Snekboard

by Keith Packard

An open-hardware Python microcontroller for LEGO®

Crowdfunding Page History

This page is an archive of the original crowdfunding campaign for this project. It may not be up-to-date with the latest updates and product availability. Return to the current project page.

$7,942 raised

of $4,000 goal

198% Funded! Order Below

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$79

Snekboard

One Snekboard and one 3.7 V, 900 mAh LiPo battery


$10

LEGO Baseplate Kit

A hand-assembled LEGO baseplate for your Snekboard. Available in Snek Green, CircuitPython Violet, or Dark Gray!


$20

Snekboard Cable Set

Four motor cables and four GPIO cables (pins to bare wires)


$40

Snekboard Sensor Kit

Two QTR-MD-01A reflectance sensors and two GP2Y0A41SK0F distance sensors. All four sensors are Snekboard-ready with cables pre-soldered. Provides everything you need to follow along with existing Snekboard tutorials.

Details

Recent Updates


Learn, Teach, Experiment, and Play with Robots

Snekboard is an open hardware development board that’s designed to let you hook up to LEGO Power Functions* motors and switches so you can build robots out of LEGO and control them with CircuitPython or the simpler Snek programming language.

Snekboard is 48 x 48 mm – the same size as 6 x 6 LEGO studs – so you can easily build a LEGO enclosure for the board and attach it to your creation. It is powered by a 3.7 V, 900 mAh single-cell Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery that fits under the board and charges over USB while Snekboard is being programmed from the host.

Python and LEGO Together at Last

Python is widely regarded as a great first programming language. LEGO products are used in many settings for teaching about robotics. It’s time to bring these amazing learning tools together. Snekboard bridges the two worlds by offering a hardware platform capable of running Python while directly controlling LEGO Power Functions Motors.

All-in-One Construction

Snekboard includes everything you need on a single board — a power supply, motor controllers, a processor, and connectors. You will not need to buy additional boards or connect an external battery box.

You might need a few cables, though, so we’ve made some available through the campaign. The Snekboard Cable Set includes four custom LEGO Power Function cables and four GPIO cables. We also provide an optional Baseplate Kit, which includes a set of LEGO blocks from which you can build an eight-by-eight baseplate for your Snekboard. (Choose between Snek Green, CircuitPython Violet, or Dark Gray!)

Two Python Languages To Choose From

Choose Snek for a gentle introduction to Python and Robotics. This tiny language was designed from the ground up, using ideas borrowed from the original LEGO Logo, to support early robotics instruction. Choose CircuitPython if you want a complete Python environment along with many add-ons. CircuitPython, derived from MicroPython, offers all of the functionality of the original Arduino, but with Python in place of C++.

You can program both languages, from your desktop or laptop computer, using the fantastic Mu editor, which simplifies the process of communicating with Snekboard over USB.

Features & Specifications

  • Processor (SAMD21G18A): ARM Cortex M0 with 256 kB of flash and 32 kB of RAM. The same chip found in many Arduino boards, including some from Adafruit.
  • Power: LiPo battery and support for USB charging, protected by an automatic power selector with a current limit. LEGO motors for the last many years have run on 9 V. So as not to require 9 V worth of batteries, Snekboard makes use of a boost regulator to run off of a single-cell LiPo battery, which has the same connector found on those sold by SparkFun and Adafruit.
  • Motor Controllers (TI DRV8800): Four controllers provide up to 2.8 A for LEGO motors and servos.
  • IO: Eight GPIOs with 3.3 V and GND available to each.
  • LEDs: Two NeoPixel RGB LEDs and one blue LED.
  • Extra Flash: 2 MB of additional flash storage which CircuitPython uses for libraries and programs.

Comparison Table

SnekboardCrickit + Feather M0 ExpressZero + Motor ShieldMove Hub
Manufacturer keithp.com Adafruit Arduino LEGO
LanguagesCircuitPython, Snek CircuitPython, Snek Snek Proprietary
Motor Controllers4 LEGO 2 non-LEGO 2 LEGO 2 LEGO
Integrated 9 V PowerYes No No Yes
All-in-OneYes No No Yes
Open SourceHW + SW HW + SW HW + SW No
PlatformsLinux, OS X, Windows Linux, OS X, Windows Linux, OS X, Windows iOS, Android

Support & Documentation

Snekboard is open hardware powered by open source software. Our blog contains schematics and design files for the board as well as information about the Snek programming language (including the manual). If you have questions or suggestions, please reach out to us through the Crowd Supply page.

Manufacturing Plan

Snekboard has gone through four prototypes, each of which contributed to a design that has passed the ultimate test – real programming students. Those prototypes also demonstrated the ease with which Snekboard can be manufactured.

Crowd Supply will source all components and arrange for PCB fabrication and assembly. Final assembly, flash, and testing will be carried out in our Portland, Oregon facilities.

Fulfillment & Logistics

Assembled, flashed, and tested boards and other products will be delivered to Crowd Supply where they’ll be packaged and sent out to our fabulous supporters. For more information about ordering, paying, and shipping, please see Crowd Supply’s Guide.

Risks & Challenges

The development team working on Snekboard has ten years of practice designing, building, and selling electronics at a similar scale. There are plenty of issues that can crop up during PCB assembly, and we’ve seen our share. Fortunately, we’ve also learned how to design boards to simplify manufacturing. And, just as important, we’ve learned how to communicate with our manufacturing partners, during the fabrication and assembly process, to help ensure that we catch problems early, before we wreck a whole production run.

* - LEGO and LEGO Power Functions are trademarks of The LEGO Group.


Credits

Keith Packard

Free Software / Free Hardware developer doing robotics instruction, amateur rocketry and RISC-V processor design.


Keith Packard


OSH Park

PCB Manufacturer

Digi-Key

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Components & Hardware Sourcing

Mouser Electronics

Component Provider

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