Meet Microduino, the Chinese company that is bringing a DIY approach to rapid prototyping for developers and engineers. Founded in 2012 after originally designing its Arduino-compatible boards to monitor server room temperature, Microduino is Ikea-meets-LEGO: Magnetized modules that can be mixed and matched for various applications.
Each module has a function- e.g. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS. Snap together the necessary modules to create working prototypes. No messy wiring, dangerous soldering or complex coding. Microduino’s value lies in removing the barrier to entry to enable makers to take their ideas further through the prototype stage and beyond. It’s DIY made (even more) simple.
Potential products range from gesture-controlled music boxes to LED lights, drones, robots, GPS trackers and 3D printers. Microduino's 2013 Kickstarter campaign leveraged the necessary initial traction with its intuitive, open-source approach to refine and apply its designs across a variety of key sectors, including technology, education and environment.
Beyond user-friendly appeal, the modules are versatile, and they scale across a range of systems. The platform can be compatible with a variety of microprocessors and controllers (Arduino UNO, ARM Cortex, Atmel AVR/ATMega MCU etc.). A variety of Microduino systems features ARM processors:
- Microduino-Core STM32 features an ARM development board with STM32F103CBT6 chip built in.
- MicroWrt HPin44 series is based on ARM Cortex-A7 and Cortex-A9.
- MicroPi HPin88 series uses dual-core, quad-core and eight-core SoC.
- Microduino has developed HiSilicon SoC Hi3517 based on ARM Cortex-A7 and Xilinx Zynq series FPGA board with an ARM core integrated.
- The company is working with NXP for LPC824 series and MKS22 series that will be used in the NXP Freescale Cup, an intelligent-car race in China.
Microduino’s initiatives have not gone unnoticed by the media. TIME called out Microduino in the article “These 5 Kits can Teach Kids about Computers and Coding.” And the company was featured in “The 5 Best Things from World Maker Faire 2015,” by EE Journal.
Not only is this approach to technology fantastic for makers, it’s superb for education. This Lego-esque design makes this accessible to individuals of different ages, skillsets and backgrounds.
“Never underestimate a student’s creativity; they just need something to inspire it” – Bin Feng, Co-founder and CEO of Microduino
Microduino also has embedded its technology in education to encourage innovation within the younger generation--similar to ARM’s collaboration with BBC on the micro:bit initiative. It is working with Maker Space to design and mass-produce a low cost package for younger school children. Microduino has established its two-credit course in superkit education at Tsinghua University. It has also participated in Beijing International Design Week where students were able to design and build a variety of different products themselves using Microduino kits.
“We are eager to see its contributions to STEM/STEAM education in the coming years,” said Dominic Pajak (dominicpajak), ARM marketing director. “Regardless of socioeconomic background, every young mind will be stimulated and inspired to test and believe in his or her own imagination, potentially training up the next generation of engineers and innovators.”
Microduino reached new heights in another application arena. The company’s 2015 environmental initiative was a joint effort with International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP) to help solve the problem of declining vulture populations in South Asia. Vultures are key to a healthy ecosystem: They dispose of waste and help prevent the spread of disease. Conservationists aimed to monitor and collect nest data (temperature, rotation, humidity) during incubation, to help boost vulture populations in captivity. ICBP’s initial attempts used a bulky system, which mother vultures steered clear of. So ICBP approached Microduino with a challenge: Create an artificial egg to mimic a real vulture egg. The solution is the IoT-enabled system Eggduino, a sensor package containing a system of stackable Arduino-compatible microcontrollers and modules. Disguised as a vulture egg, the sensor package was able to fly under the radar in the nest. Data captured by the egg is relayed from the node to the cloud for analysis, all while giving Mother Nature a helping hand.
Now looking to capitalize on its successful venture into IoT, Microduino is positioning its technology for further expansion into the IoT arena in the education and toy markets.
Ultimately, Microduino’s vision is to use modular IoT to solve the needs of all types of IoT systems. This is significant because enabling rapid DIY prototyping broadens technology’s reach by applying it to find solutions to diverse global initiatives. Whether it is a conservation mission to save the vultures or a biomedical scientist’s quest to create 3D printed human organs, the usefulness of this technology applies across a variety of arenas. Microduino not only places the building blocks for invention in its user’s hands, but it also empowers makers with a vision to create their own solutions to their needs.
“It’s amazing how easily Microduino can turn your ideas into reality” – Bin Feng