Arduino - A Guide for Beginners
Arduino – What the Heck is that?
Have you ever heard of Arduino and may be wondering what it is? Well, it’s one of my favorite micro-controllers out there. But, even if you’re not sure what a micro-controller is, this article has you covered. So, let’s begin!
A micro-controller is a circuit board that has a chip on it that can be programmed to do many different things. What I mean by this is that you can turn your own idea into a working prototype by using the Arduino. You can read information from a lot of different kinds of sensors which act as input; for instance, if you want the Arduino board to read how bright it is in a room you can use a photo-resistor (light sensor), which is sensitive to light, with the help of Arduino itself and some code. Or you could detect when someone walks into a room with a motion sensor; even, use a GPS receiver to do some location based projects. The best part is that you can reprogram these boards over and over again.
Now that’s just a small sample of different kinds of input that sensors provide, but what can you actually do with that data? Well, using output you can control devices or even display and store data; for example, you can have your Arduino to simply blink an LED with just a bit of code that tell the Arduino to turn the LED ON and OFF with a certain delay in order to make the blinking effect.
Automate Your Home
For something a bit more useful you can hook up the Arduino to this product called the ‘Power Switch Tale’. It lets you control the power to your AC devices like your lamps and other appliances. Pretty cool! Imagine what you can do with this.
Here, we’re just scratching the surface of the different inputs and outputs that we can use with the Arduino. There’s just way too much out there to cover in a single article. But, let’s take a look at how an Arduino can play a role in a basic project. Let’s say you want your living room lights to turn off when launch Netflix and press play on your TV remote so that you can enjoy your movie in the dark automatically giving to that relaxed theater feel!
To make this happen you will need an infrared sensor that can read the infrared light that comes out of the remote control. And, to turn off the lights we could the ‘Power Switch Tale’ I mentioned before. The Power Switch Tale plugs into your wall and you can plug your lamp into it then. Finally, we could connect some wires from the Power Switch Tale to the Arduino digital pins to control the On/Off switch inside the Power Switch Tale with a little bit of code. The code can be uploaded to the board using the free Arduino software. So, what the code would do is help the Arduino know what it has to do. In this case, the Arduino will send a signal to the power switch to help cut the power to the lamps. And, if you want to further enhance the code to turn the lights back ON whenever you press the stop button, it’s just a matter updating the code and re-uploading it to the board.
Again, this article is not to teach you each and every aspect Arduino, including coding or how to make the automatic lamp project, you can find that all over the internet. The real purpose of this article is to get you started with the basics and you can always head on to www.arduino.cc to learn more about it.
I made a ‘Wave Switch’
There’s so much more you can do with the Arduino that it’s kind of incredible. I am personally a fan of Arduino and I have done a couple of project too. One of my favorite project is ‘The Wave Switch’ where I used an ultra-sonic distance sensor to make a cool, yet simple switch that lets you turn On and OFF the LED by just waving. Make sure to check my projects by heading over to my blog, ArduinoCoder.
Some other Cool Projects
Steve Hoefer from MAKE, made a Secret Knock Gumball machine that instead of a quarter you need to know the secret knock to get a gum. Do you wanna make your own? Go check it out on makezine.com; it was featured in MAKE volume 25. The Arduino even lets you take your projects online; even your cat can start twitting with the Kitty Twitty project from Marc de Vinck. When your cat plays with the little toy, the device tweets. This project can also be found on MAKE – volume 22. Do check their website; these guys are pretty cool and they were even able to make a brain controlled robot. Yes, you heard it right! A freaking brain controlled movable robot.
So that’s just a small picture of what you can do with an Arduino. My best advice to you is to jump right in and start playing around with the Arduino micro-controller. You can get once of these for really cheap on Amazon. You can also buy the official Arduino Starter Kit directly from amazon too. Well, that’s all for today folks and now that you’re aware of the basics stay tuned for some cool Arduino projects that I’ll be doing. Thank You!