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We are making two kits available through this campaign: the ScoutMakes FM Radio Kit and the ScoutMakes Robot Kit. Both are open hardware kits that provide an enjoyable, educational, DIY introduction to microcontroller programming and electrical engineering. At the heart of these kits is our ScoutMakes Azul board, which is an open source development platform that allows you to add Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) capabilities to any project. Featuring the 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 (nRF52840) processor from Nordic Semiconductors, it conforms to the AdaFruit Feather form factor, runs CircuitPython or Arduino, provides native support for USB Type-C, and includes a built-in 128 × 32 pixel OLED display.
Pre-programmed with a UF2 bootloader, the Azul board that arrives with your kit will be ready to run your code right out of the box! Whether you prefer CircuitPython or C, all you have to do is fire up a code editor like Mu or an IDE like Arduino and start tinkering.
To test your code—or the sample code we provide—simply pair your ScoutMakes Azul board with AdaFruit’s Bluefruit application, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. Bluefruit includes a color picker, an eight-button controller, and the ability to pass along sensor measurements (including quaternion, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and GPS data). It uses BLE to transmit instructions from your device to the Azul board’s nRF52, which is then in charge of driving your creation, be it an FM radio, a wheeled robot, or something else entirely.
For many of us, the construction of a classic FM radio was one of the very first projects we took on when getting started with DIY electronics. And for good reason. Radio waves are fascinating, they’re everywhere, and they’re free! Radio brings all kinds of information and entertainment—including music, news, and sports—to people all over the world. It remains an extremely popular medium for content delivery, and it doesn’t even require an Internet connection. The ScoutMakes FM Radio Kit provides an engaging exploration of Frequency Modulation (FM) radio. And, thanks to BLE, you can control it from across the room.
To build an FM radio receiver, you would typically need several components, including resistors, capacitors, transistors, and an amplifier. But thanks to advancements technology, there are now several single-chip, integrated-circuit (IC) receivers on the market. To make our FM Radio Kit as accessible and easy-to-use as possible, we chose one such chip—the RDA5807M, which is broadcast FM stereo tuner with a fully integrated synthesizer and a powerful low-IF digital audio processor—and we baked it into a PCB that complies with the Feather and STEMMA standards. That chip is programmable by way a CircuitPython library.
The ScoutMakes FM Radio Kit can also receive and process Radio Data Service (RDS) content. RDS is a communications protocol for embedding small amounts of digital data within conventional FM radio broadcasts. Examples include the time, the station identification, and programming information. (If you have a modern car stereo, you’ve probably seen RDS used to display the name of the song that is playing.)
Robotics and industrial automation are everywhere these days. Robots help build, package, and ship everything from your breakfast cereal to your car. With that in mind, we designed the ScoutMakes Robot kit to help those with an interest in robotics learn the basics. With it, you will create a simple, wheeled robot while developing a familiarity with concepts like mechanical assembly and motor control. This kit also includes a piezoelectric buzzer and NeoPixels that allow your robot to play sounds and glow while it’s moving around.
And, thanks to the included Azul board, you’ll be able to send instructions to your robot, over BLE, from an app on your iOS or Android device. To control it, you can simply tilt your device in the direction of travel.
10% of the proceeds from this campaign will be donated to Black Girls Code, a not-for-profit organization that introduces girls of color between the ages of 7 and 17 to computer science and technology.