I have a friend that keeps asking me about micro controllers and costs associated with getting started. He has no prior programming experience, and doesn’t own a soldering iron. By the sounds of it, he’s a little on the fence (rightfully so) and isn’t sure whether he should try it or not. Totally understandable when starting with something new. So I figured hey, lets break it all down and see just what it would take to build your own Arduino starter kit!
Before I get into the actual costs I just want to point out that while previous programming experience is handy when it comes to Arduino, its not at all necessary! The Arduino community is literally huge (250k+ members worldwide, 2 million posts) which means finding a sketch and wiring examples that do exactly what you want it to do (at least when you are first getting started) is going to be very easy. My recommendation when starting out is to concentrate on small projects with the thousands of ready made examples (blinking, fading, controlling, etc.). This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the platform (uploading, debugging, etc.). Once you have a solid base is when the real fun begins and you can let your imagination run wild!
Its also important to remember that Rome was not built in a day. You will at some point be stuck in a position where you have to get your hands dirty and start customizing the code yourself. And while I am by no means an expert on the subject, I consider myself a problem solver so by all means leave your messages or questions in the comments and I will definitely try to help out as much as possible!
Build your own Arduino starter kit costs
This list is just my personal recommendation. Feel free to customize it, or add/remove as you wish (or leave suggestions in the comments). My goal is to keep the kit under $20CAD ($15.87USD… man, our dollar sucks right now), so my prices will be based mostly off eBay. You of course can purchase from wherever you like, but prices will vary obviously.
Arduino Pro Mini ($2.77)
This is the Arduino board itself, the heart of all your projects. It has the atmega328 chip, comes in 5v (16Mhz) or 3.3v (8Mhz) versions, and at this price its almost cheaper than buying the atmega328 chip by itself!
USBasp Programmer ($2.24)
The Arduino Pro Mini doesn’t contain on board USB circuitry, so we need an external programmer to upload the sketches.
USB to TTL Adapter ($1.03)
Without on board USB, we also need something to debug through serial, so a USB to TTL adapter becomes necessary for debugging and communicating through serial
Assorted LED Pack – 100pcs ($1.25)
No project would be complete without some sort of flashing lights. You can find packs of 100 assorted colors of 3mm LEDs for cheap, usually containing 20 of each color (Red, Green, Blue, Yellow, and white)
Assorted Resistor Pack – 600pcs ($3.62)
Resistors are tricky… you never know what values you will need until you know what voltage you’re working with and what the limitations are of the devices you plan on using them with. Best bang for your buck is to buy a kit of assorted. You can find kits that contain 20 resistors of 30 different values.
Male 40 pin Headers – 10pcs ($0.99)
They come in handy making your own “adapters”, for example an easy to use programmer cable. Some devices need headers soldered on before you can use them as well, so its safe to grab a couple of these since you’ll need them sooner or later.
Mini Breadboard ($0.99)
You’ll need somewhere to start wiring up your projects. Since the Arduino Pro Mini is so tiny, a mini breadboard will usually cut it for small beginner projects, but it will only cut it for so long so a full sized breadboard should be on your “not so beginners” parts list.
Breadboard Wires (40pcs M to M – $1.74, 40pcs F to F $1.42)
You could have every part in the world, but unless you have wires to connect everything together you wont make it very far. Male to Male are the more important ones, but Female to Female have their uses as well.
PN2222A Switching Transistors – 10pcs ($1.25)
The Arduinos do have current limitations. About 20mA per output, and 200mA total. If you draw too much current from an output pin, or from all the pins combined, you risk blowing up the whole board. Transistors (and MOSFETS) will let you draw higher amounts of current directly from a power supply while only using a small amount of current from an output pin to control it. The PN2222A is a general purpose transistor that can handle up to 40v and 600mA, so its a good place to start for low current applications (eg. LEDs).
Character LCD HD44780 ($2.51)
An LCD is cool to start learning with. They are super easy to wire up, and I mean come on… its a friggin’ LCD! It doesn’t hurt to have one in your starter kit for their affordable price.
And there you have it, it’s simply that easy to build your own Arduino starter kit – a very basic starter kit – that will have you flashing or fading LEDs, building very basic LED cubes, and writing to LCD screens in no time. For a grand total of $19.81, you’ve got nothing to loose!! Sweet!