Introduction to Arduino: 7 things you should know

Introduction to Arduino

Last night I gave a talk on Introduction to Arduino at Princeton Public Library as part of their technology class offerings. I thought I might recap the talk here and invite you to come and visit the next time we offer it. For more information about their free and public classes, please click here:

Getting started with Arduino is the presentation I gave, complete with links, videos, photos, and other information.

What is Arduino?

Arduino microcontroller / Arduino Uno microcon...

Arduino microcontroller / Arduino Uno microcontroller ATmega328 / Arduino Mega 2560 / Arduino Nano ATmega328 / Arduino Pro Mini ver.3.3V ATmega328 / Photo by Arkadiusz Sikorski (Photo credit: Arkadiusz Sikorski vel ArakuS)

Arduino is an open source hardware platform for learning and prototyping electronics projects. It’s open source in that the design of the board itself is shared so that you can build your own if you are so inclined. The software and scripts used to program it are also open source. It benefits from a strong worldwide community of developers, programs, and resources, including books, videos, and classes. It is an Italian project, co-founded by Massimo Banzi and others, and is designed to help people learn easily, even from a very young age. is the homepage for the project. You can get an Arduino Uno, one version of many good for getting started, for around $30.

Where can you get an Arduino and Learn more?

You can buy Arduino products in many places, including online on, and in brick and mortar stores like Radio Shack. has thousands of videos on Arduino projects is a learning community about projects like Arduino. is a learning community and store about projects like Arduino. is a champion of projects using Arduinos and other open platforms.

What are inputs and Outputs?

Inputs are ways for the Arduino to get information. These include sensors like motion detectors, cameras, compasses, GPS, touchscreens, buttons, and many of the same kinds of sensors typically found on a contemporary phone. You use pins on the Arduino to connect them, and use scripts, called sketches, to tell the Arduino what to do with the signals.

Outputs are ways for the Arduino to send back information or do actions. Examples include Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), speakers, motors, and fans.

You can use inputs, outputs and sketches to scratch your own itches, often for a very low price. If you want a station that feeds your cat once every twelve hours but only if it hears a meow or when the cat comes near, you might use an arduino, an RFID (proximity) sensor, and a motor or latch to make it so that if the cat’s collar with an RFID chip in it comes close enough to the station, once in 12 hours time, the container of food has a door that opens for 3 seconds and closes again.

How do I get started with Arduino?

Cover of "Getting Started with Arduino (M...

Cover via Amazon

There are many fantastic books, websites, videos, and communities of practice that focus on Arduino. Here’s one video that tells you how to get started with an Arduino. If you search for ‘Arduino tutorial’ on Google, YouTube, Element 14, or, you’ll find many more.

How do I work with an Arduino?

The key to working with Arduino is writing sketches. You can use the Arduino program (an IDE or integrated development environment) based on an open source application called Processing to write sketches. Get it from

The most common starting example, with very simple capabilities is the Blink example. You can open the Blink example from file/examples/basics in the application.

Arduino setup for the Blink sketch (

Arduino setup for the Blink sketch (

“/*   Blink
Turns on an LED on for one second, then off for one second, repeatedly.
This example code is in the public domain.  */

// Pin 13 has an LED connected on most Arduino boards.
// give it a name:
int led = 13;
// the setup routine runs once when you press reset:
void setup() {
// initialize the digital pin as an output.
pinMode(led, OUTPUT);
// the loop routine runs over and over again forever:
void loop() {
digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
// turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
// wait for a second
digitalWrite(led, LOW);
// turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW
// wait for a second
~ Arduino – Blink –

What kinds of things can you do with an Arduino?

Here is a fun example that shows what you can do with the Arduino, with others in the presentation linked above:

Is Arduino related to Raspberry Pi?

Arduino and the Raspberry Pi are often talked about together, but they are very different devices. The Raspberry Pi and Arduino are both open source hardware, but aside from that they have very little to do with one another. While the Raspberry Pi has pins that you can use to manage electronics, the main purpose of the Pi is to have a $35 computer that you can use to connect to a TV or monitor via HDMI or composite jack and to a keyboard and mouse with USB. The Arduino would need to be very heavily modded to allow for anything like that. The Arduino is primarily an electronics prototyping platform.


This content is published under the Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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