Newb Getting Started : which kit - if any!?!

Hi,

I'm pretty "stoked" (okay, not normally language I'd use) about the possibilities of this modular platform and would like to take the plunge.

I'm really a software engineer (with commercial games programming experience in C / C++) and am not used, per se, to embedded systems. However, I suspect like most of you, I have created an increasing number of entries in a file called "ideas", all of which are crying out for the arduino treatment.

So I'm looking for something to ease me into the development environment and the whole arduino / embedded systems world. The question is, would the good folk here suggest I start with a kit, or perhaps plump for a dedicated guide book, or perhaps just buy a collection of components and use the web : if you were starting out as a software guy, what would you do?

As a guide, I'd like to make progress towards building a system that can control the viscosity of a liquid by heating it. This will be the first step into piping / extruding / drawing (not sure which) fibres of a given diameter (yep, it don't walk, but it ain't unambitious ;D ).

All and any advice very much appreciated.

There are quite a few Arduino starte packs available.

They come with an Arduino board, a good assortment of often used components, frequently also a small bradboard, and maybee a small motor + more.

Some of the starte packs have printed “project books”, some have online books.

Try to google “Arduino starter pack”, or soemthin like “Arduino experimenter”

Earthshine has a nice starter kit and a nice tutorial with it to get you started.

http://www.earthshineelectronics.com/

It will get you on your started after which you can start making your own things.

Here's one

http://www.solarbotics.com/products/ardx/

Here's a run down on a few of them (sligthly dated)

http://aaroneiche.com/2009/06/29/arduino-starter-rundown/

Cheers MikMo, I take it then that you are pretty supportive of starting off with kits. Sometimes with relatively niche stuff, the user base often has a better idea than the suppliers, or, alternatively, the user base thinks starter kits are over-priced / include stuff nobody wants. From your input I'm guessing this is not the case with arduino. then again, why should it be: the suppliers know what people use and starter kits are presumably a great way to "advertise". Anyhow, thanks again

Cheers wortelsoft,

looks like another thumbs up for starter kits, and I will certainly check out the one you recommended.

Thanks again. (such quick responses!)

MikMo,

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll be checking them out.

Regards

I started with just an arduino, no starter-pack (software engineering dude myself). The one thing I did find crucial was a solderless breadboard with jumper wires. My first project was a hexapod, so the starter-packs I saw contained no stuff of interest for me (since it was a school project, I had access to pretty much any resistor and loads of other parts). Thing is, apart from the custom power supply (crude and dirty from an electrical engineering standpoint.. but functional).. I used no other parts. Now I did get some 8051 multiplexers and some LED's / resistors.. but all in all, I don't miss anything from a starter-pack.

Now if money isn't an issue, I'd go with a basic starter-pack and purchase a regular sized (or larger!) solderless breadboard with jumpers (e-bay is a good place to look imo) seperatly. Can't hurt to have a tiny assortment of basic parts laying around.

Cheers Imahilus,

Great to have an alternative perspective. I guess cost is no big issue, other than the fact that I'm so incredibly tight-fisted ;D

But seriously, hearing somebody who started w/o a kit recommending kits has put my mind at ease wrt their usefulness / suitability. I also particularly appreciate your recommendations wrt the breadboard/xtra jumpers.

Thanks again.

What’s in a kit? An Arduino, an USB cable, a breadboard, some jumper cables for the bread-board and various thingies to have fun with. Perhaps also some pamphlet about what to do first. If think you’ll have fun the various thingies, it’s nice to have them. If not, they’re just a waste. Those Kit aren’t magical packages creted in big volumes, they’re more collections of things that have proved to be useful to the average beginner. And as you know, nobody is average, we’re all unique and special - just like everybody else.

Korman

Cheers Korman for the input.

I take your point. Part of me is wondering whether I’d serve myself better by just jumping in and attempting to hack my way towards a solution to something I really want to make, rather than try and keep up my enthusiasm through a bunch of led projects I have no real fire for.

On the other hand I am purposefully methodical. If I thought a particular kit gave me a better general understanding, rather than just a bunch of ‘painting by numbers’ projects, that would most likely be my choice.

If anyone has any views which kit would best suit that requirement, I’m all ears. I’ve read Aaron Eiche’s kit review and seen his comparison chart, but am still uncertain about which kit (if any) would best hit the spot for this requirement.

Thanks again.

If I thought a particular kit gave me a better general understanding, rather than just a bunch of 'painting by numbers' projects, that would most likely be my choice.

I don't think any kit has a special advantage here. If you want that, get a decent book on the matter, use the resources on the web or fiend a friendly local group you can join. What fits your style of learning better depends entirely on you. The main difference between the kits is just the stuff you need you get bundled so you don't have to get separately. If you're methodical, figure out what kind of projects you want to do and what you expect to need. Then check how to get that most conveniently.

With your background in software development, the main problem will be to learn that when the bits hit the real world, strange things start to happen and that you have only puny resources available. You're total available RAM of 2kB is probably less than the stack frame size allocated for a single function call on your usual development system. And debugging is archaic, all the nice tools you're used to don't work or don't exist. Sometimes you can't even use print statement because they mess up the thing you want to measure. It's the software development equivalent of baking your own bread on an open fire from grains collected in the wilderness. Some people like me find it enriching, others hate it all along.

Korman

Korman,

Really good input. I'd forgotten how 'stoneage' debugging can be in these IDEs - something I'd do well to remember. The memory issues were also important input. I wonder whether I'd be as well to go for a mega ...

You're right also to point out what I'd do "if methodical". Sadly this is one time of the year when (and I don't suppose I'm alone here) what I need seems to perversely take second place to when I must have it - yep, this will constitute a xmas gift.

My engineering bent usually means I refuse to budge an inch until I have a whole project spec'd out. But, this being the season of goodwill, one has to knuckle under and accept the consumption deadline, made ever tighter by delivery times and approaching bad weather. Don't forget that if I didn't chose one b4 Dec 25th, I'd set a bad precedent, which, if adopted en masse, would likely send us back into a double dip recession, so you can see, my wants are quite secondary 8-)

I'd forgotten how 'stoneage' debugging can be in these IDEs

You still haven't got it. You don't debug in the IDE, you debug on the controller. The tools of your choice is sending something out on the serial line to read in the terminal window or if this is too slow, toggling a free pin so you can pick it up on an oscilloscope. Breakpoints ? Only of you use a hammer and only once. And then you have the whole array of problems induced by the hardware, where your program does everything right but it's still not working.

I wonder whether I'd be as well to go for a mega ...

Better stay with the Uno. The little added memory won't help matters a lot, get used to the confined resources. It's more fun that way.

...made ever tighter by delivery times and approaching bad weather.

Get any kit you like, even if it's just because of the colourful box. If in doubt, get the kit with a big breadboard (700-900 holes are a good size, below 300 tends to get small), a few transistors and a temperature sensor. LED, resistors, buttons, one potentiometer and jumper wires are part of most kits anyway. Those will keep you busy for this year anyway.

Korman

Your first non Arduino purchase should be a digital multimeter. Stay away from radio shack, I was at one yesterday and they charge way way over what you can get a decent on for today via on-line. $20 or less should score a decent one. As already told to you, the electrical stuff will probably be new to you and a multimeter is the first basic essential debugger in the hardware world, get one soon. ;)

Which way does a led wire, a meter will tell you. What value is that resistor really? Again the meter knows. How much current is that device actually consuming, ask your meter. How long will my battery pack power this project, lets ask the meter and then do some calculations. Is that digital output pin really high or is my software wrong? The meter will help you half split that problem.

What, you still have not started your search for a meter, move along your not ready for Arudino projects yet. ;D

Lefty

Sounds like I'm in for some fun ...

Sounds like I'm in for some fun ...

Only if you get a meter first. ;)

A kit might b helpful but they might be a lot cheaper when brought seperately ( atleast ni india the kit costs Rs 4000 and if boght individually the components costs rs 1500 + arduino 1300 ) and the other point is if you get things at your local electronic store you can make freinds with the storekeeper and will help in th elong run i feel storekeeper can offer oyu more discounts on quality items .

Only if you get a meter first. Wink

No worries there. Anyone who repairs / mods their own car, appliance & household electrics should have one of those. I've got a few. Even an old AvoMeter (lovely old thing - built or wot?).

It's all the other stuff that's causing me trepidation.

I've just started with Adruino Uno as well. I took the inventor's kit from Sparkfun. The bread board is not verty big but enough for the mini project they are giving. It comes with a few parts, sensors, resistors, light sensor, thermometer, etc. I am pretty sure it's a bit expensive for what it is but since I'm just starting, it is nice to get a kit, a book with explained examples and practice for a bit before going on with my own mini-project.

The bad thing with this kit, at least for me, is that the breadboard is quite small. I'll probably have to get another one for my own project. And the black board where you're supposed to clip your arduino and stick your bread board came slightly broken. For instance, the clip and a couple of pins that were here to keep the arduino board in place are broken. I'm too lazy to contact the aftersales and complain and blablabla, but that was a bit disappointing. Appart from that, the kit is good: plenty circuits to do, very diverse functionnality to try out from the Arduino, etc.