Arduino, Robots, Kits and Home Electronics Hobbies

So I'm a software guy by trade, but I took some electrical and computer engineering in college and enjoyed the basic breadboard and circuit logic stuff. Recently I discovered Arduino, which is an open-platform microcontroller system for creating home electronics projects. It's basically a tiny computer on a board with a bunch of different input and output pins that you can program with a C-like language on your PC. You send the program across USB to the controller and wire it into real electronics components to make home projects. You can start with simple things like making the LEDs blink in repeating patterns and move up to all kinds of fun projects with knobs, noise, sensors and what have you.

So, is anyone else into home electronics projects? What kinds of stuff have you built or want to build? Have any favorite beginner kits or books? Any clubs or groups you work with?

Is it like BASIC Stamp? How easy is it for a beginner to pick up?

I've been thinking about getting into some home projects as something to do with my son to introduce him to the world of tech.

Nevin73 wrote:

Is it like BASIC Stamp? How easy is it for a beginner to pick up?

I've been thinking about getting into some home projects as something to do with my son to introduce him to the world of tech.

Very similar in the general idea, but it appears that Arduino is more popular and better-supported by the MAKE crowd and Hackerspaces. It's completely open-platform, the hardware and software.

It's a shame I moved away from you, we could have dug into together more easily.

Absolutely. I generally need some hand holding with new stuff.

I've been meaning to get into this stuff for years now. General laziness and a lack of time have prevented me really pursuing it. I have a system test background, so I'm not a coder really at all.

Now that I have a son, I'm thinking that it would be good to start projects like this. I've been looking at Lego Mindstorms (which I realize is fairly low-level when compared to BASIC Stamp or Arduino) as a place for us to start. The other option is to just get easy robot kits.

There's an electronic brick kit with a bunch of cool components that plug together and work with Arduino nicely. You can do some robot stuff with those, too. Getting an arduino to programmatically control a robot should be pretty easy. The code can be as simple or complex as you like.

http://littlebirdelectronics.com/pro...

Nevin73 wrote:

I've been meaning to get into this stuff for years now. General laziness and a lack of time have prevented me really pursuing it.

That's me, too. Every time Manning sends me an email touting Arduino in Action, I think about getting it and a basic kit like in your link. I have grand dreams of home automation but no time. I do have buttloads of laziness though.

Edit: Although in my meager pokings around regarding Arduino, it was suggested multiple places to wait for the Due (next version) to be released which, if I remember correctly, is pretty soon (like by the end of the year).

The achievement whore in me wants to build this, because my fingers are too uncoordinated to play Expert.

Jumping in. BASIC stamps are pricey really. Atmega AVR is a much more capable system and really cheap as well. Arduino is a pre-packaged version of an AVR development kit with a bit friendlier programming environment.

Here are some links:
http://www.nerdkits.com/ - they sell an AVR learning kit.
http://adafruit.com/ - hobbyist oriented vendor. Lots of projects as well.
http://www.sparkfun.com/ - Same as Adafruit, larger selection of stuff.

Of course the usual online vendors:
www.jameco.com - more hobbyist oriented, but a lot of stuff in a friendly, browsable format.
www.digikey.com - GREAT selection but it's oriented for professionals in that the site doesn't hold your hand. No minimum to orders though.
www.newark.com - Same as Digikey really.

I have a Parallax BOEBot that I used in a machine architecture class in college... The BASIC stamp is a lot of fun to play with. If the Arduino is even half as friendly, it will be, too.

Tagged (and favorited) for future fun. I've wanted to do this for ages but didn't have a clue where to start. The wife bought me this from Thinkgeek one year, but they also have a robotics projects version that I haven't picked up yet. The projects in the gadgets book get kinda pricey at times, so I'm sure the robotics versions aren't cheap either.

It's a bit early to start my kid on these, I think. Is there an EE program for kids still in the womb?

Awesome extended breakdown of how to build an 8x8x8 LED Cube

http://www.instructables.com/id/Led-...

Today's MAKE Kit-A-Day giveaway is the Arduino ADK Tinkerkit.

For my birthday in March, I'm insisting on being given an Arduino kit and a Raspberry Pi + Gertboard.

I started researching this a couple of days ago, and in the process ran across .NET Micro Framework. A Microsoft Research Labs Open Source initiative that they seem very serious about. This led me into a discovery of Gageteer. It's sort of an Arduino, re-imagined. There are only a few vendors behind the initiative, but already there is a wealth of possibilities out there. Think of it as half way between LEGO Mindstorms and Arduino, taking the best of both worlds.

I've been trying to get my hands on FEZ Spider Starter Kit, but they seem to be chronically out of stock. I have a project in mind, and this starter kit gets me about 80% there.

The amazing thing about the Gageteer set-up, is its integration with MS Visual Studio. Once you have all the SDKs installed, you can visually represent your hardware set-up, and VS will automatically generate all the necessary code and configure it, for you to access your hardware without hassle. On paper it sounds incredible, especially if you have prior C# development experience.

Wow, that sounds very impressive, MoonDragon. You may end up competing with me on that Spider startup kit.

Fail. There is no fez on that spider.

MoonDragon wrote:

Think of it as half way between LEGO Mindstorms and Arduino, taking the best of both worlds.

LEGO Mindstorm is the reason I want to have a child.

That's a really expensive way to get a Mindstorms set and it's still an optional accessory.

*Legion* wrote:
MoonDragon wrote:

Think of it as half way between LEGO Mindstorms and Arduino, taking the best of both worlds.

LEGO Mindstorm is the reason I want to have a child.

That's not why they won't let you in the toy store. Also, nobody on the internet knows you're not buying it for a kid.

FYI, the FEZ kit I linked earlier can now be preordered. The shop page claims ship date of Feb 16th.

My kit arrived on Friday last week. I've plugged it in and toyed with it in basic mode and I must say that it is even more amazing to work with than I imagined.

From opening the shipping box to lighting up an LED took 8 mouse clicks, 3 mouse drag-and-drops, and approximately 10 keystrokes (allowing for MSVS2010 auto-completion). And I'm including in the clicks things like "new project", select new project type, etc.

Wicked! Do you have enough LEDs to make the Kitt light up pattern?

Unfortunately no. I have 2 RGB LEDs from the base kit and 3 more big LEDs from the extra kit I ordered. But making Kitt light patter would be absolutely trivial with this setup.

MoonDragon wrote:

My kit arrived on Friday last week. I've plugged it in and toyed with it in basic mode and I must say that it is even more amazing to work with than I imagined.

From opening the shipping box to lighting up an LED took 8 mouse clicks, 3 mouse drag-and-drops, and approximately 10 keystrokes (allowing for MSVS2010 auto-completion). And I'm including in the clicks things like "new project", select new project type, etc. :)

Video!

If you mean a video of me doing it... hmm... I never done something like that before. I suppose I could try. Do you have any suggestions for a video editing app?

MoonDragon wrote:

If you mean a video of me doing it...

IMAGE(http://www.lolcats.com/images/u/08/45/lolcatsdotcomksr87i8le7k6ilaq.jpg)

MoonDragon wrote:

If you mean a video of me doing it... hmm... I never done something like that before. I suppose I could try. Do you have any suggestions for a video editing app?

No idea. Fraps for the screen capture portion if you wanted to go that route but I also wanted to see the kit and what it does.

I've seriously been looking at the 8v8v8 LED cube. I think I'm gonna buy the parts this weekend.

Ok. I'm off for a vacation tomorrow, but when I come back next week, I'll see what I can do.

For anyone interested in electronics, MIT's online course program, MITx, is offering a beginner undergraduate course in Circuits and Electronics: https://6002x.mitx.mit.edu/courseware/. Sign up is free, and if you complete the assignments, you can get online course credit. I'm currently signed up for this and an online Cryptography class through Stanford University. I don't have time to do the assignments for both, but I'm still figuring out which one I'm going to concentrate on. Crypto is more job-applicable, but Circuits are more fun!

I used to dabble with DIY synthesizer kits back in the day. I still have a bench in the basement w/ my Oscilloscope and test equipment set up. I just never have the time/drive to head down there and mess around w/ stuff. My dreams of a home built modular synth are stymied by my ever persistent laziness.