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

About: Hardworking demonoid engineer, struggling to reconcile my hobbies with a desire to conquer the universe.

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

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

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

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

Step 4: Powering Your Board

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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?

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?

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!

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