Need a controller that is more powerful than an Ardunio but smaller than a Raspberry Pi?

August 9, 2019

Like most makers my staple for controller boards has been a mix of Arduino Nano, Uno and Mega for small embedded type applications with modest computing capacity and memory and the Raspberry Pi Zero, 3’s and 4’s for bigger computer type applications with much more computing capacity and memory. But what if you want something in between? What other boards are out there?

There are two recent developments that have caught my eye.

First is the new Teensy 4.0 Development Board from PJRC. I’ve used Teensy boards and supported previous PJRC Kickstarter campaigns in the past and found them to be really good boards with good software and great support. The latest board from them shows a significant increase in computing capacity, program memory and data memory.

Here’s its specs.

Processor: NXP iMXRT1062, ARM Cortex-M7
Clock: 600 MHz
Memory: 1024K RAM, 2048K Flash
Storage: none
Sensing: 14 x ADC
Actuation: 31 x PWM
Connectivity: 3 x SPI, 3 x I2C, 7 x Serial, 2 x USB, 3 x CAN Bus, 2 x I2S, 1 x S/PDIF, 1 x SDIO
I/O: 40 x GPIO
Operating System: none

The other board that I’ve been watching is the GiantBoard from Groboards. They have just finished (8/09/2019) a successful crowd funding campaign on crowdsupply.

Their board is based on Adafruits Feather form factor and has the following spec:

Giant Board Specs:

Processor: Microchip SAMA5D2 ARM Cortex-A5 Processor
Clock: 500 MHz
Memory: 128 MB DDR2 RAM
Storage: microSD card
Sensing: 6 x 12-bit ADC
Actuation: 4 x 16-bit PWM
Connectivity: 1 x I2C, 1 x SPI, 1 x UART. 1 x USB
I/O: 20 x GPIO
Operating System: Linux kernel 4.14

Neither of the boards have native WIFI, BT or Ethernet. Nor do they have any native video capability.

eDay2 a Great Success

September 17, 2013

eDay2 was a great success. Many thanks to all those Makerspace members who came along on Saturday (7th September) to Gateshead Central Library and helped out during the day or just showed up to give moral support.

We had at least 5 3D printers on display, numerous Arduino projects, Makey Makey, Bare Conductive painting and Raspberry Pi stuff.

The day was well attended with around 250 people coming along to see what it was about. Around 50-60 teachers, students and parents attended the Raspberry Pi workshops.

More details at the Makerspace blog:

eDay2 – Saturday 7th September 2013

August 29, 2013

Last year Makerspace helped organised a special technology and digital skills event called eDay with Gateshead libraries which introduced the general public to new technologies such 3D Printers, Raspberry Pi’s, Arduinos, Lego Mindstorms etc.

eDay was a first for UK public libraries (and possibly the world). It was really well received with lots of other public libraries looking to emulate the event.

Here are some write-ups of the day:

This year eDay2 will be on Saturday 7th September 2103 and will take place as part of the British Science Festival.

It’s a free event but you’ll need a ticket to come along, details are here:

They’ll be Raspberry Pi workshops in the morning and afternoon. These will be delivered by Dr Alun Moon from Northumbria University, assisted by my good self.

As well as Makerspace, Vector76 will there again and this time they’ll be bringing their awesome Oculus Rift! There’ll be lots of other groups helping out so expect to find lots of other digital stuff going on during the day.

* 3D Printing,
* Raspberry Pi and Ardunio show and tell from Makerspace Newcastle
* Simple Maker activities
* Retro Gaming
* Makey Makey

Raspberry Pi Workshops

You can expect much of the same

Teachers and Adult Workshops



Workshops for age 8+

13:00pm -13:40pm

14:00pm – 14:40pm

eDay – Gateshead Library 29th September 2012

September 30, 2012

I’ve just about recovered from helping Newcastle Maker Space put on a great makers event at Gateshead Central Libraries eDay

We had a really great day. Thanks to all the makers for helping out and to  Gateshead Libraries for asking Maker Space to get involved.

We had not one, not two but three 3D printers on the day. A big thanks to Paddy, Cay and James for bringing them along. They spent the entire day printing out glyphs and minecraft blocks for the kids who thought the 3D printers for great.

Ed and Iain were doing Arduino stuff in the other corner and Brian, Chris and myself were manning the Raspberry Pi tables.

We had a nice crowd, over a 150 by my estimation. At most times during the day all the 7 Raspberry Pi’s we had set up were being used by people. The kids liked to program in Scratch no doubt showing off to their parents  and were happy to play the retro games we’re had the RPi’s emulating.

We were busy from the start, right up to about 2.0pm when things started to trail off. Every thing went well, even the youngsters braying the crap out the raspberry pi’s and their keyboards and mice didn’t stop the show. Hoorah for the plastic cases 😉 The big screen
projection worked a treat. We had the 3D printers and RPi media playing on it for all the day.

I spend my entire time talking to ICT teachers who were really, really interested in getting the RPi into their schools.

We had big Maker Space banners on the walls which made a great impression and there was talk of making eDay a regular event.

Only thing I forgot to do was take some pics, so I hope someone can post some pic’s on the Maker Space’s wiki for us all to see.

Maker Space celebrates with a Raspberry Pie

July 19, 2012

Last night saw the Maker Space in Newcastle celebrate a whole year of hosting its regular and free open sessions.

The Open Sessions happen every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month as well as a all day weekend workshop on the last Saturday of the month.

To celebrate we had the usual snacks but my wonderful wife baked us a lovely Raspberry Pie, actually a Raspberry sponge cake as we eat the pie at home the night before 🙂

On the night we had a couple of 3D printers making stuff, the Spaces MakerBot (on loan from Jay) and Will’s new RepRap. There was a great discussion about how to use both Ardunio’s and Raspberry Pi’s for a garden monitoring project.

In all a great night and here’s to celebrating again next year

Super Monday: Makers and Hardware Hacking

May 28, 2012

Wow, May’s been a busy, busy month for me. My day time job has taken me off to foreign climates for most of it, while what little time I’ve had home has been spent messing around with the Raspberry Pi.

Returning to the end of the April, a number of us from the Maker Space were asked to given a short talk at the Super Monday group. I haven’t done any public speaking since my University days, so I was very nervous about it.

  • Cay Green give us a great talk on the history of 3D Printing and how hobbyists are lowering the entry cost
  • Ed Bisdee gave a talk, in his usual energetic style, about how easy the Arduino is get electronic projects up and running
  • I give a talk about the hardware hackability of the Raspberry Pi and
  • Nigel Hope introduced us the BeagleBone, a powerful and opensource development board.

All in all it was a very enjoyable evening. Videos from the night are here:

and Stuart Holmes wrote a nice review of the talks:

New website:

April 4, 2012

Exciting news, well for me anyway. I was getting frustrated not been able to store my project design files on this blog so I’ve started a new website:

It’s still early days but I’m planning on putting all my project design files there and perhaps a wiki as well to support them better.

ARDvance-Pi v0.1

December 31, 2011

The ARDvance-Pi is an advance Arduino training board. You can use it together with any of the Ardunio Uno or Duemilanove style of boards. The Arduino is plugged into the ARDvance-Pi and DIL switches allow the user to select which interfaces or circuits they want to connect to the Ardunio.

The training board has a number of interfaces

  • 6 x Rotary Potentiometers
  • 2 x Linear Potentiometers
  • 4-Digit, 7-segment LED display
  • Temperature Sensor
  • Light Sensor
  • Buzzer Output
  • 5V/3.3V switchable PSU
  • Prototyping area
  • 8 x LEDs
  • 8 x tactile switches
  • 1-ch Relay (Change Over)
  • RS232 interface with 9-W D connector
  • H-Bridge Motor Controller (based on L298)
  • XBee socket
  • 16-way keypad*
  • LCD interface*
  • 5V to 3.3V logic conversion for Raspberry-Pi

* Note: if space allows

It was originally going to be called the ARDvance-10 but its name changed when I decided to add an interface port for the Raspberry Pi board, hence its new name ARDvance-Pi. Port Expanders, either MCP23008 or PCF8573 and a 8-ch ADC will also be added to allow I2C or SPI interfaces to be used from the Raspberry-Pi. When its finished, its hoped that the Raspberry-Pi can use the Arduino as a sort of slave I/O processor.

The schematic is here: Ardvance Pi Schematic 0v10

MAX7456 OSD Shield (v0.1)

November 22, 2011

Here’s a beta release of a On Screen Display (OSD) shield I’ve been working on, it still needs a bit tiding up.

It uses a MAX7456 from Maxim for the video overlay function. The MAX7456 is connected to the Ardunio’s SPI port (MOSI, MISO and CLK) and a double row of 0.1 headers can be used to choose which digital pin drives chip select (CS) for the MAX7456.

In addition to the MAX7456 OSD chip, there’s also a DS1307 Real Time Clock (RTC) with battery backup for displaying time and date in the video feed.

I designed it using DesignSpark PCB, pulling in the MAX7456 footprint from the Sparkfun PCB library. I’ll post design files and gerbers shortly.

For software, I used code from Arduino forum members dfraser and zitron in this Arduino forum post.

osd – Arkwork.pdf
osd – Schematic.pdf

Arduino PLC Software

October 28, 2011

The Ardunio PLC design I designed is nothing without software to drive it.

My initially thoughts was to hardcod the process logic using C programming code. This would involve reading from the AVR’s I/O pins with digitalRead() and writing back using digitalWrite(). Process Logic in-between the “in” and “out” instructions would be written using if’s, else’s and switch C statements to perform the desired logic task. After spending some time in the Raspberry-Pi forums, I realised this approach while fine for myself and other C programmers but it would not be suitable for beginners.

So, I’ve begun looking at ways to make a full PLC programming environment for the Arduino PLC.

A developer will write their PLC statements using a PC based environment such as free automation tools from and Beremiz and CoDeSys. Once the plc program is complete, it can download the control program to a IEC-61131 run time such as LDmicro, executing on the Arduino PLC hardware.

Some useful sites: