What is Arduino and what can it do?

According to Wikipedia, Arduino is a single-board microcontroller, intended to make the application of interactive objects or environments more accessible. The hardware consists of an open-source hardware board designed around an 8-bit Atmel AVR microcontroller, or a 32-bit Atmel ARM. Current models feature a USB interface, 8 analog input pins, as well as 14 digital I/O pins which allows the user to attach various extension boards.

With the help of Arduino, a lot of barriers that previously prevent people from realizing their ideas has been removed, or at least greatly reduced.  Now you can easily put together some real stuff to demonstrate your ideas, prove a concept, or simply show off your creativity and have fun. You don’t need to know much of circuit design, but you can easily acquire signals from various sensors and send control signals. You don’t need to know much of programming, but you can easily process signals, put your ideas into your systems and let them work for you.  The only limitation is your imagination.

People uses Arduino boards in various projects and products.  For example, from a post I read, a popular 3D printer uses Arduino boards to control things such as ejecting molten plastic from the print head to moving the platform. Another example is a wireless multimeter.  It uses arduino to collect sensor data and communicate with your smart phone, so your smart phone looks and functions like a traditional hand-held multimeter. Arduino boards are also widely used by robot fans to build all kinds of cool robots. One guy built a dragon and the dragon can sense a hot spot like a fire around it, then run to the fire and put it out.

Arduino boards have many different versions, with more or less similar functions and pinouts. The details can be found at Arduino’s official website.

Among Arduino’s different boards, Arduino Nano is a very compact and breadboard friendly one. It is only 0.73″ x 1.70″ big, as shown below:


The cost of Arduino Nano is very low, especially for various versions of Arduino compatible boards. From Ebay you can easily get one  under $7 with quick delivery to the US.  Because of its compact size, low cost and high performance, we will use it as a basic platform in the future to introduce many fun projects. More information on Arduino Nano can be found from Arduino’s official website.

Thanks for reading.  Open Source Photonics Blogs are supported by 612 Photonics.

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