Arduino beginner

Discussion in 'Electronics & Electrics' started by Agg, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. Agg

    Agg Administrator

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    I know I'm about 5 years behind the curve here but on a whim (after a suggestion in IRC) I bought the Sparkfun Inventor's Kit as something for me and my 10yo to mess around with during the school hols. We played with it for about 3 hours today and had a lot of fun turning LEDs on and off, spinning servo arms, writing rude messages on the LCD screen etc. So we're up to speed with the concepts but there's not too many other interesting projects in the manual as they're all pretty basic stuff. But we're keen to do more with it and don't mind buying a few more bits and bobs.

    So, short of simply googling for more interesting projects, what's a good step from here? Has anyone got any cool projects they've done, or seen, etc? Is there a good next-step book/website for projects once you tire of the absolute beginner stuff?
     
  2. oculi

    oculi Member

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    I use Arduino now and then for stuff, it's great!

    IMHO solving a problem of your own (however trivial the problem is and however silly your solution is) will be more rewarding than doing cookie cutter projects as you will be more invested in them, but sometimes solutions looking for problems are fun too.

    Not so sure about resources as I tend to look up stuff whenever I get stuck,
    but as another arduino beginner I have found the following very useful:

    1. pro minis are great if you want to make something and keep it as a thing, they are cheaper (don't have an onboard programmer) and very small.

    2. get a Mega if you are running out of IO on a uno/whatever the normal sized arduino is these days, much easier than messing around with multiplexors etc and they are quite reasonably priced

    3. if you want to control relays and high voltage/current loads this is how I did it with ULN2803 transistor ICs

    4. buy heaps of breadboard with power/ground rails and lots of jumper wires, you can use solid core network cable but it doesn't work as well.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  3. reflex898

    reflex898 Member

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    DIY Weather station, uses most sensors and the screen :)
     
  4. Agg

    Agg Administrator

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    I might try a reverse geocache as a first proper project. Basically a box that tells you how far away you are from where it wants to be. So I guess it'll consist of a mini, a GPS shield and an LCD screen.

    Are there any good vendors in oz or should I get everything from sparkfun?
     
  5. oculi

    oculi Member

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    I've found freetronics.com.au to be pretty good locally.

    internationally ebay, aliexpress etc are hard to beat on price.
     
  6. vladtepes

    vladtepes Member

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    You've made a good start... I bought the stuff but have yet to find time to have a play. I'm also at beginner level....

    I presume you know about the arduino forum?
    http://www.arduino.org/forums

    and

    There are lots of projects using Arduino here:
    http://www.instructables.com/


    Your profile doesn't mention - where are you?
     
  7. Agg

    Agg Administrator

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    Sydneyish. Lots of interesting projects on instructables, thanks.

    edit: will try freetronics.. also been recommended tronixlabs and little bird.
     
  8. Zee

    Zee Member

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    Got all my Arduino stuff on Aliexpress. Can't beat the pricing, and delivery wasn't too bad either.

    Z...
     
  9. disco frank

    disco frank Member

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  10. warrenr

    warrenr Member

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    subbing to this

    bought a kit over Christmas and another kit from the forums. we've got a heap of parts and wondering what to do with it all
     
  11. da_moat

    da_moat Member

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    i've only got one beef with the arduino gear, it breeds like tribbles..

    i got hooked after making an EDTracker which is a fun project, been using mine with with my racing sim rig.

    just finished an arduino based motorcycle throttle body synchroniser for my dad. i was scratching around for a project and he'd been having trouble with his that day, we were both disappointed to find we weren't the fist to think of it but i haven't seen another one that's a standalone unit. been meaning to write up a hey look what i made post. it works pretty well, but i'd put it together blind (i'm in nsw and he's in tas) so after a couple of days tinkering and a few lessons learned in his shed during a christmas visit i'm looking forward to getting started on V2.. its name is Vacula..


    Click to view full size!



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    made a rough signal generator when i was working on the code for Vacula that's mostly been canabalised now, generated a very rough approximation of the readings i'd get from the vacuum sensors if i had a bike to hook them up to.. hooked up a pile of leds and it made a good demo of a 4 stroke engine, had leds for each of the cylinder cycles, valves open/closed and ignition

    also have a mostly completed thing that will eventually drive an instrument cluster for my sim rig.. decided to do things the hard way and it connects via udp rather than usb/serial to get the game data. only working with asetto corsa at the moment but other games with a udp interface shouldn't be a problem. it only has an lcd display now but my ebay shopping cart currently contains servo's, 7 segment and led matrix displays and a couple of small vibration motors i'm going to strap underneath the pedals for abs and traction control feedback.. the pic is missing the rotary encoder (stolen for Vacula), the video is showing she who also games playing at the other end of the house, she's got a lead foot in a real car as well..


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    on my to-do list is a basic oscilloscope, plenty of kits around but a. i'll have more fun doing it from scratch b. it will take much longer (see point a.) and c. it doesn't have to actually work very well to meet my very basic needs.

    i've also been looking at the TV Out libraries and wondering if there's a fun tinker in that, been thinking of something along the lines of a very old school pong box and controllers..
     
  12. vladtepes

    vladtepes Member

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    Love that corflute front panel....
     
  13. Agg

    Agg Administrator

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    wow, aliexpress is cheap. must.. not.. buy.. everything..
     
  14. PabloEscobar

    PabloEscobar Member

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    Due to the long shipping times, It's better to buy everything, and have a bunch of stuff left over, than to not buy enough, and be unable to finish your project for another 3 weeks, because you're waiting on a single widget for $2 from china... Otherwise, you break down, and go to Jaycar and buy it for $20.
     
  15. Agg

    Agg Administrator

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    Yes. There was quite a bit of "well, it's only $2.74 for one of those so chuck it in, in case I ever need it" going on.
     
  16. da_moat

    da_moat Member

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    corflute is fantastic for the 'the only thing i currently know is wherever i put something it is invariably the wrong spot.' part of a project..
     
  17. pantner

    pantner Member

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    I buy most of my stuff on ebay.

    I'm about to build a 2 in 4 out audio switcher for home.

    The interface will run off my Raspberry Pi webserver but the I2C controlled relays will run off an Arduino Nano which will have commands sent to it over the network.

    I also have a half-complete custom controller for Kerbal Space Program that i'm making will is running off an Aduino Due for the extra processing power.

    I also have a project for next christmas. I play trombone and normally march in the RAC Christmas pageant. It will have a microphone near the bell which will feed into an arduino, which will then control LEDs placed over my trombone. Meaning (hopefully) that the lights will pulse as i play :D

    *EDIT - I also work at a school, i'm going to help some of the kids make some of these

    http://www.instructables.com/id/VU-Meter-LED-Noise-o-Meter-for-Classrooms/

    As everything is about programming now. Plus it's something tangable/useful that they will get at the end of it.
     
  18. ViPeR-7

    ViPeR-7 Member

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    I've been helping in ##electronics on freenode for a few years now, the Arduino scene has seen its ups and downs, but the Arduino API and IDE is now usable on a vast array of alternative platforms, which makes it a rock solid starting point which can be taken right up to some of the highest levels of embedded development.

    First and foremost, the ESP8266 is an amazing chip. It's easily accessible in the "D1 Mini" platform, which you can find on aliexpress/ebay/etc for about $3. Like the Arduino, it comes ready to program, with a usb to serial adapter onboard, can be programmed using the Arduino IDE (after adding a board support package) and can just run from USB. Unlike the Arduino, its 3.3V at heart, is 32-bit instead of 8-bit, is 80MHz (OCs to 320MHz!) instead of 16MHz, comes with 4MB of flash storage instead of 64kb, and best of all, has native WiFi capabilities. Well worth checking out. Like the Arduino you can get an array of shields that just plug together with it to provide various functions, including a handy "Prototype shield" where you can just solder on your own parts to use, or wire things to a breadboard. The only downside is it has no easily usable analog inputs, meaning you'll need an extra ADC module to handle inputs from many sensors, raw line audio, etc.

    These are an absolute gem tho. For 3 bucks each, you can basically turn any device into an IoT appliance. Displays for any custom feeds you want, where ever you want. Gather data from anything you like - want to be able to check if you left the stove on from your phone? It's a 1 hour project to enable if you have one of these spare. Another huge bonus, is that while like an Arduino, they can be programmed via their serial interface, which helps make them so accessible - unlike the Arduino, this is not factory programmed firmware, but ROM in the chip, meaning it's effectively "unbrickable" - while you can "kill" an Arduino from a bad upload, requiring you to connect it to another Arduino to bring it back to life, the ESP8266 is immune to such issues.

    Once you can connect things to the net using widgets like this, you can start finding entirely new uses that nobody has built before, and only you really understand the need for. Finally you can just do it yourself, just click a few 2 buck modules from china together and call it a day :D

    As for Aliexpress, well... yeah, i've been playing that game for a while :p I even made a site around it, hopefully no issues linking it, its not sponsored in any way and i make no money from it, its just a collection of aliexpress links i find cool / cheap / worthy of sharing http://deals.viper-7.com/

    There is also this list, of component parts a newbie might want to stock up on, so they can achieve projects on the spot without having to order a module every time for this or that - http://deals.viper-7.com/home/kits/beginners-shopping-list/. Please be aware that all the links from that page are examples only, many have raised their prices since noticing they've been linked to, and others have stopped selling entirely. However the links do still work, so you can see titles, images and descriptions for what to buy, along with the prices i list for how much your should expect to pay.

    For general recommendations, the 0.96" OLED display modules you can get for around $3 are great value, and make perfect displays for small projects. They combine well with a rotary encoder for user interface.

    Another Arduino compatible alternative hardware platform worthy of checking out is the STM32. These are around $2.50 per module, at least for a board from the entry level STM32F1 series, the STM32F103C8T6 module. These also require a $3 "STLink v2" usb programming device, as they come blank from the factory, unlike Arduinos which have a bootloader pre-programmed onto the chip to make the usb port work. however you can use that programmer dongle from the Arduino IDE, so it's really nothing more than having to connect a few wires, and these are a step up again in capabilities. Although they lack the WiFi networking of the ESP8266, they have amazing Analog capabilities (both in and out), and can be used for audio processing/effects (DSP), high precision motor control (PWM), building your own ghetto oscilloscope (USB DMA), custom USB devices (it has a real USB peripheral, not the usb to serial adapter of most Arduinos), and far more. It's another 32-bit chip, 72MHz this time, and arduino-like amounts of ram & flash. Here's an example touchscreen motor controller interface I've built using one with the Arduino IDE and a few other chinese modules on a breadboard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpumoNVVDL8

    Last but not least, it would be wrong to not mention the Digispark. This is an ATTiny85, a tiny little 8 pin chip, which the community has taken a loving to. The cheap (~$1.50) modules you can get with this chip have a USB port, despite the chip not actually supporting USB, by the work of a magical little software USB implementation. These boards let you do most anything you can on an arduino - PWM, ADC, I2C, SPI, GPIO, etc - and you can create a custom USB device using any of it. Great for making custom joysticks or other input widgets. Among other things a nifty use is combining one with an IR receiver module, to create a super-cheap USB IR dongle for any device. It can also run from either 5V or 7-30V input, so it can also be used as a simple microcontroller platform for projects in your car.


    Most of my recent projects have been around motor control, in particular playing around with a specific pump, along with this motor controller, which i've found amazingly versatile for a myriad of uses. I've built drink dispensers, personal water cooling systems, vacuum pickup tools, a puncture-resistant air mattress, and plenty more.

    It is a little chunky, both on the price side (at least for china), and for the chip itself, but i've come to use the VNH2SP30 modules as my default go-to method of interfacing with any high-ish power 12V device - lights, fans, pumps, motors, heaters, solenoids, mains relays, and plenty more. The outputs are push-pull, meaning you can reverse the polarity of each output pin individually, and you can PWM them for speed control at up to 20kHz (very fast, you can basically use this thing as a 650W RMS subwoofer amp if you want). I'm giving some extra detail on this part because its also a rather disturbing example of why while i'd love to support sparkfun, i personally dont. I fully understand their business is offering a premium service, with a higher standard of care and support than eg a seller in china. However these Arduino shields are available for US$4.68 on Aliexpress, with 2 of the chip i'm talking about, while Sparkfun sells the *exact same module*, with the same chips, for $69.95.

    I dont begrudge them a fair markup, but thats a little unreasonable.


    Below are example links of the items i've mentioned in this post. I have not ordered from these specific sellers before, and give no endorsement to the specific sale, they are merely examples of the items i have described, and the cheapest shipping suppliers for them to Australia i could find in a quick search.

    D1 Mini: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Fre...oon-esp8266-WiFi-Internet-of/32776288065.html

    0.96" OLED: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Fre...lue-For-Arduino-0-96-I2C-IIC/32658807092.html

    STM32: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1pc...ent-Board-Module-For-arduino/32583160323.html

    STLink v2: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Fre...wnload-programming-With-Cover/2022854051.html

    Digispark: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1pc...INY85-module-for-Arduino-usb/32584084654.html

    Motor Controller: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Fre...to-Shield-module-For-Arduino/32583188407.html


    I could keep going on and on, but i guess this will do for a first post on the matter ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2017
  19. paulvk

    paulvk Member

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    I used Arduino hardware and make a lot of my own but do not use the Arduino programming I use Bascom http://www.mcselec.com/ there are a lot of projects in the forum.
    It is another way to write code for the Atmel AVR.

    It is also a good idea to get a ISP programmer for the AVRs the USBASP is a cheap one.
     
  20. warrenr

    warrenr Member

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    Started with blinking lights but now my kid is all excited about making a robotic arm. Turns out the kits don't contain servos so it's going to get expensive very quickly - super paranoid that bits won't fit if buying separately but I guess that's how you learn....
     

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