Getting started with Arduino

I think I first heard about Arduino in 2012. I was studying for my masters in library and information studies, and I was working as a systems librarian. While I found the idea of working with hardware interesting, my main focus was software and servers.

But in 2015 an engineer I know gave me an Arduino Uno. Not knowing what to do with it, I put it in a drawer until 2016 when I taught myself C, read an official tutorial online, and discovered my printer’s USB-B to USB-A cable could be used to provide power and code for the board.

I stated with the blink tutorial then made it send a SOS signal with the on board LED. Then another engineer challenged me to dim a LED he gave me, so I plugged it into the board (without a resistor which is naughty but worked fine), and started playing with PWM (pulse width modulation).

I was running out of things I could do, so I started reading as much as I could. I thought about sourcing a breadboard, LEDs, LCDs, piezos, pots, push buttons, motors, etc. I realised though that it would be faster, easier, and probably cheaper just to buy an Arduino Starter Kit.

A few days later, it arrived and I examined all my goodies. To date, I’ve only had time for the first two projects, which are just about using switches to light up LEDs. But I’m looking forward to playing with the motors, LCD, piezo, temperature sensor, pots, and photosensitive resisters with the other projects.

I like the idea of home automation. A robot greeter using PIR (passive infrared) motion detectors; using Bluetooth to signal my arrival home and kick off some automated processes like phone backups; using IR to signal household devices instead of using lots of different remotes. If the temperature drops, turn on a heater; hacking a doorbell to alert a device which sends me an email or turns on a door cam to see who is there.

I’d like to fit a 3G module to a board so that I could communicate with it remotely, but I don’t know what my device would need to do remotely. Such devices are useful to government and corporations, but what use are they to an individual? I suppose if I was a farmer, it could be used for measuring rainfall or temperature. I suppose you could make a long-range robot. A 3G module enables so much more physical freedom than a device controlled by Bluetooth or WiFi.

But what does all this have to do with libraries? You could use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi to make your own self-checkout or security gate, but those products already exist.

I figure my newfound knowledge of electronics would be of more use in a library makerspace.

I sometimes wonder why we have makerspaces in libraries, but it seems a natural evolution. Libraries have traditionally been about the mental world, but now they’re branching out into the physical world too. Marrying the two together with information resources and physical tools.

Most of my project ideas are for home, but I’m sure people have all sorts of ideas for their art, their businesses, their inventions, their own diverse lives.

I think libraries provide a collection of specialized resources we couldn’t afford ourselves, and they also serve as a place for expanding our collective knowledge and skills. As we become digital citizens, we should become closer to the art and craft that comprises our world.

Politicians talk about innovation… and I reckon that’s how you do it. You make spaces for information exchange and promote creativity.

Anyway, I’m just getting started with Arduino, but I’m excited by where I’m going.

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