To help expose my son to some discrete electronics, I thought it would be a fun project to make a cricket chirping circuit. Now you can buy these as kits for $20 and they come complete with a PCB, parts and a guarantee it will work. Where is the fun in that though?

After some googling, I came across the Urban Cricket project on Happy Labs. They have a video of the cricket circuit working and the design was simple enough so I set to work gathering the required parts from the local electronics store.

Scripts folder

The above schematic is a nice hand drawn logical layout but not useful for copying onto a breadboard, so I reproduced it into a Fritzing schematic

Scripts folder

From the Fritzing schematic, I produced a breadboard diagram of the same

Scripts folder

It didn’t take long to build and also it didn’t take long to find something was wrong - there was no chirping. So in order debug the circuit I had to understand what it was trying to do

Schmitt Oscillators

Schmitt oscillators produce square waves according to the formula

Scripts folder

Read more on talking electronics but using this information, we can determine what the three oscilators are doing

Oscillator 1

Is a 100kΩ / 100nF resistor, capacitor pair giving a frequency of 120Hz

Oscillator 2

Is 39kΩ / 10μF giving a frequency of 3Hz

Oscillator 3

Is 290kΩ / 100nF giving a frequency of 0.41Hz - ie a 2.4 second period.

Piezo beeper

Finally I read this in the Happy Labs notes and it became clear

The piezo beeper has a built in driver which means that a voltage applied will cause the beeper to generate noise not only a short click.

I wasn’t using a piezo buzzer but a 0.25W speaker that I hacked out of a broken toy truck. The speaker needs to be oscillated at 3kHz to get a tone but the piezo just needs a DC voltage and has a built in driver to give the initial 3kHz. The first oscilator changes the 3kHz tone into a continuous chirp, the second oscilator turns chirp off and on a few times a second, the third makes it chirp for a few seconds at a time before resting. The urban cricket notes all stated this - it just took several readings for it to all sink in.

With the understanding that my speaker needed a 3kHz driver I tried a combination of resistor / capacitor to achieve this and it worked according to the bitscope but I couldn’t get anything out the speaker. After playing about with a transistor driver I gave up and purchased the $3.50 piezo buzzer and it finally worked.

Here is the Fritzing layout for the Urban Cricket