We're Giving Away Arduino Starter Kits for Projects!

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    In the comments below tell us what you would do with the kit!


    Everyone Can Do Design Projects


    We're giving away a limited number of Arduino Starter Kits. The number of kits we have available are limited so you'll need to explain your interest in the comments below.  If selected you'll need to complete any number of projects based on the examples in the included project book and post your completed projects in Arduino Projects.


    By documenting the steps you took to complete your project, the hope is that your example will be an inspiration for anyone wanting to do their own electronics & design projects, but nervous about getting started.


    You can either follow the project examples or come up with your own creative variations of the examples, ie your own music instrument.



    If you enjoy other's electronics projects, but are on the fence about getting started on your own, then this is the perfect opportunity to have a complete kit sent to you and have the support of a community willing to help you along your journey.  Arduino is all about empowering those who are creative with a platform that is simple and encourages learning from others.  You have the support of this community, as well as a large and enthusiastic open source community, with extensive documentation and a network of support for your electronics projects.




    If you are selected to receive a kit, the only thing you'll need to bring to the table is your creativity so you can do your own variations of the 15 included project examples. If you're worried about having to solder, don't be.  Only the last project requires soldering.  Also, you don't have to do all 15, you could do say 10, or maybe use those project examples to work on a simple project you find elsewhere. The kit includes an Arduino Uno, which contains the microprocessor that will be the brains of your electronics projects. The first thing you'll want to do is connect it to your computer, and familiarize yourself with the Arduino IDE, which you'll use to program the board. If you're not a programmer, don't worry, Arduino uses a simplified programming language to make it easy for anyone to program.  There's also an extensive library of code snippets out there which you can use to make things easier thanks to its open source hardware and software architecture.


    Design Competitions for Everyone


    The Arduino Starter Kit is perfect for anyone looking to get started with electronics & design projects, but may lack a background in coding or engineering.  It assumes you are starting at zero, introduces you to common electronics components used in projects, and uses hands-on project examples to take you from a beginner to someone who can start participating in electronics & design competitions such as Project14.  The Project14 program is set up around themes so anyone can jump in regardless of skill set, but even then you'll need to start somewhere.   Why not start with an Arduino Starter Kit?  You'll also get more from steps provided by other members now that you've gotten started yourself.




    While Arduino is a perfect platform for students, educators, and hobbyists who are just getting started on electronics projects, it’s also a low-cost way to use off the shelf components for rapid prototyping to explore new ideas.  A recent NASA initiative did just that, settling on Arduino into space as part of program to determine potential applications of wireless technologies in space, they made a rapid prototype that used an Arduino Mega to manage communications between the local XBee wireless network and the long-range Iridium satellite uplink.


    What makes Arduino interesting, it’s worthy of being shot into space by NASA, while it’s simple and accessible for anyone interested in learning and taking the first steps to making their own prototypes.   The Arduino Starter Kit does a good job demystifying what Arduino is and the various components you will need to know for some hands-on learning with Arduino projects!  You might need a couple of more steps past the Starter Kit before you're ready to start launching your prototypes into outer space but at lest you know the time you invest in learning the Arduino platform can be put to good use the longer you invest in it.




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    An Introduction to Arduino




    An Introduction to Arduino


    Arduino is a family of circuit boards that make microcontrollers easy to use. The microcontroller on the Arduino Uno circuit board is an Atmel AVR 8 bit chip. A microcontroller is basically a tiny, low powered computer that can run small simple computer programs. Atmel AVR microcontrollers are notable for being one of the first microcontrollers to use on-chip flash memory for program storage.


    What made the Arduino popular, and the board of choice for so many maker projects Arduino is designed to make it easy to program microcontrollers thanks to the Arduino software development environment.  Before Arduino, you would typically have to type out a lot of binary and memorize a lot of hard to remember registers and instructions. You’d also have to use special programming hardware with custom cables to upload your program to your microcontroller.


    Arduino got rid of all of that by creating the cross platform Arduino IDE that works with Windows, Mac, and Linux. Uploading your code to Arduino is as simple as connecting a USB cable to your board and clicking a button.You still can’t run a full operating system on an Arduino board, although there are microcontrollers out there that have progressed to the point where you can install an OS.  (Just not Linux, Linux variants, or Windows because of the resources required)


    What Arduino is good for is for acting as the microcontroller “brain” of your electronics projects.  Because it is well supported there are code snippets that are all over the Internet that allow even beginners to do all kinds of complex electronics & design projects that they probably aren’t aware they could do because they don’t have the technical background.




    This has all kinds of implications for creative artists that come up with good ideas, and have a natural interest in making devices that are beautiful.


    The Arduino IDE


    The USB cable you use to upload programs, referred to as sketches, it also powers your Arduino board.   You can also get a separate power supply and a lot of projects involve connecting the Arduino to some sort of battery.


    A sketch is what you use the Arduino IDE for.  It is a unit of code that is uploaded and used to upload your programs to the microcontroller on your board.  You can run only one program at a time with on an Arduino board.


    The Arduino IDE supports the languages C and C++ using special rules of code structuring.  The reason for this is to make programming your board as simple as possible.


    A minimal Arduino C/C++ sketch consists of two functions:

    • setup() – the function that is called once, when the sketch starts after you power-up or reset your board. It initializes the variables, input and output pin modes, and other libraries needed in the sketch.
    • loop () – after setup () function is run the loop () function is executed repeatedly in the main program. It controls the board until it is turned off or reset.




    For those who have programmed C or C++, you know there's a bit of a learning curve, especially if you have no prior programming experience. Arduino simplified their programming environment with these people in mind. They want creative artists to make something beautiful so what they did is made it as simple as possible to program their board.


    Its called the Arduino IDE and it's also a good place to start if you’ve never programmed a microcontroller.  It’s possible that you’ll start with and then move onto other development boards down the line.  If you do so you'll likely be on your own for most things.  That's because, what makes the Arduino special is the tremendous support and documentation that already exists around you.  It lets you jump right into advanced projects because so many people have provided their work on it, freely and openly.


    There are also a lot of code snippets that you can use, to make your life even easier, thanks to the support of the open source community that has rallied behind it’s platform.


    Included in the kit is what is known as the Arduino Uno R3   It uses the ATmega 16U2 which a high performance, low-power Microchip 8 bit AVR with 16 KB of flash memory to run your programs on.



    Basics of Electronics




    The Basics of Electronics



    A Crash Course in Electronics Projects:


    h1016v2_23_1.jpgBut first a crash course in electronics projects. Typically, you'll start an electronics project with a set of schematics, which are basically ingredients for electronics projects. If you have experience in electronics projects this would be a good place to start. If you're new to electronics projects this may not be something you are ready for and that's okay!


    If you're interested in participating in a Project14 competition you should be able to jump right in. That's because this type of design competition is set up around general themes and it's inclusive to novices, experts, and anyone in between. The hardest part of trying something for the first time is not getting frustrated and giving up. As you gain more experience, you'll find schematics more useful. There are countless schematics all over the internet that will tell you exactly what you need to know to build a circuit.dcp23.gif


    You don't have to know anything about Ohm's Law to get started with electronics projects but as you get more involved with projects it's something you may very well learn to appreciate along the way. It's basically a formula that shows you the relationship between current (measured in Amp or A), voltage (measured in Volt or V), and resistance (measured in Ohm). The voltage pushes the current while the resistance prevents the current from getting pushed too hard.


    Components Included in the Kit:


    After completing the examples projects in the included book you should have everything you need to learn to start doing projects of your own. Here is a quick overview of what's in the kit and what you need to know about what's included:


    • Resistors - a passive device, can be make up of nothing more than a wire, that allows you to design your circuit to have the voltages and currents that you want to have in your circuit.
    • Capacitors - like a battery in that it can charge and discharge but it has a very low capacity. It is often used to introduce a time-delay in a circuit such as in a blinking light, for removing noise, or to make the supply voltage of a circuit more stable.
    • Diode - used to ensure that electricity only flows in one type of direction. They are polarized so the direction you place it in a circuit matters. Placed one way they allow current to pass through, placed another way they allow block it. The anode side typically connects to the point of higher energy, while the cathode typically connects to the point of lower energy or ground.
    • Light Emitting Diode (LED) - A type of diode that illuminates when electricity passes through it.. It's used in electronics projects to give visual feedback from a circuit such as when it's used to show that a circuit has power.
    • Transistor - all though there's a lot more to it, a simplistic way to understand this is as a switch controlled by an electrical signal
    • Inductor - a coil of wire, often used as a filter
    • Integrated Circuit (IC) - an electronic circuit that has been reduced to the size of the chips. It can mean anything from an amplifier, a microprocessor, to a USB to serial converter. The Atmel Microcontroller on the Arduino is an example of an integrated circuit.
    • H-bridge - a circuit that allows you to control the polarity of the voltage applied to a load, usually a motor. The included H-bridge is an integrated circuit.
    • DC Motor - when electricity is applied to its leads it converts electrical energy into mechanical energy. Coils of wire inside the motor become magnetized when current flows through them. These magnetic fields become magnetized when current flows through them. The magnetic fields attract and repel magnets which cause the shaft to spin. If the direction of the electricity is reversed, the motor will spin in the opposite direction.
    • Servo Motor - A type of geared motor that rotates 180 degrees. The Arduino tells the motor what position to move to by sending electrical pulses to it.
    • Breadboard - A board that you can use to build electronic circuits. It has rows of holes that allow you to connect wires and components together.  The version in this kit does not require soldering, some boards do.
    • Jumper Wires - This is what you use to connect components to each other and to the Arduino.
    • Male Header Pins - these pins fit into female sockets, like those on a breadboard. They help make connecting things easier.
    • Optocoupler - allows you to connect two circuits that do not share a common power supply. It contains a small LED that when illuminated, causes a photoreceptor inside to close an internal switch. When you apply voltage to the + pin, the LED lights and the internal switch closes. The two outputs replace the switch in the second circuit.
    • Piezo - an electrical component that can be used to detect vibrations and create noises.
    • Phototransistor - a component that generates a current proportional to the light absorbed.
    • Potentiometer - a variable resistor with three pins. Two of pins are connected to the ends of a fixed resistor. The middle pin, or wiper, moves across the resistor, dividing it into two halves. When the external sides of the are connected to voltage and ground, the middle leg will give the difference in voltage as you turn the knob.
    • Pushbuttons - monetary buttons that close a circuit when they are pressed. They snap easily into the included breadboard and are good for detecting on/off signals.
    • Temperature Sensor - changes its voltage output based on the temperature of the component. The outside legs connect to the power and ground. The voltage on the center pin changes as it gets warmer or cooler.
    • Tilt Sensor - A type of sensor that will open or close depending on its orientation.  It's used to detect the tilting of an object. It uses a metal ball to commute the pins of the device from on to off and vice versa if the sensor reaches a certain angle.
    • Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) - A type of alphanumeric or graphical display based on liquid crystals. The one that is included has 2 rows with 16 characters each.


    Making the Board Useful




    Making the Board Useful


    Arduino Uno Rev3 Schematic:




    Arduino is open source as well as open hardware, meaning that you can build your own board, as schematics have been made freely available.  The only thing you can't do is use the Arduino name. There are a lot of people that have done that, built their own board, and there is a clone market to boot. If you wanted to build your own board you could, but then again, if you could then you're likely not the intended audience for this kit.


    The above schematic is provided to demonstrate what you would need to do to build your own board.  Coming up with the Arduino required taking an off the shelf microcontroller, using a lot of extra parts, and putting it together in a way that is simple to use.   The genius behind the Arduino is the hard work is done for you, and the microcontroller is designed to be easily programmable through the Arduino IDE.





    To do anything useful with the Arduino you will need to know the various parts of the circuit board.  There are what are known as shields, that plug into the board, and extend the capabilities of the board further.


    The starter kit does not include any shields, but you'll still need to know what the pin connectors are for, if you are going to do anything useful with your board. When you are programming the microprocessor, you are simply telling it what the pins are to be used for.


    External Power Supply - allows the Arduino to run when its not connected plugged into a USB port for power.  It accepts between 7V- 12V of voltage.


    USB Plug - This powers the Arduino without needing to use an external power supply and is what you use to upload sketches (program) to the microcontroller, and to communicate with your Arduino sketch (via Serial, println(), etc).


    AtMega328 Microcontroller - The brains of the Arduino which you program through the USB plug.  It contains three types of memory.  It has 32KB of nonvolatile Flash memory. This is used to store applications and is stored on your board even after it is removed from it's power source. 2KB of volatile SRAM memory which is used to store variables used by applications while it's running. 1KB of EEPROM nonvolatile memory. This is used to store data that remains available even after the board is powered down and powered up again.


    Pin Functions:


    Power Pins (3.3 V, 5 V, GND) - Use these pins to connect to circuitry at 3.3 V, 5V, or GND.  Make sure that whatever you power doesn't draw more than a few miliamps.


    Serial Out (TX) and Serial In (RX) - Pins (0-1) are RX and TX respectively and used for sending and receiving serial data.  This port can be used to send and receive data from a GPS module, bluetooth modules, WIFI modules, etc.


    Digital I/O Pins (2-13) - Accept 0 to 5 V input or output.  Utilizing tristate logic Arduino makes it easy to change between inputs and outputs in software. You can use this pin as an output where it spits out 5V for a digital 1, or 0 V for a digital 0.  You can also configure it to expect a voltage on the pin and that voltage could be interpreted as a 1 or a 0. These pins are used with digitalRead(), digitalWrite (). analogWrite() works only on pins with PWM symbol.


    External Interrupts - Pins 2 and 3 can be configured to trigger an interrupt on low value, a rising or falling edge, or a change in value.


    PWM Pins - any pins with ~ in front of them can be used to generate pulse modulated square waves. Pins 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 provide 8-bit PWM output with the analogWrite() function.


    Pin 13 - drives the built in LED, that is used by Arduino to receive power and useful for debugging.  When pin is HIGH value, the LED is on, when pin is LOW value, it's off.


    Analog In Pins - Pins A0 through A5 provide 10 bits of resolution. Accepts 0 to 5 V inputs and is used to measure continuous voltages anywhere from 0 V to 5 V. It is possible to change the upper end of their range using the AREF pin and the analogReference() function.


    Analog Reference Pin (AREF) - input pin used optionally if you want external voltage reference for ADC rather than internal Vref. You can configure using an internal register.


    Reset Pin - bring this line low to reset the microcontroller.  Typically used to add a reset button to shields that block the one on the board.



    Putting It All Together:


    The Arduino is an open hardware and open software platform that allows you to make digital devices and interactive objects that can sense and control physical devices. An Arduino is a circuit board with a microprocessor attached on it.  Because it is open software and open hardware, there are schematics to create your own board, and you can take advantage of the open source community and its support of the open platform by using code that is available for you to use in your electronics projects.  The microprocessor on the Arduino is programmed by connecting the Arduino to a computer and programming it using the Arduino IDE, designed a microcontroller simple.  Programs are referred to as sketches and are stored directly on the microprocessor. This allows your Arduino to act as the "brains" of your electronics projects.


    The circuit board allows you to easily make the microcontroller on the Arduino useful.


    The microcontroller listens to sensors and talks to actuators.


    Sensors listen to the physical world. They convert energy given off when you press buttons, wave arms, or shout, into electrical signals. There are many types of sensors for human interface devices that inputs to Arduino. This includes keyboads, and buttons such as for game controllers.  Sensors that you can use to collect information from the physical world for collecting information about temperature, light, motion, position, and more.  Some common sensors for Arduino include laser sensors, temperature sensors, infrared emission sensors, tilt sensors, and accelerometers.


    Using the Arduino IDE allows you to take advantage of all the sensors available for Arduino and program your microprocessor to listen to the sensors.


    Actuators take action in the physical world. They convert electrical energy back into physical energy, like light and heat and movement. Examples of actuators for light include lasers, LCD displays, LEDs, and Lamps. Examples of actuators for motion include Servo Motors, DC Motors, Stepper Motors, Solenoids and electromagnets. Examples of actuators for sound include buzzers, beepers, speakers, and synthesizers. Power control is an actuator for controlling other electrically operated devices.


    Interested in Getting started on Design Projects using Arduino?


    Tell us how the Arduino Starter Kit will help you to get started with Design Projects.


    The goal of this giveaway is to get people started on doing projects using the Arduino Starter Kit.



    Step 1:  Log in or register on element14, it's easy and free.

    Step 2: Post in the comments section: Tell us why you want the kit and how it will help you get involved in Arduino Projects.


    Videos, pictures and text are all welcomed forms of submission.


    Step 3: Post Your Project: After you receive the kit post your projects, or creative variations of projects in Arduino Projects