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Ask HN: What are the best Arduino starter projects?
35 points by larrywright on Jan 24, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 24 comments
My arduino Duemilanove arrived today, and now I'm on the hunt for things to build with it. I've seen a lot of things online, but I'm wondering... What are the best projects to start with?

I would suggest it is whatever feeds your dreams. Many things are possible, the only caution is to make your first step doable. How about you tell us what you think would be cool and we could suggest how big the first step should be?

(For reference if you need help getting started: things I've made from Arduinos...

  analog meter display for a bank for T1 network loads
  cylon pumpkin (laugh, but eventually everyone makes one)
  ambient light sensitive LED, using the same LED for sensing as making light
    (pretty nifty trick, makes me wonder my more electronics 
     don't do it. No need for blinding indicators in a dark room)
  2d ultrasonic anemometer
  weather station
  wireless network from ISM band ASK radios
    (worked, but integrated solutions are probably better)
  DC power controller/rationer for solar powered unmanned remote telemetry system
  DC motor controller for http://8ball.lunarware.com 
    (not online yet)
  Multichannel temperature monitor for a cranky air conditioner
    (lots of data, no idea how to interpret, a lesson there somehwere)
  Tiny LED xmas tree for my daughter, 
    red LED ornament blinks secret message in morse code
  Multi channel servo controller from a PWM LED driver.
  USB low speed interface with just a couple pins and resistors.

ambient light sensitive LED, using the same LED for sensing as making light (pretty nifty trick, makes me wonder my more electronics don't do it. No need for blinding indicators in a dark room)

I've recently bought an arduino and have been playing around with it. I'm definitely a novice when it comes to electronics but I would love to know how that works.

Do you have writeups online for any of these projects?

I think I wrote this: http://www.arduino.cc/playground/Learning/LEDSensor

The key points are remembering that there is capacitance on the pins of the microcontroller, and that while forcing an electron across from P to N emits a photon, absorbing a photon lets an electron back from N to P if it wants to go.

Make has a whole directory of projects: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/arduino/

For quick prototypes using Ruby, check out RAD: http://rad.rubyforge.org/

The book "Making Things Talk" (O'Reilly) is a great way to start:


I've seen that before, but I'd forgotten about it. Thanks


I would also suggest browsing the rest of her site as it is a treasure trove of information related to electronics.

That was very helpful - thanks!

Well, I'm working on something ambitious with the Arduino, and you may be interested in also working on the same project, but maybe as your second project. Anyone who is interested in getting into hardware hacking from a programmer perspective on something that I find pretty cool should send me an email at markessien at gmail com, and I'll send you a notification when I have the stuff online (3-4 weeks).

That depends entirely on your skill level. If you're not skilled at building circuits, start my making various configurations of LEDs blink.

Making full RGB displays is pretty neat (and easy) to do with Arduino's pulse width modulation feature.


Getting an LED to blink is a great first step. You'll work through most of the technology stack to get there.

That is in fact my first project, I'm looking for things beyond that.

Something simple. For my first project, I bought a ultrasonic sensor and a bar graph led and output the distance sensed on it. Focus on getting accustomed to the hardware you're working with before you try too challenging.

The Arduino site itself has a ton of great examples that helped me get started: http://arduino.cc/en/Tutorial/HomePage

You know how the Kitt car had the eyeball that looked right-and-left? Very straight-forward, terrific starter project. Grab 8 LEDs, some resistors and you are good to go.

That's a great idea, and sure t amuse my kids as well. Thanks

What are the extents of your experiences with soldering/electronic components?

My soldering skills are a bit rusty, but I know my way around electronics.

I'd just like to clear the air and ask the question on everyone's mind.... wtf are you talking about sir?

the question on everyone's mind

Well, at least everyone who's never heard of either Arduino or Google.

any arduino starter kit with Ethernet ???

I don't think so. There is one with Bluetooth however.

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