The Arduino: a $25 gadget that will teach you and your kids a lot about programming and electronics

You have probably heard the word "Arduino" before, but you might not know what it means. The simple answer is that an Arduino is a small circuit board that costs about $20 - $30 and can be used to add interactivity to projects.

Say for instance, you'd like to create a gadget that warns you when your car gets too close to the back wall when you are driving it into the garage. You can attach a $10 proximity sensor, a $1 buzzer, and a $.01 LED to the Arduino and mount it to the back wall of the garage. Next, write a small program that tells the buzzer and LED to activate when the sensor detects that the car is getting too close to the wall.

Arduinos are easy to program -- in fact they were made for artists and designers, not engineers (although plenty of engineers use and love Arduino).

In this short video MAKE magazine's Matt Richardson provides an excellent introduction to the Arduino and shows a number of cool things you can do with it.

If you have kids that show an interest in making things, I highly recommend that you buy an Arduino and the book, Getting Started with Arduino, by Arduino co-foudner Massimo Banzi.


  1. Or you can buy a ready-to-use parking sensor for $15. (Or hang a tennis ball from the ceiling.)

    Much like crafting in Guild Wars 2, you don’t do it to save money but for the experience (points).

  2. To me the Arduino kits really have replaced the old Radio Shack 200-in-1 electronic project kits.  You can easily follow along and build a working project without much worries of failing.  But I think they have some of the similar problems the old electronic kits had, lack of in depth knowledge.  They give great exposure and do teach people things, but at a certain point you either have to bury down and learn the real ends and outs of electronics (and depending how far you want to go the math and theory behind it all), or you can just stay content with building projects.  And in reality that is a fairly big step that can be frustrating at times.

  3. So, if I attach an shoulder mounted death ray and a stress monitor, I can create something that will automatically destroy all who displease me?


    Next step, building a shoulder mounted death ray.

  4. and interestingly… i found a stack full of arduino boards, shields & random sensors and bits at the local radio shack. and while i think you should DEFINITELY support the MAKE shop, having an assortment down at the shack makes it a little easier for me to tell my mom what to get for my child. also… there’s just something really cool about going into a retail location, asking “can you help me find the surface mount accelerometers?” and having them not give you a dumb look.

    1. Yeah, but even in my local Radio Shacks in Cambridge, near MIT etc, they’ll mostly just shrug and point you to the chest of electronic parts in the back corner, and when you finally come back with your 25¢ diode they’ll ask you if you want to upgrade your phone plan.

      I’m not saying that it’s useless to shop at Radio shack for parts, but unless you’re in a very special shop, don’t expect the employees to have any clue what you’re talking about.

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