This is a set of simple, small form-factor, mini-shields that I created almost by accident. As I made more and more of them, I realized that they could be really useful. What started out as a way to use some spare parts, turned into a standardized form factor for a versatile, miniaturized Arduino shield. The added benefit is that they also make a great kit for traveling, or simplified prototyping or for educating kids and beginners about Arduino.

I have been building some custom shields and modules for a while now but while I like the modularity of a shield, they are a little too expensive and large if all you want to add is just a little piece. The modules I make are all small and have to be plugged into a breadboard, which doesn't have that satisfying, finished feeling I'm looking for. I buy a lot of perf board, but the Arduino boards have this annoyingly unusual spacing between the digital pin banks so you have to modify the pins to make them fit. I needed something that was more flexible, lighter weight, and allowed me to change the pins used more easily to avoid conflicts with other shields.

The Mini-Shield Standard
I started making these small modules with standardized pinouts that are mostly plug and play. I call them Mini-Shields and they include everything you need for almost any application. The first 3 pins from the right of each board are connected to the 5v, ground and Digital 2 pins from the Arduino. All of my mini-shields use the following standard and they work pretty well with each other.

Pin |  Pin Function
1    |  5v
2    |  Gnd
3    |  Digital 2 (Hardware Interrupt)
4    |  Analog *
5    |  Digital (PWM)
6    |  Digital (PWM)
7    |  Analog **
8    |  Digital
9    |  Digital (PWM)
* the Real Time Clock module requires analog pin 4
** the Real Time Clock module requires analog pin 5

I liked the idea that these little modules could be added to almost any other shield and you could swap them out as needed. I would then also be able to reuse them in different projects without too much effort. The standardized pinout meant that every one of them could be used in place of the others if everything was wired correctly. Once they are built, they make a good little, rapid prototyping set that would also work as an entry level set for Arduino beginners.

Shield of Mini-Shields
I made a single shield with space for any 3 mini-shields to be connected at the same time. Each mini-shield uses 2 analog pins, and 4 digital pins (plus digital pin 2 which they all share since I have dedicated it for the hardware interrupt feature). I needed to dedicate analog pins 4 and 5 to slot A to ensure the Real Time Clock module would work. Of the 14 digital pins, there are only 6 PWM pins available, so I have dedicated slots B and C to be the PWM mini-shields, so things like the speaker and the full-color LED won't work well if they are plugged into slot A.


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dracorabbid4 months ago

hey man great instructable!!
I just wanted to ask you what sort of pens you use to mark the headers?

ProfMuggs (author)  dracorabbid2 months ago

I was looking at the headers the other day and realized you might have meant the paint dots on the male headers. Those are just regular paint pens from a variety pack that I bought at a craft store.

ProfMuggs (author)  dracorabbid4 months ago

Thanks, they are just regular Sharpie fine point markers. They write really well on plain masking tape.

script_coded2 months ago
Okey, this is great! Thank you for sharing!
ProfMuggs (author)  script_coded2 months ago

Thanks! I'm glad you like it.

So useful, thanks muchly.

ProfMuggs (author)  garethllewelyn5 months ago


Akin Yildiz6 months ago

amazing post, i love making shields and i think i have something exciting to share with you :)

once your shields are done, you can also make a custom body/case for them really cheap, check this out; http://www.instructables.com/id/Custom-arduino-par...

thank you for sharing !!

ProfMuggs (author)  Akin Yildiz6 months ago
Very cool project. How hard does that paper clay get? I sometimes use plumber's epoxy putty which hardens in about 5 minutes and will never come off without power tools.
very hard. you can drop it to floor and wont break. i use my items daily still no problems/breaks. just keep it dry.
it hardens based on thickness used. i usually set them aside at night and in the morning they will be solid. but tiny pieces can dry in 10minutes.
its just incredible, im very satisfied with results, you should definetly try it. its easier to take a part for fixes or to re build on, just wet it amd shape again :)

So useful, thanks muchly.

muscrat8 months ago

Hey ProfMuggs,

You are awesome! Thanks for sharing.

ProfMuggs (author)  muscrat8 months ago
Thanks! I'm glad you like it.
dan30088 months ago

I've just ordered my first arduino off of Ebay, and in the 24 hours since I've ordered, I've already made all your mini shields :D

they are so amazing, and will be so usefull

ProfMuggs (author)  dan30088 months ago
Thanks! I'm glad you like them. I have been a bit distracted lately, but I have some new ones I will finish soon.
Kante Tech1 year ago

This project is really useful. I have many arduino applications that can now be simplified thanks to this process.

ProfMuggs (author)  Kante Tech1 year ago
Thanks! I'm working on another set of 6 or so mini shields. I'll post them soon.

Also do you know how to get the arduino to recognize the directional button shield as if it was already built in with the lcd screen. I often find it difficult to get many programs to recognize the dpad with out a lot of script changing.

Hello fellow!
I've found a this 3$ arduino and was trying to build a really cheap gps
but the gps shield would make everything expensive again
soo u think that its possible to make a really cheap shield with ur projects?
like less than 16.20€ like this one?

I live in brazil so for me 16€ is really expensive

I want to make one that can cost less than 25$ or 35 $

ProfMuggs (author)  Fabrizio Araujo1 year ago

These are all very simple components, so it's easy to make them into these lightweight min-shields. The expensive part is the GPS module itself, which would be very difficult to replicate.


How about stripping the GPS out of an old cell phone?

Jan_Henrik1 year ago

I love the bargraph shield :O

ProfMuggs (author)  Jan_Henrik1 year ago

Thanks! I have an idea for a better one I am working on.

Cool, i hope you will also post it :)

zimirken1 year ago
Just pretend you're opening a needle valve and it should feel more natural.
elliot54451 year ago

I know I will sound like a complete idiot, but what's arduino?

Search the word and then try Wikipedia.

I'm not allowed on Google or Wikipedia.

I know, I know...

"Arduino is a single-board microcontroller, intended to make the application of interactive objects or environments more accessible. The hardware consists of an open-source hardware board designed around an 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontroller, or a 32-bit Atmel ARM. Current models feature an USB interface, 6 analog input pins, as well as 14 digital I/O pins which allow to attach various extension boards." That is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article. Simplifying it, it consists of a single board that contains a processor. This processor can be programmed by a language called C. You can write it on a PC or Mac, upload to the Arduino and it will run. So it can used to receive inputs, humidity, light, temperature, sound pretty much anything represented as an electronic signal and the software you write can be used to turn on or off equipment. Both the design and software are open source are free and maintained.

I am concerned that you are unable to use Wikipedia or Google. Both provide a wealth of useful information. As with all things on the internet you do have to apply some judgment and circumspection but Wikipedia in particular is a useful and very accurate source of knowledge and for those that say it is not then it is in there own hands to correct.

You can clearly access this site and searching within this site will show a great many projects that use the Arduino.

Kind of like the sensor in my mindstorms unit. Thanks!

Its basically a big kids version of the mindstorms.

search it on 'instructables.com' ...visit your local 'Radio Shack' store

ProfMuggs (author)  elliot54451 year ago

I didn't go into much detail about what Arduino is, but there are some great Instructables that should answer that for you without going out to Google or Wikipedia.


PaulCo1 year ago

this is an excellent introduction to interfacing the arduino and similar board.

thankyou for this great effort.

very much appreciated.

Cool. Someone may have beat you to the market though with this http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/Grove-Starter-Kit...

http://www.seeedstudio.com/depot/Grove-Starter-Kit-Plus-p-1294.html There sure was definitely a need to simplify and modularize components in packages especially for beginners.

ProfMuggs (author)  caitlinsdad1 year ago

I hadn't seen that, but I have since found this one that was also along the same lines. I like that there are a variety of kits out there to suit different needs, but I like that mine was built with mostly salvaged parts and things I had laying around.

jdevries41 year ago

Fantastic instructable. Yes, there are professionally made versions of a lot of these items, but they tend to be pricey & not necessarily what you want. This suggests a method that takes a little work, but you end up with something exactly like what you _need_ and might well be less expensive.

ProfMuggs (author)  jdevries41 year ago

Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. I like to reuse things and I don't want to be locked into using things in one particular way, so this project kind of mushroomed out of a simple IR sensor module.

slyght1 year ago
I'm EXTREMELY new to Arduino and coding. I have a MechE degree, so I like to problem solve, but electricity-based solutions haven't really held my interest until lately. My basic question is, why are they called shields? Originally I figured they were shielding from stray EM pulses or something, but after reading the 'ible, is the name just due to the shape and modularity? thanks
ProfMuggs (author)  slyght1 year ago

I think they wanted to use terms that seemed less intimidating to beginners who had no experience with programming or electronics. Shield is what they call the physical add-on modules and Sketch is what they call the code you upload to the Arduino.

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