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Creation crate classroom: lesson 2

Getting Started With Arduino with David

What is Arduino?

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

Ok, so what does it mean?

Arduino is a microcontroller that allows a person to connect input and output devices to the board and write programs that can make the output device(s) perform certain tasks or functions based on the input(s). Anyone - children, hobbyists, artists, programmers - can start tinkering just following the step by step instructions of a kit, like Creation Crate, or sharing ideas online with other members of the Arduino community.

...for example

Arduino’s capabilities range from super simple actions, such as pressing a button (input) and turning on a light (output), to much more complicated tasks, such as monitoring multiple sensors in your house so that it can adjust the temperature based on whether or not someone is home, send you a text message if the power goes out, or calling the police if an intruder is detected. All this is can be accomplished by uploading a program (instructions) to the Arduino. This program is called a Sketch and uses a version of the JAVA programming language.

What is open source?

Generally, open source refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use or modification from its original design. Open-source code is meant to be a collaborative effort, where programmers improve upon the source code and share the changes within the community. Code is released under the terms of a software license. Depending on the license terms, others may then download, modify, and publish their version (fork) back to the community.

Okay, so that basically means that someone wrote some code and, instead of keeping it a secret, shared it with the world on the condition that others who use it do things like give proper credit to the author and share their changes, modifications, and other improvements with everyone else. Some open source code may be used for commercial purposes while others are licensed for personal use only.

Arduino is open source hardware meaning that the design may be copied and improved upon just like software. However, if it is copied, one cannot use the Arduino name (except to say that it is Arduino-compatible). This is because Arduino is a brand name as is protected under copyright laws.

What you need to get started?

An Arduino (or compatible) board such as the one below:

Arduino Basic Circuit Board Layout:

1 – Reset switch – use this to restart the Sketch as needed.

2 – Power input – Arduino runs on 5 Volts. If you give it too much power it will break. This barrel plug allows for you to use a power supply that delivers 9 to 12 Volts DC (Direct Current).

3 – I/O Pins – These are “Input/Output” pins. This is where you will connect the wires either from your input source (a switch, sensor, etc.) or to your output device (a motor, light, screen, etc.) using a breadboard, hat, or perf board. (Learn more in the Getting Started with Electronics tutorial)

4 – Serial USB port – This is where you will connect the Arduino to a PC in order to upload a Sketch to the Arduino. The USB port can also be used to power the Arduino. It will provide 5 Volts to the board.

5 – Microcontroller chip – the “brains” of the Arduino. An Arduino Uno comes in the Creation Crate kit and has the ATmega328 microcontroller.

Arduino Uno R3 Pinout

Arduino Circuit Board Pinouts:

Pinouts – These are the available places you can connect wires to the Arduino board. There are three main sections: Power, Analog Inputs, and Digital Input/Outputs. The pinouts you use will be based on your specific application.

Power – There is a 3.3Volt pin and a 5Volt pin along with two grounds (GND).

Analog Inputs – These are used to receive information from accessories such as a temperature sensor, motion sensor, button, switch, etc.

Digital I/O – Digital Input/Output pins, as indicated by the name, can receive information from accessories and can also be used to send information to another device such as a light, a display screen, or a motor.

Programming the Arduino

In order to program the Arduino, you will also need to download the Integrated Development Environment (IDE). This is the platform for writing the code that will run on your Arduino.

You can choose from the Arduino Web Editor, which will allow you to use a web browser to write your code, store it in the cloud, and upload it to your Arduino. This is a great option for Chromebook users or people who need to access their files from multiple computers.

Or you can download the Arduino IDE to your PC, Mac, or Linux machine. This is a good option if you have a slow internet connection or you work on your programs in places where you are unable to connect to the internet.

The steps are fairly straight-forward for either option. For this tutorial we will choose to download the Windows version.

1) Click on Windows Installer
2) Click on Save File

3) Save to the location of your choice and the run the executable file (.exe)

4) Click Next through the prompts to allow the application to install.
4) Once the program is open, go to Tools > Board and select the type of Arduino you want to program. An UNO R3 (Arduino-compatible) comes with each Creation Crate project.

There is much more that makes up the Arduino and helps you put it to use for a wide variety of projects. As you go through the Creation Crate courses and construct the various projects you will find out more about it and how it works.


JAVA – A programming language that is designed to run on all platforms (i.e. Windows, MAC, Linux, etc.).

Sketch – The name of a program written for an Arduino.

Volt – (symbol: V) is the derived unit for electric potential, electric potential difference (voltage), and electromotive force.

Direct current (DC) - The unidirectional flow of electric charge. Direct current is produced by sources such as batteries, power supplies, thermocouples, solar cells, or dynamos.

Alternating current (AC) - Electric charge in alternating current (AC) changes direction periodically. The voltage in AC circuits also periodically reverses because the current changes direction. Power that is delivered to your home and available at a wall socket is AC.

LED – Light Emitting Diode. Most LEDs have a long and a short post. The longer side is the Anode and is connected to the positive side of the power source while the shorter side is the Cathode and is connected to negative or ground.

ATmega328 processor - A high-performance Microchip, 8-bit AVR RISC-based microcontroller combines 32KB ISP flash memory with read-while-write capabilities, 1KB EEPROM, 2KB SRAM, 23 general purpose I/O lines, 32 general purpose working registers.