About Arduino

What is an Arduino?

Every Arduino is comprised of two components. The first is a programmable circuit board. This board is what is known a microcontroller which means that it is basically a small programable computer. The second is an IDE (Integrated Development Environment) which is software that allows you to write and upload computer code to the physical board.

Arduino IDE

The Arduino IDE uses a simplified version of C++, making it easier to learn to program. The IDE provides a standard form factor that breaks out the functions of the microcontroller into a more accessible package. There are also new block coding software that are compatible with Arduino.

After scrolling through this page, consider going to the Arduino Website to buy an Arduino, download the Arduino IDE, and go through their step-by-step tutorials on coding using their IDE.

Why Arduino?

The Arduino hardware and software were designed for artists, designers, hobbyists, hackers, newbies, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Arduino can interact with buttons, LEDs, motors, speakers, GPS units, cameras, the internet, and even your smartphone or your TV! If you don't believe how versatile they are, check out Hackster.io, an open-source Arduino Project community!

What's on the Board?

NOTE: Do NOT use a power supply greater than 20 Volts as you will overpower (and thereby destroy) your Arduino. The recommended voltage for most Arduino models is between 6 and 12 Volts.

3. Voltage Regulator: The voltage regulator is not actually something you can or should interact with on the Arduino. But it is potentially useful to know that it is there and what it’s for. The voltage regulator controls the amount of voltage that is let into the Arduino board. Think of it as a kind of gatekeeper; it will turn away an extra voltage that might harm the circuit. Of course, it has its limits, so don’t hook up your Arduino to anything greater than 20 volts.

4. Vin: Voltage In allows you to power the Arduino through the pin instead of the USB or Barrel Jack. This power source will travel through the same voltage regulator as either of the other power sources. 

5. 3.3V: The 3.3V pin supplies 3.3 volts of power.

6. 5V: The 5V pin supplies 5 volts of power. 

Most of the simple components used with the Arduino run happily off of 5 or 3.3 volts.

7. GND: Short for ‘Ground’. There are several GND pins on the Arduino, any of which can be used to ground your circuit.

8. Analog Pins: The area of pins under the ‘Analog In’ label (A0 through A5 on the UNO) are Analog In pins. These pins can read the signal from an analog sensor (like a temperature sensor) and convert it into a digital value that we can read.

9. Digital Pins : Across from the analog pins are the digital pins (0 through 13 on the UNO). These pins can be used for both digital input (like telling if a button is pushed) and digital output (like powering an LED).

10. PWM: You may have noticed the tilde (~) next to some of the digital pins (3, 5, 6, 9, 10, and 11 on the UNO). These pins act as normal digital pins, but can also be used for Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM). These pins are able to simulate analog output (like fading an LED in and out).

11. AREF: Stands for Analog Reference. Most of the time you can leave this pin alone. It is sometimes used to set an external reference voltage (between 0 and 5 Volts) as the upper limit for the analog input pins.

12. Reset Button: Pushing it will temporarily connect the reset pin to ground and restart any code that is loaded on the Arduino. This can be very useful if your code doesn’t repeat, but you want to test it multiple times. 

13. LED 'ON' Indicator: This LED should light up whenever you plug your Arduino into a power source. If this light doesn’t turn on, there’s a good chance something is wrong. 

14. TX and RX: TX is short for transmit, RX is short for receive. These markings appear quite a bit in electronics to indicate the pins responsible for serial communication. In our case, there are two places on the Arduino UNO where TX and RX appear -- once by digital pins 0 and 1, and a second time next to the TX and RX indicator LEDs. These LEDs will give us some nice visual indications whenever our Arduino is receiving(RX) or transmitting(TX) data.

15. ATmega IC: The black thing with all the metal legs is an IC, or Integrated Circuit (13). Think of it as the brains of our Arduino. The main IC on the Arduino is slightly different from board type to board type, but is usually from the ATmega line of IC’s from the ATMEL company. 

Arduino Sensors:

With some simple code, the Arduino can control and interact with a wide variety of sensors - things that can measure light, temperature, degree of flex, pressure, proximity, acceleration, carbon monoxide, radioactivity, humidity, barometric pressure, you name it, you can sense it. Most of these sensors would by physically or digitally changing the resistance depending on outside influence. This resistance change is read as a voltage drop by the Arduino. 

Consider going to the Arduino website to buy these sensors and accessories on their Sensors and Accessories page

Arduino Shields

Additionally, there are these things called shields -- basically, they are pre-built circuit boards that fit on top of your Arduino and provide additional capabilities -- controlling motors, connecting to the internet, providing cellular or other wireless communication, controlling an LCD screen, and much more.

Consider going to the Arduino website to buy these sensors and accessories on their Sheilds page.

Arduino Family Members

The Uno is a great choice for your first Arduino. It's got everything you need to get started, and nothing you don't. It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a USB connection, a power jack, and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller.

The Arduino Uno WiFi is functionally the same as the Arduino Uno Rev3, but with the addition of WiFi / Bluetooth and some other enhancements. The Arduino UNO WiFi Rev.2 is the easiest point of entry to basic IoT with the standard form factor of the UNO family. Whether you are looking at building a sensor network connected to your office or home router, or if you want to create a BLE device sending data to a cellphone, the Arduino UNO WiFi Rev.2 is your one-stop-solution for many of the basic IoT application scenarios.

The Arduino Mega is like the UNO's big brother. It has lots (54!) of digital input/output pins (14 can be used as PWM outputs), 16 analog inputs, a USB connection, a power jack, and a reset button. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller. A large number of pins make this board very handy for projects that require a bunch of digital inputs or outputs.

Arduino LilyPad

LilyPad is a wearable e-textile technology. Each LilyPad was creatively designed with large connecting pads and a flat back to allow them to be sewn into clothing with conductive thread. The LilyPad also has its own family of input, output, power, and sensor boards that are also built specifically for e-textiles. They're even washable!

The Arduino Micro is functionally the same as the Arduino Uno Rev3, but it is much smaller. It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; simply connect it to a computer with a micro USB cable to get started. It has a form factor that enables it to be easily placed on a breadboard.

The Arduino Nano is a small, complete, and breadboard-friendly board based on the ATmega328. It has more or less the same functionality as the Arduino Micro, but in a different package. It lacks only a DC power jack and works with a Mini-B USB cable instead of a standard one.

These are just a few of the Arduino boards, sensors, and shield that Arduino actually has. One of the reasons that Arduino is so popular is just how many varieties of boards, sensors, and shield the company produces to allow creators and makers to have the resources to support their creative drive. If you have a simple electronic or robotic project, it can probably be done with Arduino.