August 16, 2011 7:52 AM   Subscribe

What are some cool things I can do with an arduino, Python and stuff I already have, with only a few new parts?

I ordered an arduino the other day, it should show up in the mail tomorrow, and I'm really eager to play around with a microcontroller with such a cool community! It's not with a kit, as I've gathered a bunch of electronics components from old kits.

Here's what I have, from an old BS2 kit and my middle/high school years of taking stuff apart with no intent of using the parts:

10 x 10K ohm resistors (yellow shielding)

9 x 220 ohm resistors

8 x .01 uF capacitors

3 long solid core wires, green

20 short solid core wires

4 yellow LEDs

2 Red LEDS

1 Green LED

2 multicolor LEDs

2 speakers (maybe piezoelectric?)

3 IR sensors, 4 IR LEDs.

3 photoresisitors

2 DC motors with wheels permanently glued on, w/ 3 prong connectors (RWB).

DC motor with a removable weight for vibration and a .1 uF capacitor soldered between leads.

A toggle switch.

Small breadboard(20 x 10 pins)

4 x 9v Battery to bare wire connectors (I presume I should get some barrel plugs and solder these together for portability?)

1 x WRT54G v8, with DD-WRT, casing removed. I'd like to add a serial port so it can talk to the arduino once I get a soldering iron. My friend has one with a bigger memory he might give me since he now uses a different router.

1 x Parallax Basic Stamp 2 (kind of planning on the arduino replacing this)

My laptop has a webcam, USB, and a wifi card, but no serial port, but I'm getting an Uno so that's no big deal. Between the webcam and internet, I'm hoping I can do cool stuff over the connection between the PC and arduino.

What I'm planing on getting:

Multimeter (any tips on one?)

Soldering iron and its accompaniments

A couple rolls of 22 gauge wire for breadboarding.

Stuff I think would be cool:

Wire up the DD-WRT router to the arduino to serve as a kludgy wifi shield (it's been done, but I might need to build DD-WRT from source due to the v8s tiny memory)


Strobing the LED to mess with persistance of vision, like in the time fountain.

Automation. I'm thinking it might be cool to build an indoor hydroponics basil and other herb garden setup and use the arduino to automate pumping in new water and remind me when to add more plant food. I have the idea roughly planned out, with a scale under the container to weigh the water. That's a bit outside my budget. I might start with something more basic like a garage door closer.

Things I'd like to learn about:

Wiring AC without burning the house down. I'd like to use solid state relays, but I'm not much of an electrician. I've never hardwired an appliance or anything like that, but I like the idea of using a microcontroller to turn AC things on and off.

Soldering: I'm sure youtube can help, but tips here would be great.

Using a temperature probe on food. I'd particularly like to make pseudo-sous vide with a slow cooker, solid state relay, and thermal probe. Can I use one from a probe thermometer like you find at cooking stores?

Maybe as an advanced project, I'd like to make an x-y plotter with salvaged scanner and printer parts.

I'm planning on following Lady Ada's tutorials for the arduino to get me up to speed.
posted by mccarty.tim to Technology (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Fashion some fins and some fans, use the motors to build an air ship. Look into the arduino wiki and on hackaday for project ideas. These are brilliant sites.
posted by adventureloop at 9:52 AM on August 16, 2011

Also the projects lady ada has online are really cool and build up from nothing to some pretty advanced stuff.
posted by adventureloop at 9:53 AM on August 16, 2011

Nothing you have listed will help you wire and learn AC. If you want to "practice" with AC, get an AC power strip, a pigtail ac power cord, a light bulb ceiling socket, and a light bulb. The switch on the AC power strip will provide you a nice switch to turn the bulb on and off. Start with this AC circuit, but replace the resistor with the bulb. Once you have that mastered, then investigate adding the solid state relay (your answer here). The linked AC power strip has a built in 15A circuit breaker, so it will protect your house if you wire something incorrectly.

Gadget Freak from Design News has micro-controller projects.
Also - have you seen SparkFun's Inventor Kit for Arduino?
I am glad you found lady ada's website.

Regarding multimeters - they cost $$. I use Fluke, but this Newport one is good too. Honestly, try ebay for a used model either way.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 10:19 AM on August 16, 2011

Best answer: Wiring AC without burning the house down. I'd like to use solid state relays, but I'm not much of an electrician.

An easy and safe way to do this is to buy a wireless remote-control wall adaptor, and use the arduino to operate the remote's button (which is a low-voltage battery-operated device), which in turn wirelessly operates the AC in the wall adaptor. Not only do you not have to mess with AC at all, but your arduino device is now wireless remote hotness and doesn't need to be attached to the wall!
posted by -harlequin- at 12:26 PM on August 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oooh, thanks for the tip on the remote control wall adapter. I was thinking about getting one of those "PowerSwitch Tails," but SparkFun and everywhere else seems to be out of them at the moment. That sounds really, really cool.

A friend of mine actually did make an autonomous microcontroller blimp and shared it on facebook. It had camera control and everything. I'm sure his had more horsepower than an arduino, but if I could do something like that, it'd be cool. Maybe I could use the sensor from a wiimote (IIRC, the camera outputs the coordinates of the four brightest IR sources serially rather than an image bitstream) or some photoresistors to do something a bit more lowtech.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:18 AM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: And now that I check, the envelope on blimps are pretty cheap. Hmm.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:24 AM on August 17, 2011

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