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Auf Wiedersehen

I’ve been lead programmer for the Fritzing application for 5 1/2 years and sole programmer for most of the last four. In that time I’ve closed more than a thousand issues; composed a couple thousand forum replies; pushed nearly 5000 commits; and cranked out more than 50 releases.

One can only run full-tilt for so long; it’s time for me to take a sabbatical. Before I go, I’d like to thank Reto and André for originating the project; Reto (and the government of Brandenburg) for the grants that gave the project such a strong start; and my past and present colleagues for putting so much of themselves into the work–the list is too long to display them all.

Finally, I’d like to thank the everyone in the Fritzing community for your enthusiastic (and early) adoption of our continual work-in-progress, and for your great patience with what has effectively been a distributed QA software releasing methodology. If I could, I’d buy you all a beer.

With warm regards from chilly Berlin,

– jc


0.8.6 schematics

We just released Fritzing 0.8.6. Aside from some bug fixes and a few new features,  it mostly addresses schematic view. To display the changes, here are  two images of the stepper motor example.  The first is from 0.8.5 and the second is from 0.8.6. They are both zoomed to 100%.


The most obvious change is that the grid size has gone from 7.5 mm to 0.1 inches. This will save some trees when you print. It also means we are using the same grid across all three views. But more important than the particular grid size is that all parts that ship with Fritzing now conform to it. This means that schematic diagrams will look much neater. In the past, there were a couple of competing standards (plus a few oddballs), so schematic diagrams tended to be pretty ragged.

In addition we have revised a number of schematic part images to bring them more in line with general usage.

So what happens if you load an existing sketch into 0.8.6? If you didn’t draw any wires in schematic view, Fritzing assumes you are not particularly invested in the current state of that view, and will use the new standard. But if there are schematic wires, Fritzing will give you a choice: open the sketch read-only and see the original schematic, or convert to the new standard.

The conversion process will change parts, but beyond some adjustment for the new part sizes, the wires will not be rerouted. So you will probably have some straightening out to do. Custom schematic images are not converted. I would suggest you use the Parts Editor to give the custom part a new schematic image. To assist you with this, if you switch to schematic view in the Parts Editor, under the File menu there is a Convert schematic to 0.1 grid option. This option will generate a standard rectangle-form schematic based on the existing part.

We hope you like the newly cleaned view.











We wish you all the best!

Daniel and Amin Daniel and Amin at the Makerfaire Hannover

These days feel strange here in the Fritzing land. On the one hand, there is so much positive feedback about our project, services and products, on the other hand, Daniel and Amin left the Fritzing team.

Daniel, who was working several month very hard to clean up our Django web landscape, left in autumn to join another project. By this time he was almost done and it created the base for our new and improved website – yes, the front end is still work in progress, but the backend is now nice and shiny.

With Amin I worked together a lot. We had much fun, drank, cooked and traveled. (EDIT: Sorry for the funny misspelling 😀 )

He was my most important sparring partner in creating the Fritzing Creator Kit. It was a very good time and I already miss him. He is now up to work again in this former area, the solar technology.

We wish you guys all the best on your way and are looking forward to see you again, soon.

How the Creator Kit saved me from the electronics store

Confession – I hate huge electronics stores. You can find everything there, but there’s one big catch: the people at these kinds of stores are usually unhelpful and mean.* On my first electronics store adventure I didn’t have a perfectly detailed list of what I needed and it ended something like this: I almost cried,** left in a rage, and questioned my Arduino abilities.

When I signed up to attend Open Tech School’s Physical Computing Club 1.0 I had instant nightmares of the electronics store. The computing club session was about audio and Open Tech School hosted it at the FabLab in Berlin. I thought that I needed all new components and imagined myself walking through each unmarked aisle staring – eyes glazed – at thousands of not-quite-right tiny electronics.

Open Tech School's Physical Computing Club

Open Tech School’s Physical Computing Club

Instead of facing fear head-on, I ignored the store and woke up on Sunday with no new parts in my toolkit. Slightly worried, I blindly chucked my Fritzing Creator Kit and computer in my bag and headed off toward the meetup.

At FabLab I shyly sat down and started setting up my work area. Arduino mounting board – check. Instruction book – check. Wire components – check. Resistors – check.

I flipped through the Creator Kit book for ‘audio’ and found an activity within a minute. I felt immense victory:

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 16.10.54

I imagined all the parts that I didn’t have and an electronics expert patronizingly waving an “I told you so” finger at me. I persevered and started assembling the project.

To my surprise, all the supplies were in the kit. All of them!


I was ready to go. With the book in my lap, the Fritzing sketch on my screen, I came up with this set-up in about 10 minutes:

Two potentiometers and a Piezo

10 minutes!

Then the fun part began. I used the potentiometers to alter the tone of the sound and the frequency that the tone played. The result was quick and rewarding:

Me as a professional DJ

Me as a professional DJ

With the Creator Kit, I was able to head to a meetup without any preparation and jump into the topic at hand. From there I could experiment and play with other parts of the kit. Huge electronics stores are still intimidating and frustrating, but the Creator Kit helped me jump into a hackday without any extra preparation.

*Mad props to the nice old man who always smiles and is patient with me. There is good in the world, after all.

**Johanna actually cried.

You can learn more about Open Tech School and Physical Computing Club at and follow them on Twitter at @PhysCompClub and @OTS_BLN

How can your kids learn with Arduino?

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve done some pretty difficult things, like military service.” – Stefan, Fritzing Coordinator, on working with kids.

When you are little, you don’t want to wait. You want to cut up some paper and glue it to the moon. You want to get your hands *dirty*. You want to (with a little assistance, maybe) make a light blink, attach it to a CO2 sensor, put it inside a balloon full of helium, and send it into the sky. That way you can figure out how much CO2 those big cars are coughing out.

I had the chance to do some heavy learning over the weekend as a mentor for children’s workshops, so I saw kids’ impatience firsthand. Hackidemia organized the workshops during the Singularity University EU Summit in Budapest, with the goal of bringing the possibilities of complex technology to children. The Creator Kit has a similar goal, to bring Arduino and electronics to children. The topics are tough, though!

My main takeaway was that teaching kids can be more complex than the technology. Here I outline some of my issues and provide some tips that you can use while using the Creator Kit with your family.

Using the Creator Kit with Your Kids

During the Air Pollution Workshop, I saw that one of the main barriers to teaching youth was keeping their attention. If you asked me to explain something, chances were that I’d quickly slip into my natural tendency toward dry, theoretical, and factual information (in lots of detail). Long story short: that didn’t work so well with 10 year olds. I got this look:


And I noticed over at the next table the mentor Clément got these looks:


What was he doing differently? What can you do differently when you play with children and the Creator Kit?

2 things mainly: metaphors and questions.

Explain via Metaphors

So you want to get the idea of an Arduino across. Ok, how about forgetting about the pins for the time being, and instead making a diagram like this. Extra kudos if you make the diagram on the spot and say a couple of words about each piece along the way.





Engage via Questions

Imagine you are at a cocktail party. To learn about another guest, you probably wouldn’t say, “Tell me everything about you, ordered by year, and please do not stop talking for at least 45 minutes. I do not want the chance to add anything, discuss anything, or ask you any questions.” Nope – instead you would probably ask a series of questions, which lead you to an enjoyable exchange where the person felt like they could express themselves.

Let’s apply this to children. Put the tools in their hands and ask them questions about it. Let them ask you questions. When they answer your questions about the Creator Kit, they are learning by doing and answering.

Do you think there is more CO2 in the air at street level or at the top of a building?

If you make it to Mars, what will you have to take with you from Earth?

Oh, so you say you want to be a lawyer when you grow up? Well, ever consider being a lawyer for robots?

With the Creator Kit, you might use it with your children. You should use it with your children. Use these tips! Engage them in the kit, play with the content, and get creative. The Creator Kit is a perfect jumping off point, so now it’s your turn to take it to the next level and keep them engaged.


We have heard a lot about synthetic 3D printers for home use – now we are entering the home use metal age! A US startup wants to make metal printing available at a small cost and is presenting its project on Indiegogo, where you can get the  MiniMetalMaker already from 500 $ on.

The MiniMetalMaker prints 3D objects from digital files in metal clay, such as copper, bronze, steel, silver and gold but also ceramic and porcelain clays.

For now, the printable size is still quite small compared to the synthetic 3D printers:  the object can have a size of max 6 cm x 6 cm x 6 cm. The extrusion trace is around 0.5mm. Nevertheless the team around founder David Hartkop states on their Indiegogo project page that with the monies raised this will be improved. This shouldn’t be a problem now as their campaign has currently raised already more than 15.000 $, which has been 1.5x their actual goal.


Light up your flat with Charles’ planetary gear system

Today, we got a visitor in the Fritzing Lab: Our neighbour, Charles Oleg, came by to show us his new creation. Charles is working on a project to bring more light into his flat by using a rotating mirror system.


This system includes, besides two mirrors to reflect the sunlight, also some planetary gears driven by a 1 to 10 Watt motor. The system knows its position  via GPS signal as well as the current position of the sun and can move accordingly.

Charles showed us two of his planetary gear prototypes: one was laser-cutted and one was 3D-printed out of PLA.


He told us that those kinds of systems that track the position of the sun and move corresponding to it to receive as much sunlight as possible are currently used in solar parks  as well as in telescopes. These are large projects with huge gear-wheels, whereas Charles aims at making his lighting system affordable and open source – so that everybody can use it.

Charles scripted the gear-wheels in python and has uploaded it on GitHub. So if you want to build your own solar light system, check out his blog or his GitHub folder.


Here you can find some more pictures of the gear-wheels.