How to Program miniMO

This is a reference guide showing you how to program miniMO using the Arduino IDE and an Arduino/Genuino UNO.

miniMO runs on an ATtiny85, a very well documented microcontroller, and programming miniMO is the same as programming the ATtiny. There are many tutorials available online on the topic, and I recommend following this excellent post that explains the process in detail.

What you need:

  • A computer with the Arduino IDE 1.5.7  installed, and an Arduino/Genuino UNO, or an ISP (in-system programmer). This guide shows you how to use the Arduino as an ISP programmer
  • Within the Arduino IDE, you need ATtiny cores:
    • Get the arduino-tiny cores available here. Unpack the folder, search inside for a file named Prospective Boards.txt, and rename it to Boards.txt
    • Install the cores as per the post linked above
  • A miniMO, either PCB or 3D-printed
  • If you have a 3D printed miniMO, you’ll need 5 male-male jumper wires
  • If you have a PCB miniMO, you’ll need either 5/6 male-male jumper wires (one is optional), or a 5-pin male header and an optional jumper wire. This is the preferred option, and I use an angled header because it makes miniMO rest neatly next to the Arduino when connected


  • If you have a PCB miniMO:
    • Get the header, and move the plastic bit back a so that the header will hold to female headers on both sides

      Up: unmodified header. Down: plastic bit moved back –  the metal pins are now long enough to hold to a female header

    • Place the Arduino so that the longest row of female headers is located at its right
    • Locate the pin marked GND in the Arduino in the rightmost header, and insert the male header starting there, from GND to PWM10
    • Place the miniMO with the female header looking to the left.
    • Align the uppermost pin in miniMO with the uppermost pin of the male header, and insert miniMO. miniMO’s lower pin won’t have anything connected

      detail view

    • If you want to power miniMO from the Arduino, connect a jumper wire from the 3.3v header (5v is also fine, if available), to the free pin, and set the power jumper in miniMO to the leftmost position (external power)

tl;dr – Align GND in miniMO with GND in Arduino, and connect the headers 1-to-1 except for the 6th, which you can use to connect to PWR in Arduino if you want to.

  • If you have a 3D printed miniMO:
    • Place the Arduino so that the longest row of female headers is located at its right
    • Place the miniMO to the left of the Arduino, with its female header looking to the right
    • Locate the pin marked with the number 13 in the Arduino, and use a jumper wire to connect it with the topmost pin in miniMO
    • Connect three more pins one-to-one, going downwards, between miniMO and Arduino (pins 12, 11, and 10). When you finish, the lowermost pin in miniMO won’t have anything connected
    • Connect the lower-most pin in miniMO to any pin marked GND in Arduino. I use the pin located over number 13

Unlike with the PCB model, there’s no simple plug-and-play header or connector that I know of. I built a custom connector using a ribbon cable and male headers; you can just glue the bundle of jumpers together in both ends as a quick workaround.


Start with the Arduino on its own, connected to the computer but not yet to miniMO.

  • Open the Arduino IDE, and within the File/Examples menu, select ArduinoISP
  • In the Tools/Board menu, make sure you have your particular model of Arduino selected
  • Click the arrow to compile and upload the program to Arduino
    • From now onwards, Arduino will work as a programmer
  • Connect miniMO to Arduino, as explained above, and turn it on
  • Make sure miniMO has nothing connected to port 4; you can leave any other connections as they are
  • In the IDE, go back to the Tools/Board Menu, and select ATtiny85, 8Mhz, internal oscillator. Regardless of the actual writing, you should see only one option that meets these criteria. In my case, it says ATtiny85@8Mhz (internal oscillator; BOD disabled)
  • Now go to Tools/Programmer, and choose Arduino as ISP
    • If you got your miniMO from me, skip the step right below
    • If you are sourcing your own ATtiny chip, select Tools/Burn Bootloader. This will set the microcontroller to work at 8Mhz running on the internal oscillator, as selected above, if it wasn’t already (it doesn’t actually burn a bootloader, as far as I know). Usually you will do this only once in the lifetime of your miniMO. (If you got your miniMO from me you can skip this step, since it is already programmed)
  • Download the programs from the repository, and open any of them with the IDE. I recommend that the first program you try is an Oscillator
  • Click on the arrow to compile and upload the program to miniMO
    • If you uploaded the Oscillator program, run an input calibration: click the button three times, then move the knob to the rightmost and leftmost positions a couple times

After the initial setup, you will only need to repeat the last two steps (download, open with the IDE, click on arrow) to send new programs to miniMO.

If sending a program fails, most usually it is due to one of two things: miniMO’s battery is running low, or you left port 4 connected.

  • If the batteries are low, either replace them, or, if you’re using a PCB miniMO, power it from the Arduino
  • If you are using a printed model, also recheck the connections between miniMO and Arduino, and, if that doesn’t help, recheck the circuit, as an internal connection might have gone loose