New & Reviewed

Holiday Projects

DIYODE Magazine

Issue 18, December 2018

These holidays, there’s loads to do. Flick through the pages of DIYODE and tackle that project you haven’t quite found time for yet. We've also put together the following shortlist of projects that might keep the family and yourself busy over the holidays.

DIY Robotic Arm Kit

This snap-together kit is a construction feat in itself. It contains over 350 snap-together parts to build a fully-functioning 4-motor robotic arm.

The simple 4-channel controller means you can move each motor independently of the others, and train your own skills to perform more complex movements too!

The robotic arm can rotate a full 360° on its base and articulation on every axis is quite generous.

The complex gears and hardware will give you valuable insight into robotics design and perhaps move onto designing your very own robotic arm kit.

Once you’ve mastered the manual controls, perhaps you’ll even look at hacking them to provide autonomous computer-driven control (though this isn’t something the product is designed for, we can easily see it becoming a maker “improvement”).

WHY WE LOVE IT

It’ll take more than an hour to build it, but it can still be tackled by a novice constructor. The finished project is loads of fun and well designed.

AVAILABLE AT JAYCAR

Autonomous Smart Robot

This reminds us a little of our SAM project series, but with the benefits of an inclusive kit to get you going.

This kit comes fully supplied with Arduino, ultrasonic sensors, 4-wheels complete with dual-track for all-terrain operation, wiring and chassis.

A full assembly manual is included, and there’s plenty of YouTube content to fill any gaps for you too.

While autonomy is a great option, you can take control with your Smartphone using Bluetooth too.

You can customise and add on with all sorts of Arduino-compatible hardware to really make the robot do whatever you like.

Tobbie is powered by two 18650 batteries that you need to provide, however will keep you playing for a considerable time.

WHY WE LOVE IT

The customisability is great, allowing you to make it your own and expand. The tracked wheelbase provides great mobility and the smartphone controls are great.

AVAILABLE AT ALTRONICS

  • Autonomous Smart Robot Z6450 $189

Ultimate Retro Game Kit

Many of us born anytime prior to 1990 would probably have a soft-spot for old-school retro-style games.

Game systems such as the Sega MegaDrive or Super Nintendo provided hours of entertainment with simple graphics and often even simpler gameplay.

The Ultimate Retro Game Kit takes you straight back to a simpler time, before HD (or 4K) graphics dominated the gaming landscape.

Based around a Raspberry Pi and the retro gaming software RetroPie, the hard work is taken out of creating your own retro gaming system (though a few modern advantages exist too).

Complete with a miniature replica gaming console case, two Bluetooth controllers, and everything else you need, you can be setup and running same-day with your favourite gameplay.

There’s a little work to do to get a few things configured, but most of the hard work is done for you. They’ve pre-loaded the SD card for you, and it even includes a HDMI cable!

WHY WE LOVE IT

The kit simplifies getting everything running, as well as finished off complete with a replica case. The wireless controllers make life easy too, with great in-hand feel.

AVAILABLE AT CORE ELECTRONICS

SparkFun Inventor’s Kit v4.0

SparkFun have a habit of making fantastic development kits, covering a range of levels for Hobbyists.

Their latest Inventor’s Kit provides you with loads of tools to increase (or start) your journey with Arduino.

The combination of a kit with sensors, components, and display hardware is fully explored with five different major project categories (each with multiple projects within).

This is great when you are just getting started, or want to avoid trips for hardware while you’re trying to learn.

Full code is provided to accompany all projects, as well as troubleshooting tips and handy hints.

If you’re just getting started with Arduino, or would like a refresher on the basics, this will take you where you want to go.

WHY WE LOVE IT

It’s all-inclusive and will provide you with a valuable education in Arduino fundamentals. It covers a versatile range of subjects for a broad and interesting experience.

AVAILABLE AT TRONIX LABS

4Duino - 2.4” Touchscreen Display Module

4D systems have some really elegant solutions, and solving display challenges for Arduino is certainly one of them.

This is an all-in-one Arduino + touchscreen, and it’s jam-packed full of features. It all starts with a ATmega32u4 microcontroller, mounted onto a shield-compatible footprint. In addition to the microcontroller, there’s an ESP8266 onboard to provide WiFi functionality.

The screen itself is a 2.4” TFT LCD with a resistive touch panel. It is integrated into the board, so there’s no need for additional wiring. Because it comes from 4D Systems, it also comes with its own PICASO chip to drive powerful display graphics and animations that you’ll struggle to get with a direct-connected display shield.

If you’re looking for an elegant way to integrate a display into your Arduino, this really is a solid way to do it.

WHY WE LOVE IT

Display hardware perfectly integrated with an Arduino is just fantastic. The 4D platform takes a little getting used to, but it’s powerful.

AVAILABLE AT 4D SYSTEMS

  • 4Duino-24 Touchscreen Display 4Duino-24 FROM US$79

Squishy Circuits Deluxe Kit

We’re all used to connecting up our electronics with wires, but what about with Play Doh!??

OK, so they can’t use that brand name, but basically using malleable dough as a basis for all the projects included.

It’s totally safe and battery powered, and is the perfect blend of play and learning.

The maleable dough can be shaped and sculpted into any shape imaginable, and is conductive to create the circuits for all experiments.

This means there’s no fiddly wires, no tools required, and most importantly, endless fun! There’s loads of experiments and full instructions, with all hardware included.

For young children, there’s perhaps no better way to get them interested in electronics. The foundation will stay with them forever.

WHY WE LOVE IT

The novel approach to connectivity of components solves some of the biggest challenges for novices. It’s educational, yet loads of fun.

AVAILABLE AT JAYCAR

  • Squishy Circuits Deluxe Kit KJ9352 $129

Electronic Project Lab 200-in-1

A solid electronics foundation is an important possession for any budding hobbyist.

If you haven’t seen this type of kit before, all components are mounted to spring terminals, allowing easy connection using the supplied wires.

Step-by-step instructions are provided with explanations at each step, so even an Adult without electronics can assist their child if required.

Some of what you’ll create is a basic radio, an electronic organ, a motion detector, and a sound-activated alarm.

All without coding and standard off-the-shelf components, so the knowledge gained can be applied with standard electronics too.

It’s the perfect base of information to complement or provide priming before taking on microcontrollers.

WHY WE LOVE IT

The extent of projects included is huge, and they all use fundamental electronic components. Safe and infinitely reusable.

AVAILABLE AT CORE ELECTRONICS

Thymio Challenge Pack

Thymio is a powerful yet fun and educational robot. It performs simple functions like line-tracking, but rapidly moves to more complex tasks.

Add a pen, and Thymio will draw for you. Use the remote control and Thymio goes where you want it to. Have Thymio respond to sounds or colours, and loads more.

There’s an on-board accelerometer, multiple proximity sensors, a loudspeaker, temperature sensor, and touch-sensitive buttons.

There’s so much you can do with Thymio and it’s totally inclusive, with all hardware included (except the computer, naturally). 30 activity cards included, as well as a racetrack and comprehensive user guide.

WHY WE LOVE IT

Thymio is an educational tool, and a toy at the same time. Remote controlled with loads of proximity / sensor inclusions built in too.

AVAILABLE AT TRIBOTIX

BBC Micro:bit Go Starter Pack

We have long been impressed with the BBC Micro:bit hardware.

The experience getting started is very simple and provides enough onboard functionality for loads of experiments and examples.

The starter pack naturally comes with the Micro:bit itself. It also includes batteries and case, as well as a USB programming cable.

The Micro:bit includes two buttons for interaction, as well as an LED matrix of 25 LEDs. This gives you a powerful visual interface to provide feedback to user input.

The board itself may look rather unassuming however includes an accelerometer, compass, Bluetooth, microUSB connector, and is easily expanded.

The kit includes a quickstart guide, so you’ll be coding in minutes!

WHY WE LOVE IT

The BBC Micro:bit is a stunning example of education-focused microcontrollers. It’s easy to use with a very user-friendly code experience for all technical levels.

AVAILABLE AT ALTRONICS

  • BBC Micro:Bit Go Starter Pack Z6440 $35.50

Makedo Toolkit for Cardboard Construction

Kid’s can turn that large cardboard box into a rocket, car, knight armour, and more. Supplied with markers and reusable plastic parts, including a child friendly saw and screwdriver.

WHY WE LOVE IT

Inspires creativity. Expansion kits are also available for huge cardboard creations.

AVAILABLE AT CORE ELECTRONICS

Snap-on 80 Project Electronic Kit

Before children are old enough (and dexterous enough) to handle tiny components, then these snap-on components makes putting circuits together, well, like child’s play.

WHY WE LOVE IT

Plenty of experiments to keep children engaged for longer.

AVAILABLE AT JAYCAR

  • Snap-On 80 Project Kit KJ8970 $24.95

10-in-1 Solderless Educational Kit

A mini breadboard, components and 10 exciting projects to get curious minds into electronics.

WHY WE LOVE IT

The colour manual also teaches electronics fundamentals, supported by YouTube videos.

AVAILABLE AT ALTRONICS

  • 10-in-1 Solderless Educational Kit K8128 $26.50