedules and deadlines are met. If you're working on a project over a longer period of time you have more time to make adjustments. More time means a much more robust design and detailed build.


    With this in mind, the Team decided to take a look back at previous builds, select a few of their favorites and build them again from the ground up with a particular focus on and intent to actually bring them to market! We’d like your help in selecting our third long-term build. See the list below, make your choice and let us know why. We’ll start on these projects soon and see which one we can take the furthest!


    Vote for for Your Favorite Prototype!  In the Comments Below Let Us Know Why!