Shrimping it – Arduino Hackery On The Cheap

Arduinos are cool. Very, very cool. For those who don’t know, they’re basically little computers that you can hold in your hand that allow you to add interactivity and functionality to things that otherwise would be static and immobile. They’re used extensively in the arts and industry and they are regularly used to make amazing stuff.

Take for example, the Bubblino. A small, smiling, spherical piece of plastic that currently resides in my local hackerspace that was created by Adrian McEwen. Whenever someone posts a tweet that mentions ‘@doesliverpool‘, it shoots out a jet of soap bubbles.

Bubblino - From Flickr user 'nutted'

Bubblino – From Flickr user ‘nutted’

It’s probably worth noting that Adrian along with fellow Liverpudlian Arduino expert Hakim Cassimally, have a book coming out soon that promises to be excellent. It’s all about using creativity and embedded systems to make cool stuff. You can buy it here, if you’re so inclined!  

People have also used these Arduino devices to solve serious, real-world issues. In Oakland, California there is a startup called Kijani Grows  that aims to address the issue of world hunger by using these tiny microcontrollers alongside Aquaponic technologies in order to cheaply, intensively produce organic food. All this, whilst using far less water than conventional farming methods and no soil whatsoever.

So, what about these Shrimp things then? 

Well, whilst Arduinos are very, very cool, they’re also not particularly cheap. In Maplins (an UK electronics retailed)  an Arduino Uno (the entry-level one) costs around £25 (USD $40). If you are a school or a university and you intend to give one to each student in a computer science class, it can start to get really expensive. Likewise, if you have a project where your microcontrollers will be exposed to the elements, you might want to find an alternative to spending £25 every time it rains.

Now, the really amazing thing about Arduinos is that every layer of the platform is open source. From the Processing IDE based development tools to the schematics of the device itself. That has resulted in a deluge of Arduino compatible clones flooding the market. Now, these are fairly cheap. But what if you wanted to go even cheaper? What if you wanted to make your own Arduino?

That’s where the Shrimp project comes in. The brainchild of Cefn Hoile; it aims to teach people how to create their own Arduno clones for less than a fiver. All you need is some solderless prototyping board, a bunch of capacitors and resistors, an ATMEGA chip, an FTDI cable and a bit of patience. The recipe is available here, along with schematics and other guidance you’ll need in order to create your very own Shrimp.

Not So Harduino

If you’re wondering, I was able to construct a prima facie Arduino Uno in about five minutes and was able to write a simple program that flashed an LED light on and off. In other words, the “Hello World” of Arduino. That in itself also took me about five minutes.

An Arduino Shrimp

An Arduino Shrimp

It’s probably worth noting that there are some resistors and switches missing which are needed if you want to do anything more than flash a light on and off. Still, it’s not bad for a proof of concept.

Are you more likely to get into Arduino programming now that the cost of entry has decreased significantly? Are you put off by the extra steps involved in order to create a Shrimp? Would you buy  Let me know in the comments!

About Matthew Hughes

Matthew Hughes is a software developer, student and freelance writer from Liverpool, England. He is seldom found without a cup of strong black coffee in his hand and absolutely adores his Macbook Pro and his camera. You should follow him at @matthewhughes.

4 comments

  1. Thanks for the writeup, Matthew.

    Yeah, be sure to use the full circuit…
    http://shrimping.it/blog/shrimp/shrimpduino_bb/
    …if you’re doing anything out there in the real world.

    The minimal circuit…
    http://shrimping.it/blog/shrimp/shrimpduino_bb_minimal/
    …can be used for workshopping and some minimal digital work.

    Hope to be able to share with you more circuit examples, like a POV display, Simon Says game, Steady Hand Game, Webserver and so on soon. All have been prototyped but need writing up properly.

    In the meantime I invite everyone to get in touch and ask if you need any help or have ideas to share.

    1. I tried kicking it, and jiggled the handle. Then I kicked the handle, and jiggled the server. Kerfuffled it was.

      The hackaday post at http://hackaday.com/2012/11/10/the-ultimate-low-cost-dev-board/ managed to put a proper kink in the series of pipes which were meant to serve all the good people out there with @ShrimpingIt goodness.

      I threw up (literally and figuratively) a temporary server at http://shrimpingit.wordpress.com and attempted to populate it enough that my reputation wouldn’t be besmirched amongst all the binary people. Set up a web forward service with my DNS provider and seemed to be a decent enough fix to be going on with.

      I rested, went to a ceilidh, drank a bit too much and here I am. Hopefully I’ll be in a position to reanimate the server soon, though the redirect to wordpress.com seems to have taken the edge off things, I’ll be careful with TTLs and redirects to try and bring things back more or less smoothly.

      Thanks for the heads up.

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