The $9 Quasi-duino (Almost-duino)




About: White House Maker Faire // 18 years old // U.C. Berkeley Freshman in M.E.T. program. CEO of Qtechknow, maker and electronics enthusiast, I teach Arduino classes, and put making into schools! My successful Qd...

Do you currently have an Arduino and want to make it smaller for cheap?  The Quasi-duino is for you (Italian for almost-duino).  This makes a functional "almost" Arduino, in a very small form factor using the narcoleptic library for pico-power operations on a pico-space breadboard.  This 'ible will use Arduino 1.0.  All of your Arduino code that you have made does not have to be formatted for the Quasi-duino!

I have found multiple places that you can use your Arduino without a crystal, voltage regulator, USB interface, or even without the reset button.  These can all make a difference in your project.  With the Quasi-duino, I wanted to use the minimum possible components, minimum possible power, but still with the basic Arduino capabilities.

**This project will require you to download a new Arduino core for the Quasi-duino that I developed.  It is provided later in the instructable.

Please feel free to post comments and questions.

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Step 1: Parts


Needle Nose Pliers (Everyone should get a pair of these anyways)
The Quasi-duino core (will explain later)
The Narcoleptic library for Arduino (compatible with Arduino 1.0) 

You can get all of the parts you need at Sparkfun:

** Essential Parts for Quasi-duino  ($8.75)

Mini Breadboard   $3.95
Mini Push Button Switch - Tall  (Most of you will want the tall button because it is easier to incorporate in your project)   $0.50
ATmega328p   COM-09061 $4.30
Some Jumpers

** The following items need to be purchased only once, and can be used to make multiple Quasi-duinos later  ($3.10)

Resistor-330 Ohm   $0.50
16MHz Crystal (needed for bootloading, but not for the completed project)   $0.95
22pf Capacitors (2)  $0.50
LEDs (2)   $0.70
10uf Capacitor (for disabling the auto-reset on you Arduino UNO)   $0.45
Extra Breadboard (nothin' special, just a basic one for LEDs)
Arduino UNO or later  (Most of you will have one already)  ** for users of older Arduinos, please see the bottom


LiPo (get these at Sparkfun too, they're cheap and rechargeable for your small projects!)
LiPo Charger (you'll need one of these if you're getting the LiPos)

** Note for users of old Arduinos:  You can try an older Arduino in this project, but I have not tested them yet.  You still should be able to do this project.  I will make notes on the bottom of the pages that (I think) are different for older Arduinos.

Step 2: Assemble Away!

The pictures should help you complete assembling the Quasi-duino along with the instructions below.

1.  Insert the ATmega328p into the breadboard in the middle, on the end closest to you.  Make sure the small dip is facing the top of the breadboard.

2.  Connect a wire coming from GND (pin 8) of the left side to the very top of the breadboard.  

3.  Connect a wire coming from GND (this time pin 22) of the right side and connect it to the second highest point of the breadboard.

4.  Take a piece of wire, enough to fit across the middle of the breadboard, and strip the whole length of it off.  

5.  Connect that wire across the middle of the breadboard at the second highest point.

6.  Connect RST (pin 1) of the ATmega328p to the next pin on the breadboard higher.  

7.  Connect the top of the breadboard on the left to the next pin down.

8.  Insert the button on top of the bare wire, in the middle, above the ATmega328p.

Step 3: Bootloading the ATmega328p

Upload the latest version of ArduinoISP to your Arduino (found in the examples tab).  Attach GND to GND and +5V to VCC on your Arduino and Quasi-duino.  Connect MISO, MOSI, and SCK pins on the Arduino and the breadboard together (pin 17 to D11, pin 18 to D12, and pin 19 to D11).  Connect the RST pin of your Quasi-duino (pin 1) to D10 on the Arduino.  MAKE SURE to insert the 10uf electrolytic capacitor between RST and GND on Arduino (the long lead goes to RST).  If you would like, connect one LED to D13 on your Quasi-duino and the other between VCC and GND to debug.

Then download the zip at the bottom of this page and put it in your hardware folder (if you do not have one, name a folder "hardware" and put it in your sketch folder).  Click out of the Arduino IDE.  Then click back into the Arduino IDE.  Now, in the boards selection, you should see "Quasi-duino (8MHz internal clock)."  This is the 8MHz internal clock selection of the ATmega328p.  Now, put in your crystal from X1 to X2 (pins 9 and 10).  Put your 22pf capacitors in,  one between X1 and GND, and the other between X2 and GND.  Select the Quasi-duino in the boards menu and burn the bootloader w/ ArduinoISP.  After about a minute, you should see "Done Burning Bootloader".

In your current Arduino, most of them will have a 16MHz external clock (the oblong shape shiny silver thing that says SPK16.000G).  You might ask, "why the extra components, it's just an extra cost."  Well, the internal clock is not as accurate, just a few microseconds off.  If you were programming for a drone or just using serial communication, you will want an external crystal (the clock) for more accuracy.  In most of your regular projects, you will find that most do not require an external crystal.  

Other electronics components you may not need (not included in the Quasi-duino) are: a voltage regulator (for more voltage being able to come into your Quasi-duino), LEDs (but you might want to check if it gets power once in a while, but it takes about 35mA of power to run continuously), or even your USB interface.  Once you program your chip for the project, you could take off the USB interface, taking off about 15uA.  

I have modified the current breadboard Arduino core for this project.  Now, the Quasi-duino can compile code, and upload with ArduinoISP.  Previously, this was not possible with the current cores available on the Arduino site.  The code at the bottom of this page is the modified Arduino core that works with the Quasi-duino.

Go to the very end of this 'ible for error messages and how to fix them.

** For Duemilanove and older users, you will not need to insert the 10uf capacitor.

Step 4: Programming the ATmega328p

Download the Narcoleptic library at the bottom of the page.  Place it in the libraries folder in the Arduino sketch folder.  The Narcoleptic library deals with all of the sleep.  You can tell it when to go to sleep, when to awaken, and how long to go to sleep for.  This will make your Quasi-duino both small, and use very low power consumption.  Try the example "Merlin the Cat" included in the Narcoleptic library.  Since we still should have our Arduino UNO's in ISP mode (we have uploaded ArduinoISP) connected to our Quasi-duino, we will upload this sketch to our Quasi-duino.  To do this, instead of pressing the regular upload button, we will press the upload using programmer button in the File menu.  Insert an LED between D13 of the Quasi-duino and place a jumper in GND to D2 of the Quasi-duino.  Now, remove this jumper.  You will see that when you place this jumper in, it will blink the LED very fast and will wake up the ATmega328p.  Otherwise, the ATmega328p will sleep.

On the ATmega328p, notice that I put in an extra "p" on the end.  This stands for pico-power.  ATmel makes a number of these chips that are pico-power.  The Narcoleptic library uses this feature because in the regular Arduino IDE interface, this is hidden.

Step 5: Error Messages :(

Yes, when I was designing this, I had a lot of error messages come up.  Here are some of them:

avrdude:  stk500_recv(): programmer is not responding

This probably means that you are pressing the regular upload button when you're trying to upload to the Quasi-duino.  Answer:  Use the Upload Using Programmer button in the File tab in Arduino. 

avrdude:  initialization failed: rc=-1

Answer: double check the connections.

avrdude:  Yikes! Invalid Device Signature

Answer:  Did you put the ATmega328p in?

If you have any other error messages, post them in the comments section and I will update them here.

Step 6: Celebrate!

Now, you have a fully-functioning Quasi-duino!  Use these in projects, small spaces, or even in a lightbulb!  Upload your favorite code, run the blink sketch, and bang!  It will work!  Thanks for reading my instructable!  

P.S.  I'm only 11 years old!!!

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    27 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This is totally awesome, I am new to arduino and have made a basic one on a breadboard, but one that is this simple is totally cool!!! Now i am starting to think i can make my robots run off of tiny Quasi-duino's with motor controller chips right behind the atmegas. Do you know this will work with the older atmega8, because i have one lying aroundand want to use it

    1 reply

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment!!!!! You can totally make your robots out of Quasi-duinos! That's what they are made for! I think that this will work on the ATmega8's, but you will have to change a ton of things. To be safe, I would go with the ATmega328p's, because the Quasi-duino Instructable and core are made for the ATmega328p's. Plus, the ATmega328p's are only $4.30 from SparkFun (link provided in step 1 of this Instructable).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice instructable.
    For anyone that's interested, I made a sparkfun wish-list of the supplies:
    I can take it down if you want me to.

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Step 6

    Very impressive ! Keep up the great work , you are definately going places with electronics ( and possibly teaching ! ) . Thank you again for sharing with us all.

    Akin Yildiz

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I am about to build my custom Quasi-duino system. it needs;

    - 3x analog inputs

    - 3x digital pins

    - 3V3 only

    - RX / TX (for wifi module connection)

    - GND

    - Vin 5-9V

    - reset button

    - mini usb connectivity

    i'm planning on updating all of my plant care instruments with this new setup. maybe we can do a collaboration instructable. I will ask you questions once I get my setup ready to connect.


    thank you so much for such a great instructable. i also like the custom modules on your site. I am also in the process of designing my own module;


    6 years ago on Step 6

    Wow nice, just one thing if I upload a serial communication sketch, Will it function properly even with the Arrduino UNO as ISP?

    1 reply

    5 years ago on Introduction

    I'm only 11 and I use arduino and program android apps


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I'm getting the response

    avrdude: stk500_getsync(): not in sync: resp=0x00 when trying to burn the bootloader. Any suggestions?

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Probably the wiring isn't correct. Double check the jumpers in-between the Quasi-duino and the Arduino UNO ISP pins, and try re-bootloading.


    5 years ago

    Dumb question here: The Props Master has a sonic screwdriver instructable with a link to this tutorial & directions to load an ATMEGA328P-PU with Arduino Bootloader (UNO) with the quasi-duino. Do I need to also have the r3 chip and/or another chip? Thank you for your help in advance! :)

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    You will need the Arduino UNO R3 as well as a ATmega328p chip (to put the Quasi-duino software onto). Thanks!


    6 years ago on Step 6

    Got a very (dumb?) question... how do I power this? Also, can I just drop the chip into an iDuino, burn the bootloader, and then drop it into the breadboard?

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 6

    You can power it by plugging in the ATMega 328 VCC to the 5V pin coming off of the Arduino, and from the ground pin off the Arduino.
    You can use the IDuino to burn the bootloader then put it on the breadboard, but you still have to supply the power and connect the SPI pins to program the chip (as well as upload the Arduino ISP sketch to the iDuino and have to use the uploader using the programmer function like I explained in my Instructable).


    6 years ago

    Thanks for the tutorial it is very useful. But could you go a bit more in depth on how to program the chip and how to power it? Thanks.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I don't know what I did differently, but it worked! Thank you for your help.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I have encountered a deal of trouble burning the bootloader to the ATMega chip. I was successful in uploading the ArduinoISP sketch. I used Arduino 1.0 because I didn't see the Quasi-duino option under the boards selection menu. When I attempt to burn the bootloader, I receive the following:

    avrdude: stk500_program_enable(): protocol error, expect=0x14, resp=0x50

    avrdude: initialization failed, rc=-1 Double check connections and try again, or use -F to override this check.

    avrdude: stk500_disable(): protocol error, expect=0x14, resp=0x51

    I have rechecked connections and can find no error with the wiring. The chips and materials used are from the linked SparkFun page. The D13 LED is not lighting throughout the burning process.

    The accompanying photograph is of my current circuit. It's a bit of a rats' nest, I know. I moved the electrolytic capacitor to the board, as I suspected a poor connection when directly connected to the board. I'll happily provide more information to solve this.

    Thank you.