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A Novice's Introduction to Arduino

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A complete newcomer's first experiences with The Arduino Starter Kit.

Hi, my name is Chelsea,I am the niece of Andrew Back. I came into my uncle's work to gain some knowledge and understanding of the world of electronics.

As a complete novice when it comes to electronics most of this was all new to me, only having a basic grasp of physics and circuitry from GCSE. When it came to building the projects in the Arduino starter kit, I found myself doing some of my own research, reading websites such as Wikipedia and watching YouTube videos so I had a better idea of what Arduino was. In simple YouTube searches, I found many helpful videos and crash courses in 'everything you need to know about Arduino' and the capabilities of this microcontroller.

After fastening down the Arduino UNO board and the breadboard to the wooden sheet provided in the kit, you're soon ready to start your first project!

Project 1: Getting to know your tools

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The first project just uses a switch to turn on an LED.

I wired the circuit up by following the instructions, to find my LED didn’t work. I then found this was because I'd missed out connecting some jumper wires.

With the jumper wires in place my circuit finally worked but only on a dim light, and then I realised this to be due to using the wrong sized resistor. With the correct resistor and jumper wires, the project worked perfectly!

Project 3: Love-O-Meter

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Once you get the hang of things it gets a lot easier, as each project builds on the last.

The Love-o-Meter measures body temperature in comparison to a baseline temperature, and indicates this by lighting a series of LEDs.

When completed all the LEDs came on because the baseline temperature was set too low, but with this adjusted in the code it worked as it should and was a fun and interactive project.

Project 6: Light Theremin

The light theremin project uses a light dependant resistor to control the pitch of sound generated by a piezo loudspeaker.

This project was the most enjoyable for me, with only a day's experience under my belt in working with Arduino I found myself quite surprised when after writing the coding and setting up the circuit together the project worked first time with only minor flaws!

A few tiny mistakes in entering the sketch were the only difficulties I came across, and when I say minor it was missing a capital letter and forgetting a semi-colon. So with minor adjustments the project was fully functioning and really satisfying.

Project 10: Zoetrope

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The zoetrope project uses a H-bridge to control the speed of a motor, which is set using a potentiometer.

The zoetrope builds on the motorized pin-wheel (project 9). The hardest part of this project is piecing together and sticking the cardboard cut-outs, not the electronics! Setting up the circuitry I had some problems at first with loose wires, but other than that the coding and project worked great!

Project 11: Crystal Ball

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The crystal ball project uses an LCD display and a tilt switch. When it is powered on it the display says “Ask the crystal ball”, and then you ask a question and tilt the breadboard, and the display shows you an answer.

This project involved a lot of wires, and in the parts list it said “switch” when it should have said “tilt switch”. But in the end, it was really good fun! The sketch was easy to follow and you could adapt the 'crystal ball' to say whatever you wanted. This meant it could be personalised and could serve many purposes.

Sketching/Coding

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Entering the code was a bit tricky at first, but thankfully the book tells you everything to write while explaining it to you in the process. I had a couple of typos in the coding through most the projects, but once I sorted those out they worked fine.

A big challenge for me throughout this process was understanding what was happening in the sketch. To say at the start I didn't know what any of the coding meant I believe that for me to now be able to understand parts of it is a big achievement.

Conclusion

When I first started using this kit I felt a bit overwhelmed and intimidated knowing I hadn't hadn't any previous electronics experience, but as the kit progresses through projects it inspires you and builds confidence, and makes me want to investigate the world of electronics and Arduino more!

The kit started with the basics and works its way up to more complex projects. It can feel overwhelming at first, you may feel out of touch with your understanding of circuitry from high school, but the book guides you every step of the way. It really jogs your memory and also acts like a GCSE physics refresher for things like resistance and current etc.

The instructions in the 'Arduino projects book' supplied with the starter kit are really easy to follow. I personally think this kit is incredibly simple to understand once you get your head around what's happening. The only problem I found was that the potentiometer and tilt switch didn't always stay in the breadboard.

The Arduino starter kit is both fun and educational, and knowing that you've built a project from its individual components is really satisfying!

Trainee Electronics Engineer for AB Open. Love to try new things and build interesting projects!