As a complete newbie in Studio M this semester, I’ve started my tinkering down here with a tablum rasa, which has been both a blessing and a curse so far. There are very many cool toys and tools here, most of which I’ve never heard about and all of which are endlessly intriguing. It seems that every time I come down to the makerspace, my curiosity is piqued by the possibilities the resources here offer for creating innovative solutions and shortcuts. Andy, for instance, is using the laser cutter to create a 3D topographical map for Davidson’s ROTC.
The breadth of possibilities and coolness can be overwhelming, especially for someone like me who is easily distracted and prefers to learn more horizontally rather than vertically. Thus, my first few times in the Studio, I found my mind jumping from one toy to the next in a seemingly endless loop: Drones? “Sounds cool.” Raspberry Pi? “Sign me up.” Break down and build back up? “Absolutely.” But this all stopped when Brian recommended I check out the Arduino Uno, an open-source microcontroller designed for easy prototyping.
If you’re like me and you’ve never heard of the Arduino Uno, don’t be wary; it’s actually a good thing! The Arduino is designed for people who are unfamiliar with electronics and coding, and is thus incredibly accessible and user friendly. At its core, the Arduino is a tiny computer that lives on a card-sized circuit board. It has a microprocessor, memory, and input and output pins that process and export information from an endless possibility of gizmos (sensors, lights, buzzers, motors, etc.). This hardware portion is complimented by Arduino’s software, or IDE (Integrated Development Environment), which allows you to write programs for the board using simple coding language. Like the hardware, the IDE is very accessible and makes it easy to tell your Arduino exactly what you want it to do.
So, the Arduino is open-source and easy to use, but is it used and useful? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. In my short time working with Arduino, I’ve discovered an active and passionate online community committed to pushing the Arduino’s capabilities through sharing projects and code. A quick Google search is a testament to this, popping up hundreds of communities and message boards dedicated to Arduino innovation. A very similar search also shows off the capabilities of an Arduino, with projects ranging from Geek Gardening to a coffee cup spy cam. Truly then, Arduino’s easy to use wiring and its accessible software is allowing people of all backgrounds and interests to create innovative solutions for everyday (and not so everyday) needs.
While I’ve yet to reach the level of spying on people from my coffee cup, I will be teaching an Arduino class for Maker Mondays on April 4th. If you are at all curious about the Arduino’s capabilities, I urge you to stop by to learn more about its purpose and to see in action some of the sensors the Arduino can use to simplify our world.