Introduction to the Arduino – What is Arduino?

Ever heard of the term “Arduino” but not knowing what is it or what it means? Today, with this comprehensive Arduino guide, you will learn all about the Arduino from:

  • Introduction to Arduino – What is it?
  • What can the Arduino do?
  • Why use the Arduino?
  • What is the difference between an Arduino and a Single Board Computer?
  • About the Arduino
    • Arduino Hardware
      • Arduino Board
      • Arduino Sensors and Shields
    • Arduino Software
  • Types of Arduino
  • Getting started with the Arduino – What do you need?
  • Other helpful resources

Without further ado, let us jump right into what exactly is an Arduino?

Introduction to the Arduino

  • The Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software used to build electronics projects.
  • All Arduino boards have one thing in common which is a microcontroller. A microcontroller is basically a really small computer.
  • With the Arduino, you can design and build devices that can interact with its surroundings. The Arduino boards are basically a tool for controlling electronics. They are able to read inputs with their onboard microcontroller (eg. Light on a sensor, an object near a sensor) and turn it into an output (Drive a motor, ring an alarm, turning on an LED, display information on an LCD).
  • However, to do this, you will first have to program the Arduino board.
    • How do you program the Arduino board? You use a software application called Arduino IDE (integrated development environment) which we will explain more about later!
  • With the Arduino, makers and electricians can easily prototype their products and make their ideas come to life.

What can the Arduino do? – Arduino Projects

As mentioned above, an Arduino board are used as a tool for controlling electronics by reading inputs and turning it into outputs. But what exactly can they make or do? From a flamethrower to a walking robot, the Arduino board can be used to build many different electronic projects! Here are some kickass projects that you can do with the Arduino!

Arduino Arm Flamethrower

Ref: Allen Pan

Ever wanted to be the Human Torch from the Fantastic 4? With this Arduino project, you can now shoot fireballs from your fists every time you punch like a fire bender!

Arduino Robotic Arm

Ref: MassimilianoMichele Valentini

With the Arduino and a few modules and components, you can create a robotic arm that is controlled by your hand movements!

Arduino Formula LED Race

Ref: Aaron Ciaghi

This interactive Arduino project allows you to have an intense race with your family and friends using LED strips!

Arduino Walking Monster

Ref: 8bitsandabyte

The Arduino can be used to control many types of robots from robot cars to robot arms. But what about a walking robot! Meet Bert a bipedal walking monster robot powered by the Arduino!

Home automation with Arduino

Ref: Saksham Bhutani

With the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and NodeMCU, you can make yourself a cool home automation that features a smart RFID door lock, weather station (tells you the temperature, humidity and gas quality at home), motion detector, plant watering reminder, mood lighting, camera (that sends you live feed if need) and you can also control your household appliances through an app if needed through this project! This is truly an all in one home automation system!

Those are just a few amazing and cool projects that you can do with your Arduino! You can do so much more with the Arduino like weather stations, anti-burglar systems, etc. The Arduino can be used as the brains to almost any electronic project that you can think of. Whatever you can do with the Arduino is just limited to your imagination!

Not convinced yet?

Here are some more reasons as to why the Arduino is so special compared to other electronic boards out in the market now!


Why use the Arduino

There are many electronic boards out there, why use the Arduino board? Well, there are many reasons that make this microcontroller special. Advantages of using the Arduino includes:

Cheap

  • Whenever you are buying something, you will always look at the cost first.
  • For the Arduino, they are very accessible and cost-effective!
  • You can get an official complete Arduino UNO Rev3 at only $24.95 or our very own Seeeduino V4.2 which is an Arduino-compatible board, that is based on ATmga328P MCU (same as Arduino UNO) at $6.90 only!
  • Without breaking your wallet, you can easily get an Arduino for yourself to play with!

Easy to use and perfect for beginners

  • With Arduino easy to use IDE software for beginners, the Arduino are easier to learn to program as it uses a simplified version of C++ compared to other programming software.
  • In addition, the Arduino community is very big and many users and organizations are all using it. There are wide varieties of tutorials and projects available online that are pre-coded for you to learn and build using the Arduino allowing beginners to get started very easily.
  • Even if you run into any problem, just ask for help in the comments or forums where users help each other solve problems.
  • You are an experienced electrician and afraid that the Arduino will be easy for you? No worries as the Arduino software (IDE) is also flexible for advanced users to take advantage of as well!

Cross-Platform

  • Arduino IDE is also cross-platform which means you can run it on Windows, Macintosh OSX and also Linux operating systems compared to other microcontroller systems which can only run Windows.

Wide Variety

  • The Arduino has many variations for you to choose from to allow you to pick one that suits your project the most!
  • Having space constraints? You can get yourself an Arduino Nano that is only 43.18 mm by 18.54 mm!
  • Require more memory space and processing power? You can get yourself an Arduino Mega!
  • We will talk more about all the different types of Arduino’s and their differences later on!

What is the difference between an Arduino and a Single Board Computer?

Before going into detail about the Arduino, some of you may be confused with the Arduino and a Single Board Computer (SBC) that is based on a microprocessor like the Raspberry Pi. Lets clear the confusion now by comparing the Arduino and one of the most popular SBC the Raspberry Pi.

What are their main differences?

  • An Arduino is based on a microcontroller which is a simple easy to use computer designed for beginners to run 1 program at a time, over and over again.
  • A Raspberry Pi is a Single board computer based on a microprocessor that acts as a general-purpose computer. It is able to run various operating systems like Windows and Linux. The Raspberry Pi is able to run multiple programs and is more complicated to use compared to the Arduino.

How do I pick which one to get?

  • If you want a simple easy to use board to handle simple repetitive tasks like reading the weather, opening a door, driving a simple robot, turning on an LED, etc. an Arduino would be perfect.
  • However, if you want a fully operating computer that is able to run more complicated functions and the ability to run multiple tasks, an SBC like a Raspberry Pi 4 would be perfect for you.

Alright, enough about the SBC, back to the Arduino…


About the Arduino

The Arduino mainly has two components that you should know about, its hardware and software. For the hardware part of the Arduino, it consists of the physical board and also sensors and shields used to interact with the board.

Arduino Hardware

Arduino Board

The physical hardware of Arduino is the board itself. However, when it comes to Arduino boards, there many varieties with different functionalities.

Today we will be looking at our Seeeduino V4.2 which has the same functions as one of the most popular Arduino board the Arduino UNO. Most Arduino boards will have these various common components that we are going to list:

Compared to the Arduino UNO, it has some extra features which are highlighted in red which can only be found on our Seeeduino boards!

1 – USB Input

  • USB Port is used to connect the board to your PC for programming and for powering up the Arduino board.
  • This USB connection is important as it will be through this port where you will upload your code onto your Arduino board.
  • To learn more about how to Upload Code on your Arduino, you can check out our tutorial on How to Upload Code on Arduino.

2 – DC Input

  • The DC power jack allows your Arduino board to be powered from a wall adapter so that you can supply more power to your project if needed.

3 – Grove Connectors

  • These Grove connectors can only be found on our Seeeduino boards.
  • SeeedStudio has a variety of sensors/devices that can make use of this I2C or UART connection.
  • With our Grove Connectors, you can easily plug-in modules to use with the Arduino without any soldering or jumper systems.
  • We will elaborate more about Grove later on in our Sensors and shields section.

4 – 3.3V and 5V Pins

  • As the name specifies, the 3.3V and 5V pins supply volts of power to your modules. The 3.3V pin supplies 3.3 volts of power while the 5V pin supplies 5 volts of power.

5 – GND pins

  • With this GND (Ground) pin, they are used to ground your circuit.
  • GND means this pin is at zero voltage with respect to the power supply and ground plane of the circuit board

6 – Analog Pins

  • The analog pins allows the Arduino to read signals from an analog sensor like a light sensor and convert it into a digital value.
  • Even though the main function of the analog pins for most Arduino users is to read analog sensors, the analog pins also have all the functionality of general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins.

7 – Digital Pins

  • On the Seeeduino or Arduino UNO, the digital pins are on pin 0 to 13.
  • They allow the Arduino to read digital inputs like a button being pushed and digital output like turning on an LED.

8 – System Power Switch

  • This system power switch can only be found on our Seeeduino boards.
  • This slide switch is used to change the logic level and operating voltage of the board to either 5V or 3.3V which is useful as if you want to save power, you can set it to 3.3V.

9 – Reset button

  • This reset button allows you to reset the board and restart any code uploaded on your Arduino board. Once pressed, the reset pin will be temporarily connected to the ground.
  • This reset button is very useful for your projects in the event your code does not repeat itself but you wish to test it multiple times.
  • This button is conveniently placed on the side to allow you to reset the Seeeduino board even when a shield is placed on top. This is not the case in other Arduino boards where the button is placed on top making it hard to access.

10 – RX/TX Indicator

  • Also known as Transmit and receive indicator, the TX and RX LED indicators are connected to TX and RX of the USB-to-UART chip.
  • They work automatically and lets you know when the board is sending or receiving data respectively like when you are uploading a program onto your Arduino board.

11 – Microcontroller

  • On the Seeeduino V4.2 and Arduino UNO, they are based on the microcontroller: ATmega328P
  • This is the primary chip which acts as the brain of your Arduino board.
  • They allow you to program your Arduino in order for it to be able to execute commands and decisions based on the code.
  • You will have to know which type of microcontroller your board is using before loading a new program from the Arduino Software.
  • Even though the microcontroller on the Arduino boards is different, their difference is not big. The only difference that you may notice is the different amounts of onboard memory.

With your Arduino board, you definitely can’t do anything much with it. This is where Arduino sensors and shields come in:


Arduino Hardware

Arduino Sensors and Shields

Welcome to the extended family of the Arduino – Sensors and Shields!

But before we move on, we have been mentioning about our Grove System and Grove sensor modules. So what exactly is our Grove System?

About Grove

  • Grove is a modular, standardized connector prototyping system. Grove takes a building block approach to assemble electronics. Compared to the jumper or solder based system, it is easier to connect, experiment and build which simplifies the learning system, but not to the point where it becomes dumbed down.
  • Some of the other prototype systems out there take the level down to building block but the Grove system allows you to build real systems. It requires some learning and expertise to hook things up.
  • Every Grove module we have typically addresses a single function, such as a simple button or a more complex heart rate sensor.
  • You don’t need a Base unit to connect up to Grove modules. You can use a cable (Grove to Pin Header Converter) to run from the pins on the Arduino to the onboard Grove connectors easily.
    • Do not have a Seeeduino board? That is okay too! You can get our Base shield which features 16 grove connectors that you can plug and play with!
  • In summary, this system is perfect for someone new to the world of electronics and Arduino.

Without further ado, let us jump right into the extended family of Arduino: Sensors and Shields.

Arduino Sensors

With a few lines of code on your Arduino, you can play around and control a wide variety of sensors and build awesome projects. Our sensors can measure light, ultrasonic distance, moisture, temperature, humidity, gas, pressure, motion, sound, touch, and many more! Whatever you can think of, our Grove sensors can sense it! Not to mention all our Arduino sensor modules are compatible with our Grove system, perfect for beginners.

Interested? Check out all of our Grove sensor modules here!

Arduino Shields

Arduino shields are pre-built circuit boards that are easily plugged on top of your Arduino headers to extend its capabilities.

With the Arduino, adding Bluetooth, wifi connectivity, GPS, motor driver can be difficult if you are new to the Arduino. With shields, you can avoid all the trouble and easily plug in a shield on the back of your Arduino.

Similar to sensors, shields have various functionalities from wifi connectivity, ethernet, driving and controlling motors, camera, storage, touch screen, E-Ink Display, and many more!

Interested? You can check out all our Arduino Shields here!


Arduino Software

After knowing the hardware of Arduino, you will require software and programming to make your Arduino come to life and allow it to interact with various sensors and shields.
To program your Arduino, you will require the Arduino IDE software.

About Arduino IDE

Arduino IDE software
  • Arduino IDE makes it easy for you to write code and upload it on your Arduino board.
  • This program is cross-platform which means it is able to run on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux compared to other microcontroller systems which can only run Windows.
  • This software can be used with any Arduino board like our Seeeduino V4.2, Arduino UNO, etc.
  • The environment is written in Java and based on processing and other open-source software.
  • This program uses a simplified version of C++ with syntax highlighting and other features which makes it easier to learn to program which is perfect for beginners to learn programming and coding!
  • After you finish writing your code, you can then easily load your code on your Arduino IDE with a USB cable with a click of a button.
  • To learn more about Arduino IDE, you can check out Arduino’s official documentation!

Types of Arduino

Now that you have understood the hardware and software part of the Arduino, it is time to pick your own Arduino Board! However, you may notice that there are many variations from official Arduino boards to Arduino compatible boards each with different capabilities and price points.

Today, we have compiled some of them which are the most suitable for beginners! They are:

Arduino Uno Rev3

  • The Arduino Uno is the ideal board for getting started with electronics, through fun and engaging hands-on projects. This board is your entry to the unique Arduino experience: great for learning the basics of how sensors and actuators work, and an essential tool for your rapid prototyping needs.
  • Arduino Uno Rev3 is also the most used and documented board in the Arduino family. There are many tutorials and projects available online with instructions for you to get started.
  • It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16 MHz crystal oscillator, a USB connection, a power jack, an ICSP header, and a reset button.
  • It contains everything needed to support the microcontroller; simply connect it to a computer with a USB cable or power it with an AC-to-DC adapter or battery to get started.

Seeeduino V4.2

  • Seeeduino V4.2 is based on the Arduino UNO bootloader. Our Seeeduino V4.2 is basically a much cheaper Arduino UNO with more functions!
  • It has the same hardware and functions with a few additional features only found on our Seeeduino V4.2 like:
    • Switch to choose the system supply voltage, 3.3V or 5V, which is very useful if you want to set the system to 3.3V to save power.
    • Three on-board Grove interface allows your board to easily connect to our Grove modules. (Will explain more about Grove in our Sensors and Shields sector!)
    • Use of a DC-to-DC converter instead of an LDO (Low DropOut regulator), for enhanced efficiency

Seeeduino Nano

  • Want a smaller Arduino UNO or Seeeduino V4.2 for your project needs? Then the Seeeduino Nano would be perfect for you!
  • The Seeeduino Nano is a compact board similar to the Seeeduino V4.2/Arduino UNO, and it is fully compatible with Arduino Nano on pinout and sizes.
  • Standing at 43.18 mm × 18.54 mm and less than a quarter size compared to the Seeeduino V4.2 the Seeeduino Nano size and also reliability allows them to be easily integrated into many projects like wearables, mini robots and many more!
  • In addition, the Seeeduino Nano features 1 on-board Grove interface which allows your board to easily connect to our Grove modules.

Seeeduino Mega(ATmega2560)

  • Want a bigger, better and mega Arduino? The Seeeduino Mega definitely fits in that category.
  • Seeeduino Mega is a powerful micro-controller derived from Arduino Mega. It features ATmega2560 processor which brings a large number of I/O pins.
    • It features as much as 70 digital I/O, 16 analog inputs, 14 PWM, and 4 hardware serial ports
  • Compared to Arduino Mega, we shrunk the volume of Arduino Mega by at least 30% and made it 100% compatible with Seeed Shield products.
  • With this board, it is very suitable for projects which require many digital inputs or outputs like LEDs, buttons, etc.

Getting Started with the Arduino

Now that you’ve known about what you can do with the Arduino, which Arduino board to get started with and sensors and shields that you can implement in your projects, it’s time to get started on your journey into the world of electronics and Arduino!

Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino

  • To help you avoid all the hassle in getting all the individual components and sensors, we have prepared for you an Arduino Starter Kit!
  • This kit includes a main control board Seeeduino Lotus and 8 Grove modules, which covering the sensor, actuator, and display.
  • In addition, we have prepared detailed instructions on the use of Arduino and the use of each module, which includes 8 lessons for each sensor modules and 2 Arduino projects to show how the modules can be combined and applied in real life applications.
  • With this kit, you can learn all about Arduino and how to use the different sensor modules together. After this, with all the knowledge gained, you can easily start building your own Arduino project already!
  • Looking for more sensors and modules for your Arduino Kit compared to the Beginner Kit to get started on? You can consider our Grove Starter Kit v3!
    • It contains 1 Arduino Shield, 10 Grove Modules, 3 LEDs and 1 Mini Servo Actuator!
  • To learn more about our Grove kits for Arduino, you can check out our other blog here!

Now you’ve got your Arduino and Sensor modules, you can also check out our guide on Getting Started with Arduino which features instructions on basic functions like how to install library on your Arduino IDE, how to upload code on your Arduino!


Helpful Resources

To help you on your journey in Arduino, here are some helpful resources that you can look at to get started and go further!

  • Seeed Wiki – Information and tutorials on our Grove modules, sensors and Seeeduino boards.
  • Seeed Project Hub – Find awesome Arduino projects with instructions and make them yourself!
  • AllAboutCircuits – Electrical engineering & electronics community filled with Arduino tutorials
  • Hackster.io and Instructables – Similar to Seeed project hub, you can find awesome projects done by makers with instructions and try it out for yourself!
  • Udemy – Online learning platform with Arduino learning courses to learn more about electronics and Arduino.

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