Getting into the Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit for IOIO

In this post, my first on a father & son journey into IoT, I’ll explore why I chose the Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit for IOIO, my impression after setup and notes on building the first 2 circuit projects.

Sparkfun IOIO-OTG

This approach seemed perfect not only to me, an IoT first-timer, but also looked ideal to support an inventive experience with my 7 year old by my side.

I’ve been on the verge of getting into IoT as a hobby for a while. After spending the past 2 years coding an educational game to accompany a children’s book series my wife and I published, I’ve been shopping for a new technical hobby for a few months.

A couple of weeks ago, I was building Legos with my older son, now 7. Something we built sent us both into an exploratory conversation about “what if we could do this.. and that… or that!”. Almost all of the ideas centered around something portable, electronic and often mechanical, which could be controlled remotely with an app.

Pulling back a bit, IoT is talked about everyday as I work with companies on their platforms and APIs. I’ve always been fascinated by all things connected, and am ever into wearables, devices and consumer electronics. With 30+ connected devices I use or have tested in my home, I suppose my son and I were drawing inspiration from many of these gadgets — like the new Blast Motion Baseball, which sends detailed bat swing and speed details from a small wireless-charged device via Bluetooth to an iOS app.

So I dove into various online resources looking at options. I’ve heard a lot of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, of course, Galileo, and other options. I pinged some friends and got great advice on where to look and where to shop — most notable from longtime friend Stacey Mulcahy (@bitchwhocodes) as well as friend and current colleague, Rob Zazueta (@rzazueta).

What I was looking for I found in the Inventor’s Kits put together and offered by Sparkfun. Although several Maker and Adafruit starter kits looked tempting (and I may delve into them at some point soon), the Inventor Kits from Sparkfun really caught my eye.

My son found it easy adding wires and components to the IOIO-OTG and included mini-breadboard.

Even my son is finding it easy placing cables, resistors and other circuit components. Everything is well-labeled and color-coded.

Packaged in a case, with a comprehensive and colorful manual, organized parts and attractive “circuit projects”, the Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit for IOIO (with IOIO-OTG) looked most suitable. The size and Android-connected capabilities of IOIO seemed to match most of the projects my son and I had come up with over our Lego play. The more I learned about how Sparkfun supported the inventor kit, the more I liked it. Given the amazing code support, which is virtually ready-to-run after a simple code environment setup, this approach seemed perfect not only to me, an IoT first-timer, but also looked ideal to support an inventive experience with my 7 year old by my side.

And through the setup and first 2 circuit projects, it’s been everything I had hoped for:

– The Processing environment is easy to code with and compile. It’s my first time working with it and I’m very impressed.
– The code notes in each project as well as the manual are incredible. Love the tips on how to expand the functionality of each circuit project. The colorful diagrams are easy, and well-balanced to teach you but also encourage modifying the code.
– Cable management is a breeze. Again, my first time working with a breadboard. Even my son is finding it easy placing cables, resistors and other circuit components. Everything is well-labeled and color-coded.

project running

For those who are interested, who have purchased this, looking to get int it, or even work to support this project, here are my notes so far:

– Android setup
— It’s not necessary to install ADT, just the standalone SDK tools
— Best to use the Android SDK files Sparkfun has made available for download.
— When adding Android to Processing, you may need to restart the IDE to see the Android mode available.
— Folder from examples has changed from “ioio” to “sikio”

– Build and deploy
— Encountered major issue with “keytool error: java.io.IOException: Keystore was tampered with, or password was incorrect”. Was able to resolve with this command: /Applications/Processing.app/Contents/PlugIns/jdk1.7.0_55.jdk/Contents/Home/jre/bin/keytool -genkey -alias AndroidDebugKey -keyalg RSA -dname “CN=Android Debug,O=Android,C=US” -validity 10950 -keypass android -keystore .android/debug.keystore -storepass android

– Circuit project 1
— Note the long prong on the Tri-color LED and the orientation of it. It’s not clear enough in the diagram and it will affect the performance of the circuit.

– Other thoughts
— Including a bluetooth dongle in this kit would be worth an extra $10-$25. It would save time from having to switch the USB from the Android device to the IOIO board between installing the APK and testing it with the board.
— I suggest installing all sample circuit apps on the android device first. Then you could build each project without having to disconnect/reconnect. You can always review code as you build/test the circuit, and test changes to the code as needed.

So far, we’re finding this just the right amount of challenge, but entirely fun.
Thoughts, tips and questions are welcome.
Next up we get into motors!

Chuck