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The Arduino development environment (IDE) provides a convenient way to create sketches (programs) for a range of prototyping boards. It also provides a set of example sketches that you can use to learn about the IDE and the capabilities of the board you are using. You can find the examples on the File menu, and the exercises on the left provide some additional guidance on a selected number.

It is possible to jump straight into the examples and just follow the instructions to get each one working. However, if you take that strategy you will not develop a rounded understanding of the technology you are using. That will require some additional reading, and you can start with the notes pages provided elsewhere in this site. In particular at this stage, you should look at the sections entitled:

There are a few of rules of thumb that you should observe when using microcontrollers:

  • When using a new component, check to see whether there are any special considerations you need to know about. Some thing as simple as an LED, for example, can explode if connected incorrectly. There is some information on components provided in the notes pages in this course, but you can also find a large amount of material on the web. If you discover some good web resources, be sure to bookmark them, and consider sharing them with other students.
  • Do not connect two sources of power to your board at the same time - the board should be powered by a USB connection to your computer, or by battery but not both at the same time.
  • Remember to disconnect power while you are making hardware changes
  • Make notes as you go along. This will help you to document your work, and will help you to remember important details that would otherwise be easy to forget.

The 'new component' rule applies to the board itself, and to the breadboard that allows you to connect your components together - make sure you take a look at the appropriate note pages before starting on the practical work.

The instructions for the practical exercises include some variations on the standard exercises provided by the IDE. The extensions ask you to use what you already know to resolve some kind of problem without providing step-by-step instructions. This is designed to develop your ability to think laterally and to use the technology in creative ways.

Further reading

Arduino IDE

Arduino tutorials