Over the last few years you may have heard about something called Arduino, but might not be quite sure what it is. Arduino is a really amazing circuit board that you can connect to a computer, and relatively quickly build an electronic circuit that can be used as a prototype for something you wish to make. Arduino was developed by Massimo Banzi as a way to bridge the gap between having to understand complex electronics principles and building circuit boards while allowing designers to prototype electronics into their products and allow them to express their creativity.
The Arduino board allows a designer to connect different electronics components to it such as lights, speakers (for sound), sensors (such as light, pressure, temperature), switches (including tilt switches like those found in phones), and various types of motors for movement. Then the Arduino board is connected to a computer and the user can modify or create their own small programs (called sketches) and program the Arduino board to function as they would like.
Using the different components along with the sketches allows the designer to create things that light up, sense, and/or move allowing for a wide variety of applications. From making toys that sing and dance, having your house plant tweet you and tell you to water it, or as the foundation for a satellite, Arduino is an amazing tool for do-it-yourselfers (aka Makers). They have been finding many novel and ingenious ways to use this fun designer friendly little board to create amazing things. Also, with the internet of things (electronics connecting to the internet) being utilized more and more, many amazing things are being done with Arduino boards.
With the traditional role of the library changing to adapt to the modern needs of patrons, we are starting to see many libraries create Maker spaces. These spaces serve as a new hands on way of learning that takes the information in the book stacks and magazine racks and allows patrons to apply their new found knowledge. It is also a great way to bring a sense of community back to the library and make it a central place for meeting, learning, and sharing ideas.
Because the Arduino board is meant to make it easier for designers to take their ideas and make them a reality with significantly less technical knowhow, it allows for greater artistic expression and advancement in technology. Because Arduino is open-source, ideas and designs are readily shared and showcased in maker communities which honours and rekindles the freedom to learn that Gutenberg’s printing press elicited. With access to the internet, and as libraries begin to embrace new technologies such as Arduino and build creative commons, a library can work towards creating a space where patrons come and learn. This places the library as a centre of academic excellence and cultural centre in the great tradition of the Library of Alexandria and honour the muses of literature, the sciences, and the arts.
If you are interested in getting started with Arduino in your library, there are some great beginner books that nicely lend themselves to workshops, and there a lot of amazing online tutorials to learn from and share with patrons. Below is a recommended list of books and websites to help you incorporate Arduino into your library and build your own creative commons space.
Make has created a really nice and readable series of books related to Arduino:
- Getting Started with Arduino: The Open Source Electronics Prototyping Platform
- Basic Arduino Projects: 26 Experiments with Microcontrollers and Electronics
- Getting Started with Sensors: Measure the World with Electronics, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi
- Make: Action: Movement, Light, and Sound with Arduino and Raspberry Pi
There are also some really great websites that offer free step by step tutorials and code to help get you started. Some personal favourites:
Adafruit Industries – https://learn.adafruit.com/series/learn-arduino
Started by Limor Freid in her dorm room while at MIT. Adafruit Industries offer many step by step tutorials for all learning levels and also sell the Arduino board and electronic components for building projects.
Back in 2011 while still a student Jeremy started making Arduino tutorial videos on YouTube, which have since had over a million visitors. Jeremy is still creating videos to this day, and has built on the success of his tutorials by recently writing a book Exploring Arduino, which a testament to the success of his video tutorial series.
Like Adafruit, Sparkfun is another Arduino reseller that also sells electronics components to use with the Arduino. Sparkfun has created a seven hour tutorial video on YouTube to take people new to Arduino through the basics and walk them through creating projects and using a virtual design program called Fritzing.
Instructables is a great DIY resource that allows contributors to share the instructions for any project they have completed with a larger community. They also have a section devoted to Arduino projects because of the popularity of the board.