SpinWheel Initial Setup

We’re so excited that you are ready to use your SpinWheel! This page provides details on the contents of your kit, instructions for turning it on for the first time and begins the process of setting you up to create new and exciting programs on your SpinWheel!


Your kit contains: 1 SpinWheel, 1 battery, and 1 paper copy of the SpinWheel Field Guide. A micro USB cable is needed to charge and program the SpinWheel and is not included with the kit. You likely already own a micro USB cable (your Kindle or an old Android smartphone might use this charger), but you can also buy a micro USB cable online.

The SpinWheel has four components: a power source (the battery), a sensor (for motion and magnetic fields), a set of lights (the light emitting diodes, or LEDs), and a micro computer (the brain of the device).

Unboxing the device.

Quick Start

  1. You’ll notice that the battery is not attached to the SpinWheel. Simply plug the battery connector into the battery jack on the circuit board and you can start using the SpinWheel as a wearable accessory, as it is already preloaded with several basic programs.

  2. To turn on the SpinWheel, flip the switch on the back to “BAT”. You should see it turn on and light up brightly!

  3. You can press the button on the back of the SpinWheel to toggle between different programs.

  4. To turn off the SpinWheel, flip the switch to “USB”.

  5. To charge, plug a micro USB cable into the USB jack, flip the switch to “USB” and charge using a computer or USB-to-wall converter. You should also keep the switch in this position when you are not using the SpinWheel and for long term storage to protect the battery from discharging. Note: the battery may require charging before use.

Your kit contains a booklet (the SpinWheel Field Guide) with various activities you can complete . The activities in the booklet are also found in expanded versions online. We highly recommend that you make use of both.

Setting Up the Arduino Software

While you can use the SpinWheel with the preloaded programs, much of the joy of the SpinWheel comes from your potential to change it, and make it do whatever you wish! To do this, you will need a way to reprogram the computer on the SpinWheel. We use the Arduino programming language to communicate with the SpinWheel. Start by installing the Arduino software on your computer, which you can download for free from arduino.cc/en/Main/Software.

Use Tools→ Port and Tools→ Board to change the settings on the Arduino software.

Plug your SpinWheel into your computer with a micro USB cable and flip the switch to the position labeled “USB”. Open the Arduino software. You should see your device appear in the Tools menu under Tools→ Port. You will see a list of serial ports on your computer; you need to find the one for the SpinWheel. If there are multiple ports and you are unsure which one to use, simply unplug the SpinWheel and see which serial port disappears when you do so. This port corresponds to your SpinWheel’s serial port.

Now you can go back to the Tools menu and select Tools→ Board. Select Arduino Leonardo as the board (a.k.a. processor), so that the software knows which “dialect” to use to talk to the SpinWheel (computer languages have dialects just like human languages! Arduino is the language we are using, and Arduino Leonardo describes the “dialect”).

Installing Arduino libraries.

Learning to code is just like learning a new language - it may not be easy at first, but once you learn the basics, you will be able to write code to communicate effectively with computers! To get the first set of examples of this new language, download our collection of sample code (this will download a zip file). Then you can use Sketch→ Include Library→ Add .ZIP Library and navigate to the zip file to add it. You can always download this file anew if in your experimentation you have lost the original – and experimentation is encouraged. The new files can be found under File→ Examples→ SpinWearables. Open any file to see an example of the language used to communicate with the SpinWheel. You will learn more about this language in future lessons.

Upload programs to your SpinWheel using the Upload button (highlighted in white).

To test that your SpinWheel is working properly, you can install a new program from the example files to animate your SpinWheel. Choose a file to install by opening File→ Examples→ SpinWearables and picking one of the examples. For instance, pick BlinkingFirmware and upload it by pressing the upload button (the arrow at the top). Now, your SpinWheel will contain all the pre-loaded animations it came with, plus the new colorful blinking one (from BlinkingFirmware) you just uploaded.

In future SpinWheel activities, you will be writing new programs to animate the SpinWheel. To transfer a program from your computer to your SpinWheel, simply connect your SpinWheel to your computer, open your new program in the Arduino software and press the upload button.

Congratulations! You are now ready to continue with the rest of the SpinWheel activities!

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. © SpinWearables LLC (license and trademark details)