Arduino Workshop May 16, 2014

Great turnout, even though some of the regulars were at Start Up Weekend.

Since I only had Control Freaks, we got down and dirty with learning how the Arduino works so that we can push it to its limits.

Don’t let this scare you off if you are a Newbie or just want to build a cool Instructable you saw online.  The workshop format adapts to cover all skill levels present.

This coming Friday:

0. Newbies will have a chance to start with the basics.

1. We’ll see if we can come up with the parts to get a group building a 3-d cube:

I’ve got parts on order, but does anyone have 100 LEDs lying around?

2. By special request last week: pulse width modulation (PWM).

O-scope and voltmeter to see how the Arduino was actually working.

Breaking out the big toys

Breaking out the big toys

Yup, I even made the college students do… Calculus!

If anyone wants to, they can repeat that (minus the calculus).

3. One of the regular attendees wants to learn about robots.

A Robots group will start with learning about different ways to control motors.

4. Depending on time and interest, a group can start their own project.


If you have any questions, or suggested builds, you can email me at

Maui Makers Arduino Workshop May 9 2014

Dream it, Make it

Every Friday at 6 PM at UHMC Ka’a’ike Bldg. Rm 217,  Starts May 9

At the workshop you will have access to Arduinos, breadboards, computers, basic parts, sensors, motors, as well as test and measurement equipment.

If you are thinking of attending, please fill out this survey: Calling all Maui Makers (Free Stuff).

The meeting will be a guided workshop, not formal teaching.  I expect a group of diverse skills and knowledge.  For the moment I’m not setting age limits, but ask attendees to use common sense.  At the workshop you will be working with small parts, electricity and computers.  Depending on you level of dexterity and skill you may: choke if you swallow the small parts, set something on fire if you wire it incorrectly, find the attention to detail tedious.


–Talk Story: why are you here?

–Brainstorming: ideas for group projects

–Break out groups:

Newbies:  This group is for those that are new to programming, electronics, or Arduinos.  Only requirement is a pulse, a reasonable level of maturity and a willingness to learn.  You will be guided by others in the basics of setting it up and making it to do something simple.

Control Freaks:  This group is for those that have enough experience to set up the Arduino on their own, and want to build circuits that demonstrate various aspects of how the Arduino functions.  This group is also a good place for those that already know what they want to build and need access to boards, parts and tools.

Just do it:  This is for the group that is itching to make something.  They will be formed during the Brainstorming session.  This being an Arduino workshop, it really should require a micro controller.  Some ideas I have gathered from the Survey Monkey and one-on-ones: spaceships, virtual reality, CNC, GPS, smart home, irrigation control, aquaponics, haunted house, interactive edutainment, chicken counter–you can add yours by clicking here: Calling all Maui Makers (Free Stuff).  It is likely that this will require skills and creativity beyond setting up the Arduino program and circuit, so is a good beginner group for those who want to understand what Arduinos might be good for, but aren’t ready to get into the details.  That being said, the group will eventually need someone to build the circuit and program the device.

Sparkfun National Tour comes to Maui Oct 19 2013

Maui Makers, in cooperation with County of Maui Mayor’s Office of Economic Development Maui Economic Development Board and Maui County Office of Economic Development, is proud to bring Sparkfun ElectronicsNational Tour to Maui to teach an “Introduction To Arduino” workshop on Oct 19th.

Update Oct 2 – Although the seats w/kits are sold out (2weeks ahead of time!), this is still an excellent 8hour training w/lunch. There are a total of 20 kits. We are keeping 5 for use in future workshops. Doubling up on them is really a good way to learn basics. You can buy your own arduino (and parts) at local Radio Shack stores, or online from a variety of vendors. Maui Makers plans to have some special ones in stock later this year.

Update Oct 10 – Attendees will need to complete a Sparkfun Liability Waver.

Attendees will get a full day of instruction in the use of the Arduino Microcontroller, and 15 attendees get to keep their Sparkfun Inventors Kit (a $99.95 value, plus shipping!). 8hour Workshop with kit and lunch is $55. Without the kit (but with lunch) is $25.
Sparkfun Inventors Kit V3

The kit is a great way to get started with programming and hardware interaction with the Arduino programming language. The SIK includes everything you need to complete 15 circuits that will teach you how to read sensors, display information on an LCD, drive motors, and more. You don’t need any previous programming or electronics experience to use this kit.

The workshop is intended for students of all ages (well maybe 4th grade up with parent) as well as teachers, librarians, after-school coordinators, and other educators, showing how electronics can be a vital part of education. Whether you’ve never played around with DIY electronics or you are a seasoned pro, we will give you the tools, knowledge, and skills you need to explore the wonderful world of how electronics fits with STEAM.
Please join us in revolutionizing the way electronics are taught in our high schools, middle schools, libraries, after-school programs, and even elementary schools! With your help, we can change the face of education!

The class will be held at MEDB’s facility in Kihei from 9am-5pm with an hour for lunch (included).
Please bring your laptop to install/use the software if possible. ( )
We will have a very limited number of laptops for others to use (mostly those NOT getting a kit)

Register at

Attendees will need to fill out a Sparkfun Liability Waver.

Arduino Starter Kit Review

There are microcontrollers embedded in almost everything these days.  However the developer tools for many of these have been priced out of the realm of hobbyists and students.  How are people to learn to develop applications if they cant afford  the developer tools?

Official Arduino Boards

A design school in Italy faced this issue and came up with a roaring success… The Arduino Platform – An open source hardware and software design, with widely shared how-to resources.   It has become a central tool to much of the Maker movement.  Sure there are more powerful, faster, etc microcontrollers out there, but the Arduino makes it pretty easy for the beginner to get up and running quickly.  It also makes it easy for experts to throw something together quickly with wide selection of pre-built libraries and hardware modules and online how-to tutorials.

There are a lot of beginner kits out there now supporting the beginner. Most share the same basic examples based on the Oomlaut ARDX Arduino Experimenter .  Different vendors add some variations after the first couple experiments, and package up all the sensor, effector, leds, motors, resistors, etc into one nice package.

Recently the Arduino developers decided to release their own Starter Kit along with a series of video tutorials hosted by Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi (links to his TED talk).  I was sent one of the kits for review…

Arduino Starter Kit box… nice design as you expect from company.

First thing that impressed me was the nicely designed box, and then opening it the nice hefty printed manual. Under the manual were neatly packed boxes of components and under those a piece of laser cut wood and some various paper parts.

Book and box

Neatly packaged components

Wood cut for mounting arduino and breadboard, assorted paper extras for projects.

So far things are looking pretty neat and clean – not sure what all those parts in the bottom are for or just what components are in the boxes but  nice packaging.

Then I start reading the manual (huh, what programmer starts by reading the manual? well this was a review so I thought I start by examining the parts as I got to them.  First thing that struck me about the manual was the font selection.  It is mostly written in a very thin light font that I find very difficult to read, especially on some of the colored backgrounds.  Getting beyond that, I found the manual fairly useful. Most Arduino documentation is online at the site.  Unfortunately this site is blocked by the high school web filters were I help the Robotics club… teaching some arduino experiments using the Sparkfun Inventors Kit (a nice older packaging with the ARDX tutorials).   The new Arduino Starter Kit manual was able to offer up the right clues to a question asked by one of the students.  Down side was there is no index and not much of a table of contents, so finding the info I needed required a bit of fast skimming.

I have not had a chance to run through any of the experiments myself.  I was hoping to build the Zeotrope (Project 10), which uses some of the preprinted cardboard to show animated pictures. However, time is passing quickly and I have other larger projects to build for other reasons, so I will have to update when I get it done (or delegate build to someone.)

Looking over the manual’s layout for a project, I do like the way they lay it out.  First is a quick reference (time to build, pre-requisite builds), then a discussion of the build, then the wiring diagrams and notes, followed by software and its notes.  Hardware layout is shows a stylized picture of the circuit with arduino and breadboard, as well as the conventional schematic diagram. The former helps the beginner see where and how to plug things together.  The latter gives the reference needed to understand function.

I really like the way the book lays out the software discussion in columns. left most is sort of margin notes, center on left hand page is a prose description of a code block , while right page holds the code blocks and more margin notes.  Code is broken into blocks on highlighted background… grouped in functional blocks (constants, variables, etc). It would be a great layout if the fonts were better.

Back to the hardware in the box…

The laser cut wood in there is to hold the Arduino Uno and small breadboard.  It is a nice little bit of engineering. Four feet pop out of the board and press fit into slots to become feet.  The arduino screws down with three bolts (and nuts… manual neglects to mention using nuts on these.  Guess it assumes you know.) The breadboard has double stick tape on back, so peel and stick.  Result is a rather nice little experimenters setup. I like it better than the plastic setup included with the old version of the Sparkfun Inventors Kit. I understand they have changed that a bit lately.  The Adafruit starter kits come with an acrylic plate for breadboard and card, which works well too.

Starter Kit breadboard and Arduino Uno mounted on laser cut base.

The components come packaged in several boxes. However they are in non-reseal bags inside the boxes… open those bags and you got lots of little parts to scatter.  I was glad to have a collection of small zip-close bags on hand to repack the parts.

They include several parts beyond the usual Arduino inventor/experimenter beginner kit … like the LCD display panel and larger DC motor.

Overall it looks like a very nice starter package.  The experiments go further than the old ARDX and the extra paper pieces used along the way are nice inclusion.  The paper box doesnt hold up well to travel abuse, but hey its cardstock.

(Video Tutorials!!)

Another aspect of this kit is the series of video tutorials hosted by Arduino co-founder Massimo Banzi. I found the pretty decent.  Nothing Amazing – just good walk through of building projects and some science background.

I like this kit – although it has its faults (fonts in the manual, light cardboard box, lack of bags for parts, etc).  The projects look pretty good, and somewhat more functional than the basics in ARDX.  However, I am not the intended audience – the beginner.  So I think I am going to pass this kit off to one of our young makers and see if they can learn using it- with a bit of help of course.   Check back later and hopefully we’ll update with their experience.

Teaching Arduino and Robotics at KKHS

I (Jerry Isdale, founder MauiMakers) am one of the mentors for the Robotics Club at  at King Kekaulike High School, Makawao, Hawaii.   The club participates in VEX and FIRST robotics competitions. There is a page here about a fundraiser held in early October 2011 for the club.

I started mentoring for them last January for the FIRST competition. It was a LOT of effort and I was very impressed with the work the kids did. The bot suffered a catastrophic failure about an hour before we were to ship it (nearly taking me and one of the students out in the process). However, the team managed to ship off the bot, minus some parts, fix the parts in the month between shipping and competition.  We went to the regional competition on Oahu and had a respectable showing.

Unfortunately, almost all the kids involved last year were seniors. This year we started up in August with almost a completely new crew (including my son Brian).  There were a number of kids interested in building a bot for the Oct 1st VEX Competition, but also about half the club did not feel ready to dive right in. We decided to split the club into two sections. The Competition Group would be our team for the VEX regional competition on Oct 1st at the Maui Fair.  The second would learn some basics.

The Competition Team worked very hard for the month or so we had before competition. We were able to visit Maui High School on a couple weekends before the event and test our bot. We had still had to rebuild our bot several times during the course of the competition day – once when one of the claw motors was determined to be no longer legal (old style VEX), and a couple as the motors or gears failed.  We wound up finishing the qualifications fairly well down the list, but were selected along with Baldwin High School (Maui) by one of the top teams (Kealakehe High School from Kona) for their alliance in the finals. Our alliance went on to win the competition!!  An article from Maui News covered the event and includes some pictures.  Here is my Flickr set from the event…
[slickr-flickr search=”sets” set=”72157627844761298″ descriptions=”on” flickr_link=”on”]

The second group, those not involved in the VEX Competition, needed to come up to speed on robotics, etc. We didnt have enough parts for them to use VEX or other competition robotics. I also feel that while competitions are good, they tend to focus kids on mechanical building within strict limits (parts, etc). I wanted our club to have a broader exposure to robotics and indeed the whole world of Making. I have six of the SparkFun Inventors Kits (SIK) left over from our July 2011 Intro. to Arduino Class. Hmmmm. Easy decision. We started teaching basic Arduino to the 6 club members not doing VEX! One of the kids had some exposure to programming, but most of the rest (all female) were new to electronics and programming. So far we are only a couple weeks into the training but the kids have done VERY well.

With the VEX competition behind us, the club is now working as three groups. Group 1 is the original Arduino class and is continuing on with more advanced projects. Group 2 is just starting Arduino. Group 3 is learning CAD systems (AutoCAD and Inventor), which will help us do some planning for FIRST. I have a whole bunch of arduino parts, shields and alternatives (eg 8 Teensy USB Development boards). The kids are excited about hacking a robotic arm and creating some awesome science/senior projects for this and next year.

This is a learning experience for us all. I have not taught classes like this before, so I’m learning to teach. Mark Ausbeck, one of our makers and fellow mentor, is helping teach the class. I’m looking forward to the experience and hoping we can grow it to other schools in the county. The kids from Molokai HS have already asked us to come over to their island for a workshop. hmmm… need funding! Any arduino experts out there want to come for a makecation and teach?

Intro to Arduino class, July 16 2011

Maui Makers is proud to announce our first Arduino Class and our first Visiting Instructor!
David Stillman, of Spark Fun Electronics, is going to be on island for most of the month of July. He has offered to teach a class using the Spark Fun Inventors Kit (SIK), a nicely packaged Arduino kit. Maui Makers has secured 15 of these kits. We are offering 10 for sale with the class, and will be holding 5 in reserve for teaching the intro to people who cant afford to buy their own kits at present.

For those who don’t know, the Arduino is “an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” (from website)

The SIK packages an Arduino Uno, solderless breadboard, 36 page instructional booklet, 12 circuit overlays, LEDs, a servo, a motor, buttons, switches, sensors, buzzer, etc. The class will get you started using the Arduino, working us through a couple experiments. No soldering or programming experience is required. You will need to bring your own laptop (windows, mac or linux) to work through the exercises.

We will be having follow-up meetings for attendees with various levels of experience.

For details and signup, see the class web page.