Introduction: How to Have Fun With Arduino (and Become a Geek in the Process)

Picture of How to Have Fun With Arduino (and Become a Geek in the Process)

Do you wish to earn your geek card - pronto? Lets get started! This guide will start you on the path to the dark side using the open source Arduino development and prototyping platform. It will introduce you to microcontrollers, get you started with a platform for physical computing and give you the confidence to create technological marvels. It is open source, inexpensive and a blast to learn.

Step 1: Get Yourself an Arduino

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The first step is to acquire an Arduino board. I highly recommend the USB version. You will need the USB A-B cable as well.
Here is a link to the board: ArduinoBoard.
Here is a link to the cable: USB Cable.

Shopping online is fun, and it gets better when your toys come in the mail.

Step 2: Where Does the Cable Go? Here Is the a Side and Its Home

Picture of Where Does the Cable Go? Here Is the a Side and Its Home

This is the A side of the cable. You can plug it into any USB port.

Step 3: And Here Is the B Side of the Cable

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The B side of the cable connects to the Arduino. Isn't this easy?

Step 4: Powering Your Board

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There are 3 power pins with a jumper over two of them. The power jumper goes over the last two pins if you are using usb power (just like shown here). Lift off the jumper and push down over the first two if you are connecting 9 volts from a wall wart.

Step 5: External Power Using a Wall Wart

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If you move the jumper pins to the EXT position you can use a 9 volt wall wart to power your board. Want one? Go here: Wall Wart.

Step 6: You Can Add the Optional Prototype Board

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There is a prototype shield kit and breadboard available to add utility to your Arduino. Please see an excellent tutorial by Bob Gallup on how to assemble this here: ProtoshieldAssembly. Don't be afraid the linked tutorial will walk you through putting it together in a logical step by step procedure. Very well done!

This prototype board is by no means necessary but it does add utility to your Arduino. You can get a prototype shield here: Protoshield. You can get the prototyping breadboard to mount to it here: Breadboard.

Step 7: Protoshield & Prototype Board on Top of Your Arduino

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This is what the protoshield and prototype board will look like when you get it mounted. in this view I have not soldered all the components, but have just placed the parts together. Please see this link if you need help on how to solder (again thanks to the Sparkfun team!): Soldering.

Step 8: What to Do With a Prototype Board? Look at This.

Picture of What to Do With a Prototype Board? Look at This.

The prototype board will allow you to wire any circuit you can dream of. There are pre-cut & pre-bent wire kits available for this. I recommend you buy one as they are very handy and add to your geek image when seen on your work desk. Sparkfun sells one here: WireKit There are also other suppliers of these kits.

Here is a link to a a wiki on prototype boards. You will see many circuits loaded on breadboards: Your circuits can be very simple or complex -you decide!

Step 9: There Are Pins & Connectors on Your Arduino Too.

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If you choose not to get the protoshield & breadboard - no problem. The Arduino has digital input/output pins and analog input pins built right in. The Arduino has the sockets and is ready to go.

Step 10: Next Lets Talk About the Software

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The Arduino programming environment is free. That is what open-source is all about. It will work with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. and can be downloaded here: Software. Load the software and then the drivers. Don't worry they have an excellent description of this right here: Software Installation Guide.

The picture shows a basic program to blink an LED (light emitting diode). All you need is one LED and it is attached to the pins as noted in the link above. The program is included with the software (along with so much more). Follow the instructions and soon you will have brought your board to life!

Is your board is blinking after you have completed the instructions? Yes? Well you are, in my humble opinion, a GEEK like me. Congratulations!

Step 11: So What Is Physical Computing?

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Physical computing is using our own physical inputs and using microcontollers or computers to control outputs.
Sure you can build a wild robot with the Arduino as Landon Cox has done: Landon Cox's Bot. But you can also wire sensors, LED's servos, displays and make art, express yourself, interpret our own physical inputs, or create a masterful adaptive device to help the disabled.

Tom Igoe is much more eloquent at describing Physical Computing: Tom Igoe.

Be creative, experiment, explore, solve a problem, and have fun doing it!

Step 12: Whats Next?

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There are numerous tutorials available to help you master the Arduino. These will all teach you electronics along the way, and provide you the confidence to further your skills. This page on the Arduino website has a list of tutorials: Tutorials. I would recommend a look at the Spooky Arduino by Todbot tutorials (bottom right hand corner of page).

Some of the things you will easily learn to do are:
Read a tilt sensor, use a joystick to control lights, detect sounds, play melodies, drive motors, interface to LCD displays, read a digital compass, read a gps device, etc.

Based on all my links, do you see how easy this is to acquire information? The Arduino site is loaded with information, and there is a forum to ask questions, learn what others are doing and get support: Forum. It doesn't get any better than this!

Ok - if you have actually read all that I have submitted here you are now entitled to print this card below and carry it around. Better yet, get an Arduino and create! Don't forget, whatever you make - its all good, and its fun!


mahmoudmorsy (author)2012-09-03

pleaaaaaaaase ,, can i use the same microcontroller "ATMEGA328P-PU" to program it many times . write and erase and try many projects on the same microcontroller using arduino ????????

Mr. Gadgets (author)mahmoudmorsy2012-11-10


rancid_84 (author)2011-11-03

LOL,, looks like a Cisco Cert Card ! nice

Computothought (author)2011-09-10

Microcenter now carries the sparkfun and specifically the Arduino.

Computothought (author)2011-09-10

Cool, a geek doing Latin. I came, I saw, and I went.

johnpoole (author)2011-03-27

thanks for writing that up, i read every word and bookmarked it. your writing style would work as a professional writer. this trash is just to much fun.. i was in the field when transistors were making us all dream of projects.. still do not have a clue as to the next big step.. the arduino is almost limitless.. THANKS AGAIN

paulhschulman (author)2011-02-20

The Arduino board you recommend is no longer available and the replacement they have is on backorder. Is there another one you'd recommend to make this project? I am planning on getting started. Know nothing

OK, that's. Yes I am a complete beginner, or since i haven't done anything, even a pre-beginner. Thanks for the reply.

avanner77 (author)paulhschulman2011-02-20

This tutorial was written when the (now-outdated) NG when the latest and greatest version. Today, the Arduino Uno is the latest version.

Buy the board here:
Or here:

If you are a complete beginner, I would also recommend this tutorial:

computergeek321 (author)2011-01-17

and the Arduino uno

kroq-gar78 (author)2009-05-16

how is it possible control so many LEDs individually? people are controlling ~64 leds (8x8 array) with only using 16 pins (or something like that). they're not even putting then in parallel. how do you do it??????

Derin (author)kroq-gar782009-05-22

charlieplexing.I'll explain it sometime today.

Emiliano Valencia (author)Derin2010-12-20

err its multiplexing, charlieplexing is only used if u need to control over 100 led's, since thats hthe maximum ammount of LED's that you can control with the arduino and nothing else like transistors or so.

hintss (author)Derin2010-12-18

well, if its a matrix, don't they just light one row at a time and let POV take care of making it an image?

bombmaker2 (author)2008-08-10

how do you hook this up to a wii nunchuck or joystick to control a servo

ReCreate (author)bombmaker22009-06-24

you run this code do_everything_i_want_you_to_do(wii_nunchuck ,joystick,control_the_servo)

bombmaker2 (author)ReCreate2009-06-25


You mean do_everything_i_want_you_to_do(wii_nunchuck ,joystick,control_the_servo); ReCreate forgot the semicolon... *You need a library that reads the nunchuk, and you need Arduino's built in servo library. Google the both of them.*

hintss (author)bombmaker22010-12-18

theres an instructable on it. the how to control your robot with a wii nunchuck or something like that...

kcedgerton (author)2009-08-19

For controlling a servo does it require a pwm source? Please help.

hintss (author)kcedgerton2010-12-18

it has pwm outputs. check out the servo tutorial on their site.

Phoenix17 (author)2010-12-12

where you have the board listed, they say that they "retired" the product. Just fyi. Which other board would your recommend? I'm looking at a Duemilanove?

hintss (author)Phoenix172010-12-18

uno is the newest

Dannne11 (author)2010-07-17

good to know :D

sotsirh194 (author)2008-07-14

Is there any way for the Arduino to display a message on the screen like a basic stamp.

Junkyard John (author)sotsirh1942008-08-08

Yessir, there sure is! It's called serial communication. Copy and paste this into a new file: void setup() { Serial.begin(9600); // opens serial port, sets data rate to 9600 bps } void loop() { Serial.print("Sup, World?"); }

ReCreate (author)Junkyard John2009-06-24

So in Hyper terminal it should return"Sup, World?"?

Junkyard John (author)ReCreate2009-06-25

I'm not familiar with Hyper Terminal, but there's a built-in serial monitor in Arduino's software; read my other reply below...

ReCreate (author)Junkyard John2009-06-25

Oh there is?

Junkyard John (author)ReCreate2009-06-25

Yup :)

ReCreate (author)Junkyard John2009-06-25

Neat...I am Getting myself One(An Arduino)

Xellers (author)Junkyard John2008-09-10

If I upload the program to my board, nothing happens, what should I be expecting? Is there anything else that I need to do?

fallenspirit123 (author)Xellers2008-12-21

yes you have to click on the button that says serial connection to see it

Junkyard John (author)Xellers2008-09-10

yes there is. Go to your Serial Monitor by clicking the button that looks like the attached image. You'll see that the bottom section has changed. This is what has to say about it: "Displays serial data being sent from the Arduino board (USB or serial board). To send data to the board, enter text and click on the "send" button or press enter. Choose the baud rate from the drop-down that matches the rate passed to Serial.begin in your sketch. Note that on Mac or Linux, the Arduino board will reset (rerun your sketch from the beginning) when you connect with the serial monitor. "

fallenspirit123 (author)2008-12-23

I Seriously need help! I dont know how to paste get the code onto the program if its not an example for example, junkyar john posted a code, but whenever I try to paste it into the program it just gives me errors!!

Hmm...that's odd, it may be in the way this website formats the text. I'd copy and paste into a text file first, and make sure it looks exactly like what I wrote. Then copy and paste into the arduino software

amando96 (author)fallenspirit1232009-02-22

erase // opens serial port, sets data rate to 9600 bps then it might work...

ReCreate (author)2009-06-24

Wow, I am Getting myself An Arduino, The Blinkenlight code is so Simple!

Bongmaster (author)2007-12-18

Well i got a Freeduino (from NKC on ebay, the self assembly version) and i'll have to see where it goes :) am planning on trying a simple midi (over USB) keyboard (one octave) or drum kit.. whatever is simplest :) thanx for the heads up on this :)

sp33dstix (author)Bongmaster2009-06-16

I just bought one of those as well :) I got the (Arduino Duemilanove Compatible) one. Waiting for it to come in the mail

apeine (author)2009-03-27

You only have to do that if you have a diecimila of older boards. Boards like Duemilanove and Mega switch automatically.

safebat (author)2009-03-01

Thanks; very well written and well laid out. I was wondering what all the Arduino instructables was about. I'm currently an old fart taking some programming and hardware classes and your lesson has given me an even greater spark of interest and desire to break out the breadboard and electronic parts and start playing the the Arduino programming too. Keep up the good work. I've read a few of these from other authors and they leave a lot of gaps.

amando96 (author)2009-02-22

lol as soon as i finished uploading the blink program i automatically knew i was a geek... lol
nice 'ible!

Foaly7 (author)2009-01-08

What does the Latin on the card in the last step mean?

Rob K (author)Foaly72009-01-11

I came, I saw, I conquered Famous Latin quote from Julius Caesar

Koil_1 (author)2008-12-30

You could also do what I did and hack up an old RS232 cable. I salvaged it from a building that had been demolished. It doesn't get much better than free and useful. That's not to mention all the different color codes one of those has (52) and their all 22 gage. That and I can and have also used it to extend my network hubs. With 26 twisted pairs it hauls a lot of data.

Bobthewrecker (author)2007-06-29

What does Vini Vidi Vici have to do with being a geek?

Vini Vidi Vici is a Latin phrase meaning i came i saw i conquered. He means it in reference to conquering basic coding on an arduino

Didnt julius ceasar say that? I distinctly remember that phrase :)

About This Instructable




Bio: Hardworking demonoid engineer, struggling to reconcile my hobbies with a desire to conquer the universe.
More by john otto:Construir un par de manos amigas (soldadura)Make a Christmas Santa ornament for your your table, or just for the fun of it. HO HO HOHow to have fun with Arduino (and become a Geek in the process)
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