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NerdKits Newsletter Archives » NerdKits Newsletter #10 - Digital Calipers DRO, Schematics, Customer Projects

February 17, 2010
by mrobbins
(NerdKits Staff)

mrobbins's Avatar

This newsletter was released on February 17th, 2010.

Hi! This is the tenth 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. New Video Tutorial - Digital Calipers DRO
  2. New Resource - Schematics for the NerdKits Guide Projects
  3. Awesome Customer Projects: Microcontroller Video Game System, Two Row Valentines Day Heart, Writing to a Graphical LCD.


We are proud to kick off a new year of exciting projects with a digital read out built using some digital calipers and a NerdKit. At NerdKits, we recently acquired a Smithy 3-in-1 Mini-Mill and Lathe. We hope to be able to use this machine to bring you new awesome projects in the future, but for now are just getting acquainted with the machine and learning to use it.

We quickly found that one of the limitations of the machine is the dial on the Z-axis is only marked in increments of .042" inches. This does not let us get the precision we would like (and expect) from a machine like this one. So we did something that is commonly done on these machines, which is to add a digital read out to digitally display the current position of the tool instead of relying on the coarse ticks on the downfeed. To do this, we attached digital calipers to the machine, and used data from the calipers and a NerdKit to display the data.

The project covers a wide range of topics, including the use of buttons and switches as a user interface, mechanical design, and level shifting between different digital voltage levels. As always, we have fully documented the project and it is available on our web site for your educational pleasure. Even if you're not familiar with machining concepts, take a look at this project, because we've introduced several useful electronics and programming concepts here.

Visit the project tutorial page at:


Due to popular demand, the schematics for the three projects outlined in the NerdKits Guide can now be found as a separate document in the Downloads section of the Members are on our web site. While we still encourage all our customers to think through the circuits, and try to understand the electronics, the schematics are now available for your reference.

Check out the new schematics document as well as the rest of our online resources here in the downloads section of our site here:


This month we want to showcase some awesome customer projects that you have sent in or posted to our forums. Seeing these amazing customer projects come together with the help of the community is probably the best part of our job. Please keep them coming -- post to our forums!

Microcontroller Video Game System

User lcruz on our forums has put together a Microcontroller Video Game System. He uses an ATmega328 to generate the waveforms necessary to send data to a TV! He has two videos on YouTube showcasing his project.

The early version where his controller moves a bar on the screen:

The later version that has a working game on his platform which he links to from this forum post:

Not only is he sending data to a TV (which is awesome enough), but lcruz is using three different MCUs in this project. One for the video, one for the audio, and one that is running his IR remote control complete with accelerometer. The accelerometer lets him control the paddle by tilting the controller, like a Wii! This a great example of different systems working together to make one awesome project.

Two Row LED Heart

Phrank916 on our forums decided to go big this Valentines Day and make a two row LED Heart as his Valentines Day gift. Phrank started from the LED Heart Tutorial:

which we published out last year, and he modified it to have two rows of twinkling LEDs.

You can find his final writeup complete with a link to the video and source code in this forum post:

You can also read about some of the problems he encountered along the way on this forum thread:

It was not an easy project, but Ted stuck with it and got it done in time. For his creativity and perseverance, Phrank916 gets our Dedicated Husband Award for the month!

Writing to a Graphical LCD

User Frozenlock used his NerdKit to interface with a different type of LCD than the one included in the NerdKit. His little LCD is a graphical LCD which lets him individually control each of the 132x32 pixels on the screen. Our personal favorite is when he prints the full NerdKits logo on it!

His project is detailed with code and photos in this forum thread:


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 49 countries)!

Best wishes,

Humberto & Mike
NerdKits, L.L.C.

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