Photon update: December 17, 2014 (plus featured projects!)

All of the content here is borrowed from the email update that we recently sent out. Feel free to discuss here!

Photons and Projects

Hello Spark Friends,

We’re nearing the end to this eventful year and wanted to bring you one last update from Spark. This one is all about the Photon and some very cool projects that have been built recently using the Spark Core. Seriously, you guys are killing it!

Photon Update

It has now been a month since we launched the Photon and we’re excited to report that nearly 7,500 have already been pre-ordered. We’re on track to sell out of our first manufacturing run in early 2015. We’ll be lining up a second manufacturing run after the first 10,000 Photons have been sold; the second run will probably ship a month later than the first, so if you and your friends want Photons in March, order now!

Development on the Photon has continued in preparation for March delivery. We’ve been making some improvements to the hardware to make the Photon easier to use and more versatile. Here are some of the changes we’ve made:

  • Castellated Edges: Unlike our previous development kit, the Spark Core, the Photon does not have any components on the back side. In addition, the Photon will now have “castellated edges”, which are copper-plated holes along the edge of the board. This means that in addition to putting the Photon in a breadboard, you can mount it on a PCB either by hand soldering or reflowing the board. The Photon is available on our store “without headers”, which is the best choice if you want to mount the Photon permanently onto another circuit board.

  • Chip antenna and u.FL connector: The Spark Core came in either a “chip antenna” version, which has the antenna on board, or a “u.FL connector” version, which lets you use an external antenna. The Photon will have both a chip antenna and a u.FL connector on every board, and you’ll be able to switch between the two options in software.

  • Other improvements: We’ve switched to a smaller LED (less blinding), put D7 and the LED connected to it right next to each other (less confusing), and have made the board prettier all around (less ugly).

WarSting: Vanquish Unsecure Wi-Fi networks

Today the new Hobbit movie hits the theaters, and to celebrate its release, we made our own version of Sting! Except instead of turning blue near orcs, it turns blue near unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

Visit our blog to learn how to make your own, and watch a video that features an extremely makeshift Gandalf costume.

View Project

L3D Cube: a connected LED cube

Check out the latest Spark-powered project on Kickstarter: the L3D cube, a connected 3D LED cube!

Their project is 400% funded ($160K raised to date), with 19 days left. Get yours today!

See it on Kickstarter

It’s been a tremendous 2014 for Spark, but with what we have planned, we’re hopeful that 2015 will be even better, with new features, new integrations, new tutorials, new products and more.

Happy Holidays!

Zach and The Spark Team

Featured Projects

The Texting Tree

Text your Christmas tree to change the color of your Christmas lights. Designed by Will Dages.

View Project

Dancing Baby Groot

Everyone’s favorite character from Guardians of the Galaxy, dancing with Spark. Created by Kevin Monk.

View Project

Smart Bathroom

Occupied or vacant? The internet will tell you.Created by Michael Szczepanski & Chris Cheney.

View Project


I think the Castellated Edges & Dual Antenna options built in are really really good improvements,

Keep up the good work guys. I hope to use your new baby in a new product design down the road. Your work is making it easier than ever to do that.


I know it’s rather late, but since some design tweaks seem to be going on still, if there was any chance to expose a few bore GPIO pins this would be awesome and appreciated greatly - maybe there is some spare space for bottom soldering pads like the Teensy 3.1 has

Image from


Yay! Crenelations! Any word on when the Github Repo for the Photon will be updated to match the current design? Thanks!

@ScruffR I’ll pull in @mohit and @BDub on the possibility of exposing more pins on the bottom of the board

@mumblepins soon! maybe not until we get back from the holidays though


Just to bump this and maybe squeeze in some detail I had forgotten before - it would be great if it was possible, to have these extra pins all located consecutively on only one GPIO port (e.g. GPIOC 0…15 :wink: or at least 0…7).
Not scattered accross two ports as D0…7 and A0…7 are on the Core.
This would make some Arduino ports a bit easier and the libs faster - as @peekay123 and I have been “lamenting” about in case of the Adafruit RGBmatrixPanel lib :wink:

1 Like

this is unfortunately a byproduct of trying to expose as many peripherals as possible on a small number of pins. The good news is that we’ve exposed pretty much everything that could be exposed; the bad news is that the pin mapping is messy :-/

I’m aware of the reason why the A0…7/D0…7 pins are all over the place, but if it was possible to do what I suggested here (which I haven’t heard any YES or NO yet)

Then it would be good, to try it with these new pins/pads.

Hey @ScruffR, unfortunately there are no extra pins available from the P0 module that would benefit from being pinned out on the bottom. All pins already go to the headers, pads on the bottom or devices such as the MODE button and RGB LED. Currently the only connections that are not available on the bottom (yet) are the bluetooth co-existence pins. They are on the top though, and I’m going to look at getting them to the bottom.

Thanks @BDub!
Too bad :worried: on the one hand, but :smiley::+1: for the possible other pins.

Thought I’d quick post a link to a new hardware game I built using the Spark Core called AFTERGLOW.

Here is a direct link to the very silly video for it:



Well that game is simply delightful.

1 Like

Thanks @zach! It was a lot of fun to make. :slight_smile:

Very entertaining video and the game is crazy unique.

Is that the Adafruit neopixel ring your using there?

@BDub, sorry for my impertinence, but having a look at the pin-mapping.xlsx on the Photon github I realized, that pins are even more scattered than on the Core.
So I searched for a datasheet for the USI WM-N-BM-09 (aka P0) to see what pins of the STM32F205 are actually exposed, but I couldn’t find one.
Would it be possible to put one online on the Photon github?

Because, since the GPIOC is present on the module, and the HiByte of it seems “unstained” on the pin-mapping, that would be a nice candidate.
On the other hand it’s a pitty that the RGB pins (crammed between WKP/A7 and DAC/A6, A3, A4, A5) do spoil the use of GPIOA LoByte for that purpose.

Have a look at the schematic symbol here which I have added the STM32 pin names to:

1 Like

@BDub, thanks for that. I had seen this already, but I wasn’t (and still ain’t) sure if all the pins shown are actually 100% of the pins the WM-N-BM-09 exposes, or if it only shows the ones used by the current desing of the Photon.

1 Like

That symbol shows all of the pins exposed by the P0 module. Pins that don’t have a port number on them are routing directly to the broadcom radio inside the module.


Spark made a ‘Spark Button’ that has a ring of neopixels, four clicky buttons on the back, and some accelerometers. The Adafruit one has MANY more LEDs I believe (and not sure about the other features). For me, this was better since the LED positions mapped the rotary dial number positions almost exactly. Yay!