littleBits Paddleboat

We made a few versions of the littleBits paddleboat, using bluetooth, IR (infrared with TV remotes) and wireless Ethernet (ESP8266) for control.

For sure the easiest approach is to use a litteBits wireless transmitter and receiver. This method is a hardware only solution and no software/coding is required.

For the wireless littleBits approach the following items are required:

  • 1x littleBits mounting plate (comes with base set)
  • 1x littleBits fork module ($12)
  • 2x littleBits dimmer($8) or slide switches ($10)
  • 2x littleBits power module with battery ($6)
  • 2x littleBits DC motors (o5) ($19)
  • 1x ittleBits wireless transmitter (w12) Bit ($40)
  • 1x wireless receiver (w11) Bit ($40)
  • 2x wire Bits
  • duct tape
  • thin card board
  • tupper ware

Paddleboat Circuit

The paddleboat circuit had the two DC motor bits connected to the wireless receiver bit. A power bit was connected to the input of the receiver bit.


PaddleBoat Construction

We tried a few designs for the paddle boat, so experiment to find out what works best for you. The most important thing about the design is the paddles, they need to be waterproof and long enough to touch the water. The first step is to cut four rectangles out of thin card board (cereal or cracker box). For our design we used 2″x4.745″ (5cm x12cm). We cut even slits half way in each paddle blade, so that the two pieces would fit together. Next we put the paddles into the littleBits motor attachment and covered them in duct tape (you need to make sure the card board is completely covered).


A 6″ (15 cm) wide dish would fit the littleBits mounting plate, and we used duct tape on the bottom and side to secure things in place. We found that our boat floated a little higher than we wanted so you might need to add some weight.


Remote Control

We connected the power module to a fork module and then the fork module powered our dimmer modules. We mounted all the components on a littleBits mounting plate, and we taped the battery to the back.



Final Testing

Despite the fact that the motors do not turn very fast we were quite surprised how well the boat worked. The motors have a “left” and “right” toggle switch. This toggle switch is used to set the forward direction.



PSP Controlled Arduino Airboat

We thought that it would be fun to try and use an old PlayStation Portable (PSP) on some Arduino and Pi Projects. If you don’t a have PSP you can usually find a used one at a good price.

Some smart people were able to modify or “mod” the PSP firmware so that it is possible to run open source applications on the PSP. We tried using Python, Lua, sdlBasic and SSH to talk between our PSP  and our Arduinos and Pi’s, but none of these methods were simple or 100% reliable. In the end we found that basic built-in PSP Web browser worked the best and it didn’t require a ‘moded’ PSP.


PSP Setup and Limitations

We were using an older PSP-1000 so if you have a newer PSP GO or PSP Vita you may not have the same limitation that we found. However we think if you stick to our ‘worst case’ setup you should be good to go.

Our recommended setup was:

  • Simple Web Pages
  • No Browser Cache
  • Simple Wireless Network

For the PSP-1000 the web pages had to be very simple, no CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and no advanced HTML tagging. We had hoped to show Node-Red Web pages from the PI but this was not possible.

In our testing we found that it was important to turn off the browser cache, otherwise we found that our commands would only work once. To turn off the PSP browser cache, go into the PSP browser and select “Tools”, then “Settings”, and “Cache Settings”.


Our older PSP-1000 had some problems with the newer WPA2 wireless encryption, so to simplify things we created a small standalone open network. For Arduino projects this isn’t a problem because the Arduino can be made into a standalone access point. On Pi projects where you are using an existing wireless network you might need to do some tweeking to add a guest account.

To add a new connection on the PSP go to the “Network Settings” and select “Infrastructure Mode”. Then select “[New Connection]” and “Scan”. The scan will only show networks that the PSP is able to connect to.


A Simple Web Form

An HTML form supports two types of action, a POST and a GET. The GET method is the simpler (but less secure) approach and it passes parameters on the URL command line.

Below is a simple Web form:

<h1>Click a button to control the car</h1>
<form action='GO' method='GET' >
<INPUT TYPE='submit' VALUE="GO" >
<form action='STOP' method='GET' >
<form action='LEFT' method='GET' >
<form action='RIGHT' method='GET' >



An Arduino Web Server

To create Arduino WiFi projects the ESP8266 based modules are low cost way to go. There are some good ESP8266 libraries and the examples are fairly easy to follow. The ESP8266 module can be wired into an Arduino Uno/Nano/Mega module or you can by buy boards with the ESP8266 chip integrated in. For our testing we used an older WeMo board, but other options like the NodeMCU, Adafruit HUZZAH or even the Arduino Yún could be used.

The ESP8266WebServer library has a simple standalone access point example. We modified this example (WifiAccessPoint) to include HTML form tags for all our required action.

#include <ESP8266WiFi.h>
#include <WiFiClient.h>
#include <ESP8266WebServer.h>

int pinleft = 12;
int pinright = 13;
int pinfront = 14;

/* Set these to your desired credentials. */
const char *ssid = "MY8266";
const char *password = "";

char *webpage = "<html><head><title>My8266 Control</title> \
</head><body> \
<h1>Click a button to control the car</h1>


<form action='/go' method='GET' > \
<input type='submit' style='font-size:150px;color:lime' value='GO'></form>

<form action='/stop' method='GET'> \
<input type='submit' style='font-size:150px;color:red' value='STOP'></form>

<form action='/left' method='GET'> \
<input type='submit' style='font-size:150px' value='LEFT'></form>

<form action='/right' method='GET'> \
<input type='submit' style='font-size:150px' value='RIGHT'></form>


ESP8266WebServer server(80);

/* Just a little test message. Go to in a web browser
* connected to this access point to see it.
void handleRoot() {
Serial.println("Base page");
server.send(200, "text/html", webpage);

void go() {
Serial.println("Go forward");
server.send(200, "text/html", webpage);

void stop() {
server.send(200, "text/html", webpage);
void left() {
Serial.println("Go left");
server.send(200, "text/html", webpage);

void right() {
Serial.println("Go right");
server.send(200, "text/html", webpage);

void setup() {


Serial.print("Configuring access point...");
/* You can remove the password parameter if you want the AP to be open. */
WiFi.softAP(ssid, password);

IPAddress myIP = WiFi.softAPIP();
Serial.print("AP IP address: ");
server.on("/", handleRoot);
Serial.println("HTTP server started");

void loop() {

Bluetooth Controlled Arduino Airboat

By using plastic bottles, K’Nex and some duct tape we built a boat frame. The fans on the Arduino module are controlled with Bluetooth from a phone.

Airboat making a Left Turn

For this project the electrical parts that you need are:

– Arduino Uno
– 3x Fan Modules for Arduino ($6 each)
– 6x AA Battery Case w/ Power Plug ($4)
– Prototype Shield w/ Breadboard ($5)
JY-MCU Bluetooth Module ($7)

The fans are powered directly from the Arduino 5V pins, so no extra batteries are needed. With 3 fan modules the airboat moves quite well, 2 fans will also work. The fans will spin in either direction depending on the inputs used (INA or INB).

For flotation we used two medium sized plastic bottles, and for the frame we use K’Nex pieces. To connect the K’Nex frame to the bottles duct tape works well. The fans can be attached to the frame with wire, string or bolts and screws. To protect the Arduino some Tupperware can be taped to the middle of the frame.


For the JY-MCU Bluetooth Module, you need to cross the TX and RX pins. TX on the module goes to RX on the Arduino, and RX on the module goes to TX on Arduino.


To connect your phone to the Arduino project your phone will need a Bluetooth Terminal program. For our Android phone we use the “Bluetooth Terminal” from Qwerty it’s free and easy to use.

You will also need to pair your phone with the JY-MCU Bluetooth Module. When you scan for Bluetooth devices the Arduino Bluetooth module will probably be called HC-06 .The pairing code will be: 1234 .

To control the airboat we use the following letters:
g – go forward
s – stop
l – left turn
r – right turn


For the wiring of the fans we use pins 6 to 11. The Arduino and the battery pack will need to be balanced in the tupperware, otherwise the fans might touch the water.

The final code that we used is below.

// Airboat with 3 fans controlled by a bluetooth phone

int INA1 = 6; // back fan
int INB1 = 7; // back fan
int INA2 = 8; // right side fan
int INB2 = 9; // right side fan
int INA3 = 10; // left side fan
int INB3 = 11; // left side fan

char thekey; // input from Bluetooth phone

void setup()
// initialize the serial communication:
Serial.begin(9600); //baud rate of Bluetooth Module
// define the pins of the 3 fans as outputs
// start with all fans turned off

void loop() {

if (Serial.available() > 0) {
thekey =; // get the key from the phone

// "s" stops all fans
if (thekey == 's') {
Serial.println("Fans are stopped");
// "g" runs all fans
if (thekey == 'g') {
Serial.println("Fans are going");
// "l" only run right fan, turn left
if (thekey == 'l') {
Serial.println("Turn left");
// "r" only run left fan, turn right
if (thekey == 'r') {
Serial.println("Turn right");


littleBits Motor Boat

To create the wireless remote for the a motor boat we needed to control the left and right motors , for this we used the following components:

  •  1- littleBits mounting plate (comes with base set)
  • 1 – littleBits fork module ($12)
  • 2 – littleBits dimmer($8) or slide switches ($10)
  • 1 – littleBits wireless transmitter
  • 1-  littleBits power module with battery ($6)

We connected the power module to a fork module and then the fork module powered our dimmer modules. We mounted all the components on a littleBits mounting plate, and we taped the battery to the back.

To build the boat we used 2 empty water bottles for flotation. We built a frame with K’Nex (and a little duct tape). The motors we held in place by feeding the motor shafts through a K’Nex support and then we used elastic bands to secure the motors to the frame.

The basic circuit for that boat is shown below. To keep things dry we put all the boat’s littleBits components into a Tupperware container.