I’ve recently become obsessed with physical computing. This started with my discovery of Arduino while heavily dogfooding our new products as a Product Manager here at Safari.
The more I read about it, the more fascinated I became with all the things this tiny microcontroller could do, and eventually even volunteered to run an Arduino Workshop for middle school students as a “winter-session” elective.
Why learn Arduino?
Open Source hardware is predicted to be the next explosive revolution in computing. From Amazon Air Prime & Lakemaid Beer Delivery Drones, to Google Glass and smart watches, the future is bright for physical, embedded computing and the makers whose creativity makes it all happen.
The Arduino platform takes the fear out of complex programming and hardware. It enables you to get started with very little programming or electronics experience, and quickly prototype and iterate on your ideas for fun, or for profit. With vast networks of Arduino enthusiasts and the open source hardware movement, there’s always somewhere to turn for help if you get stuck.
Here are a few of the resources that got me fired up about Arduino development and hopefully some of them will inspire you to dust off that Arduino, get through your first few projects and get you familiar with the tools and resources you need to start building your own creations.
Get Started for Free!
You can get started on Safari with a free 10-day trial, you will have access to the chapters & clips linked in these workshops as well as the complete library of technology and business books & videos.
There are a wide range of buttons, sensors, motors, shields and fun add-ons that can extend your Arduino. Everyone’s preferences will vary. The kits listed below are a great start and will provide most of the components to get through your first few projects, though some of the more complex projects will require “optional” sensors listed below. I encourage you to think about what projects you are most interested in and build your own shopping list accordingly.
If one the projects calls for supplies you don’t have, get creative and see if you can substitute components, hack an old toy, or modify the code to work with something you do have. After all, problem solving is half the fun!
No idea where you want to take your new skills? That’s fine too… Check out MAKE Magazine for ideas, or go with the official Arduino kit. The kit comes with enough supplies to build pre-defined projects and get your creativity flowing before you start buying extras — you’ll be designing your own hardware in no time. If you are really lucky, you may even be able to find assorted Arduino & MAKE kits at your local Radio Shack!
NOTE: For Adafruit purchases, use discount code “arduinobootcamp” for 10% of your order
Basic: Adafruit Starter Kit or MAKE Getting Started – Entry Level kit, enough to get you through a little over half of the experiments covered here. Nice if you want to get a feel for the platform before committing, and lets you spend your budget later on more advanced components once you figure out what you want to build.
Workshop 1: Intro, Set Up Environment & LEDs!
In this workshop, we will take a look at what the Arduino platform is all about, get your development environment set up, and introduce you to the process of loading sketches to your board (the catchy name for a program). Then we’ll build a few simple circuits to get the feel for the hardware side of Arduino while using some sample code.
An important thing to think about through these workshops is that there are always going to be two pieces to an Arduino Project: The Hardware and the Software. The beauty of the Arduino is that by modifying software, the same circuit can have many different functionalities. For example, a simple button and LED without an Arduino is likely limited to simple off and on operations but with an Arduino we can configure it to display patterns, animations, transitions, dim and even cycle through multiple functions depending on how many times the button is pressed.
What are we getting into?
Exploring the Arduino Board (10 minutes) Stop when you get to “Taking a Look Around the IDE”. We’ll get that installed in the next section.
Setup your Tools:
- Installing the IDE (15 mins)
Your First Sketch, (25 mins) Explained in Detail
Build our First Real Circuit! (30 mins) Let’s build on the blink sketch by setting it up on a breadboard. I recommend holding off on the projects at the end, for now unless you get antsy. We’ll come back to them later and there’s alot more fun to be had with LEDs first!
Let’s build some cool stuff!
To start applying what you learned, try your hand at these exercises:
Pulsating Lamp (20 mins)
RGB Mood Lamp (20 mins)
LED Fire Effect (20 Mins)
LED Chase Effect (20 Mins)
Interactive Chase (20 Mins)
- Extra Credit: Shift Registers for more LEDS with less pins