Adafruit Learning System Weekly Update: Music Maker Edition

This week on the Adafruit Learning System, we saw a lot of guides getting updates. We also published a bunch of really great new guides. Learn how to get CircuitPython on a Raspberry Pi without an OS, check the status of the James Webb Telescope on your MagTag, build a Navi10 MacroPad, 3D print a QT Py snap fit case, and so much more!

Favorite New Guide

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This week my favorite new guide shows you how to get the latest updates from the James Webb space telescope and display them on your MagTag

Use your MagTag to show the current status of the James Webb telescope. NASA publishes this information to this official status page.

This GitHub project provides a server application that can parse the status page and return the current data as JSON data. We will fetch the data updates from this server so that it’s in an easy format for CircuitPython to consume.

This project will fetch the data and display it on the E-Ink screen using displayio Labels then put the MagTag into deep sleep mode to conserve the battery. It will awaken to refresh the data once per hour, or once per day. Use the reset button any time to immediately refresh it.

Making Sweet Music

This week Liz Clark published a new guide showing us how to make a neat four channel audio passive stereo mixer. This got me to go down the rabbit hole of music related guides on the Learning System. Turns out there are quite a lot of them. Here are some of my favorites:

The PianoGlove

Convert color to music with a wave of your finger

The PianoGlove uses a TCS34725 to sense colors, a NeoPixel LED to ‘play’ those colors back visually, a VS1053 Codec board to play them back aurally, and a Flora wearable microcontroller to handle all the conversion & communication between them.

Trellis M4 Expressive MIDI Controller

You can play music with the Trellis M4 by turning it into a great input device for synthesizers! It can send standard MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) note data over USB MIDI to a software synth on your computer, laptop, (including web browser based synths!), or mobile device.

Using the built-in accelerometer (thanks to Analog Devices for the ADXL343!), we can also send control change (CC) data, such as mod wheel, and filter cutoff values, and even pitch bend settings just by tilting the Trellis M4!

Circuit Playground PZ-1: Pizza Box DJ Controller

Make a DJ controller from conductive paint, cardboard, and a Circuit Playground!

DJ software is fun to use — who doesn’t like to get the crowd bumping? — but controlling it from a laptop keyboard isn’t. So, DJ software is often controlled with a peripheral device that has buttons, knobs, sliders, and turntables for a more natural feel. But you don’t need to invest in one, you can build your own: the Circuit Playground PZ-1!

MIDI Solenoid Drummer

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Use Crickit to build an automated percussive instrument.

To send MIDI to the drummer from your computer’s USB port, you’ll need a MIDI-capable music application such as Garageband, Reaper, or Ableton Live. You can use a MIDI keyboard with your music app to control the the drums, but it’s more fun to compose sequences and play them back over MIDI. Fast, complex sequences actually sound pretty impressive on this little kit.

Favorite New Product

Adafruit ESP32-S2 TFT Feather powered on by a USB- C power source displaying the product tittle in a red, yellow, green, white and blue.

Adafruit ESP32-S2 TFT Feather: Display your IoT in full color!

We’ve got a new machine here at Adafruit – it can uncover your deepest desires. Don’t believe me? I’ll turn it on right now to prove it to you! What, you want unlimited mozzarella sticks? Ok, well, that’s not something we can provide. But we can provide your second-deepest desire: an ESP32-S2 Feather board with a built in IPS TFT color display.

It’s got all the gooeyness of a mozzarella stick features of a Feather main board, the comforting warmth of an ESP32-S2 WiFi microcontroller, and the crispness of a 240×135 pixel color TFT display. All that and it will even plug in nicely into a breadboard, terminal block wing, or Feather Doubler, or even just stack on top of another ‘Wing.

This Feather comes with native USB and 4 MB flash + 2 MB of PSRAM, so it is perfect for use with CircuitPython or Arduino with low-cost WiFi. Native USB means it can act like a keyboard or a disk drive. WiFi means it’s awesome for IoT projects. And Feather means it works with the large community of FeatherWings for expandability.

ALS Deep Cut

With so many guides on the Adafruit Learning System, some amazing guides of years past get buried and lost. ALS Deep Cuts brings these guides back up to the surface. This week’s guide is from back in 2017.

Control room lighting & sound with the beat of your heart

Technology connects us to the outer world, but have we lost touch with our inner selves? Let’s attempt to remedy this modern condition by controlling room lighting & sound with the beating of your own heart.  Hey – it’s worth a shot.

This project uses a Pulse Sensor Amped, Feather M0, MusicMaker FeatherWing, RGB LED strips, and power MOSFETs to turn any room into a thumping, flashing pulse room.  For a more refined version of this idea in a gallery setting, see Sean Montgomery’s excellent Emergence installation.


Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

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CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers – CircuitPython.org


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