A Guide to Selecting an Arduino Kit
Since its inception in 2005, Arduino has proved to be a boon as an educational tool, as well as for hobbyists who want to build their own electronics and robotics. It’s far more than just a typical electronics kit. It also includes a microprocessor that you can program yourself for various applications. Thus, an Arduino kit introduces students to both electronics and programming techniques.
But, a kit won’t be of much use without tutorials and instructions. There are a lot of specs and acronyms to digest, as well as precautions to take so that you don’t short out or overload your Arduino board. Many of the kits available on the Best Reviews Guide list come with a CD that provides tutorials and project ideas. You can start out simple, with programs that make LEDs blink, and progress to musical instruments, robotics, and even 3D printers! And many of these kits go for less than $30!
What’s usually included in an Arduino kit?
An Arduino kit usually will contain a microcontroller board, as well as a rechargeable battery, cables, and a breadboard where you insert electronic components such as transistors, capacitors, LEDs and resistors, and more. You can also find expansion boards, known as “shields”, for more specialized uses: 3D printing. Ethernet connections, and connecting to peripherals like a keyboard and mouse.
Types of Arduino Kits
There are many Arduino boards that are specialized for particular applications, such as Arduino Robot, which can be used for robotics, or Arduino Esplora, which can function as a gaming controller. But there are five or so main types of Arduino boards that are popular among hobbyists, as well as starter kits. We’ll discuss them in ascending order, with each one being an upgrade on the previous model:
Uno–This is considered an entry-level board, but it can help you construct an alarm, a taxi fare meter, a static electricity detector, and more. It has 32 kB of memory. The Elegoo Uno Project Basic Starter Kit comes with an Uno R3 board, as well as LEDs, resistors, and more.
Elegoo Uno Project Basic Starter Kit
Nano-There is also the Arduino Nano, which is smaller in size than the Uno board. While the Uno connects to a computer with a USB port, the Nano uses a micro-USB port. The Nano is more suitable for portable devices, while the Uno is something you would set up near a desktop computer.
Leonardo-This is comparable to the Uno, but it has more analog input pins, and tends to cost less than the Uno. There is a slight upgrade in the memory and microprocessor of the Leonardo over the Uno. An example is the Keyestudio Leonardo R3 Microcontroller Development Board.
Keyestudio Leonardo R3 Microcontroller Development Board
Mega-This is an upgrade from the Uno since it has 256 kB of memory. It is also considerably larger than the Uno, measuring 4” x 2.1”, as opposed to 2.7” x 2.1” for the Uno. More memory means that you can program it with larger pieces of code. The Elegoo Mega R3 Starter Kit comes with over 200 components such as a motor, an LCD display, and a keypad, as well as CD with a tutorial and project ideas.
Elegoo Mega R3 Starter Kit
Due–This board is the same size as the Mega with a 32-bit microcontroller, but with twice the memory of the Mega, a faster microprocessor. This gives it even more capabilities. The Arduino Due can be used for making a security system, an Android app, Virtual Reality applications, and more.
There are also kits where you can buy several Arduino boards at once, such as the Gar Monster Starter Kit. It includes the Uno, Mega, and Nano boards, and allows you to construct projects using Internet connectivity via Bluetooth and Wifi.
Gar Monster Starter Kit
What reviewers say
Based on all the consumer reviews we've scanned, these are the top things they mentioned about their new stuff:
Comes with a limited number of sample projects: One customer who bought the Arduino Uno said that the kit contained many more LEDs than any project called for. But that’s for a good purpose since you might blow out some by wiring them incorrectly. The customer also noticed that there are only 8 sample projects, which you can finish rather quickly. But, there is the Arduino website, which can give you many more ideas.
Install drivers first: If you hook up your Arduino board to a Windows computer, you’ll need to install drivers first for it to recognize the device. You can either use the installation program that comes with the kit or download it from the Internet (which will ensure that you get the latest version of the drivers).
Worth it to buy the more advanced boards: A customer who started out with a Raspberry Pi kit first said that he didn’t do very much with it, because it didn’t come with very many components, and he didn’t want to order more separately. He was pleased to spend extra to buy the GAR Monster Starter Kit since this expanded his capabilities immensely. He recommends introducing your kids to Arduino as soon as possible!
Here are some tips from the manufacturers and users, regarding getting into Arduino:
Computer languages supported: As we mentioned, Arduino gives you experience with electronics and programming. Some kits will give you experience with Scratch, the visual computer language developed by MIT to get kids into programming, as well as C. The SunFounder Project Arduino Mega Starter Kit has 51 lessons in the C language, and 22 in Scratch. This is in addition to 291 electronic components and 73 projects, from beginner to expert level! Besides programming devices like motors and detectors, you can also try your hand at elementary computer games!
Shields: As we mentioned in the FAQ section, there are also Arduino shields, which are expansion units for special projects. The GAR Monster Starter Kit has a shield for Ethernet connectivity, as well as the capability of building Bluetooth or WiFi modules!
No soldering required: The great thing about Arduino is that you can build these circuits and projects without having to solder the components. Just insert them into the breadboard, hook up the cables, and you’re all set!
We briefly went through the most popular Arduino kits, from the beginner-level Uno to the more advanced Due. Since the beginner kits are so inexpensive, you can feel free to start with a humble Uno or Nano kit, and then upgrade later. Go through the Best Reviews Guide list, and choose a kit for yourself or one of your children. It will give hours of educational, inspirational fun!