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Getting Started with Sid - Arduino

June 01, 2021

Getting Started with Sid - Arduino

Hey Elmies!

It’s Sid, back with another starter kit exploration. This time I’m using the Arduino Uno starter kit found here. I’ve read a lot about Arduino and seen many projects over the years but I’ve never touched one myself so this was an interesting experience. 

hand holding up an Arduino Starter Kit box

Arduino is an open-source electronics platform that is “designed to make electronics more accessible to artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” This is a big relief for me, an artist who mostly works with textiles and is intimidated by many aspects of tech. 

contents of the Arduino Starter Kit laid out on a green cutting matt

The product comes like this and includes: the Arduino Uno, a battery snap, a breadboard, capacitors, a DC motor, diodes, RGB gels, an H-bridge, jumper wires, LEDs, an LCD screen, mole header pins, an optocoupler, a piezo, a phototransistor, a potentiometer, pushbuttons, resistors, a servo motor, a temperature sensor, a tile sensor, transistors, a USB cable and, thankfully, a projects book that explains what all of these bits do. The project book has quickly become my best friend because, try as I might, I cannot hold this information in my brain so being able to go back and refresh my memory on what the bits do was invaluable. 

To start off you have to go to the Arduino Software page to download their code builder. The first thing it will teach you is to run a ‘blink’ sketch to be able to be sure that the Arduino board is connected properly. 

After going through all these setup steps the project book took me through three simple ways of setting up a circuit, with helpful drawings. Especially useful if you are like me and your brain immediately forgets the words you just read that explain how the circuits work.

Mounted Arduino and breadboard with a simple circuit set up for a single lit up blue LED

Mounted Arduino and breadboard with a series circuit set up, thumb is pressing one button to light up the blue LED

Hand holding the mounted Arduino and breadboard showing a parallel circuit

These circuits were super simple, all had the goal of lighting up an LED with different set ups. My favourite was the final parallel circuit because I am just a big fan of buttons and pressing them. 

Next up I followed along with the Spaceship Interface project, it was pretty straight forward and the book talks you through the coding language. I do keep placing my LED pins backwards though so it took me a moment to get them to light up properly. As you can see the little cardboard template provided is a cute touch. Blinking LEDs are just so satisfying.

Once I figured out the simpler stuff I decided to step it up and go right for the light theremin because, well. Fun noises. The theremin was a bit trickier because the piezo pins are a bit hard to adjust to the breadboard but I got there and got to make lots of weird sounds. I had a lot of fun contorting my hand around over the phototransistor to see the range of sound it held. As a warning this thing gets EXTREMELY high pitched with full light, my cats were not pleased with the sound. 

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to Arduino. The project book alone has 15 different projects to try out and then the online community is massive. I’ve been scrolling through the official Arduino website project hub and being absolutely amazed at all the things that people have created. 

I’m not sure what I’m going to try next, my brain hasn’t quite learned to think in circuitry yet but I’m hoping it will make weird noises and maybe be able to integrate traditional art methods at the same time. I’ll be perusing the internet getting ideas and there will definitely be some more Arduino posts to come! 

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