HackerBox 64 has been sitting on my bench for a month or two, waiting to be opened. Now that I’m getting caught up with other projects, I finally had a chance to play with the kit. It’s a pretty cool kit for novices in the electronics/maker hobby area. This particular kit has an open-source digital oscilloscope and function generator to assemble. In this post, I will briefly go over what is in HackerBox 64 and my completed projects.
A look at the contents
The main stars of HackerBox 64 are the oscilloscope and function generator to be assembled. There will be more on these later in this post. Both kits are great for working on solder skills and learning basic electronics.
The kit also includes some extra electronic components, jumper wires, and a half-size breadboard. These can be used to experiment with using the oscilloscope and function generator. Some of those components can also be used to create an option way to power the o-scope.
Included in the kit are two handy little boards. First is the CH340 USB to Serial Module. The CH340 can be used to program the STM32 ARM chip that drives the o-scope. Beyond this kit, this is a handy little board to have when you need to connect a microcontroller to a computer where USB has not been offered on the board.
The other board in the kit is an MT3608 DC-DC Power Boost Module. Anyone can use this small buck converter to power the o-scope. Or someone can use it in future projects. You can never have too many buck converters lying around!
Finally, the kit includes a sticker, a pin, and a handy reference card. The reference cards are one of my favorite parts of this kit. They usually have helpful pinouts for microcontrollers.
The DSO138 Oscilloscope is an open-source design initially intended to be used for training purposes. Powering the logic behind this scope is the ARM Cortex-M3 ARM processor (STM32F103C8). This is a perfect project for anyone that wants to learn more about electronics. Plus, anyone can use this handy little scope for testing issues with microcontrollers. True, it is nowhere near as accurate or easy to use as a true o-scope. But it costs a fraction of the price and is a good investment for a hobbyist.
Assembly of the scope was reasonably straightforward by following the HackerBox 64 instructable. The only change I made during this build was to short out JP5. I did that due to assembling a DSO138 kit in the past. On that one, I had intermittent problems with the display if I did not short that jumper.
I also opted not to use the option to power the board via USB. Instead, I used the barrel jack and powered it using 12VDC from my benchtop power supply.
Here is a look at the finished o-scope.
The picture above shows me testing and calibrating the scope. A YouTube Video by Tinkering With Terrius explains how to use and calibrate the scope. Everything worked as expected. I somehow made it through all that soldering without a cold joint! That is always an accomplishment when you have shaky hands!
ICL8038 Function Generator Kit
The ICL8038 function generator kit is a handy little kit that someone can use to create waveform outputs. A jumper is used to switch between five frequency bands. Additionally, someone using the board can use another jumper to change the output between square, triangle, and sinusoidal signals.
This is a quick little kit to solder up. Here is a look at the completed board.
The only thing about the kit is that I wish it were labeled in English. But that isn’t huge since there are plenty of diagrams out there about using this board.
3D Printed case and final look at both boards
I used Fusion360 to create simple back covers for the o-scope and sig gen. I printed both back covers using Yellow PLA+ from GST3D. I printed them with a layer height of .2mm and a speed of 60mms.
Here are the links to download the STL files from Thangs:
DSO138 Oscilloscope Back Cover – I used four M3x6 screws to mount the board to the back cover.
ICL8038 Function Generator Kit Back Cover – I used four M3x4 screws to mount the board to the back cover.
Here is a look at the finished project.
As you can see above, I’m using a splitter to power both board from my benchtop power supply. I am supplying 12VDC. This is the only voltage that is acceptable for both boards. I would recommend any novice electronic hobbyist to set up both devices and play around with settings. There are tons of Instructables, blogs, and YouTube videos showing how to use this hardware. Having a good basic knowledge of o-scopes and sig gens will give a good foundation for troubleshooting circuit issues in the future.
Above average kit
I would say this probably better than the average kit from HackerBox. Understanding how o-scopes and sig gens work is invaluable for anyone working with electronics. Plus, this kit provided plenty of soldering practice.
Soon I will be doing a post on the HackerBox that came this month. It includes an LED matrix, so that should be fun!