Arduino's Alvik Robot

(and of course, more boards!)

Hello, readers! It’s David, taking over the newsletter again with more boards, boards, boards (and also Alvik, and also Alvik) (sing it to this tune)! Last time around I promised some big updates from Arduino, in the form of both the aforementioned robot, and their latest Nano board. In addition, we’ve got an even tinier Matter-capable board from Seeed, and some tutorials to help you kick off your summer projects!

Arduino’s new Alvik robot. (Photo by David Groom)

Table of Contents


This one has been in the works for a while – in fact I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of it way back in October on a visit to Arduino’s offices in Turin, Italy, after Maker Faire Rome! And now it’s finally available for all to enjoy, and I do mean all: thanks to block-based programming (coming soon) and MicroPython support, Arduino’s new bot should appeal to a wide range of makers, from elementary school students to seasoned pros. Unlike other Arduino products that might only blink out of the box, Alvik comes pre-programmed with several great demos, including line following and the ability to choreograph a sequence of movements using the built-in capacitive buttons. Once you’ve played around with the included examples, you can dive right into their code with the Arduino Lab for MicroPython editor, seeing how they work and bending them to your will thanks to the MicroPython firmware already installed on the built-in Nano ESP32 board. With onboard sensors, locomotion, and power, plus Grove, Qwiic, and even LEGO compatibility, Alvik is more than just a cute little bot – it’s an entire platform for enabling your robotic dreams – and is available now at Digi-Key – let us know what you create with yours!

Nano Matter

Although it has a built-in STM32, Alvik uses Arduino’s recently-released Nano ESP32 as its “brain”, but Arduino have launched an even newer Nano with their latest “Community Preview” board: the Nano Matter. A new partnership with Silicon Labs brings the 32-bit Arm Cortex-M33-based MGM240S to the Nano form factor, and along with it, 802.15.4 (Thread) support, making it the perfect way to get started with the new Thread-based Matter IoT and home automation standard. Note that as a “Community Preview” product, the Matter board requires installation via a Boards Manager JSON file – a practice usually reserved for non-Arduino products – so if you are just getting started with Arduino, you might want to focus on something like the UNO R4 instead – but if you’re ready to get your hands dirty and want to extend your Matter-based home automation system’s capabilities, you can jump in right now!


Moving onto other (ahem) matters, next up is Seeed’s latest ESP32-C6-based XIAO. This dual-RISC-V design features 2.4GHz Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, Zigbee, and 802.15.4 (Thread) support, meaning another powerful Matter target for your home automation needs. Like Arduino’s Matter board, the C6 is fairly cutting edge, and most appropriate for makers with a modicum of experience with the Arduino IDE and C++. At around $5 a pop, it’s easy to envision sprinkling these around the connected home, and with built-in LiPo battery management and deep sleep mode (plus code examples!), you could deploy them in all sorts of interesting places, without having to worry too much about how to power them.


As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’m really great at segues and puns, so I don’t even need to try to come up with a clever way to link the above Matter boards with this great new tutorial from Seeed about how you can combine their ESP32-based XIAO boards with Espressif’s web-based ESPLaunchPad firmware flashing tool, but if I did, it would probably be something about how it doesn’t “matter” if you can’t code because they walk you through deploying premade firmware to get up and running with Matter in no time at all.

 And speaking of tutorials to help you control lights, our friend Natasha “TechnoChic” Dzurny is working on a great series of videos about animating LEDs with the BBC micro:bit and Make Code block-based programming language. Even if you’ve never written a line of code or touched an LED before, Natasha’s got you covered, from the basics through powering and battle-hardening your projects for maximum wearability!

Launch Party for Make: V89

If you missed attending the Make: Launch Party for Volume 89, the Retro Tech issue, here’s a recording, which features some of the authors from that issue talking about their projects.

Ayyyyyy Ayeeeee

Last week in a magazine production meeting, we were talking about the best, funniest, and craziest uses of AI that we’d seen recently, we well as tossing around ideas for pranks and satire, like Prompt Brush in which a human artist responds to “prompts” by “generating” art the old-fashioned way. What’s the most brilliant or absurd use of AI you’ve seen? Let me know via [email protected]!

Until next time,

David J. Groom, AI Skeptic and Practitioner