mbed Design Challenge


The competition is now complete, and Circuit Cellar have announced the results. Well done to the winning entries, and everyone who submitted a design!

First Prize - (VI)sualizer: A Smart Electronic Load

First prize went to Hexley Ball for his smart electronic load; a really impressive bit of kit using just about every interface on the mbed to provide amazing levels of functionality, all very professionally executed with a superb writeup. Well done Hexley!

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Hexley Ball wrote:

The innovative mbed-based (VI)sualizer is a lab instrument for profiling solar, chemical, and grid-powered energy delivery devices. The design enables you to examine an energy source's voltage (V) and current (I) delivery ability. You can use it for a variety of other reasons as well: to calculate the load resistance into which a solar cell delivers maximum power; to measure and capture a battery's amp-hour capacity; or, using pulsatile loads, to test conventional power supply voltage regulation accuracy. The mbed module in the design accepts input data from local and remote interfaces, commands the desired load current, and monitors operating conditions.

For the full Circuit Cellar abstract and all the entry files, see:

Second Prize - mbos: A Real-Time Operating System for mbed

Second prize went to Andrew L for his real-time operating system for mbed; this provides a really flexible pre-emptive RTOS for mbed, great for both use and learning about operating real-time operating systems, and made full use of the auto-documentation and library packaging features of the mbed site. Well done Andrew!

Import librarymbos

Andrew L wrote:

The purpose of this interesting project was to enhance the mbed environment with a real-time operating system (RTOS). Designed especially for mbed, the "mbos" is a true preemptive multitasking RTOS that's scalable to support virtually any project developed on the LPC1768 platform. This fast RTOS enables you to streamline the development of both simple and complex applications. For example, it's simple enough for a one- or two-task application, but can also support as many as 100 tasks.

For the full Circuit Cellar abstract and all the entry files, see:

Third Prize - CNC Panel Cutter

Second prize went to James Koehler for his CNC Panel Cutter. This is a totally self contained controller, showing the power of making something like a CNC machine work more like an appliance than a computer peripheral. Well done James!



You can use an mbed-based system to control a three-axis milling machine to cut panels for electronic equipment. A smart alternative to a PC program, the self-contained controller enables you to run a milling machine either manually or automatically (following a script) without having to clutter your workspace with a computer. The design controls three stepping motors. Inside the controller are a power supply and a PCB, which carries the NXP mbed module plus the necessary interface circuitry and a socket for an SD card

For the full Circuit Cellar abstract, see:

Honourable Mentions

Five more entries received an Honorable Mention, again for a great combination of project and write-up. Here they are:

STN LCD Controller Library


Matt Bommicino wrote:

When rapid prototyping is a requirement, integrating a graphic LCD in a design can be problematic. It can cost time and money, especially because quality software libraries are scarce. This helpful project solves the problem by eliminating the need for an external LCD controller by implementing the control routine in software. The mbed communicates directly with the LCD driver ICs and handles refreshing the image at 60 Hz or more. The library supports monochrome and color LCDs and also includes experimental support for dual-scan displays.

menbed: A Universal Menu System Library


Kyle Gilpin wrote:

The "menbed" is a universal menu system library for the mbed prototyping board. It enables you to quickly develop an easy-to-use menu system to interact with any other application software executing on an mbed. Helpful interactions include observing internal state variables or analog values, changing program parameters, and calling arbitrary functions. The menu hierarchy is fully customizable and can even be changed dynamically.

mbed Net Meter: A Wall Clock Display of Real-Time Network Traffic


Bruce D Lightner wrote:

You can monitor network data with the mbed-based Net Meter. The clever wall clock-style design displays real-time Ethernet traffic data with three easy-to-read analog dials. The meter shows inbound and outbound data rates, as well as network bandwidth quota usage. The update rate for the "in" and "out" meters is twice per second. The "quota" meter's update rate is once every 8 seconds.

QRSS Grabber


Clayton G wrote:

QRSS is used by radio amateurs for transmitting slow Morse code from low-power transmitters and receiving them on special "grabbers." This creative project features an mbed at the core of a QRSS receiver, which is an RF receiver that can digitize a small bandwidth of RF signals and send them to a server for processing into a spectrum image for real-time display on a website.

AC Tester


Kevin Gorga wrote:

Safety is a top priority when working with electronics and circuits. The AC Tester design is an isolated variable voltage power source that includes an electronic circuit breaker for testing and debugging equipment. An mbed controller displays voltage and current, and it controls the breaker's trip point and response time. In addition, this inventive design can display power factor, VA, and VAR.

Distinctive Excellence

There will also be some additional entries receiving distinctive excellence; these are to be announced soon!

You can see the Circuit Cellar page for all the details:

The Challenge

The challenge is to publish a project, and the building blocks that make it up, that is inspiring, inventive, useful or just plain cool. Not only will you help your fellow developers prototype even faster by letting them learn from and build on your work, but entering it in the design challenge could win you some of the prizes up for grabs :)

Here are the important facts:

  • Anyone with an mbed can enter!
  • There are prizes totalling $10,000 for the best entries!
  • The closing date to submit your design to Circuit Cellar is February 28th, 2011!

For all the details of how to enter and the prizes up for grabs, see:


3D rapid prototyping has come a long way over the last few years and we don't think the electronics has kept up. As the way to arrange the "atoms" improves (the physical form, mechanics, aesthetics), we want to make sure it just as quick to prototype the "bits" (the intelligence, behaviour, connectivity).

So far, we've made a pretty good start with mbed; the tools, hardware and peripheral interfaces are all working really well in their goal of getting out of the way and letting you concentrate on your application. But we think we've on scratched the surface. Next up is making all the things you might want to connect to your mbed "just work". So we've teamed up with Circuit Cellar, Elektor and NXP to bring you the "NXP mbed Design Challenge"; a chance to win some money for helping us achieve this!

What did you submit?!

With so many entries, it really came down to projects that delivered the whole package of idea, implementation and full magazine-quality writeup to get the top spots. But there were lots of excellent project ideas in general, so feel free to showcase what you were up to in the comments...

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