If you want to learn robotics and to create the best robot kits possible, it is essential to have knowledge of the Arduino circuit board. You will be most likely to use Arduino for your first-ever robot kit, as Arduino is the “brain” of the robot.
You may have heard of Arduino before, but what really is it?
“Arduino” refers to an open-source microcontroller or board based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. What is “open-source” Arduino? It means that you can create your own Arduino for free. In other words, it can be expanded and/or customized. It’s no wonder it has become one of the most popular electronics prototyping platforms, not just among scientists and engineers but also among artists, designers, and hobbyists. Most people who are new to robotics and programming have also found Arduino to be simple to use compared to other microcontrollers.
Arduino’s origins go back to 2005 from a university project initiated by founders Hernando Barragan, Massimo Banzi, David Cuartellis, Gianluca Marino, Dave Mellis, and Nicholas Zambetti. Their aim was to create a device that would simplify the Wiring platform which could control the interactive designs the team themselves had built. They also sought to make it less expensive than the existing prototyping platforms during that time. “Wiring,” by the way, is one of the first circuit boards to exist. It is also “open-source” and contains a programming language. Barragan himself developed the Wiring board back in 2003.
Banzi named the device Arduino after a bar named “Bar di Re Arduino,” which is located in a northern Italian town named Ivrea, and where Arduino, of course, was invented. The Bar di Re Arduino, in turn, was named in honor of the 11th-century Italian king Arduin.
Arduino uses a program also called Arduino. It is based on the Wiring programming language which is like C or C++ (another type of computer programming language). But of course, the Arduino programming language is otherwise different from Wiring or C++ as it has been modified to become a programming language that is less complicated to use.
To expand your Arduino circuit board’s functionality, you have to add “shields.” A shield is another board that can be connected on top of the Arduino board. It comes in many forms such as a “wireless” shield (like the Wi-Fi shield which allows the Arduino circuit board to connect to the Internet), or a GSM shield (which has a slot for a SIM card, enabling the Arduino board to receive and send an SMS or a phone call).
You can stack as many Arduino shields as you want or need to the Arduino board. For instance, if you want to connect your Arduino to the Internet and then make posts on Facebook or Twitter, there’s a shield for this function. Or if you want your Arduino to connect to a printer or if you want make an autonomous robot, there are also shields for each of them, too. Shields are pretty much easy to stack onto your Arduino board and are also inexpensive to produce.
Since after the Arduino board was first developed and introduced, there have been several Arduino versions:
1. Arduino Uno – The first and the most universal Arduino board. It is used by everyone, including the new users who want to know about microcontrollers and programming. It can also go well with most Arduino shields.
2. Arduino Due – It has more features especially made for the advanced users. It definitely has more memory and I/O ports and its process is a lot faster compared to the original Arduino. But the drawback is its incompatibility to many Arduino shields.
3. Arduino Mega – It comes in two types, the Mega 2560 and Mega ADK. The 2560 has 54 I/O ports and is compatible with most shields. The Mega ADK (Accessory Development Kit) is based on the 2560 but it has a USB host interface which connects itself to Android devices like smartphones. It is especially designed for those who are interested in developing accessories for Android devices. It is the result of Arduino’s partnership with Google who, as we all know, is the developer of the Android OS.
4. Arduino Leonardo – the least common board, but some of its features are similar to the Arduino Uno (such as the power supply and the processor). It also has more USB support than the Uno, therefore expanding its flexibility to create more projects using the USB.
The popularity of the Arduino has been growing steadily over the years. Currently there are more than 200 distributors of products run by Arduino. While the United States and Europe are the top Arduino consumers, interest from the Asian and South American markets is also growing. It looks like the Arduino won’t go away soon; instead, it has definitely become more popular than ever. Many of the popular and top rated robot kits are run by the Arduino board, and robot kit reviews by hobbyists and professionals alike have rated the Arduino highly.