What is Arduino?
Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use software and hardware. Arduino has a variety of boards that have the ability to read inputs, turn on/off a sensor, turn on an LED, or even publish something online. With the Arduino programming language and the Arduino software (IDE), a programmer has the ability to command the board to perform certain actions by sending a set of instructions to the microcontroller on the board.
Arduino has been around for years and it has been the brain of thousands of projects from everyday objects to complex scientific instruments. Arduino has a worldwide community of makers, hobbyists, students, programmers, artists and professionals, who have contributed greatly to the open-source platform and as a result, an incredible amount of accessible knowledge and free resources has been made available and can be of great help to both beginners and experts.
All Arduino boards are completely open-source which empowers users to build them independently and eventually adapt them to their particular needs. There are different kinds of Arduino boards on the market today but for the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll only cover a few of them. These include but not limited to:
Entry Level Boards:
Fig 1: Arduino Uno/Genuino board
These are easy to use and ready to power your first project. These boards and modules are the best choice when getting started with learning how to program the Arduino and tinkering with electronics and coding. For the entry level board, we’ll be using the Arduino Uno/Genuino, & Nano. The other boards in this category include Arduino Leonardo, 101, Esplora, Micro.
Enhanced Feature Boards:
Fig 2. Arduino Mega 2560 Board
These have advanced functionalities and faster performance. These boards allow the user to experience the excitement of more complex projects. The other boards in this category include: zero, due, mo pro, relay shield, etc. In this tutorial, we’ll use the Arduino Mega 2560.
Internet of Things (IoT) Boards:
Fig 3. Arduino Yun board
These boards are more advanced and they enable the user to make connected devices easily using the internet as the communication channel. For this tutorial, we’ll cover the Arduino YUN and the other boards in this category include: Arduino Ethernet, industrial 101, Wifi ete.
Fig 4. Arduino Lilpad USB & Lilpad Main board
These boards are used by artists and makers to improve the overall outlook of an individual by sewing the power of these electronic boards directly to the textiles.
Why choose Arduino over other boards?
Arduino has been used and applied in a number of projects and applications across the globe because of the following reasons:
- Inexpensive Arduino boards are relatively cheaper compared to other microcontroller platforms. The least expensive version of the Arduino module can be assembled by hand and even pre-assembled module costs less than $50
- Cross Platform The Arduino Software (IDE) runs on Windows, Mac OSX & Linux operating systems though most microcontroller systems are limited to windows.
- Simple & Easy Programming Environment The Arduino IDE is easy-to-use for beginners, yet flexible enough for advanced users to take advantage of as well.
- Open source & Extensible software The Arduino software is published as open source tools, available for extension by experienced programmers. The language can be expanded through C++ libraries, and people wanting to understand the technical details can make the leap from Arduino to the AVR C programming language on which it’s based. Similarly, you can add AVR-C code directly into your Arduino programs if you want to.
- Open source & Extensible hardware The plans of the Arduino boards are published under a Creative Commons license, so experienced circuit designers can make their own version of the module, extending it and improving it. Even relatively inexperienced users can build the breadboard version of the module in order to understand how it works and save money.