Game On with the Arduino Esplora

Every time the Arduino team is about to release a new board, we expect something great in terms of better specs, more I/Os, a faster processor, more memory—or, well, just something to “fill the gap,” such as small-scale versions. With “Esplora” the Arduino team pleasantly surprises us again!

Arduino Esplora

The brand new Esplora is targeted toward gaming applications. It consists of a gamepad-shaped development board that includes an Arduino-compatible Atmel ATmega32U4, a light sensor, a temperature sensor, an accelerometer, a joystick, push buttons, a slider, an RGB LED, and a buzzer.

The Esplora is as a ready-to-use solution for designers who don’t want to deal with soldering or prototyping by means of discrete components. In fact, it comes preprogrammed with a controller script, so you only have to connect it to a PC, download the free game “Super Tux Cart,” and have fun.

An additional color LCD will be released soon in order to create a portable console. The only drawback is you can’t directly connect standard Arduino shields to it , mainly because of space limitations. Nevertheless, the board itself includes enough features to make it interesting.

The Esplora should enable you to implement a controller for almost any application you dream up. In our case, we’re sure it will bring back nice memories of the time when we were too young for soldering irons but already pros with gamepads!—Jaime González Arintero Berciano, Elektor International Media


PCB Service for Prototypes

Elektor recently inked a deal with Eurocircuits for the production and sale of PCBs. The decision is an important step toward delivering valuable services to Elektor members.

All of Elektor’s PCB orders will be handled by Eurocircuits. If you have a nice design yourself, you can try the Elektor PCB Service for prototypes or small production runs. Visit for more information.

Elektor.TV visited the Eurocircuits booth at the Electronics Show in Munich. In the video Dirk Stans (a Eurocircuits owner) comments on some of the company’s services and deliverables. is an Elektor International Media site.

Pi-Face: A New Raspberry Pi Accessory

Ready for the Pi-Face Digital? What’s that? you ask.

Pi-Face at Electronica 2012 (Source:

Pi Interface Digital, or Pi-Face Digital, is a Raspberry Pi accessory board Premier Farnell will begin distributing in early 2013. You can plug it into a Raspberry Pi and start designing immediately. Plus, you can connect sensors to Pi-Face Digital for a variety of purposes, such as temperature- or pressure-monitoring applications.

The following useful information is posted at the University of Manchester’s School of Computer Science site.

Pi-Face Digital is the first of a range of interfaces to allow the Raspberry Pi to control and manipulate the real world. It allows the Raspberry Pi to read switches connected to it – a door sensor or pressure pad perhaps, a microswitch or reed switch, or a hand held button. With appropriate easy to write code, the Raspberry Pi then drives outputs, powering motors, actuator, LEDs, light bulbs or anything you can imagine to respond to the inputs… The hardware provides an easy and consistent programming interface, in Scratch (as shown running on a Raspberry Pi in the photograph) and Python with good observability to promote easy development, and reduce technology barriers.

It will cost approximately €20 to €30. You can register at element14.

Want to see Pi-Face in action? Check it out on! is an Elektor International Media publication.

Check Your PCB Design Online Before Ordering

Did you know Circuit Cellar’s parent company, Elektor, offers a standard PCB service? The PCB service was originally launched in 2009, and since then more than 3,000 users have been registered.

Who will benefit from the service? Ask yourself: Are you an electronics designer who occasionally designs a PCB and then sends it off to a PCB manufacturing house? If so, you’re likely familiar with that nagging feeling of uncertainty about the correctness of your production files. Did you check the Gerber files you uploaded? Are you sure that the PCB manufacturing house will interpret your board data properly?

The PCB Visualizer and Checker is a fully automated interactive web tool that enables you to review your design files before ordering the PCB. After uploading your design files, the tool analyzes them and shows you what the manufacturer sees. Possible design issues are highlighted and you’re provided insight into critical areas of the PCB production process. Your design is verified against your board specifications, and you’re provided a list of the modifications needed to get it ready for production. Finally, the visualizer renders the board as it will be shipped before production has even started!

For more information, check out the latest addition to the Elektor CircuitCellar PCB Service.

Elektor & element14 Partner for Embedded Linux Webinar at Electronica 2012

Want to learn more about Embedded Linux? You’re in luck. On Wednesday, November 14, Elektor and Farnell/element14 will partner to run an informative webinar on the topic at Electronica 2012 in Munich, Germany. If you’re at the show, you can attend the recordings for free. Register before October 31 to get free Electronica entry tickets from Farnell/element14.

Attendees should go to the Farnell/element14 stand (Hall 5, Stand 558) for the Elektor Academy seminar, which will focus on the latest developments on the innovative Embedded Linux board. You can watch the presentation and ask the experts questions. The webinar will be recorded and webcast a bit later.

  • Presenter: Embedded Linux expert Benedict Sauter, the board’s designer
  • Description: Benedict Sauter will take you through the design and update us on the latest applications.
  • When: Wed, November 14, 2012
  • Time: 11:30 CET
  • Where: Farnell element14 stand (Messe München, Hall 5, Booth 558)
  • Language: English

Visit the element14 page about the Elektor Academy event for more information and to register for a free entry ticket. is an Elektor International Media publication.

Renesas RL78-Based Design Project Opportunities

Did you miss the 1:00 PM EST deadline for the Renesas RL78 Green Energy Challenge? Do you have an unfinished project? No worries! You can still make something of your RL78-related project and the work you’ve put into it! Circuit Cellar and Elektor have several exciting non-contest-related opportunities you’ll find interesting and advantageous!

The Circuit Cellar/Elektor staff wants to know about your work. Even if your project is unfinished, let the staff know what you’re working on and the project’s status. Upload your project or email us your information.

If the staff is interested in your work, an editor will consider approaching you about one or all of the following non-contest-related opportunities:

  • Distinctive Excellence: If the editorial team thinks your project has merit, you might be eligible for “Distinctive Excellence” designation. After past design challenges, Distinctive Excellence recipients added the honor to their resumes, wrote articles about their projects, and gained notoriety in the design community.
  • Print Magazine Opportunities: The editorial team might think your project is worthy of being published in Circuit Cellar or Elektor magazine. Design Challenges and the print magazine are completely separate. If you are offered an opportunity to write an article and it is published, you will paid a standard author honorarium.
  • Opportunities: The Circuit Cellar editorial team will review your submission and consider posting it on to show the world the effort and progress you’ve made. You can post your project info on the site in the spirit of sharing and the furtherance of engineering innovation! Who knows? Readers might provide you with valuable feedback about your unfinished project. Or perhaps you’ll inspire another person to build something of their own! Perhaps your project will catch the eye company looking to learn more about you work!
  • Interview Possibilities: The editorial team might find your approach to design interesting and consider interviewing you for an upcoming issue.
  • Future Design Collaboration: The Elektor Lab builds and tests innovative electronics projects. If your project—whether finished or in progress—interests an Elektor Lab engineer or editor, someone might contact you to discuss development, testing, or even production opportunities.

As you can see, you have some excellent reasons to contact the Circuit Cellar/Elektor staff.

To submit a finished project, an abstract, or simply info about our work, you can still use the Challenge Entry Form. Or, you can simply ZIP your files and email them to the Circuit Cellar Editorial Department. (Write “RL78 Project” and your project’s name or registration number in the email’s subject line.)

DIY 10.1˝ Touchscreen Home Control System

Domotics (home automation) control systems are among the most innovative and rewarding design projects creative electrical engineers can undertake. Let’s take a look at an innovative Beagle Board-based control system that enables a user to control lights with a 10.1˝ capacitive touchscreen.

Domotics control system

The design features the following modules:

• An I/O board for testing purposes
• An LED strip board for controlling an RGB LED strip
• A relay board for switching 230-VAC devices
• An energy meter for measuring on/off (and also for logging)

ELektor editor and engineer Clemens Valens recently interviewed Koen van Dongen about the design. Van Dongen describes the system’s electronics and then demonstrates how to use the touchscreen to control a light and LED strip.

As Valens explains suggests, it would be a worthwhile endeavor to incorporate a Wi-Fi connection to enable cellphone and tablet control. If you build such system, be sure to share it with our staff. Good luck! is an Elektor International Media website.

Elektor Weekly Wrap-Up: Receiver Project, Arduino-Based Design, & More

It’s officially summertime when Elektor’s special summer issue hits the newsstands. This year the team put together an attention-grabbing issue—complete with a redesigned layout—that’s packed with articles on projects such as a wearable distance-measuring device for swimmers, a music-making application with an Arduino, an “e-smog” detector, an innovative two-transistor regenerative receiver project, and more.

The two-transistor regenerative receiver

Editor-in-Chief Wisse Hettinga presents the issue in the following short video.

The 2012 summer issue is now available.

Elektor's 2012 summer issue

In other news, the Elektor team announced a new book on BASCOM-AVR is in the pipeline.

AVR microcontrollers are popular, easy to use and extremely versatile. Elektor magazine already produced a wealth of special applications and circuit boards based on ATmega and ATtiny controllers. These were mostly finished projects. In this book however the programming of these controllers is the foremost concern. BASCOM is an ideal tool for this. After a minimal preparation phase, you can start right away putting your own ideas into practice.

BASCOM and AVR microcontrollers — it’s an unbeatable team! Whatever you want to develop, in most cases the ATmega has everything you need on board. Ports, timers, A/D converters, PWM outputs and serial interfaces, RAM, flash ROM and EEPROM: everything is in plentiful supply, and with BASCOM their use is child’s play. More challenging peripherals like LCDs, RC5 and I2C can be used as well with just a handful of instructions. A wide hardware platform is available, too. Whether you’re using Atmel’s STK500 kit, the Elektor ATM18 or your own board, you can instantly turn the examples from this book into practice. For less exacting tasks controllers from the ATtiny are series used. That way, you can realize your own projects quickly and with little expense.

The companion CD-ROM with this book provides sample programs and software including BCAVRDMO, AVR STUDIO, LCDTOOLS, and TERMINAL.EXE.

Elektor members can preorder the book now. is an Elektor International Media publication.


Show Your Circuit Cellar, Hackspace, Design Space!

Where do you design, hack, create, program, debug, and innovate? Do you work in a 20′ × 20′ space in your cellar? Do you share a small workspace in a lab at a university? Do you design in your dorm room? Do you work at your office after hours when the 9-to-5 employees are long gone? Have you built a “design cave” in your garage? Do you construct your projects at your local hackspace facility? We want to see where you design and program! Show us your personal circuit cellar or whatever you call your design space!

Email your pics, as well as a short description of the space, to

We might feature your space on our website!

Check out these spaces:

Inside the Elektor lab in Limbricht, The Netherlands (November 2011)


Circuit Cellar columnist Robert Lacoste’s workspace in Chaville, France.


The Elektor Lab November 2011

Laser TV Project: BASCOM Programmers Wanted

Do you have sound programming skills and an interest in assisting a fellow electronics designer with an creative image projection project? If so, the Laser TV Project posted on the “Elektor Projects” website is for you.

The Laser TV Project (Source:

Website editor Clemens Valens writes:

Some people use electronics to build something they need, others just want to find out if something can be done. These projects are often the most fun to read about because of their unusual character and the creativity needed to accomplish the (sometimes bizarre) goal. The laser TV project posted on Elektor Projects is such a project. It is an attempt to project an image by means of 30 rotating mirrors mounted on a VHS head motor. Why you would want to do such a thing is not important, can it be done is the thing that matters.

According to the author the main challenge is the phase synchronization of the top plate on which the mirrors are mounted, and the author is looking for interested BASCOM programmers to develop the motor PLL (or a similar software solution). The motor rotates at 750 rpm and must be precisely synchronized to a pulse, which is available once per revolution.

Do you want to help with this project? Have you done something similar with Atmel and BASCOM? If so, go to and help “hpt” with the project. You can also review other projects and vote. Your vote counts! and are Elektor International Media publications.

Free Webinar: Bridge Android & Your Electronics Projects

Do you want to add a powerful wireless Android device to your own projects? Now you can, and doing so is easier than you think.

With their high-resolution touchscreens, ample computing power, WLAN support, and telephone functions, Android smartphones and tablets are ideal for use as control centers in your projects. But until now, it has been difficult to connect them to external circuitry. Elektor’s AndroPod interface board, which adds a serial TTL port and an RS-485 port to the picture, changes this situation.

The Elektor AndroPod module

In a free webinar on June 21, 2012, Bernhard Wörndl-Aichriedler (codesigner of the AndroPod Interface) will explain how easy it is to connect your own circuitry to an Android smartphone using the AndroPod interface. Click here to register.

Elektor Academy and element14 have teamed up to bring you a series of exclusive webinars covering blockbuster projects from recent editions of Elektor magazine. Participation in these webinars is completely free!

Webinar: AndroPod – Bridging Android and Your Electronics Projects
Date: Thursday June 21, 2012
Time: 16:00 CET
Presenter: Bernhard Wörndl-Aichriedler (Codesigner of the Andropod Interface)
Language: English is an Elektor International Media publication.

Elektor Weekly Wrap-Up: Projects Update & LED Book/Kit

Yet again, last week was hectic yet productive for my Elektor colleagues overseas: articles were edited, design projects were undertaken, and much more.  Here’s the inside scoop on two important items.

Progress  at “Elektor Projects”

The “Elektor Projects” website is officially live, and members have begun sharing their electronics experiences and discussing projects.

Check out some of the current projects members can join:

  • Pico C-Plus and Pico C-Super
  • MYC, a universal system to control devices and programs
  • Sub low pass filter
  • Wheelie 2
  • USB record digitizer with RIAA correction
  • Analog Theremin

Go to to find out more.

LED Book & Kit Promo

Elektor announced a nice offer for members interested in Willem van Dreumel’s book Fun with LEDs. For a limited time, Elektor members get 15% discount and free shipping and handling. Here’s the info about the book straight from Elektor:

LEDs are found everywhere these days. These colorful lights seem to offer so many you may wonder where to begin using them. This booklet presents more than twenty exciting projects covering LEDs, aimed at young & old. From an Air Writer, a Party Light, Running Lights, a LED Fader right up to a Christmas Tree.

Use this book to replicate various projects and then put them into practice. To give you a head start each project is supported by a brief explanation, schematics and photos. In addition, the free support page on the Elektor website has a few inspiring video links available that elaborate on the projects.

A couple of projects employ the popular Arduino microcontroller board that’s graced by a galaxy of open source applications.

An optional 60-piece starter kitis also available with the book.

Starter kit

The kit includes:

  • 1 pc. breadboard w. 270 contacts
  • 1m hookup wire
  • 1 pc. 9V battery clip
  • 27 pcs. carbon film resistor (27E, 56E, 82E, 150E, 270E, 330E, 390E, 8x 470E, 560E, 1K, 6x 2K2, 10K, 3M9, 4M7, 5M6)
  • 4 pcs. ceramic capacitors (10nF; 5mm pitch)
  • 5 pcs. BS170
  • 1 pc. LM555CN (NE555CN)
  • 1 pc. C4017 (HEF4017)
  • 3 pcs. trimpot, horizontal (1K, 10K, 100K, + 3 wheels), pitch 10mm/12.5mm, with spindle
  • 1 pc. RGB LED (4-pin)
  • 1 pc. UV LED, 5mm
  • 1 pc. LED, 5mm, Rainbow (Colour-Change)
  • 5 pcs. LED, diffuse, red, 5mm
  • 5 pcs. LED, diffuse, yellow, 5mm
  • 5 pcs. LED diffuse, green, 5mm
  • 3 pcs. LED, bright blue, 5mm
  • 3 pcs. LED, bright white, 5mm
  • 2 pcs. 1N4148 diode
  • 3 pcs. 10uF electrolytic (10uF/25V), pitch 2.54mm
  • 3 pcs. 220uF electrolytic (220uF/25V), pitch 5mm
  • 1 pc. 74HC14
  • 1 pc. LM324
  • 1 pc. CD4093 (HEF4093)
  • 3 pcs. BC547B

You can use the kit build and test circuits on a breadboard without having to get involved with soldering. is an Elektor International Media publication.


Elektor June 2012: Nixie Thermometer, PIC Programmer, AVR Software-Defined Radio, & More

Elektor’s June issue is going to be a classic. You’ll read about a wide range  of topics from a Nixie thermometer/hygrometer to a PIC programmer solution to an Intersil IMS6100 vintage dev kit. And much more!

Watch the video below, and be sure to check out the Nixie tubes at the 6:50 min mark.

Here’s a summary of what you’ll find in the issue:

  • Nixie Thermometer/Thermometer: Nixie tubes are used in a retro-looking temperature & humidity meter
  • Preamplifier 2012 (3): A discussion of the LLLL board, the switch boards and the power supply board.
  • Flexible Stepper Motor Driver: If you have concerns about connecting a stepper motor driver to your PC, consider building this one with full electrical isolation.
  • Embedded Linux made Easy (2)
  • Computer-driven Heliostat: Here’s software and some electronics to enable you to use inexpensive servos to track the sun.
  • Dual Hot-wire Anemometer
  • AVR Software Defined Radio
  • Platino, controlled by LabVIEW (2)
  • Electronics for Starters (6)
  • PIC Programmer for Emergencies
  • 2-Wire Interface for Illuminated Pushbuttons
  • Retronics: Intersil IMS6100 Vintage Dev Kit (Series Editor: Jan Buiting) is an Elektor International Media publication.

DesignSpark chipKIT Challenge 2012 Winners Named

The results for the DesignSpark chipKIT Challenge are now final. Dean Boman won First Prize for his chipKIT-based Energy Monitoring System, which provides users real-time home electrical usage data. A web server provides usage tracking on a circuit-by-circuit basis. It interfaces with a home automation system for long-term monitoring and data logging.

Dean Boman's Energy Monitoring System (Source: D. Boman)

Second prize went to Raul Alvarez for his Home Energy Gateway consumption monitor, which features an embedded gateway/web server that communicates with “smart” devices.

Raul Alvarezs Home Energy Gateway (Source: R. Alvarez)

Graig Pearen won Third Prize for his PV Array Tracker (Sun Seeker) project, which tracks, monitors, and adjusts PV arrays based on weather conditions.

Graig Pearen's PV Array Tracker (Source: G. Pearen)

Click HERE for a list of all the winners. You can review their project abstracts, documentation, schematics, diagrams, code, and more.

Participants in the competition were challenged develop innovative, energy-efficient designs with eco-friendly footprints. Entries were required to include an extension card developed using the DesignSpark PCB software tool and the Microchip Max32 chipKIT development board.

According to the documentation on the design challenge site:

The chipKIT™ Max32™ development platform is a 32-bit Arduino solution that enables hobbyists and academics to easily and inexpensively integrate electronics into their projects, even if they do not have an electronic-engineering background.

The platform consists of two PIC32-based development boards and open-source software that is compatible with the Arduino programming language and development environment. The chipKIT™ hardware is compatible with existing 3.3V Arduino shields and applications, and can be developed using a modified version of the Arduino IDE and existing Arduino resources, such as code examples, libraries, references and tutorials.

The chipKIT™ Basic I/O Shield (part # TDGL005) is compatible with the chipKIT™ Max32™ board, and offers users simple push buttons, switches, LEDs, I2C™ EEPROM, I2C temperature sensor, and a 128 x 32 pixel organic LED graphic display.


Click HERE for a list of all the winners. You can review their project abstracts, documentation, schematics, diagrams, code, and more.

Circuit Cellar/Elektor Inc. is the Contest Administrator.

Elektor Weekly Wrap-Up: “Elektor Projects” Site, Arduino Webinar, & Special Issue Prep

It’s been a remarkable week for Elektor International Media. Staffers launched a new community site, announced an upcoming Android-related webinar, and worked with U.S.-based colleagues to plan Circuit Cellar’s 25th anniversary special edition.

Elektor Projects Community Site

Elektor announced this week of a new community website—Elektor Projects—for “Elektor Plus” members. Elektor Projects is a site where members can share electronics experiences, read about designs, and participate in electronics projects, games, and challenges. Check it out at

Elektor's new community website,

The site enables members to:

  • Present projects and get published in Elektor magazine
  • Sell products through the web shop
  • Build a reputation by showing of your skills in projects, contributions, comments, games and contests.

Click here to join the site!

Elektor staff celebrated the launch of Elektor Projects with a special cake. Any beer to go with it?

Webninar: Arduino Controlled by LabVIEW

Elektor announced Wednesday it is teaming up with element14 to deliver a webinar on connecting Arduino and LabVIEW using LIFA.

Arduino and LabVIEW are handy programming environments for designers of all levels, especially those who do not know how to program (or don’t want to). Both platforms enable rapid application development.

In this webinar Elektor editor Clemens Valens will cover how to get start with LabVIEW and LIFA. He’ll detail how to develop a virtual instrument to blink the LED on Elektor’s Arduino-compatible board called Platino.

In addition, Valens will cover LIFA, add a custom relay board, and replace the USB cable by a Bluetooth connection to the PC. In the end, users will be able to wirelessly monitor the status of the Arduino/Platino/Relay system on an iPad or Android tablet anywhere in the world.

Webinar: Arduino Controlled by LabVIEW
Date: Thursday, May 24, 2012
Time: 15:00 GMT (16:00 CET)
Presenter: Clemens Valens (Elektor Contributing Editor)
Language: English

Click here to register for the webinar.

25 Year Anniversary Issue

Elektor Director Don Akkermans met with Elektor US and Circuit Cellar staff in Connecticut this week to discuss the various exciting endeavors on tap for the rest of 2012 and beyond.

One particularly exciting development under discussion was Circuit Cellar’s 25th Anniversary Special! We’re planning an amazing 25th anniversary edition of Circuit Cellar, with essays by columnists and industry leaders on the past, present, and future of embedded design, programming, and computer technology. Elektor staffers will be among the contributors.

Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks about this must-have collector’s item! is an Elektor group publication.