Looking to start but I want to start right

Hello everyone,

I have not purchased a Arduino yet. Before I do I would like to put my goal ahead of me and plan out my lessons so I can attain my goal.

Goal: To duplicate this http://mystarbright.com/

Yes, I know I could buy this product BUT what would I learn? Nothing. I already know how to plug things in a wall and push a button. LOL


To achieve my goal which Arduino should I buy and what supporting parts should I get as well (LEDs, boards, relays, transistors or whatever).

I realize that I need to crawl first, then walk and eventually I maybe able to run. So I have plenty of time, desire, and thick skin.

Lesson 1: Getting a single LED to light or even blink would be great. Lesson 2: Adding a second LED. Lesson 3: Moving up to a 4x4 array. Lesson 4: Moving up to a 8x8 array. Lesson 5: Maybe ramping up to a 16x16 array

I am a complete newbie with electronics at this level so from what I have seen in videos as long as I learn the correct parameters and listen to sound advice I should be able to pick this up.

Programming will not be a problem for me. I say that because I have been programming for the last 30 years from the Basica days, Fortran, Cobol, PC Assembler, C and many others so logic will not be a problem. I am also a professional botter (I automate websites).

I am looking forward to getting started so if someone could point me in the right directions so I don't waste my time or money then THAT my friends would be awesome.

Thanks in advance and I look forward in sharing my experiences.


Hello Buddy and Welcome. That's a good goal, be patient and work up to it slowly. Sounds like you have a good plan. A basic 8x8 LED matrix can be actually be achieved with an Arduino and one external IC, a MAX7219 or MAX7221. Use those as search terms on the forum, I think there's also a library to interface to the chip, check the playground. I'd start with an Uno. They are the most popular, lots of support, etc. If you're like most of us, you may end up with several, perhaps various types, clones, etc. But an Uno will always be useful. I might look at various starter kits, these are a good way to get an introduction to Arduino and to electronics.

Here are links to a couple popular vendors. The instruction manuals for the starter kits are usually available online, so you can scope them out first.

http://www.adafruit.com/category/17_64 http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10173

Good luck, have fun, and we will expect progress reports! :D

PS: Small 8x8 LED matrices are also available for a few dollars. Might be convenient for development purposes before scaling up to window-size. For example: http://www.adafruit.com/products/455

I agree with Jack, the MAX7219/7221 is the way to go. I must admit, I only got the 7-segment working perfectly, but the 8x8 (with a 7219) was a little less than desirable. I think it might be a pinout issue with the documentation of the 8x8, but it is on the list ;)

Anyhow, I would suggest a low level understanding of the Arduino hardware, and of course, the core libraries. Breadboard Arduinos are always helpful.

I would find some of the Arduino tutorials on the net and work my way through them.

There are some basic things that is needed in many (almost any) projects, like current limiting resistors, buttojn debouncing, driving high current loads etc.

Get your hand dirty with that and then move on to your LED matrix.

I would go with Jack's suggestion of a starter kit. The one I used was http://www.oomlout.com/a/products/ardx/

These give easy, quick, bite sized tasks but are varied and actually cover quite a lot of useful ground and techniques. Knowing a sketch should work makes finding your mistakes easy and the sketches make good starting points to build on and experiment with.

I would also timidly suggest looking at Fritzing http://fritzing.org/ as a way of creating circuit diagrams and schematics. I said timidly because there are people on the forum who don't regard it as a professional tool. For a beginner though, like me, I think it is fine and it is a good way to communicate what you have done when your circuit does not work as expected.

Awesome! Thanks everyone!

Yes, looking to start small with simple projects and work my up.

So is there a pretty good tutorial site for noobs. YouTube is great but its not really a good venue for filtering the best tutorial videos over the bad ones.

Looking at the links everyone posted...thanks again!


Awesome! Thanks everyone!

Yes, looking to start small with simple projects and work my up.

So is there a pretty good tutorial site for noobs. YouTube is great but its not really a good venue for filtering the best tutorial videos over the bad ones.

Looking at the links everyone posted…thanks again!


If I may make a suggestion, is when you order your hardware, you might want to buy from vendors that have wikis and howtos for the various parts you buy. I bought my Arduino starter kit from a vendor that basically just put everything in plastic bags with no labeling or anything (other than the Arduino itself, which came in the retail box). Particularly if the tutorials are helpful, you will reward companies taking the time to be helpful.

Because of the tutorials, I tend to like Terry King’s site (http://www.yourduino.com), and he hangs out here, giving advice. However, he does ship from China, which can mean a slightly longer delivery time.

I also like http://robotshop.com/ and http://pololu.com for parts, because both are US based, so the wait time is smaller.

Both http://www.adafruit.com and http://www.sparkfun.com have lots of tutorials, but at present, I tend not to buy from them, since I haven’t taken the time to learn how to solder, and most of their stuff needs soldering.

Or alternatively, if you have local electronics stores that have helpful staff buy from them, rather than saving a dollar or two by going with a foreign distributor. Radio Shack will do in a pinch if you need something immediately, but I often get the deer in the headlights look if I ask about a particular part.


Thanks for the suggestions. I never thought about dealing with companies that had their own wikis and tutorials. Great advice.


I know what you need XD


Another is Fritzing.org http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8CD32146ED5CD04E&feature=plcp