Welcome to the MAKERbuino build guide. In these 6 chapters, we’ll help you make a fully functional retro gaming device out of a bunch of component’s you’ve received in your MAKERbuino package.
Our estimation is that an 11-year-old kid should be able to assemble the MAKERbuino with a tiny bit of help from an adult. Therefore, the estimated age group is 11+.
Estimated build time: 4 hours 30 minutes. Build time varies and depends on the skills of a user.
MAKERbuino was made with the purpose of bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to electronics rookies in a fun and interesting way.
Despite that, it is not the simplest kit out there and if you’ve never soldered before, you should think about doing some preparatory practice or watching a couple of how-to-solder tutorials before you get down to business.
Skills That Will Ease the Process of Assembling the MAKERbuino:
- Basic soldering experience (some preparatory experience)
- Ability to recognize the basic electronic components
If you do not have these skills, don’t worry – you’re a fast learner and you’ll learn them in no-time.
What You’ll Learn With the MAKERbuino
MAKERbuino’s main goal is to educate and motivate you to learn something new or brush the skills you already have.
In the process of making the MAKERbuino you’ll learn:
- How to solder
- What are the basic electronic components and what is their function
- How can electronic components be connected and why
- What are microcontrollers and some basics of digital electronics
What will you learn if you decide to code your own software for the MAKERbuino and expand it’s hardware by connecting modules and components as expansions:
- How to program a microcontroller in C/C++
- how a simple video game works
- how to interface a microcontroller with external peripherals
What’s in the box?
You’ve got your MAKERbuino box, awesome! Thank you for supporting our project!
First of all, follow the list of included components and the text below and make sure that you have all the required components laid out on your table and ready for soldering.
If something from the list is missing, please tell us via [email protected]. Your MAKERbuino was hand packed with love in Croatia by us (humans), and humans make mistakes, so everything’s possible.
List of components
Here you can find a table of your kit’s content.
The content of your kit may vary depending on the type you’ve bought (i.e. the kit with tools comes with required tools and the inventor’s pack has some extra inventor’s components included).
If you do not know what every single one of these components looks like, please don’t worry. We’ll cover every component and its purpose in the following section after the table of content.
Detailed description of the components
PCB stands for printed circuit board.
Basically, this is a board with some copper traces and some other components like protective paint and insulating material.
Copper layers on the board form traces that connect various MAKERbuino’s electronic components (e.g. they connect the microcontroller to the screen) so that they can work together as an electronic device.
This is an equivalent to your PC’s motherboard.
Laser Cut Acrylic Casing
MAKERbuino’s circuitry is protected by a casing made out of laser cut plastic (they’re made on a CNC laser cutting machine).
The casing consists of 3 pieces (see the picture). Your MAKERbuino’s casing is bluish because of the protective peeling, which you’re going to take off later. It’s actually crystal clear beneath. We’ve painted the board red in the picture for better visibility.
One piece is used to protect the front (top) side of your MAKERbuino device and the other two pieces protect MAKERbuino’s back.
Everything is stacked one on another using nuts, bolts and plastic spacers. This style of casings is called “the sandwich design”.
Nuts, bolts, spacers
These basic mechanical components are needed for fixating the screen and the casing to the circuit board.
M3 or M2 in the name of the screws indicates that their shaft’s diameter is 3 mm or 2 mm accordingly.
The rechargeable battery serves as MAKERbuino’s main power supply.
650mAh is more than enough for several hours of intense gaming and powering all sorts of power-hungry expansion modules (like GPS receivers, motors, wifi modules, etc.).
In case you didn’t know, “Li-Po” in the name of the battery indicates its structure and what materials it uses to store electrical energy (Li-Po stands for Lithium Polymer).
It comes with the male JST power connector (the white connector at the end of the red-black cable) that is then connected to the female JST connector soldered directly to the board.
Electronics 101: the positive pole of any electrical power source (+) is usually marked with a red wire. The negative pole of any electrical power source (-) is usually marked with a black wire (in some cases green and brown color is used too).
Female JST connector
This connector is pre-soldered to MAKERbuino’s PCB and is used for connecting the Li-Po battery to the circuit.
These white JST connectors are different from regular connectors in a way that they are anti-reverse. In other words, you cannot swap polarity while connecting the battery. This is important because reverse polarity can damage MAKERbuino’s charging circuit.
Important: the “sandwich”
Some of the above components (PCB, casing, some nuts and bolts, female battery connector, Li-Po battery) might come packed in this sandwich-like form displayed on the picture.
The reason for sending you those components like that is a regulation that doesn’t allow us to send the Li-Po batteries via airmail if they are not embedded in some kind of a “device”.
Before assembling the MAKERbuino, you will have to unscrew the sandwich and release the PCB so that you can solder the components on it.
Electronics 101: never solder or modify a device that is “alive”. In other words, always unplug the battery or some other power supply from the device’s PCB, otherwise, you might make a short circuit with your soldering iron or screwdriver and damage the electronic components.
RS232 Serial UART adapter & the corresponding 6 pin cable
This red Serial adapter board is connected to MAKERbuino’s serial port (top left black female angle connector).
It allows you to program your MAKERbuino directly from your computer and send all sorts of useful data from the computer to the MAKERbuino and vice versa.
The board is connected to the MAKERbuino with a 6-pin rainbow female to male cable.
You won’t need these components in the basic assembly so you can put the aside for now.
SD card (microSD + SD adapter)
The included SD card is used for storing games, programs and other useful data on it (game graphics, music etc.).
Thanks to this card, you can load multiple games on your MAKERbuino.
It comes preloaded with lots of fun games downloaded from the games gallery so that you can try it out right after you assemble it.
You might be wondering why the card’s capacity is only 128 MB. This is an 8-bit gameboy-like gaming device and programs and games for it are approximately 30 kB. Thus,128 MB of space will be more than sufficient for storing plenty of games, programs and useful info.
This neat little speaker fits at the back side of the device, it has a special place in the back of the casing.
It plays a crucial role in producing all the beeps, boops and crazy chiptunes you’ll compose in your very own games.
Power: 0.5W, Impedance: 8Ω, Body dimensions: Ø28 x 4.7mm
Note: speaker’s photos are made by www.tme.eu
ATmega328p-pu microcontroller + 28-pin socket
The ATmega microcomputer (aka. microcontroller) is the brain of the device.
It has CPU, RAM memory, flash memory and almost all parts needed for executing programs and games and doing all the smart work.
Basically, this is a computer in a chip. ATmega328’s astonishing 2kB of RAM and an 8-bit CPU at 16MHz of frequency will bring out the nostalgia and provide you with the authentic old school retro experience.
It comes with a dedicated 28 pin socket for easy microcomputer replacement.
Nokia 5110 LCD screen
The screen module is an LCD screen on a breakout PCB.
LCD stands for liquid crystal display. This is a screen that is controlled by the main ATmega microcomputer.
It’s a graphical display so you can manipulate every pixel’s color with a program in the microcomputer.
The complete module is stacked on the main MAKERbuino PCB.
The screen has some magnificent features like high resolution (84×48 pixels monochrome), adjustable LED backlight and great visibility in direct sunlight (the display works in the same way as your calculator’s display – can be viewed without the backlight if there is enough light in the room).
TP4056 Li-Po Battery Charger Board
This module is used for charging the rechargeable Li-Po battery.
It’s actually a separate PCB that is stacked and soldered on the main MAKERbuino board.
The most important part of the module is the TP4056 charger integrated circuit (the little black chip on the board).
It’s regulating voltage and current of electricity inputted by the USB port and feeding it to the Li-Po battery.
It has a micro USB port so that you charge your MAKERbuino with the most common mobile phone charging cable.
3.3V Voltage Regulator (MCP1702-3302ET)
This 3-leaded component regulates the voltage from the Li-Po battery to stable 3.3V. We need to do that because the battery’s 3.7V of electricity is just too much for MAKERbuino’s circuitry and would fry the SD card.
Most people say, hey this is a transistor… no, this is not a transistor.
This particular shape of an electronic component is called the TO-92 package and it looks the same as the 2n2222 transistor listed below (this transistor’s creators decided to use the same package).
The only difference between the 2n2222 transistor and this voltage regulator is the text written on the component.
The regulator should have MCP1702-3302ET written on its surface, whilst the transistor will have 2N2222 written on its back. Use a magnifier if needed and check carefully if you have the right component.
When soldering the regulator, be extra cautious not to accidentally swap it with the transistor.
2n2222 General Purpose NPN Transistor
The general purpose transistor is used in the part of the MAKERbuino dedicated to producing sound.
The transistor serves as an amplifier that drives the console’s speaker.
As said when describing the regulator above, don’t let the shape of this component trick you, this is not a regulator (mind the tiny “2N2222” or “KSP 2222A – 708” written on it!).
3.5mm headphone connector socket
This is a standard headphone connector socket used on most devices’ audio output channels. You can connect your regular headphones to this connector to hear all the amazing bleeps and bloops your MAKERbuino synthesizes.
Inside this metallic package is a crystal used in MAKERbuino’s microcomputer’s oscillator circuit.
In other words, MAKERbuino’s neat 16MHz of CPU clock is possible thanks to this component.
Standard digital clocks and watches work on the same principle.
IMPORTANT: Text marking on the crystal may vary and sometimes look like this: “16B000”
There are three different types of capacitors in your MAKERbuino kit
100uF Electrolytic Capacitors (3 pcs)
These look like small black barrels with two leads. They’re used for filtrating noise and ensuring that MAKERbuino’s circuitry is powered with clean and stable electrical current. These capacitors should have 100uF written on their surface. Unlike other capacitors in the kit, these are polarized.
Electronics 101: only electrolytic capacitors are polarized and have significantly higher capacity compared to other capacitors.
22pF ceramic capacitors (2 pcs)
These capacitors are used as a part of the 16MHz oscillating circuit along with the previously listed crystal. They look similar to the 100nF capacitors so don’t let that trick you. Recognize them by number 22 (symbolizing that they have the capacity of 22pF) written on their surface.
Various pin headers and connectors
All these pins and headers are used for connecting various modules, expansions, and programmers to your MAKERbuino board. There are four types of connectors included in the MAKERbuino kit:
Resistors are standard passive two-lead electronic components that implement electrical resistance as a circuit element.
The resistors are used in MAKERbuino for all sorts of important tasks like adjusting signal levels and regulating current flow.
Every resistor’s resistance is measured in ohms.
You can determine the resistance of a resistor by using color code – reading a set of colored rings on the resistor.
There are four types of resistors used in the MAKERbuino kit:
- 100 ohm resistor x1
This one is used when outputting sound to MAKERbuino’s headphone jack.
Color code: brown, black, brown, golden
(*in some versions of the MAKERbuino kit, these resistors might be labeled like this: brown, black, black, black, brown or golden)
- 2.2k ohm resistor x1
This one is important for driving the transistor in the MAKERbuino’s sound circuit.
Color code: red, red, red, golden
- 4.7k ohm resistor x2
These resistors are used as pull up resistors on i2c lines (multiplayer and expansion ports).
Color code: yellow, purple, red, golden
- 10k ohm resistor x2
These are important for driving the LCD screen and connecting the microcontroller to the serial UART programmer (for connecting the MAKERbuino to your computer).
Color code: brown, black, black, red, golden
Electronics 101: reading resistor’s color code is quite easy, you just have to follow a color code table like this one over here.
Alternatively, you can also use a resistor color code calculator tool like this one: color code calculator.
Every pro maker has to know this resistor table by heart, and it’s quite easy using this interesting technique from resistorguide.com – you just have to remember this sentence: Bad Beer Rots Our Young Guts But Vodka Goes Well Get Some Now!