MC HCK – Five dollar microcontroller!

The MC HCK five dollar micro controller project is now getting more publicly active, with a forum thread started and some mailing list traffic.

Why am I so keen on this board? Well it is small,  cheap, can be used on breadboard, is more powerful than many common systems, has a good number of I/O pins and a reasonable computer build chain.

Now before the comments are flooded with “so what – plenty like that around” – take note of the target price of $5, yes FIVE DOLLARS.  As the forum post says:

“you all know the drill — $20 makes you stingy (“frugal”)…… Low price fosters creativity”

When this hits the streets it will be affordable to have several projects on the go at once and even keep in use permanently! You can more risk instead of being overprotective of your precious chips.

All that is fantastic, but the implications actually go a LOT further. There are huge numbers of people who have little or no access to this type of technology, but the MC HCK could change that!

Imagine 10s or 100s of thousands of these devices, maybe used with the slowly spreading OLPC (Australia just announced OLPC funding).

This site exists to inspire the individuals in the varied communities and help remove restrictions to accessing this technology as described in the UsableDevices About page:

“unrestricted access is to increase access to these devices/projects for those in developing countries or other socially and financially restricted groups by promoting really cheap and accessible, but useful projects. ie people can source parts easily worldwide, or scavenge local parts or substitutes, as well as access to the tools and techniques to build the projects”

So it is really exciting to support ideas like the MC HCK !

Communities artistic, creator, DIY, social, maker, hacker, …

One goal of this site is to help bridge and bring together the many different communities that can help and learn from each other. An alternate perspective is to broaden the view of makers and hackers to see the rest of the world 🙂  So it is very pleasing to see that there are many others who have similar goals. This previous post highlighted some of the routine activity at Xinchejian last weekend, but it did not highlight the activities contributing to this goal where diverse community members come together.

Communities seen at Xinchejian last weekend were Breesee, Makesense and GoodtoChina.

Breesee‘s business card slogan “creative community” fits in with this sites goal. Breesee aims “to be a bridge connects different types of creators in the world. Whether they are artists, designers or engineers, we will try to encourage them cooperate and make more innovation happen”. Their site has some very nice content – it is worth a visit!

Makesense were also present, several of their members have close relationship Xinchejian. See this previous post for an introduction to their very good work worldwide.

In addition to the “drop in’s” Xinchejian is sharing the new space with GoodtoChina with a very co-operative open plan and shared facilities arrangement!  “GoodtoChina inspires and supports sustainable living through environmental projects, social initiatives and consulting projects”.

Xinchejian are also setting up a kitchen in their new space for hacking cooking, there is already a post on Sous Vide, Xinchejian is active in the Space program, see this mailing list, and host extremely popular popular processing classes to help anyone with an artistic leaning to create computer art, are into hydroponics and also have active relationships with Dorkbot Shanghai and Xindanwei.

All that is pretty amazing on top of all the making and hacking already reported!

Lophilo, Swarm Robots and R2D2

Xinchejian hackerspace is still settling in to their new space, but there was a lot of activity on the weekend!

Things that I noticed included many active projects undergoing design work, coding and assembling a quadcopter (commiserations on the maiden flight crash) and first timers playing with Arduino.

Highlights for me were:

  • getting hands on a real Lophilo – this development hardware looks extremely professional, flexible, and is not “vapourware”… can’t wait to own one!
  • Swarm Robots meeting – lots of really interesting ideas
  • R2D2 was at the swarm meeting – just too cute not to give a special mention


More inspirations (than you can poke a stick at)!

There are truly so many really interesting projects around, it is getting hard to stop reading, and hard to stop buying and it is becoming a challenge to make time to progress my own projects!

There is a LOT of really interesting activity in the ‘large power’ board space – ie run an operating system and have access to the IO. There has been a lot of work put into the openWRT project and supporting a wide range of off the shelf hardware. Other groups are creating new hardware and development environments, some examples are:
Just announced this week was the Lophilo, it looks to beat the Olinuxino board to market. There is an interesting discussion about the the Olinuxino and rPi (now delivering the boards!) in the DangerousPrototypes forums and of course there is also the DangerousPrototypes Web Platform. Microsoft have already released their open source Gadgeteer and in recent days even Intel announced they are about to release a system in this space.

Other things that caught my attention include:-


Beijing Maker carnival, five dollar micro controller, candle replacement and more!

Beijing Maker Carnival was held last weekend: “makers and hackers from around the world and China came together to show off their projects, do talks and lead workshops. The event was mainly organized by Beijing Maxpace with a lead role by Justin Wang (王盛林) and the help of many students from various Chinese universities in Beijing”. Ricky from Xinchejian attended and presented and has published some very interesting highlights .

A portable, rechargeable, affordable candle replacement has been developed by the Wyld Collective and Foul labs in Canada to help reduce very frequent fires in Bangkok! They gave a presentation at Xinchejian in Shanghai and also attended the Beijing Maker Carnival. It is really inspiring to hear how such a simple LED light can have a major social impact, quite possibly worldwide!

Mitch Altman and his “crew” were in Beijing for the Maker Carnival and also visited Xinchejian in Shanghai a few weeks ago. The inspirations that I gained from there talks were:

  • Mitch has been living of the proceeds of the TV-b-gone for several years! UPDATE – Mitch just blogged his trip report.
  • $5 micro controller MC HCK that is roughly equivalent to an Arduino is being developed by Simon Schubert. This extremely affordable price will make the board very accessible to those who otherwise cannot access these tools and also means the board can be “left in place” as a permanent project, rather than disassembled for the next project! I really like this idea!
  • Yair Reshef showed how extremely simple ideas can have a huge influence: {coin battery + LED + tape} = fun toy to introduce very young kids to electronics! I scored some that were left behind and a couple were still working a week later!

Inspired growth of Protei!

In a previous post, Protei was listed as an inspiration for several reasons, one was the “speed with which the community created”.

Now they need someone to “manage an international team of about 30 scientists, engineers and designers in the early stage of an ocean technology Open Hardware start up and Non-profit organisation. The work would range from business development to team management and from grant writing to assisting in the production of prototypes. You may have the opportunity to travel and install exhibitions, to test prototypes in the water and do PR work. ”

See the Adafruit job board for full details.

The advertising of this position gives an insight into the growth and success of this idea, and all the spin-off projects!

Makesense challenge followup

Aurel commented that you can ” Just sign in for free and enjoy!” the brainstorm on Editstorm.

There are many interesting notes there already, but you need to go there and join in to see them!

Even if you are not interested in this Shanghai challenge, do look at Makesense, or even one of these Inspirations on the wiki, it just might make your day!

Makesense challenges hackers and makers to attend “holdup”!

Makesense want “supercool individuals” to help solve social issues. This was the theme of a presentation given at the Shanghai Xinchejian hackerspace last night. The invitation gives a good overview of what they are about. Listening to their presentation and delving into their web site shows they have a good sense of humour as they talk of themselves as gangsters and about holdups (a holdup is an issue that the gangsters AND community try to solve!). Their web app to connect people and issues is here.

The presentation also showed that while Makesense is very new and growing fast, they have a very mature approach and are already achieving significant results across the world.

It is worth while exploring their site to see what they are up to and to see if any of their activities is something that you want to join in!

They intend to organise a “1-day event for you within 50 days” in Shanghai to commence the activity (holdups?) and their site shows they are very active across the globe!

Inspirational people – part 3

This third article in the “inspirational People” series features two people involved in establishing the first hackerspace in China, Xinchejian.  This space is very active, has a very diverse range of projects and is actively involved with many external organisations in the local community and has a very diverse cross-cultural membership.

David Li

In addition to David’s involvement in founding Xinchejian and creating new projects, which can be seen at the Xinchejian site, David has given a number of interesting conference presentations, for example recently at the China Open Week (Slides and Intro here! (Partially English) ), and at TED Five Star Square.

David was also one of the five contributors to this astounding background piece for a commercial research organisation Innovation spaces of the future: research notes on China’s shanzhai meeting the Makers. This really is a must read for several major reasons!

Ricky Ng-Adam

Ricky plays a key role in helping to run the Xinchejian and is involved in several global initiatives which are mentioned on the Xinchejian site.

One in particular is highlighted here because of the staggering vision that everyday folk can contribute to “The 100 Year Starship™  (100YSS™) study is an effort seeded by DARPA to develop a viable and sustainable model for persistent, long-term, private-sector investment into the myriad of disciplines needed to make long-distance space travel practicable and feasible.”

Ricky is one of the hackerspace contributors through the Hackerspaces Global Space Program.


You are strongly encouraged to keep up to date with the current activities and read more on these two inspiring people at the Xinchejian site and through your own research. You might even get inspired and join in, or enthuse others, or follow your own inspiration! You can even contribute inspirations and other helpful information on the Wiki.

Inspirational people – part 2

Geoff Graham

Geoff creates high quality open source designs that are very well documented and include excellent discussion of the design theory.

He is pioneering open source projects that are published in commercial electronics hobby magazines, an industry which has a long tradition of restricting project copyright, but allowing “build your own”.

He is also an early leader in PIC32 projects with the comprehensive Maximite and the Mini-Maximite projects, which have very active community support (1, 2) to further develop the concepts. Another highly useful project is the Intelligent Fan Controller.

Andrew (bunnie) Huang

Bunnie Huang has been long time inspiration for sharing insights into “real world” design and manufacturing processes in general, as well as a series of products that are currently in production. His posts are insightful and also include diverse topics from leading edge biology to ‘Ponderings – The ravings and rantings of a madman’ of ” and a series of articles on Made in China. He also runs a monthly competition to Name that Ware – ie identify some partly camouflaged hardware.

Bunnie was also one of the five contributors to this astounding background piece for a commercial research organisation Innovation spaces of the future: research notes on China’s shanzhai meeting the Makers. This really is a must read for several major reasons!


The first post in this series also includes a footer with suggestions to help you start creating your own inspiration and turning that into reality and the Wiki is starting to build an array of useful resources to further help.