Amongst the stuff available from Farnell/Newark I noticed an interesting Arduino kit. I wanted to share my impression of it, in case it is useful for others in the same predicament – what to get for a beginner interested in engineering with a focus on electronics and computing.
(I didn’t want to open the insides too much since it is intended as a gift. Also, apologies for the slightly blurry pics – I was in a rush sadly).
This kit is off-the-radar because it doesn’t appear on the main Farnell Arduino page, so you have to search for it.
The direct link to the kit is here (kit K000007) from Farnell or for Newark this is the link. Note that there are some higher-priced kits but to be honest this one seems more than good enough for a beginner, as will be seen below. The kit contains everything including instructions, components, Arduino and a USB cable. Nothing additional should be required to make instant use of it.
The overall immediate impression of the kit is that it is of a high standard and it is beautifully packaged. The only packaging change I’d suggest is that the box ought to be of thicker card so that it lasts a long while. Perhaps people can store all the bits in a slightly larger box file during breaks between experimentation however.
The highlight reason that the kit looks to be a suitable choice for learning is that it contains a book – about 170 pages of information. The manufactured book quality is really very high, nice thick paper and it is in color throughout as will be seen further below.
Underneath the book are more boxes, all nicely tessellated.
More information on the book and the kit is below.
The book is extremely impressive. It has good quality diagrams and very good explanations and instructions. There is a glossary at the end too and some graph paper pages (looks like 5mm) for personal notes.
The exercises begin with a brief overview and an indication of the skill level and how long it will take to complete. Notice that the experiments look like a lot of fun – more than just blinking LED type experiments. The first few experiments are simpler. All look suitable for beginners – I think anyone from age 12 upward should have no problem assembling these experiments since a physical topology is shown (see further below), with older students naturally learning more from the text.
For each exercise you get an indication of what parts you will use:
The physical topology diagram is very clear to follow and looks like it has been drawn with care with no ambiguity with overlapping wires for example:
The logical topology (schematic/circuit diagram) is also shown for students who know how to follow this:
The step-by-step text explanations that I read look well written, informative and appear easy to follow.
Part of the fun of Arduino is the programming of course. The code is well laid out in color and the explanations look detailed here too. It really is a well thought out book.
Kit Hardware Contents
I didn’t want to open the boxes too much, but I was interested in the breadboard wiring and component detail so I opened those.
These are the wire links that are supplied for the breadboard.
The wire links are good but are never enough (and some people like additional flexible wires too) so to pre-empt this it would be a good idea to simultaneously purchase a couple (one pack of each maybe) of these (Farnell/Newark part codes 2213351 and 2213352):
The jumper wires shown above are flexible.
The actual components are in a slide-drawer box. The selection looks to be reasonably comprehensive and of good quality, i.e. not cost-reduced like some kits. Note that a servo and an LCD display is also supplied in separate boxes. There is a DC motor somewhere too, according to the kit list on the Farnell product page (I didn’t see it in but I’m assuming it is there). The kit list (PDF document) reveals that interesting parts like a temperature sensor, piezo element, light dependant resistor and tilt sensor are also included.
There was another nice touch; as well as the Arduino, the kit also contains a baseboard which is highly useful for working neatly. It has laser-cut holes for mounting the supplied Arduino and some additional features I didn’t explore.
This kit looks to be a fantastic choice for someone interested in electronics and computing. The extremely well-written book is one major reason I’m hopefully confident that beginners will gain from this kit. The good mix of components will encourage further experimentation beyond the book, so the kit should provide many years of good service.
Although the kit runs from USB or batteries, you may also want a separate power supply for when the user feels confident to run things standalone for long periods of time. I think the following supply looks suitable:
Farnell part code 1279527 (or Newark code 12T2179) – 7V 2A power supply with 2.1mm DC connector (you will need a country-specific mains lead separately, you may already have one – it is the 3-pin style lead aka C13 plug).