HackerBox 0029: Field Kit

Introduction: HackerBox 0029: Field Kit

Field Kit - This month, HackerBox Hackers are exploring various miniature and mobile tools for agile field operations. This Instructable contains information for working with HackerBox #0029, which you can pick up here while supplies last. Also, if you would like to receive a HackerBox like this right in your mailbox each month, please subscribe at HackerBoxes.com and join the revolution!

Topics and Learning Objectives for HackerBox 0029:

  • Assemble a small electronics toolkit for mobile field operations
  • Prepare micro-grabber clip leads for hardware hacking applications
  • Configure the ATmega32U4 Pro Micro platform in the Arduino IDE
  • Apply simple I/O and bus operations to exploit hardware targets
  • Understand programming and dumping contents of EPROMs
  • Experiment with a Processing based Logic Analyzer tool

HackerBoxes is the monthly subscription box service for DIY electronics and computer technology. We are hobbyists, makers, and experimenters. We are the dreamers of dreams. HACK THE PLANET!

Step 1: HackerBox 0029: Box Contents

  • HackerBoxes #0029 Collectable Reference Card
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Zipper Case
  • Portable 5V Soldering Iron
  • ProMicro ATmega32U4 5V 16MHz
  • OLED 0.91 Inch Display 128x32 I2C
  • Four Key Pushbutton Module
  • Six LED Debug Module
  • AT24C256 I2C EEPROM Module
  • 400 Point Solderless Breadboard
  • Jumper Wire Bundle
  • Set of Mini Grabber Clips
  • Solder Wick 2mm by 1.5m
  • MicroUSB Cable
  • MiniUSB Cable
  • Precision Driver Set
  • Exclusive Phone Phreak Decal Exclusive
  • Exclusive 8bit Dragon Keychain

Some other things that will be helpful:

  • Computer for running software tools

Most importantly, you will need a sense of adventure, DIY spirit, and hacker curiosity. DIY electronics is not a trivial pursuit, and HackerBoxes is not a watered down version. The goal is progress, not perfection. When you persist and enjoy the adventure, a great deal of satisfaction can be derived from learning new technology and hopefully getting some projects working. We suggest taking each step slowly, minding the details, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Note that there is a wealth of information for current, and prospective, members in the HackerBox FAQ.

Step 2: Field Operations

As a Hardware Hacker, you never know when or where you might need to mod the flash on a router, dump the ROMs from a video game system, toggle some I/O pins, unsolder an ailing battery, or otherwise save the day.

The HackerBoxes Field Kit is a first pass at your electronics first aid resource. Once developed, you can keep your field kit at the ready in your backpack, briefcase, or bug-out bag.

Example Scenarios:

Hacking Toys

More Toys

Voting Machines

Field Day 2018

Car Hacking

Step 3: Arduino Pro Micro 5V 16MHz

The Arduino Pro Micro is based on the ATmega32U4 microcontroller which has a builtin USB interface. This means that there is no FTDI, PL2303, CH340, or any other chip acting as an intermediary between your computer and the Arduino microcontroller.

We suggest first working with the Pro Micro without soldering the pins into place. You can perform the basic configuration and testing without using the header pins. Also, delaying soldering on the module gives one less variable to debug should you run into any complications.

If you do not have the Arduino IDE installed on your computer, start by getting it form arduino.cc. WARNING: Be sure to select the 5V version under tools > processor prior to programming the Pro Micro. Having this set for 3.3V will work once and then the device will appear to not ever connect to your PC until you follow the "Reset to Bootloader" instructions in the guide discussed below, which can be a little tricky.

Sparkfun has a great Pro Micro Hookup Guide. The Hookup Guide has a detailed overview of the Pro Micro board and then a section for "Installing: Windows" and a section for "Installing: Mac & Linux." Follow the directions in the appropriate version of those installation instructions in order to get your Arduino IDE configured to support the Pro Micro. We usually start working with an Arduino board by loading and/or modifying the standard Blink sketch. However, the Pro Micro does not include the usual LED on pin 13. Luckily, we can control the RX/TX LEDs and Sparkfun has provided a neat little sketch to demonstrate how. This is in the section of the Hookup Guide entitled, "Example 1: Blinkies!" Verify that you can compile and download this Blinkies! example before moving on.

Step 4: Pro Micro Scenarios for Field Operations

To read and write sets of eight I/O lines from the Pro Micro using a simple serial interface, try out the Serial_IO.ino sketch included here. This is one of the simplest embedded tools that we might use to manipulate or interrogate any target system that we are working on.

Either simple jumpers or the tactile button module can be used to demo the digital inputs at pins 10,16,14,15,18,19, 20, and 21.

Similarly, the LED module can be used to display the digital outputs at pins 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

In practical use, these I/O lines would interface to the target system.

Slightly more advanced than this example, the Processing platform may be used to implement a basic logic analyzer using the Pro Micro.

We can experiment reading and writing the AT24C256 serial EEPROM (datasheet) module using this demo code.

The 128x32 OLED display can be used when a computer may not beavailable for displaying output. There are various SSD1306 Libraries available online.

For an advanced challenge of using the microcontroller as a debug/hacking platform take a looks at the Bus Ninja project. Note that this will require the avr-gcc toolchain and avrdude as opposed to using the Arduino IDE.

Step 5: Putting the Field Kit Into Practice

Since we all have different backgrounds and different use cases for various tools, we'd love to see folks sharing some of these details in the comments below.

Consider sharing your thoughts on some or all of these points:

For your specific needs, what might you pack in your Field Kit that was not included here?

In what situations do you envision possibly needing your Field Kit?

Where will you keep your Field Kit?

Over the coming months, please post back here about when and how you ended up using your Field Kit.

Step 6: Hack the Planet

If you have enjoyed this Instrucable and would like to have a box of electronics and computer tech delivered right to your mailbox each month, please join the HackerBox revolution by SUBSCRIBING HERE.

Reach out and share your success in the comments below or on the HackerBoxes Facebook Page. Certainly let us know if you have any questions or need some help with anything. Thank you for being part of HackerBoxes!

1 Person Made This Project!


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3 years ago

please help. I feel stupid but I cant figure out how to connect a wire to the grabber clips!


4 years ago

By any chance has anyone played with the Logic Analyser code? It is producing weird results for me.


Reply 4 years ago

im assuming that you are the same grtyvr who has a youtube channel of the same name. If you are, i just want you to know that i watch your Youtube channel quite regularly. Very informative channel, and it was your well done Hackerboxes unboxing/project videos that made me decide to go ahead and subscribe to the boxes.


Reply 4 years ago

Thank you very much for the kind words. I appreciate it. I have a lot of fun with the Hackerboxes, and I hope that you do too!


4 years ago

So here's what I have which should satisfy my needs on most days. I also have a little Radio Shack mini multi-meter not shown in the pictures which will fit in as well. I have a few feet of solder wrapped in the spool of solder wick. Screwdrivers, small cutters and needle nose, pry tool, zip ties, USB cable and wall-wart as well as a USB power meter and 8GB flash drive. Somehow, someway, I am gonna fit a roll of duct tape in this thing!

HB Feild kit 1.jpgHB Feild kit 2.jpg

4 years ago

This is my first hacker box i am attempting, and I have quite a few questions! I am studying Computer information systems in college, which includes programming, but not much on electronics. This is just something I want to learn for my self. I am looking for a couple online friends who are into this stuff, or are actively learning themselves. Anyone that I could ask a question or bounce an idea off from time to time.

Maybe a couple of us could form a facebook group or something to help each other! I think a group of 3-4 people pushing and challenging each other might be great for all involved!

If interested, message me on Facebook!


4 years ago

Did anyone else notice that all of the electical equipment in the picture are european plugs?


4 years ago

Nice kit, It needs a really small VOM for measuring circuits.


4 years ago

I like this! I suspect my kit will evolve over time, as well as what situations I use it in. Right now, I see myself using it primarily as an traveling repair kit, on long camping trips, and it would be useful during impromptu electronics projects when visiting friends (hey, it happens).

I'll be adding a small voltmeter, the component identifier from HackerBox 0018, and a tiny multimeter to hold me until I build a logic analyzer/multimeter combo using the parts in this box. I'm thinking a bluetooth module to let me interface to it with my phone would be useful.

I keep a "to go" bag that includes a solar panel, power bank, and the radio from HackerBox 0003. This would be a perfect addition to it.


4 years ago on Introduction

Clever Idea. I design and build electric bike. I am constantly running back and forth between my electronics lab at one end of the house and my mechanical workshop in the garage. Maybe this week I can finally get around to putting together a proper field kit for the shop.

Another suggestion for the field kit is a mini butane torch. They are incredibly handy.