We take a look at Arduino’s starter kit, and see what sets it apart from others.
There are a myriad of starter kits on the market for Arduino. Many are based on the Uno, and this one is no exception. The two main areas where starter kits differ is the number of inclusions, and the quality of both components and documentation. On these fronts, the genuine Arduino starter kit has not held back. It is one of the more expensive kits around, but you get what you pay for.
Opening the lid of the box revealed a very well packed set of contents, with most items in individual cardboard boxes. Cardboard parts are flat-packed for some of the projects, including the Spaceship Interface, Motorised Pinwheel, Zoetrope, and Knock Lock. Plastic parts are included for some experiments too.
Included projects in addition to those above are a Love-o-Meter, Colour Mixing Lamp, Mood Cue, Light Theremin, Keyboard Instrument, Digital Hourglass, Crystal Ball, Touchy-feely Lamp, Tweak the Logo, and Hacking Buttons.
The instruction book is quite thick and very comprehensive. It contains a breakdown of each component, circuit symbols, sketch basics including setup, and instructions for assembling the base that holds the breadboard and Uno. Great care has been taken with layout and printing, ensuring a product that is easy to follow and read. Text styles, diagram structures, colour coding, and choice of paper have all been considered. It also has a genuinely thought out glossary, and a comprehensive index.
BREADBOARD AND MOUNTING
As mentioned, the kit includes plastic parts to build a base for both the breadboard and Uno. The parts assemble well, although some stand-offs moulded in would have been nice. The legs of the USB socket and power socket cause the board to sit at an angle when attached, so we trimmed the legs of those components. Having one board to mount the Uno and breadboard is still a nice touch.
Also included are four bags of insulated wire links of different sizes. Some are short for on-board work, while others are long for Uno-to-breadboard links. These are more reliable than many of the plug-to-plug style jumpers out there, partly due to the thicker wire contacting the headers better, and partly because of the lack of additional connection like the header pin variety have.
This is where the genuine Arduino kit really shines. Whilst some kits contain a potentiometer, a handful of LEDs and resistors, and switch and transistor, this kit includes eight each of yellow, red and green diffused LEDs, plus three semi-clear blue, one high-brightness white, and one four-pin RGB LEDs. There are three breadboard-friendly trimpots with finger spindles, seventy-nine fixed resistors in seven values, and seven 1N4007 diodes. There are six phototransistors, one temperature sensor IC, two optocouplers, one H-bridge, and five BC547 transistors. There are capacitors too: three electrolytics, five ceramic and five MKT. To complete the set, there is a strip of header pins, two MOSFETS, a plastic-encased tilt switch, nine tactile pushbuttons, a piezo transducer and three colour gel strips. Just for fun, there is a 9V battery snap and two pin-to-pin jumpers to connect power to the Uno from the breadboard.
All of these components appear of good quality, with touches such as the finger spindles for the trimpots an unusual touch, and the encasing of the glass mercury tilt switch in sealed plastic also helpful. Components are well-packed with ICs in foam and many components on bandolier tape.
Rounding out the ensemble, there is an LCD screen module with a 2x16-character display. It is protected in its own box with the pins in foam, and film over the display face. Again, common enough when you buy a screen at a retailer, but as an inclusion, corners are often cut. In addition is a small servo motor and packet of horns, plus a reasonably-sized DC motor. Interestingly this motor has a metal gear interference-fitted to the shaft. In many cheap kits, if a gear is fitted at all, it is plastic. Leads are also pre-soldered to the motor with heatshrink-covered connections and header pins on the other end.
Really, we’re a little sad to be giving away this impressive kit in this month's competition. We were impressed with the overall quality of it and everything in it, the variety of inclusions, and the comprehensive and thought-out instructions. We’d have a lot of fun with it if we were keeping it!