Meet The Maker
pen hardware is attractive for
several reasons. It’s often cheaper
than closed-source hardware, and
because the specifications are
shared, it’s easier to build on top
of it. It’s also ideal for education,
as students can pull it apart, study the design, and
learn how things really work.
Electronic Cats, a small team of hardware makers
based in Mexico, have embraced openness for all of
“We are Electronic Cats, we started up in Mexico.
We do a lot of hardware, electronic boards, and
embedded systems”, says Eduardo Contreras.
“We make a product called CatSat, which is
used to track satellites, and we’ve got one called
MagSpoof, which is a hacking tool, for testing
security on credit cards or debit cards. It reads the
magnetic bands. Lots of hardware of different types.
“Now we have developed for one our friends
who asked us ‘Hey, would you do something like a
Makey Makey but cheaper?’
“Makey Makeys are an educational programming
interface, and they’ve been on the market for at
least eight years. They’ve always been the same
price and come with the same kit, so in Mexico it’s
really expensive. They cost $30, but you need to pay
taxes and the shipping cost, and import duties, and
then the final cost is something like 45 percent more
than the price.
“So we said, yes, we can do it. We chose
ATSAMD21, which is a really well-known chip right
now. Arduino uses it, Adafruit uses it, everyone uses
it, because it has loads of features. One of these is
that you can use it as a peripheral touch controller.
“Instead of doing circuits like Makey Makey
does, with resistive circuits, we do it with capacitive
touch. Which is why we’ve got one plugged into a
banana over here. You don’t need to connect your
ground potentials – you only need to touch the
banana and the Meow Meow senses the change
“So, we’ve improved the Makey Makey, and done
it cheaper. We didn’t think ‘OK, that’s all we want to
do’, we wanted to do another product. So, we spent
a lot of time making it compatible with MakeCode.
“So we forked the MakeCode from Microsoft.
Now you can go to our page and program your
Meow Meow with blocks. If you want this pad to
be another key and this pad to be an out for an LED,
you can do it. So I press this, and I turn on an LED.
“Another good point for our project is that
everything is open source. It’s open-source
hardware certified, and that makes us only the third
open-source hardware project in Mexico.
Meet The Maker:
Say hello to the educators behind
50 percent of Mexico’s open hardware
The Meow Meow
board uses capacitive
touch, making it ideal
for the classroom