Introduction: Arduino GRANDE the Huge Microcontroller

Picture of Arduino GRANDE the Huge Microcontroller

We love Arduino! But the boards are so tiny that they can be difficult to hug. And not so easy to see, either, if you're a student sitting at the back of a classroom. So why not solve both problems by building a really huge, fully-functioning Arduino that's six* times larger than real life?

This guide will show you how to build your own, using laser cut acrylic, a few LEDs and buttons, some wiring and connectors, and a puny little actual sized Arduino Uno as its brain.

*5.6x to be exact.

Step 1: Parts and Materials You'll Need

Picture of Parts and Materials You'll Need

Here's what you'll need:

  • 2 ea. 16"x12" 5mm thick blue/green acrylic sheet
  • 7"x4" 6mm thick white acrylic sheet
  • 2 ea. 12"x12" 6mm thick black acrylic cheet
  • White acrylic craft paint
  • Black acrylic craft paint
  • Arduino Uno
  • ScrewShield for Arduino
  • 28 ea. banana jacks
  • Banana plugs
  • Stranded wire
  • Panel mount USB A to B plug
  • AAAx4 battery holder, batteries, and switch
  • Doorbell or other momentary switch button with 58mm spacing mounting holes
  • 4 ea. rectangular panel mount LEDs 7.75mm x 5.3mm, three yellow (L, TX, & RX), one green (ON)
  • 4-40 screws (1", 3/4", and 1/2") and nuts
  • Loctite thread locker
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • laser cutter

Note: The drawings in the next step are designed to fit these exact parts, so you may need to measure and redraft some screw mounting holes if you source different parts.

Step 2: Model Files

Picture of Model Files

The first step I took in building this was to build a 3D model in Rhino. I based it on the Arduino Uno dimensions, and then started creating the parts based upon my real-world materials and scale. (Since I'm using an Epilog Zing 16 laser cutter with a bed size of 16" x 12", my maximum dimensions were dictated for me. So, this is actually a 5.6x larger-than-real-life Arduino.)

After building the 3D model, I extracted the curves and laid them out flat for laser cutting. Those files are attached here in .ai and .dxf formats. In the Illustrator document there are different layers for 6mm cutting, 5mm cutting, and etching.

Step 3: Prototype With Plywood

Picture of Prototype With Plywood

Not an essential step, but I chose to do a test on baltic birch plywood. It smells much better than acrylic.

Step 4: Laser Cut USB Jack, Power Jack, Atmega 328p

Picture of Laser Cut USB Jack, Power Jack, Atmega 328p

The chip is just for show, but the power jack will eventually hide the batteries, and the USB port will be made functional by the addition of a panel mount USB jack.

Again, I prototyped first with some white acrylic before moving on to my final versions in black.

Also cut the header block parts and assorted chips, crystal, and capacitors found in the files.

Step 5: Laser Etch and Cut the Main "PCB" Board

Picture of Laser Etch and Cut the Main "PCB" Board

Here the etching is used to create a relief that will eventually be painted white for a high-contrast PCB silkscreened look. Please make sure you've got good filtration and ventilation when cutting acrylic -- as Tod Kurt once said, it smells like you're burning frozen gasoline.

You can also dry-fit the other components to make sure everything fits nicely before moving on. Here's a look at the board with temporary white components in place.

Step 6: Paint the Etched Parts

Picture of Paint the Etched Parts

The laser etching stands out fairly well on black acrylic, less so on the blue/green, and not at all on any white parts. You can improve the etching greatly with a little paint. This is a great trick I learned from Mark and Andy of Spikenzie Labs. You cover the etching with acrylic paint and then immediately wipe it off with a squeegee or cloth. The paint comes right off the smooth, unetched portion of the surface, but adheres nicely to the rough, etched parts. A little isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab is useful for cleaning up any stubborn bits.

Step 7: Wire the Headers

Picture of Wire the Headers

Next, you'll insert the banana jacks into the female header blocks and then thread the nuts on to hold them in place. A dab of Loctite will prevent them from loosening up later.

On each banana jack, solder a length of wire sufficient to route through the board to the real Arduino. Push the wires through to the underside of the board at the header location, then insert and assemble the header blocks with screws and nuts which will be held captive in the acrylic t-slots.

Step 8: Assemble the Board

Picture of Assemble the Board

The reset button (originally sold as a doorbell) needs to have two long lengths of wire soldered to it, which are then fed through the board to route to the real Arduino. The same goes for the panel mount rectangular LEDs.

Insert and screw down all of the remaining components.

Step 9: Hook Up the Brains

Picture of Hook Up the Brains

Attach a real Arduino Uno to the board, and then run all of the header, reset, and LED wiring to it, and plug in the USB cable. You can use a ScrewShield -- available at Adafruit, SparkFun, Seeed, and other electronics resellers -- to prevent wires from falling out. Full disclosure, I'm one of the creators of the ScrewShield and will make a little bit of money if you buy one.

Tuck the unsightly wiring away under the protective bottom board. You can adhere rubber feet to the bottom for stability.

Step 10: Artisinally Craft a Beautiful Barrel Plug From Cardboard Tubing and Paint

Picture of Artisinally Craft a Beautiful Barrel Plug From Cardboard Tubing and Paint

There are surely better ways to do this -- 3D printing, or heating and bending ABS plastic both come to mind -- but this was what I did and it worked out for now.

Hide a 4xAAA battery pack inside the barrel plug, and then run it through a switch to GND and Vin on the Uno to power the Arduino GRANDE.

You can now upload a test sketch and try things out! I wired banana plugs to resistors, 10mm LEDs, potentiometers, speakers, buzzers, servo motors, and other typical components to plug into the GRANDE.

Step 11: Enjoy and Share Your Arduino GRANDE

Picture of Enjoy and Share Your Arduino GRANDE

Now, you can upload any Arduino sketch of your liking, and wire standard components to banana plugs in order to insert and use with great effect on the GRANDE.

Carry your GRANDE everywhere you go to make a scene! At Bay Area Maker Faire, my friend (and Arduino creator) Massimo Banzi gave the GRANDE a big thumbs-up.

You can use yours to teach beginning Arduino classes in an interactive, hands-on way, carry it around like a boom box while playing chiptunes, or even extend the idea with GRANDE scale shields.


Akin Yildiz made it! (author)2016-06-20

finally made my own version, thanks for the inspiration.!!!

JohnPark (author)Akin Yildiz2016-06-20

You took it to a whole new level. Awesome!

StanW5 (author)2016-05-21

OOh I would love to give one of these to my kids!

StanW5 (author)2016-05-21

OOh I would love to give one of these to my kids!

JasonB309 (author)2016-05-21

this is rad! but i feel like this may get discovered by the fans of ariana grrandes brother......could be dangerous

JohnPark (author)JasonB3092016-05-21

Haha, I didn't think of that! There MUST be a relative named Arduino somewhere back in Ariana's family tree, right?

amicojeko (author)2016-04-28

As an Italian, I tell you... this (awesome) thing should be named "Arduone"

JasonB309 (author)amicojeko2016-05-21

haha good pun sir, i had "ardukiddingme"

TaeiolassT (author)amicojeko2016-05-19

Andrebbe chiamato "Arduino grosso!" per poter fare i programmoni e accendere i leddoni.

La prossima versione dovrà essere chiamata "Arduino grosso più GROSSO!"

amicojeko (author)TaeiolassT2016-05-19

hahahahah Sio insegna :)

TaeiolassT (author)amicojeko2016-05-19

Andrebbe chiamato "Arduino grosso!" per poter fare i programmoni e accendere i leddoni.

La prossima versione dovrà essere chiamata "Arduino grosso più GROSSO!"

TaeiolassT (author)amicojeko2016-05-19

Andrebbe chiamato "Arduino grosso!" per poter fare i programmoni e accendere i leddoni.

La prossima versione dovrà essere chiamata "Arduino grosso più GROSSO!"

JohnPark (author)amicojeko2016-04-28

Mi piace! Grazie.

Jonathanrjpereira (author)2016-05-02


live4ktm (author)2016-04-19

This is too cool. I can see the movie coming soon - "Attack of the giant Arduino". Now the next challenge. Size it down so small we can no longer see it ! Or better yet, become an Arduino yourself for Haloween.

JohnPark (author)live4ktm2016-04-25

I would love to make an Arduino costume, good call.

Han_Solo_Order66 (author)2016-04-25

this is a really creative project, and it's really cool.

Thanks Han!

ZombieWorkshop (author)2016-04-19

Oh when I watch the photo say what???very funny project

FaustWoodworks (author)2016-04-19

Awesome idea! Great for teaching!

warebear (author)2016-04-17

This is really cool, I think sandwiching the real uno inside of it (where you are hiding the wires) would have been neat. Then, when you hook things up to it, people think the GRANDE is the actual working board. Also, make a 5.6x scale battery pack with connectors so you can make it "portable" ;)

JohnPark (author)warebear2016-04-17

Hiding the Uno would be cool, agreed. This one is portable, actually, there's a battery pack hidden inside the barrel jack.

warebear (author)JohnPark2016-04-17

Well I was thinking of making a HUGE battery pack to make it look like it's being powered from it.

Taranach (author)warebear2016-04-18

Make a false battery pack to store cables, wires and other components... bonus points if you can "upscale" them as well!!!

dalegribble (author)2016-04-18

1st. Awesome idea

2nd. Incredible execution

3rd. Wish I had thought of a screw shield

As far as learning, I really think that sizing it up will take out the intimidation of a bunch of wires plugged into a small component. If you wanted to blink a big bulb, throw in a 3v relay. Fade a big bulb, put in an amplifier. Endless teaching stuff. Great instructions.

daniellong2 (author)2016-04-18

I love this, its like the most useful useless thing lol. its really cool to teach how it works, but in the other side it's the complete opposite thing to the purpose of electronics (small). anyways, its a fun project ^^

PS: I like your moustache in the last photo xDDD

Vinay Seth (author)2016-04-17

Hmm interesting!

But what gave you the idea in the first place, may I ask? Did you have a practical application in mind, or just for the kicks?

JohnPark (author)Vinay Seth2016-04-17

Mostly for fun, but also makes it a bit more understandable when you teach people about the basics of plugging components in, blinking an LED, adjusting a potentiometer, and so on.

Vinay Seth (author)JohnPark2016-04-17


It somehow reminds me of the teaching model to help explain Einstein's conception of gravity- the one where there's a sheath of net or cloth stretched around a frame, with tennis balls etc. placed on it as planetary bodies. I was really amazed at the simplicity of that model the first time I saw it on youtube, and yet how effective it was in grasping an idea. We definitely need smarter models for teaching, not just as apps, but objects we can touch and see!

By the way, I'm a visual artist who was debating in my head the 'usefulness' of my pursuit for quite some time- and this just made my day! Thanks you for this :)

txdawood (author)Vinay Seth2016-04-17

I'd like to see that model. Do you have a link? Thanks.

Vinay Seth (author)txdawood2016-04-18

Here you go!:

ccrazed (author)JohnPark2016-04-17

Talking of LEDs, a GRANDE LED would be awesome

Fl0p (author)2016-04-18


farraha (author)2016-04-17

Great Idea!

Laurie Bunch (author)2016-04-17

You should make them and sell them as instructional tools - seriously! I am a teacher and that would be a good teaching tool. What would it cost to buy one?

JohnPark (author)Laurie Bunch2016-04-17

Thanks Laurie, I'm considering doing it, I'll let you know.

rtedescojr (author)JohnPark2016-04-17

Great Idea!

I would also like to have one for my classroom. Please keep us posted on the availability.

GuyJ2 (author)2016-04-17

Good but shouldn't you also etch the tracks, otherwise by what dark sorcery does this pcb work? You can probably just grab the gerber and use it as a mask... provided you can find a large enough printer... perhaps a projector and a marker.

JohnPark (author)GuyJ22016-04-17

Really great idea, that would be cool looking. It could be done the same way I did the other "silkscreen" graphics by laser etching paint filling the surface.

man_thas_cool (author)2016-04-17

Y'all r crazy!

msilva45 (author)2016-04-17

great design , exellent idea parabens

allwinedesigns (author)2016-04-17

This would go great with the giant 10x scale breadboard I made for the Children's Museum of Bozeman STEAMlab! We use it to teach basic components and circuits. I have a smaller Microcontroller PCB that breaks out 3 pins of a Pololu A-Star Mini (essentially an Arduino Micro clone), but this would be much easier to convey to kids. Here's a video of a DIY potentiometer hooked up to he breadboard:

JohnPark (author)allwinedesigns2016-04-17

The huge breadboard and pot switch you made are fantastic. Great work!

allwinedesigns (author)JohnPark2016-04-17

Thanks! Here's a demonstration of the small Microcontroller PCB plugged in:

BlueCoyote (author)2016-04-15

Oh yeaaahhhh

Kirand1 (author)BlueCoyote2016-04-16

you should install a 555 timer in that and put contacts in the pins so it actually

Works ??

BlueCoyote (author)Kirand12016-04-16

A sufficiently big card needed for my 555, I have seen the light

alienorbit (author)BlueCoyote2016-04-17


(in Thailand, 555 is text shortcut for "Ha-Ha-Ha") (because "5" in Thai is pronounced "Ha")

Kirand1 (author)BlueCoyote2016-04-16

That is so sick

Kirand1 (author)Kirand12016-04-16

That is like a diy 555 timer with the actual transistors and everything. I am so getting that.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm a maker. I was the host and co-writer of the PBS series Make: Television. I demo projects at Maker Faires, and build and ... More »
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