If we rotate the board, the direction of the Earth's magnetic field with respect to the magnetometer should change but its magnitude should not! Yet, the magnetometer indicates that the magnitude of the magnetic field changes as the board rotates.

Why's that the case? Turns out the magnetometer needs to be calibrated to return the correct answer.

The calibration involves quite a bit of math (matrices) so we won't cover right now but this Application Note describes the procedure if you are interested. Instead, what we'll do in this section is "visualize" how off we are.

Let's try this experiment: Let's record the readings of the magnetometer while we slowly rotate the board along the Z axis while keeping the board horizontal in the XY plane. We'll use the iprintln macro to format the readings as Tab Separated Values (TSV).

pub fn main() -> ! {
    loop {
        let I16x3 { x, y, z } = lsm303dlhc::magnetic_field();

        iprintln!("{}\t{}\t{}", x, y, z);


You should get an output in the console that looks like this:

-331    -114    -2
-325    -147    12
-321    -169    10
-307    -209    7
-305    -216    3
-298    -236    8
-293    -243    5
-284    -257    2
-281    -263    1
-270    -278    9

You can pipe that to a file using:

# Careful! Exit any running GDB session and any `itmdump` instance that may be
# using `itm.txt`
$ itmdump itm.txt > emf.txt

Then import that TSV file into a spreadsheet program and plot the first two columns as a scatter plot.

If you rotated the board on a flat horizontal surface, the Z component of the magnetic field should have remained relatively constant and this plot should have been a circle (not a ellipse) centered at the origin. Severe deviations from that indicate that the magnetometer needs to be calibrated.

Take home message: Don't just trust the reading of a sensor. Verify it's outputting sensible values. If it's not, then calibrate it.