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NerdKits Newsletter Archives » NerdKits Newsletter #9 - Welcome New Members, Multi-MCU LED Array w/ SPI

January 11, 2010
by mrobbins
(NerdKits Staff)

mrobbins's Avatar

This newsletter was released on January 11th, 2010.

Hi! This is the ninth edition of the NerdKits Newsletter which we publish ~monthly to keep you and the world up to date with everything going on at NerdKits.

In this issue:

  1. Welcome to New NerdKits Community Members
  2. New Customer Projects: Hard Drive Clock and Intervalometer
  3. New Video Tutorial: Multi-Panel LED Array with SPI
  4. Old Video Tutorial: Valentine's Day LED Heart
  5. 2009 NerdKits Year in Review


We shipped a lot of kits in December to new customers, and that means hundreds of new users are now getting set up and first signing on to our forums. Welcome to the NerdKits community, and don't be afraid to jump in and ask questions or contribute!

Take a minute to introduce yourself by adding to the "About the Members" forum post:

Log in to our IRC channel to chat with other customers: see details at

And as you continue your journey into electronics and programming, please keep us in the loop by posting photos, videos, and information to the forums!


We're featuring two awesome customer projects this month.

First, "pej" writes in with a NerdKits Hard Drive Clock, using an old hard drive, a few LEDs, and a microcontroller to create a digital "analog" clock! This project shows an impressive combination of electronics, programming, and mechanical elements, and it's a great finished project. See the forum post:

and his write-up and video on his website:

FWSquatch has been working on a NerdKits Intervalometer, which commands his Nikon camera to take photos at predefined intervals to make long time-lapse videos. For anyone with an interest in photography, or simply an appreciation for watching ice cubes melt in under 30 seconds, see the forum post:

and his write-up and videos on his website:

Show us what you've been up to: as you build projects with your microcontroller skills, please post them to the NerdKits forum so others can be inspired by your work, and so we can feature them here in our newsletter.


There was a lot of discussion on the forums about how to make a bigger LED display, and simultaneously we got some questions about how to communicate between chips using external buses like SPI or I2C, so we decided to combine these two concepts into one new video tutorial.

This one uses 5 microcontrollers to control a 5x80 pixel LED display, where each microcontroller is doing a part of the work:

If you are interested in communicating between microcontrollers, or from an MCU to some other IC, take a look at this tutorial to help get you started!

The finished display is also now a permanent fixture in the NerdKits labs. :-)


Last year, we presented our "DIY LED Heart for Valentine's Day" video tutorial, which uses a microcontroller to generate pseudo-random numbers to give the appearance of gently "twinkling" LEDs in the shape of a heart.

This is one of our most popular video tutorials to date, and with about a month to go until Valentine's Day 2010, we wanted to remind you of it early so you could build it for your own Valentine!

See the video here:

"Think about it... how many girls out there can say that their Valentine's card runs at 14 MHz?"

As always, you can pick up an extra microcontroller or other parts from our store so you can dedicate them to this project.


Last year we published ~10 new video tutorials -- did you miss any?

We launched our forums in April:

We started this newsletter in May:

We launched our first expansion kit in November:

We brought a bigger LCD and some other changes to our USB NerdKit:

But most importantly, we helped thousands of new customers get their first start with electronics and programming. We get great satisfaction from watching that "Aha!" moment, hearing your feedback, and seeing a knowledgeable and approachable learning community develop on our forums. Thanks for continuing to inspire us to teach!


Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for being such great customers. Make sure you tell your friends and neighbors about NerdKits so we can keep the world's DIY spirit alive (now with NerdKits in 48 countries)!

Best wishes,

Humberto & Mike
NerdKits, L.L.C.

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