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Tiny $1 STEM-oriented hacker board hits Indiegogo

May 13, 2016 — by Rick Lehrbaum — 6,452 views

Like the tiny BBC Micro:bit board, the “One Dollar Board” is aimed at introducing kids to computer programming and the Internet of Things at a young age.

A team of Brazilian developers has just launched a “One Dollar Board” Indiegogo campaign aimed at funding a tiny, open source microcontroller board so simple and inexpensive that it can be distributed as standard teaching materials to kids in schools the world over.

Meet the One Dollar Board
(click images to enlarge)

BBC Micro:bit

Although the project will be released under a Creative Commons license, no schematics and BOM details are available yet. However, assuming the board photo shown on the project’s Indiegogo page is of an actual prototype, the tiny board appears contain a single 8-pin microcontroller chip, along with a handful of passive components, making it considerably simpler and lower-cost than the similarly STEM-oriented and open-sourced BBC Micro:bit hacker board.

One Dollar Board in the hands of its target demographic, and slipping into someone’s pocket
(click images to enlarge)

Few technical details are divulged on the Indiegogo page, beyond these:
  • 8-bit CPU (see likely details below)
  • Memory — RAM unspecified; 8KB flash, expandable to 256KB
  • 6x GPIO lines
  • 1x USB port
  • 2x LEDs
  • 1x reset button
  • Expansion — “spaces” for addition of ESP8266 WiFi, 24C256 RAM, and TI L293 chips
  • Power — 5VDC (via USB connector)
  • 4x mounting holes, “compatible with Arduíno UNO or similar”
  • Dimensions — 86 x 54mm

Based on comments on the project’s Indiegogo page, it seems likely that the board’s CPU is one of Atmel’s low-cost TinyAVR microcontrollers, which are available in 8-pin packages that resemble that seen on the board’s photos. For example, the ATtiny85 integrates an 8-bit RISC core, 8KB flash, 512B EEPROM, 512B SRAM, 6 GPIO, 2x 8-bit timer/counters, 4-channel 10-bit A/D, and a watchdog timer. The chip’s maximum CPU clock rate is 20MHz, and it’s capable of up to 1MIPS/MHz performance, according to Atmel’s product page. Atmel’s site shows pricing of around $0.77 per unit at 1K quantities, depending on the model.

Block diagram of the One Dollar Board’s possible Atmel AVR ATtiny85 MCU
(click images to enlarge)

The One Board Computer’s PCB is fabricated in a manner that lets its user snap off two corners to produce a super-low-cost USB Type A plug at one end of the board, as shown below.

Preparing the One Dollar Board’s super-low-cost USB connector
(click images to enlarge)

The board comes with a quick start guide that explains “how to begin to study and to perform the first exercise, avoiding the endless internet searches to get to the first Blink LED.”.

Robot project based on the One Dollar Board
(click image to enlarge)

For the One Dollar Board’s programming interface, the board’s developers have tapped the popular Arduino IDE, since it is “license free software and supported by a large community,” says the project.

One Dollar Project campaign video

Further information

For more information and background on the One Dollar Board project, and to support its ambitious campaign, head over to the project’s Indiegogo page. Contributions to the project start at — you guessed it! — one dollar (USD), plus shipping and import duties (they recommend buying in quantity, to reduce the per-unit overhead).

Meet the One Dollar Board core team
(click image to enlarge)

The project also has a page on Facebook, as well as an embryonic project website. Those interested in assisting the project are invited to reach out to the team at onedollaboard[at]centromaker[dot]com.

(Many thanks to Brazilian blogger, Juliano Farias for bringing this cool project to our attention!)

(advertise here)


3 responses to “Tiny $1 STEM-oriented hacker board hits Indiegogo”

  1. Karl says:

    May be wrong but unfortunately sounds like vaporware – I went to the indiegogo, pics are never right to see build and the wording is….passable. If BOM is disclosed, I might order 10 but right now be like handing money to the IMF

  2. linagee says:

    So, a slightly cheaper Digispark? It’s a $1.41 board (from China) that has a 5V regulator and the ATtiny85 the $1 board is likely using:

    Also: Very unlikely these are actually using an ATtiny85, likely using a cheaper clone.

    Also2: The $1 board may be charging more than $0.41 for shipping. I think I’ll grab some of the Digisparks to play around with. 🙂 (Also, it’s a smaller board.)

  3. Max says:

    Sounds more like a marketing exercise than a tech one. That board is ten times the size it needs to be for no good reason other than more advertising real-estate. Also., I’m all for cheap dev boards but there is such a thing as too simplistic – there’s a reason even Arduino LLC stays away from ATTinys. Not to mention one still needs a PC to use any of these…

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