Need some advice

Hello everyone im new to this site. I have recently been enrolled in a eet course. this has gotten my interest in electronics. Ive been looking at some microcontrollers and I was wanting to know for a person that has never used one what should I get? Should I get a kit or just the microcontroller? what are the pros and cons of just the microcontroller chip vs the one that is built into a circuit for example the uno. thanks

Having an Uno makes it easy to just hook a USB wire from the PC to try out some code. If you don't have a stock of parts laying around from old projects, a kit can be a good way to start.

I have some things that I got in my eet class. I mostly got resistors that's all we did in the class was use those and a couple bulbs along with a multimeter. which kit would you recommend, Ive looked at a couple different one I not for sure if this is correct so please help me build my terminology if im wrong. Is is called a bootloader what you hook up to the computer that has the microcontroller? Where should I get the kit arduino website is out at this time, I seen some on ebay and a couple others sites but they all have different things that come with it. So if I did find a kit wherever what all needs to be in the kit? Also, is a lcd screen used a lot to help program or help with using the real timer I think that's what it is called? One more quick question if I end up purchasing it off of ebay will it come with software that you program it on the computer with or do you just plug it into a usb port and the page comes up to program it? Thanks

I'd go for a Uno and one of the many "starter kits" like Arduino's own one or have a look at say sparkfun.

A microcontroller card, self-contained and ready to roll like a Uno, is a far simpler way than messing around with a loose chip and trying to integrate that into some kind of working, programmable, system.

A starter kit will give you various components to play with like resistors and LEDs but also (they vary from maker to maker of course) things like transistors, small dc motors, maybe a servo, relays etc. And they usually come with a breadboard of one size or other and a bunch of wires and stuff. With a starter kit you're pretty much set to go the minute you unwrap it.

If you don't have access to a multimeter outside of class, buying one is a must....

Oh, regarding the programming.... this page explains how to download the IDE- Interactive Development Environment- where you do your coding. The Arduino will be "empty" out the box- you write and compile your program (known as a "sketch" in Arduino-speak) and download that to the Arduino where it runs. The sketch stays there (even with the power off) until you send a new one.

ok thanks I will look for a few and see what you think about them as far as the components go. To make sure I have everything I need. Should I find one with an lcd screen? or is not needed?

Heres one I found what do you think? this one has the led if I need one this has a keypad with it

saltyeddie: Should I find one with an lcd screen? or is not needed?

Well you can but everything loose, anyway.... LCD's handy though, for showing output. But standard part of the Arduino approach is the ability to display output on your pc/laptop using the serial interface so an LCD's not crucial.

What im wanting to work up to or my goal is to build an aquarium light and I would like it to have a screen so that I can turn the leds on and off and also beable to dim them as needed. After if do this I would also like to some how make a lightning effect to make the saltwater aquarium emic the natural environment as much as possible. That is probably a lot for a newbie to say for the reason being ive not used mircocontrollers before, but I have something to look forward to and motivate me to get a finished product. The reason that I will need an lcd later and will have to have practice with it should I go ahead and find a kit with it? Also, the keypad I seen it in a kit with the lcd and the microcontroller what exactly do you use the keypad for? And if you seen the urls I posted which on do you think would be best for me? As well as is this website ok to order from the products wise? Thanks

As mentioned in the post before I have had no experience with microcontrollers, lcds, and real time clocks (which I think I may need for a timer for the aquarium light). i think what i may do is make two different circuits one for the regular lights that stay on and another for blinking for the lightning effect. with cheap leds kind of like a prototype before i spend a lot of money on higher priced leds. them incorporate the two circuits and simplify what i can. just giving an idea of this path i may choose and seeing if this is a good idea or not.

saltyeddie, where are you located? Sometimes it is best to buy what you need from place like,, (serial interface vs parallel interface). Get what you need for your project, and stock up on other bits & pieces that you may want to experiment with later. Writing code to display menus & stuff is a lot of effort. I just use the Serial port for debugging, and maybe have some 7-segment LEDs to display numbers, mode, etc. Keep it simple to start. Can use a max7219 to control up to 64 LEDs, make some lighting effects that way. Or 8 seven-segment displays. (And no reason you couldn't use the decimal points for stuff too, perhaps a 9th digit?) Get some high brightness LEDs, like 5000-8000mcd, will be able to control brightness thru the max7219 (all at same time). or use WS2803, control 18 LEDs or 6 RGB LEDs per chip with full fade control on each one. Another option is TLC5490, with 16 PWM controllable outputs. I have only seen WS2803 on ebay from a guy in Niagara Falls. Keypad will let you enter numbers independent of PC if you need that. There have been a lot of aquarium controllers made, browse around here to see what's been done.

OK thanks for the info about the light that I wanna make. I understand it will take me some time. The kit I actually just bought one at RadioShack its a pretty big kit it was 120 dollars. I will keep in mind all the components you told me about. thnks and I will keep you all updated on my experience levels. and on the projects to make sure they are correct. and again thanks.

alright I have finally gotten time to use the microcontroller and check out and figure out what I can that it can do. the problem is I plugged it in and nothing poped up.

saltyeddie: the problem is I plugged it in and nothing poped up.

Did you follow the link in my Reply#4 and download the IDE? An Arduino is dead until you load a sketch into it....

JimboZA: An Arduino is dead until you load a sketch into it....

Not sure about clones, but I'm pretty sure that stock official UNO's come with the blink sketch pre-loaded, that blinks the LED on pin 13...

ok thanks I will check it out in a little while. I made a small circuit. Its nothing great but let me know if this is ok. Im using a 6v battery. I have connected a push switch its spst is series with (this part is in parallel, 330 ohm series w/ led, in parallel with 330 ohm series w/ led, parallel with 330 ohm series w/ led) if this makes since. spst+ (330+led II 330+led II 330+led). not for sure the mA of the leds because Ive had them for awhile I do have a multi meter how whould I check the mA of the led using it? thanks Also, when I download the ide is it the very top one that says windows? I tried that one last night and I couldn't figure anything out but it was late, will I get a shortcut on my desktop bc I cant find it now? I have a windows 8 computer too, will that matter? thanks


JimboZA: An Arduino is dead until you load a sketch into it....

Not sure about clones, but I'm pretty sure that stock official UNO's come with the blink sketch pre-loaded, that blinks the LED on pin 13...

That's interesting, and makes sense as an out-the-box test. But when we got ours a year ago I didn't read that anywhere. Nor did I notice the LED blinking, not that I would have been looking....

I figured it out I had to add the device so that I could get the serial port. thanks. Ive used the examples to do the blink fade and helloworld. and did some different numbers for slower/longer fading periods or delays I also wrote happy birthday to my sister on the lcd. do you know how to get a digital dimmer over a period of time?