Do-It-Yourself Projects

by Mitch Altman, and friends.
Last modified: 22-November-2017

You Can Make Cool Things With Microcontrollers!

The projects on this page were all created for total beginners, with no experience, to complete successfully at my workshops, or at home, or anywhere!

All you need is a desire, a handful of parts, a soldering iron (with stand and sponge), a wire-cutter, a wire-stripper, solder, and an afternoon.
                         tools


Open Hardware!

Everything on this page (and everything I do) is free and open source!
       (That's free as in freedom.)
If you have any questions on anything, please feel free to email me:
       mitch AT CornfieldElectronics DOT com
                             open hardware logo


Soldering!

Soldering is fun! And it is easy! Really, it is!
I have taught tens of thousands of people around the world how to solder.
Everyone can do it! All ages, all skill levels.
People who have never even sewn a button can easily learn to solder. Even you!
Once you learn how to make one good solder connection, you can make anything on this page.
And if you can make anything on this page, you can learn to make anything with electronics and microcontrollers.

Here is a slide presentation showing how to solder:
         How To Solder

I taught Andie Nordgren to solder, and she enjoyed it so much she now teaches others! Andie is also a great artist, and she created a wonderful single-page comic reference sheet that shows the basics of soldering (and has since been translated to several languages).
Please scroll further down for the complete "Soldering Is Easy!" comic book.
soldering comic English soldering comic French soldering comic Czech soldering comic Romanian
soldering comic Portuguese soldering comic German soldering comic Spanish soldering comic Italian
soldering comic Morse Code
Click the image for a larger version, or download the PDF
       in English, in French, in Czech, in Romanian, in Portuguese, in German, in Spanish
       in Italian, or Morse Code!
Please feel free to copy this comic, and spread it around!
Or translate it into another language
      (and please let me know: info **AT** CornfieldElectronics **DOT** com).



Soldering Is Easy! -- complete comic book!

Me and Andie Nordgren and Jeff "mightyohm" Keyzer have created a complete comic book to teach people who know nothing how to solder: full soldering comic

Please click on the above graphic to download your free copy of our complete "Soldering Is Easy!" comic book! It's open source -- Download it, Learn to solder with it, Copy it, Share it, Translate it, Teach with it. . . It is yours to do with as you like.

More info, translations, and resources about the "Soldering Is Easy!" comic book are available on Jeff's website, including:
      Chinese (simplified)
      Chinese (traditional)
      Estonian
      French
      German
      Greek
      Indonesian
      Japanese
      Norwegian
      Polish
      Portuguese
      Russian
      Spanish (1st version)
      Spanish (2nd version)

This comic book is part of the book that me and Jeff were writing,
which is all about:
      How To Make Cool Things With Microcontrollers
            (For People Who Know Nothing)
to be published by No Starch Press if I ever make time to finish writing it.



Project: Make your own open source TV-B-Gone Kit (developed with Ladayada)


The TV-B-Gone Kit was originally developed from a MiniPOV3 hack (see below)
(which, of course, I hacked from my original TV-B-Gone.)

For excellent assembly instructions, please go to the TV-B-Gone Kit page of the of the Adafruit.com website.

For questions about the TV-B-Gone Kit, please go to the TV-B-Gone Kit user forum.
To see the schematic, firmware, and board layout, please go to TV-B-Gone Kit downloads.

TV-B-Gone Kits are available for purchase from the TVBGone.com website.




Project: Arduino For Total Newbies workshop
    -- Learn Arduino, and make your own TV-B-Gone!


This workshop covers lots of ground -- all you need to learn how to play with Arduinos.
As an example project, you can make your own TV-B-Gone using
Arduino.
Many thanks to Ken Shirriff for the original TV-B-Gone for Arduino project!
For documentation on this workshop, please see the:
         Arduino For Total Newbies Workshop page.




Project: ArduTouch Arduino-compatible Music Synthesizer kit
    -- make way cool sounds and music!

ArduTouch music synthesizer

This is a new kit!
ArduTouch kits are finally available for sale!
Solder your ArduTouch kit together, and it works! You can make way wonderful music, sound, and noise.
Use the ArduTouch Library or hack the existing sketches to create your own cool synthesizers.
The documentation is getting good enough to learn how to use Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to make your own sounds for your own projects. (More documentation coming.)

(The cost of the ArduTouch synthesizer kit is currently $30, but I'm hoping to bring it down to $25.)

For assembly instructions, please see:
         ArduTouch assembly instructions for Rev C board
older versions:
         ArduTouch assembly instructions for Rev B board
         ArduTouch assembly instructions for Rev A board
         ArduTouch assembly instructions for mono board

To program your ArduTouch music synthesizer kit,
you'll need a USB-Serial TTL cable, such as an FTDI Friend or FTDI Cable, available all over the place.
You can purchase a nice one from Cornfield Electronics. These USB-Serial TTL cables (made by Samurai Circuits),
require a driver (from Silicon Labs):
         Samurai Circuits board  (SiLabs CP210x USB-to-Serial TTL) drivers:
                  The latest drivers from SiLabs' website (Windows, MacOS, Linux)

The ArduTouch library and example sketches will work on any Arduino board!
The ArduTouch board bahaves like an Arduino Uno.

The ArduTouch Library contains everything you need to start creating your own synthesizers!
It was mostly written by my friend Bill Alessi.
The ArduTouch Library comes with a sequence of example sketches -- read through these and try them! As well as being way cool synthesizers, they also serve as really good tutorials on how to create your own synthesizer sketches for ArduTouch.
You can download the ArduTouch library, and then import it using the Arduino software:
         ArduTouch Library v1.02 for ArduTouch Music Synthesizer kit.

Thick is an example of a way cool, easy-to-play synthesizer sketch for ArduTouch!
Check it out -- it sounds like it comes from a vintage analog Mini Moog.
(Your ArduTouch synthesizer kit comes pre-programmed with this synthesizer.)
Thick was written by my friend Bill Alessi.
The sketch will work on any Arduino (the ArduTouch has its own Arduino Uno clone built in).
Thick uses the ArduTouch library (so be sure to download it, too -- see above).
         Thick v0.64 synthesizer sketch

Arpology is another way cool example synthesizer sketch for ArduTouch!
It is highly influenced by Brian Eno. It makes arpegios on its own, and as it plays, you can change the pattern, the speed, major/minor keys, the attack and decay, and the pitch. Lots of variations, all of which sound way cool.
Arpology also has a self-play mode, in both major and minor keys, that never repeats, but continually creates beautiful (and sometimes dark) ambient sounds, patterned after J.S. Bach.
Arpology was written by my friend Bill Alessi.
The sketch will work on any Arduino (the ArduTouch has its own Arduino Uno clone built in).
Arpology uses the ArduTouch library (so be sure to download it, too -- see above).
         Arpology v1.07 synthesizer sketch

Beatitude is another totally different way cool example synthesizer sketch for ArduTouch!
It is a drum machine! It is also a real-time sequencer.
Drum sounds include: Kick Drum, Tom, Snare, RimShot, and High Hat
You can create your own rhythm tracks, or use a preset you created earlier.
Beatitude was written by my friend Bill Alessi.
The sketch will work on any Arduino (the ArduTouch has its own Arduino Uno clone built in).
Beatitude uses the ArduTouch library (so be sure to download it, too -- see above).
         Beatitude v0.66 synthesizer sketch

DuoPoly is an example sketch that shows off a lot of the ArduTouch music synthesizer's capabilities.
It was mostly written by my friend Bill Alessi.
The sketch will work on any Arduino (the ArduTouch has its own Arduino Uno clone built in).
DuoPoly shows off a bunch of cool things that the ArduTouch can do, including:
         Tremelo, Vibrato, Pitch Bend, Distortion Effects, Low Pass Filter, High Pass Filter,
         Preset songs/patches, LFOs, and more...

DuoPoly uses the ArduTouch library (so be sure to download it, too -- see above).
         DuoPoly v2.43 synthesizer sketch for ArduTouch Music Synthesizer kit.

Here is a Quick Reference Guide for how to use all of the way cool (and complex) controls for playing the ArduTouch Music Synthesizer with the DuoPoly sketch:
         DuoPoly Quick Reference Guide v2.42

         Here are some older sketches for the ArduTouch kit -- these do not use the ArduTouch Library:
                  DuoPoly v2.05 synthesizer sketch          for ArduTouch Music Synthesizer kit
                  ArduTouch mono board sketch          for ArduTouch mono board kit

All of the above, along with the PCB files (using Eagle) are available on my Github:
         Mitch's Github for ArduTouch music synthesizer




The Everything You Need to Get Soldering! Toolkit

The Everything You Need to Get Soldering! ToolkitToolkit items

These Soldering Toolkits are finally available for sale!

My friend Tully lives in Shenzhen, China, and has access to lots of cool resources there.
Together, Tully and I found the best inexpensive soldering tools available, and put them together in this toolkit for you.
There really is everything you need to get soldering:

  • Soldering Iron (110VAC, 30W)
  • Soldering Iron Stand (with sponge)
  • Solder
  • Wire Cutters
  • Soldering Is Easy! Comic Book (in English)



  • Project: Make your own Mignonette Game


    At the San Francisco Maker Faire in May, 2008, Mitch and Rolf released our Mignonette Game kit. Mignonette is a small hand-held game that has an LED matrix instead of an LCD. It is very simple to build, even for people who have never built anything before, and great for learning how to make things with microcontroller chips.

    Based on the Mignon Game Kit,, but with two-colored LEDs, and other added features, Mignonette comes with a game we wrote called Munch (with more games to come).

    All hardware and firmware are open source, and are easily hack-able.

    We have a separate website for our Mignonette Game, where you can find detailed info, including schematic, firmware, and PCB layout.

    The Mignonette Game Kit is available for purchase from the Makezine.com website.
    You can also purchase a Migonette Game kit in Europe from hackable Devices.




    Project: Make your own Trippy RGB Waves Kit


    The Trippy RGB Waves project (see below) was so popular that I created a kit for it.
    For detailed assembly instructions, please go to
             Trippy RGB Waves Kit assembly instructions.

    For the firmware source code and technical description, please go to
             Trippy RBG Waves Kit firmware.
    And here is the makefile.

    The schematic is available at Trippy RGB Waves Kit schematic.
    The list of parts (with part numbers) is available at Trippy RGB Waves Kit Bill of Materials.
    The PCB layout is available at Trippy RGB Waves Kit gerber files (zipped).

    To see a video of this project in action, please go to Trippy RGB Waves project video.
    Here is a video of someone (very quickly) building the kit!




    Project: Make your own Arduino-compatible LEDcube Kit v2!


    An animated 3D cube of LEDs!

    This is a small 3x3x3 single-color version of the amazing
    color 3D Borg cube by Das-Labor.

    To see a video of the kit in action, please go to LED Cube video.

    Here are the the complete assembly instructions for the LEDcube v2.

    Here's the Arduino sketch for the LEDcube kit v2.
    Unzip the file into your Arduino "libraries" folder, and you will see several example sketches in the Arduino Examples menu. for the LEDcube Kit v2

    Here is the the LEDcube v2 Bill of Materials for the LEDcube v2.





    MiniPOV! kit, by Limor Fried

    Many of the projects on this website are made by hacking the MiniPOV3! kit
    (and the others were inspired by it).


    For excellent instructions on building the MiniPOV3! kit please go to Ladyada's MiniPOV3! kit.

    For the firmware source code for the MiniPOV3, please go to MiniPOV3! firmware.
    And here is the makefile (these are not needed for the other projects on this page).

    Unfortunately, you can no longer purchase a MiniPOV3! kit. But the open source files are all available or on the MiniPOV3 website.

    You can download a Message Generating Program for the MiniPOV3 (for Windows). -- 284KB
    This was written by Ben Perkins, who gave me permission to share it. -- Thanks Ben!

    Other Message Generating Programs for the MiniPOV3 are available on the Adaftuit User Forum



    Atmel AVR microcontrollers

    All of the projects on this page use Atmel AVR family microcontrollers.
    The Atmel ATtiny2313 is the microcontroller used in the MiniPOV3.
    For the datasheet, please go to Atmel AVR ATTiny2313 datasheet.
    For the AVR family instruction set, please go to Atmel AVR family instruction set.

    For a really great online user community of support for all Atmel AVR microcontrollers AVR Freaks is the place to go, where geeks from all over the world are awake day and night wanting nothing more than to answer your questions!

    You can easily set up your computer to program AVR microcontrollers!
           Easy-to-follow instructions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux
           are available on the Mightyohm website.



    Ordering Parts

    I ordered most of the parts from Mouser.
    The rest of the parts I ordered from Jameco (also a good place for decent, inexpensive tools).
    Digikey is also a good place.




    Project: Make your own Brain Machine (from MAKE Magazine #10)


    Relax and rejuvenate as your brain synchronizes to a wonderful meditative state,
    and enjoy as you hallucinate beautiful colors and patterns from your subconscious mind!

    This was my first AVR project.
    It is easy for anyone to make because it is hacked from the super easy to make MiniPOV3 Kit.

    Here is a fun 5-minute video for the Brain Machine project, which was created by Bre Pettis when he did Weekend Projects for MAKE Magazine. (And the same video in MP4 format.)

    Since writing the Brain Machine article in MAKE, I have learned how to make the Brain Machine better. Here is an updated and annotated version of the original MAKE Magazine article.

    If you bought a Brain Machine Kit from me, it came with a single-page instruction sheet. A copy of the instruction sheet is available here.

    I made a slight update to the Brain Machine firmware: use a more pleasing base frequency for the sound. For the updated firmware, please go to the latest SLM firmware.
    The sound with this updated firmware will be even better if you use 2.2K ohm resistors for R5 and R6 instead of 1K, as it says in the MAKE article.
    For an updated schematic, please go to the latest SLM schematic.
    For a detailed description of the firmware and how it works, please go to
         Brain Machine Firmware Theory.

    Here is where to download the original cool graphix for the glasses.
    And check out these additional cool graphix by Michael Wertz (thanks Michael!).
    - For a template for cutting out the graphix when using Jackson Allsafe Element Safety Glasses
          (which cost $2.90 each), please go to Glasses Template 1.
    - For a template for cutting out the graphix when using Gallaway Visitor Spectacle model TC112XL
          (which cost $2.90 each), please go to Glasses Template 2.

    You can buy the latest version of the Brain Machine kit (which is not hacked from the MiniPOV3), from Ladyada's website.




    TripGlasses


    Relax and rejuvinate as your brain synchronizes to a wonderful meditative state,
    and enjoy as you hallucinate beautiful colors and patterns from your subconscious mind!


    This is a manufactured, ready-to-use (not a kit) version of the Brain Machine.
    www.TripGlasses.com.

    TripGlasses are no longer available for purchase.




    Project: Make your own open source TV-B-Gone (hacked from a MiniPOV 3 Kit)


    This is NOT the TV-B-Gone Kit -- see above for the TV-B-Gone Kit.

    This is an open source version of my TV-B-Gone remote control, hacked from a MiniPOV3 Kit,
             (and, of course, also hacked from my original TV-B-Gone.)
    For the firmware source code for North America, please go to TV-B-Gone NA firmware.
    For the database of North American TV POWER codes, please go to TV-B-Gone NA POWER codes.
    For the firmware source code for Europe, please go to TV-B-Gone EU firmware.
    For the database of European TV POWER codes, please go to TV-B-Gone EU POWER codes.
    For the makefile for both NA and EU firmware, please go to makefile.
    For the schematic, please go to TV-B-Gone schematic.




    Project: Make your own LEDcube Kit v1

    For the newer LEDcube Kit please scroll up!

    An animated 3D cube of LEDs!

    This is a small 3x3x3 single-color version of the amazing color 3D Borg cube by Das-Labor.

    To see a video of the kit in action, please go to LED Cube video.

    Here are the the complete assembly instructions for the LEDcube.

    For the firmware source code of the test firmware for the LEDcube Kit, please go to
             LEDcube Kit Test firmware.
    For firmware source code for a more interesting animation for the LEDcube Kit, please go to
             LEDcube Kit firmware.
    And here is the makefile for both of the above.

    Visually program your own LEDcube animation sequences!"
    Andrew Stock created a super-easy-to-use web-based tool that lets you
             visually design your own animation patterns for the LEDcube.
    The results can be easily pasted into my firmware and programmed into the LEDcube.
             (When creating Code, choose "Height-depth-width order").
    Here is his web-based tool:
             http://have.funoninter.net/LEDCube/
    This works best using Firefox.

    Here is the the LEDcube Bill of Materials for the LEDcube.

    It is available for purchase from the Makezine.com website.
    It is also available for purchase in Europe from hackable Devices.




    Project: Make your own LED Cube


    NOTE: This is NOT the LEDcube kit (see above)

    This was the first project made at NYC Resistor, a hacker space that started in New York in 2008.
    After coming back from the Chaos Communications Congress, we were so inspired by the color 3D Borg cube by Das-Labor, a German hacker group, that me, Bre, and George decided to build our own miniature LEDcube.
    For a Weekend Project video for how to make this project, please go to Make an LED Cube.
    For the firmware source code, please go to LED Cube firmware.
    And here is the makefile.
    To see a video of this firmware in action, please go to LED Cube video.
    To see some close up photos of the hardware I built, please go to LED Cube photos.




    Project: Trippy RGB Waves


    This is NOT the Trippy RGB Waves Kit -- see above for the Trippy RBG Waves Kit.

    I created this project while artist in residence for the month of August, 2008 at AS220, an arts space in Providence, RI.
    Imagine a bunch of little lights (maybe 20 or 40 of them), on a table, each about the size of a chess piece. Each is independent of the other. You arrange them around on the table any way you want. Each one continually slowly changes colors on its own. When you wave your hand over them, it creates waves of colors that follow your hand.
    I hacked this project from the Trippy RGB Light (see below), (which was hacked from a MiniPOV3 kit). I didn't use a PCB, but soldered all components directly together, and added an IR emitter and an IR detector to sense when you wave your hand over it, and when you do, it resets the RGB sequence from the beginning. The net effect, when you wave your hand over a table-full of them, is that waves of colors follow underneath your hand.
    For the firmware source code and technical description, please go to Trippy RBG Waves firmware.
    And here is the makefile.
    For the schematic, please go to Trippy RGB Waves schematic.
    To see a video of this project in action, please go to Trippy RGB Waves project video.
    To see some close up photos of the hardware I built, please go to
         Trippy RGB Waves project photos.




    Project: Make your own Trippy RGB Light


    A mood light that sequences through all sorts of changing colors. Trippy!
    This is a very easy hack from the MiniPOV3 Kit.
    This project is the basis for the Trippy RGB Waves project (see above),
         which I turned into the Trippy RGB Waves kit (see above).
    For the firmware source code, please go to RGB Light firmware.
    For the schematic, please go to RGB Light schematic.
    And here is the makefile.
    To see a high-res photograph of the Trippy RGB Light, please go to Trippy RGB Light photo.
    For detailed assembly instructions, please go to Trippy RGB Light assembly instructions.
    The list of parts (with part numbers) is available at Trippy RGB Light Bill of Materials.




    Project: Make your own Solar BugBot


    This excitable guy sings and dances when he eats light.
    He is a vibrabot, with an off-balance motor, speaker, and solar panel, hacked from a MiniPOV3 kit.
    For the firmware source code, please go to BugBot firmware.
    And here is the makefile.
    For the schematic, please go to BugBot schematic.
    The list of parts (with part numbers) is available at Solor BugBot Bill of Materials.
    To see a high-res photograph of the BugBot, please go to BugBot photo.




    Cool Neon


    Benny, of Cool Neon gave a presentation using EL-Wire at my booth at San Francisco Maker Faire 2007.
    You can order EL-Wire and associated supplies at the CoolNeon.com website.