A Pair of Awesome Projects and New Products!

It's not about how complex your project is - it's about how clever! Also check out a hacked Kindle and a bunch of new product offerings!

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By all accounts, the Amazon Kindle is a pretty nifty gadget. But how could it be even better? Well, by being able to connect to your computer wirelessly of course! Check out this hack! Using the SparkFun BlueTooth mate and some clever hardware hacking, he got his Kindle DX to mate via BlueTooth protocol with his computer. Awesome work!

It's not always about the complexity of the project you create - sometimes, it's just how clever it is. Check out "The Fun Theory" - an initiative started by Volkswagen.  Basically, they believe you can change people's behavior by making things more fun (for example, more people will recycle if it's enjoyable). Their projects aren't ground-breaking in terms of the hardware they use or the coding they have to do, but they are most certainly clever - and definitely fun!

And now for new products!  We'll start with the LectroCandle Kit - the newest offering in our ever-increasing line of kits. The LectroCandle kit is designed with the beginner in mind (it only requires through-hole soldering). This is essentially just what it sounds like - an electronic candle. It's comprised of 3 RGB LEDs that cycle through all the colors of the rainbow. Perfect to add a little brightness to your next project, or a great place to start for beginners!


Next, we have the MintyBoost kit from Adafruit Industries. This is a very cool kit that allows you to use a couple AA batteries to charge many devices over USB. Perfect for the electronics enthusiast on-the-go!

This is a breakout board for the ISD1932, a multiple-message record/playback device. This single chip can record up to 64 seconds worth of voice messages. Microphone inputs and speaker outputs are all handled by the ISD1932.

 The Serial Controlled Motor Driver allows you to control up to two DC motors using a serial command interface. The serial interface is easy to use and it lets the user select an individual motor, the direction, and the desired speed constant (up to 10 different speed from stop to full speed). The board is based on the L298 Dual Full-Bridge Motor Driver from ST Micro. The motor driver can provide up to 4 Amps of current to the motors (2 Amps per motor). Great for precise control of your next robotics project!

Help your next project find its way with the D2523T GPS Module. The D2523T is a compact GPS smart-antenna engine board, which comes equipped with a Sarantel GeoHelix high-gain active antenna and GPS receiver circuits. The module is based around the high performance 50-channel u-blox 5 platform.

Here we have a 20mm rippled wide optic lens. This is specifically designed for use with high intensity LEDs (like our Rebel Luxeon LEDs). This lens will produce a rippled beam with a 24? beam angle.

So you want to use ultra-bright LEDs but don't want your project to melt? Good thinking. Check out this heatsink designed for use with our Rebel Luxeon LEDs. Keep your project cool!

More stuff to go along with the Rebel Luxeon LEDs. This is a Solderless LED Holder that snaps easily into the heatsink above.

Now for the LEDs themselves! Available in Royal Blue, Red, Cool White, Green, and Warm White. These are super-high intensity LEDs that are blindingly bright (seriously, please don't look right at them) and also are tiny (just about 3 x 4.5mm). Use them with the heatsink and holder above for a complete solderless LED casing.

The 7027 "BuckToot" LED Power Module is a true constant current regulated driver for LEDs.  Unlike standard power supplies, which deliver a fixed voltage to the output, the BuckToot LED driver is designed to reliably vary the output voltage as required to deliver a stable constant current to your LEDs.

This is a nice, simple toy DC motor for your next robotics project. This is a small toy DC motor with about 29.5mm long leads. It has a small circular shaft which measures about 2.8mm long.

The USB3318 is a high-speed USB 2.0 transceiver that supports system architectures based on a 13MHz reference clock. The USB3318 is an extremely flexible chip which allows the USB connector to act as a single port of connection for high speed data transfer, battery charging and stereo/mono audio accessories.

The MMA7361LR1 is a low power, three-axis analog accelerometer. The sensor has a g-Select input which allows for the selection between two measuring ranges - ?1.5g or ?6g. There will be a breakout board coming soon!

This little guy (the BMP085) is a ultra-low power barometric pressure sensor. It offers a measuring range of 300 to 1100 hPa with an absolute accuracy of down to 0.03 hPa. Perfect for your next weather-based project!


This 2xAAA battery holder puts a nice finishing touch on your battery powered project.
This holder features a sliding, removable cover as well as an ON/OFF switch which can be used to control power to your project.

The MAX7219CNG is a compact, serial input/output common-cathode display driver that can interface microprocessors to 7-segment numeric LED displays of up to 8 digits, bar-graph displays, or 64 individual LEDs.

Comments 30 comments

  • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 15

    Wow, things have really stagnated lately. When do we see more cool stuff? How about another tutorial highlighting one or more of your products? You have candle kit that was covered in Nut and Volts years ago. Its code lacks licensing information or even who created it. Even its blog post has this gem: "it's only requires through-hole soldering." Even the motor controller boards have to be hacked right away if you want to use more than one of them on the same bus. When will you go back to being cool and stop making posters of your boss like his is some kind of dictator in need of appeasement?

    • jbookout / about 14 years ago / 5

      While no one is going to take your comment that seriously, because it makes virtually no sense (without real details), what happened was Freeday, almost exactly one month ago, when they gave away $100,000 in goods. So, yeah, they have stagnated a marginal amount, dealing with 1000 crazy orders will do that.

      • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 7

        As for Freeday, it should hardly be to blame at the lack of new stuff as I doubt that the SparkFun engineers would have been assigned duties in preparing for Freeday. Figure that no company is going to put up more than about ten percent of their monthly revenue to a giveaway like Freeday. Thus, SparkFun just has to deal with about ten percent more work for the month of January. Ten percent more work is not that much and the work is only in production, inventory, IT, and shipping. So your argument that Freeday had something to do with this stagnation is invalid.

      • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 6

        The stagnation I refer to can be seen in the tutorials section. Look at the dates for the tutorials. There is a much higher frequency of tutorials in 2008 and early 2009 than compared to the second half of 2009.

        • What kind of tutorials would you like to see?

          • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 7

            I would like to see more tutorials that demonstrate applications for SparkFun products. Especially applications which are not commonly thought of or off-the-wall. The formula aught to be pretty simple for a SparkFun employee: take what you have lying around, be it from SparkFun, not from SparkFun, or just a need, combine it with what you can get from SparkFun and make a tutorial and possibly a product (and generate interest for sales). Doesn't SparkFun have someone that continues to keep people wanting more just by showing them what they can do with SparkFun products (Application Engineer)?

            • kitscuzz / about 14 years ago / 1

              The point of Sparkfun is to provide products which allow you to make fun and interesting projects! That's the whole fun of it. I have fun looking at these things and going "Oh neat, I could make that flash-bulb for my submarine's camera with this!" or "This is going to make my automatic plant watering system so much more awesome."
              They certainly don't need to work to hard to show you the applications of their products because the internet already does that for them! That's why the news posts always feature a million links to awesome stuff people are doing with their products.
              It's not Sparkfun's job to think of cool and interesting stuff for you to do. And there's already a whole host of websites like Make, instrucatables, and websites like hackaday plus effort which allow you to do copy cool, fun projects without beating on an awesome company.
              PS: The plant watering system works by using the idea listed here: http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/2009/03/how-to-make-cheap-soil-moisture-sensor.html
              But I can't figure out a good way to keep several plants watered from a single reservoir without expensive solenoid actuated valves. I'm working on that part!

              • There's a simpler way to do a moisture sensor. I did one for a plant moisture sensor thingie. Check it out here:
                two galvanized nails work just fine.

                • kitscuzz / about 14 years ago / 1

                  Ah! That's much simpler... almost too simple!
                  The only thing I don't particularly like about this method is how the nails are separated by the project enclosure. I'd like to have the moisture sensor an inch or two under the soil, and not have the readings vary wildly with how much digging I do. Ideally, I would also have a single chip managing a number of plants, so the sensor will need to be able to sit far away from the IC.
                  I'll probably take the updated version of the sensor I linked to earlier: http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/2009/11/how-to-make-cheap-soil-moisture-sensor-2.html (which uses galvanized nails), and then just glob some hot glue over the nails after I solder leads on.
                  Thanks for the link though! Definitely made me think.

  • greensasquatch / about 14 years ago / 4

    I've got a cart full of sensors, hardware, and XBees and as soon as you get that breakout board done for the BMP085 I'm going to hit order. Can't wait. Great stuff this time around.

  • mowcius / about 14 years ago / 4

    Link to 'the fun theory' is broken. Someone added an extra space...
    Interesting idea though!

  • Entropy512 / about 14 years ago / 3

    I see the product pages for the Rebel heatsink and the Rebel optics holder, but I don't see a product page anywhere for the Tyco solderless LED holder, only links to the datasheet.
    Most people would likely find the LED emitter holder far more useful than the optics holder... Especially since the optics holder isn't too useful unless combined with the emitter holder...

    • It looks like Sparkfun is still waiting for the LED retainer clip and power connector parts. Hopefully they will become available soon.

  • Exonerd / about 14 years ago / 2

    While I don't think Xanth's way of asking was very helpful, it would be nice to see some more tutorials. I'm personally biased towards the Arduino, but there are several good books and great examples that come with the software. It would be kind of hard to do something simple and useful that hasn't been covered...Maybe a few examples of using an Arduino with one of your LCD displays or that MAX7219CNG you just added?
    Can us community members send SFE tutorials if we come up with something useful?
    As for the kits, $20 for the MintyBoost? REALLY?... I do hope you guys keep expanding the kit selection. Would anyone else like to see an adjustable power supply kit that's "beefier" than the breadboard kit? Like up to 24V and maybe 2A? That would be fun to build and very useful!

  • I think I understand what Xanth trying to say. A long time ago, Sparkfun post some nice tutorials, that don't need to teaching about use of their products (not datasheets), but more like "workaround" with product creation. I still feeling this empty space, or someone saying, "stagnated".
    That was I think he saw. The fun way is not know about how many meters a XBee could download a file to a MCU, but how the test has done! How the issues! That's the fun with SparkFUN of 2008 and 2009. Now, we get only the Spark-without-fun-workarounds.
    Probably there's much of this in a Sparkfun Engineer day, but now we don't know nothing more...

  • jschmidt / about 14 years ago / 2

    Regarding your new motor controller, I don't think it's all that reasonable to claim that using four bytes to obtain just over three-bit resolution is "great for precise control". It seems like its main selling point is ease of use with controllers capable of 115.2kbps serial (e.g. "Great for simple motor control") rather than performance. It also might be worth mentioning that voltage the motor sees will be almost 2V less than the supply voltage (at best) when the draw is 1A, and the drop could be as high as 5V at 2A (i.e. in the worst case you could supply 6V to the board only to have 1V across your motor).

  • drex / about 14 years ago / 1

    glad to see u guys carrying the bosch baro sensor... its a great little sensor.
    how about carrying some intersema products?
    we have interfacing code available for them on our site
    but yah intersema pressure sensors really are nice!! alot of good applications and more ranges...
    however they do require alot more processing power than others as all the calulcations is done on your host MCU./

  • Dumbledorff / about 14 years ago / 1

    Thanks superbrad, were tryin

  • Dumbledorff / about 14 years ago / 1

    By the way it was almost a 50% increase from Dec. to Jan.

    • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 6

      Dumbledorff, a 50% increase of what? I am guessing that you are referring to the increase of work as a result of Freeday.

      • Dumbledorff / about 14 years ago / 1

        Correct, work increase, it was madness for a while

        • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 9

          Is this increase in work as a result of Freeday enough to account for the apparent lack of inspiration or innovation we are seeing from the engineering department?

          • superbrad / about 14 years ago / 3

            Xanth - Did you notice they just posted 16 new products, and in the very same post you are accusing them of stagnation? I personally see visions of project ideas in about five of those products, of which I will probably purchase two.
            Also, they have posted a TON of user projects that use their parts on their front page. Most of these have instructions and/or open source code and hardware, and certainly pique interest in SparkFun products.
            Seems like they're doing a fine job to me!

            • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 8

              Sure, I see 16 new products, but only three that look like they were actually designed by SparkFun: the candle kit, IDS1932 breakout and the serial motor driver.
              Let's break them down:
              Candle Kit - Derivative, poorly commented code and the code directory wasn't even clean.
              IDS1932 Breakout - Pretty cool, I will give them that.
              Serial Motor Driver - I2C is broken out (unlabeled), but could we get SPI next to it without having to disconnect the programmer? 90 degree headers make it difficult to breadboard. Also, why are there no large caps to keep the MCU running in the event of a voltage dip caused by a power-hungry load?

              • MadSkills / about 14 years ago / 4

                Xanth you need an attitude adjustment really badly. Lets see you do a better job!!! If you can bring it!!!
                SparkFun Rocks love you guys!!!!

                • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 4

                  Perhaps an attitude adjustment is in order. I think SparkFun rocks as well, so I am trying to point out areas that need some attention to help SparkFun rock even harder.

                  • gumby / about 14 years ago / 5

                    I can see by your account page that you've only been here since yesterday and pretty much created an account to complain. Maybe it's a bit presumptuous to demand they do more cool stuff when you only just got here.

                    • Xanth / about 14 years ago / 4

                      Let's just call this my anonymous nudging account;)

                      • JamesGalea / about 14 years ago / 3

                        Look Xanth, the way I see it is that SparkFun is here to allow students, hobbiest you name it, all around the world to explore and create new electronic (but not limited too) applications that they generally wouldnt be able to do without forking out big dollars. They are not here to spoon feed you with ideas about utilizing their products. I understand were you are coming from with respect to a marketing angle but rather then simply bag SparkFun out, come up with something creative yourself and share it here with everyone. You obviously have somewhat of a interest in engineer design, and I am sure you can read a datasheet therefore you dont need SparkFun to give you inspiration. If you are looking for tutorials, just ask and I am sure SparkFun would be happy to help. This by no means is meant to be disrespectful to you and I hope to hear/see some of the things you come up with.

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