I found that my local computer supergeekstore had stocked Sparkfun retail Arduino components. Maker Faire sells them at the Make: Shed. Adafruit has them also. You could get them from Sparkfun themselves. Hmmm, tax works out about what I would pay in shipping and would not have to wait at the door for the package. I had bought an Arduino Uno $30(other variants($25) require the FTDI programmer USB interface($15) which is built in to the Uno). Other add-ons can run up the tab. I have a 2x16 LCD display($20) to play with next. See if the kits will save you any money. The books were all text-book priced and I was sure info could be gleaned from the internet.
You have to go to arduino.cc
to download the Arduino programming interface for your PC. It allows you to create "sketches" or programs that get uploaded to the ATmega microprocessor chip on the Arduino board. The site contains tutorials and examples of code used to implement the devices you want to interface with the Arduino.
On a PC, only thing tricky in getting started is you have to manually install the USB drivers so that it recognizes the Arduino on a COM port.
A computer with the Arduino software installed, USB drivers, a USB cable to connect the PC and Arduino, and the Arduino Uno is all you need to get started. The Uno has an LED onboard that you can control with a sketch.
I wanted to get an Arduino so I could do some of those cool things like build 3-D LED matrices and light reactive tabletops.
It is easy to get your LED blinking and fading. It was easy to modify an example sketch to do Cylon lights(Knight Rider lights), just add more LEDs and resistors. Read up on all the LED instructables and you can throw around terms like "charlieplexing".
So, always hook up an LED with a resistor so you don't burn it out(search "LED calculator" for widgets to find the right resistor value). A trip to Radio Snacks to get a bag of assorted LEDs and 100 ohm resistors. A trip back to get a protoboard and 100 ohm resistors because I failed to note 100k resistors are not 100 ohm resistors. And another trip back after realizing I do not have any wire thin enough (22 gauge?) that fit in the holes on the protoboard (and get solid not stranded).
I saw a precut pack of jumpers but hey, I have a nice pair of wire strippers and can do that. I saw online some premade jumpers that had a patch-cord plug-like cover on the ends of the wires. Hey, I could get some tiny plastic jewelry beads, and pass the wire through and maybe solder or tin the ends of the wire to keep it in place. Do not do that, tinning the ends makes it not fit in the holes. Find a bead that fits snugly or put a drop of glue to hold it in place.
Back to this project:
Once you are comfortable enough to wire up your protoboard and have done a few sketches, you should be able to tackle this project.
You will need to get:
* Protoboard or breadboard to wire the circuit together.
* Wire, lotsa wire with the ends stripped
* 2 standard servos (My brother flies radio-controlled jets and helicopters so he had some spares to give me. Free is always good)
three wire, 6 volts DC in, pulse-width-modulation PWM signal
* ADXL345 accelerometer breakout board - $30
* some LEDs and appropriate resistors (200-300 ohm usually works for your standard red/green/yellow medium sized 5mm LED)
The LEDs are really just diagnostic LEDs and indicators to help you fine tune your programming.
* You will need some basic soldering skills and tools.
* Power pack for your Arduino and power pack for your servos to make it portable
* Some craft fur, craft sheet foam and ear lining material
* Basic sewing skill. You can sew this by hand, machine or just use tape, glue/iron-on interfacing.