Completing an Arduino project gives you a sense of satisfaction like no other. The problem is, most beginners aren’t sure where to start, and without previous Maker experience, or some sort of electronics background, even beginner’s projects can seem rather… well, daunting.
Today we’re going to feature 10 simple projects that even the most novice of Arduino DIY’ers can build without the need for expensive add-ons, or hard-to-find parts.
To get started, all you’ll need are the items that come in most Arduino starter kits, such as:
- An Arduino
- Jumper wires
For the sake of brevity, items that are typically included in starter kits aren’t included in the overviews provided here, but you will get a full list of items needed on the tutorial itself.
Ready to get started?
Simple Arduino Alarm System
This simple alarm system uses a motion sensor to detect movement and emit a high pitched tone, as well as a visual display consisting of flashing LED lights. The project itself will introduce you to a couple of add-ons that don’t come in your Arduino starter kit (listed below), as well as the nuances of of using NewPing, which is an Arduino library used to help you monitor and test your sonar distance sensor.
While it’s not exactly whole home protection, it does offer a perfect solution to protect small spaces, such as bedrooms or your snack drawer, from those creeping roommates of yours.
For this project, you’ll need:
- An ultrasonic “ping” sensor – James uses the HC-SR04 but states that a PIR would be a better choice if you had a few extra dollars to spend. If you do opt to use the same ultrasonic sensor, James assures us that it’ll get the job done.
- A piezo buzzer
- LED strip light
The Traffic Light Controller
This super simple project is a great introduction to Arduino programming. The traffic light controller uses a red, yellow, and green LED to re-create a traffic light on your breadboard, and give you the opportunity to hack the code in order to adjust the output, timing or even the sequence itself. It’s a wonderfully easy way to get your hands wet with simple coding, and learn to modify it to fit your goals for a particular project.
All the items – LEDs, breadboard, resistors, etc. – should all be included in your starter kit.
Companion Cube Mood Lamp
This Portal-themed mood lamp uses a square glass jar to create a color-shifting display that looks incredible in any dark room. The project itself is ideal for an Arduino beginner and most of the parts are included in your Arduino starter kit. Creating the lamp is a great starting point for beginners as the wiring, build and the code are relatively simple and a great way to slowly build into more advanced projects by learning some essential beginner’s electronics skills that you can call on later.
To build the lamp, you’ll need:
- Square glass jar or bottle
- Hard-drying clear glue
- Gray and red modeling clay
- White candle
Arduino-Powered Temperature Controller
On the Pacific Coast of Mexico, where I live, the average year-’round temperature hovers at a pleasant 70-degrees, making central air or heat a relatively rare occurrence. I’m not complaining, and generally the temperature doesn’t warrant any sort of need for control, but certain instances (growing plants indoors, cooling items in a mini-fridge to a set temperature, controlling surface temperature of a reptile cage, etc.) could require the need for a more constant temperature. With an Arduino, and a few parts, you’ll be well on your way to creating your own instead temperature control device instead of forking over two or three times as much (or more) on a pre-built model.
Additionally, this tutorial is a valuable launching point for projects with real world application, and electronics projects that rest firmly outside of simple Arduino-related tasks.
- Temperature sensor, such as the TMP36
- Relay or RC plug switches
- Screw terminals
- Box to trap the heat
- Heating/cooling element, or incandescent bulb with fixture (or both)
Re-Create the Arcade Classic “Pong”
For retro game lovers, former Atari 2600 owners, or just someone looking for a cool project that utilizes exactly none of the resolution of your new 4k tv, you can re-create the classic Atarti game Pong using just a few easy-to-find parts, and an Arduino. This project uses a lot of the parts found in most Arduino starter kits, and uses them to make two controllers as well as a fully-functioning Pong game that you’ll output to your television screen through a standard composite cable.
You’ll learn how to use a potentiometer, how to output signals from the Arduino to your television, and you’ll even get to brush up on some Arduino essential skills such as coding and soldering.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 2x 10k ohm potentiometer
- RCA plug (you can use more than one if you want to set up sound as well)
“The TV Devil” Arduino Prank Remote
This simple project allows you to use an IR (infared) remote in order to program a receiver to create a moderate amount of innocent chaos using anything that you can control with an IR remote. This particular project details the process of building a remote control that makes your television seem as if it has a mind of its own while it switches channels at random, turns itself on and off, or just generally acts as if it has a mind of its own.
The prank itself is a great intro to learning the basics of IR control and receivers, which will lead you into more advanced projects like creating a Siri-controlled remote. But, before we walk we must learn to crawl, and this is a good place to start.
What you’ll need to build the TV Devil:
- IR remote library by Ken Shirriff (via Github)
- IR transmitter LED, such as TIL38
- IR receiver, such as TSOP382
Make Your Own Ambilight for $60
Originally developed for Phillip’s TVs, the Ambilight features ambient lighting that reacts to the images on your television screen. The technology was only featured in a limited number of TVs, and as such it led many makers to attempt to re-create the Ambilight in order to work with any TV. With affordable and programmable LED strips, this project is now one that even a beginner can take on, and for as little as $60 in parts.
In this project, we’ll learn a bit more about re-using parts from other projects, or from items that we might have laying around the house, such as the power supply that keeps the entire thing running. The LED strips are also going to be new to most Arduino beginners, and although the configuration is a bit tedious, the strips themselves are relatively easy to figure out and use for a number of future Arduino projects.
What you’ll need:
- 10A 5V power supply (this one was sourced from an old computer – be very careful with this, as they can hold a high current charge for many weeks after being turned off)
- WS2812B 5-meter LED strip
- Double sided tape
- Processing installed
Arduino-Powered Laser Turret
While there aren’t a lot of practical reasons for building an Arduino-powered laser turret, that doesn’t make it any less fun to play with when you complete it. Using a few affordable parts, and an optional smoke machine, you too can turn off the lights and re-create any number of scenes from popular Sci-Fi films, or – even better – create two of them and have your very own laser battles inside any dark room.
For some Arduino beginners, this will be your first foray into using a servo, but if you’ve been following along, the other skills are going to be firmly within your wheelhouse. In addition, the code is easily hackable and allows you to customize the time between bursts, as well as the number of shots to take and the start and end position for each servo.
To build your own, you’ll need:
- 2 servos
- Laser module
- Piezo buzzer
- Metal wire and cable ties
Pulsating LED Cube
This little 4 x 4 x 4 cube uses super bright LEDs as well as some mutliplexing to control the lighting from a single Arduino Uno board. If you haven’t quite mastered soldering, this is good practice, and it’ll prove especially useful as you foray into building projects that are a little more permanent than the starter projects you’ve most likely been building to this point. In addition, you can program the cube to do some really cool stuff once you’re finished.
- 64 LEDs
- Craft wire
- Component wire
- Crocodile clips
- Scrap wood
Weekend Project: Build a Giant LED Pixel Display
For the LED lovers out there, this display is a relatively simple build in the Arduino sense, but physical construction could be a little more time consuming, and/or frustrating. The LED pixel display uses strands of LEDs in order to create vibrant patterns, text, or even animated GIFs that you can frame, and hang right on your wall. The build relies mostly on skills you’ve learned to this point, but with the addition of some firmware integration and the use of external software, called Glediator (free) that allows you complete LED matrix control as well as the ability to create live or pre-recorded mixes of your LED animations.
To get started, you’ll need:
- 10-meter strip of LED pixels
- 5V 10A power supply
- Thick wire
- Ikea RIBBA photo frame
- Glass frosting spray
- White paint
Hopefully, you’ll find at least a few projects that you can tackle with your new Arduino kit. After you’re finished, come back and share a photo with us, or links to other cool Arduino starter projects in the comments section.
So, what do you plan to build with your Arduino?
Photo credit: Pong via Wikimedia Commons