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Arduino in Education and R&D

The Arduino has become one of the most successful open hardware projects of all time. Thus today we want to give you a little overview of the Arduino itself and its ecosystem.

What is an Arduino?

An Arduino a little PCB with a micro-controller and usually a USB port. A micro-controller is a tiny computer that allows you to control the environment. For this purpose a micro-controller has several Input and Output lines, for short: I/O. With these lines you can either control things, for example LEDs, lights, motors, valves etc. or you can attach sensors i.e. for temperature, pressure, voltage etc. This allows you to do simple things like controlling the heat in a room or many times more complex things like controlling a self-balancing robot.

The microprocessor on the Arduino runs one application at a time and has only very limited RAM: 32KB. Modern smartphones have up to 2GB of RAM, that is 2.000.000 KB. The speed of the Arduino UNO is 16MHz, compared to the 1-2GHz of a smartphone or laptop.

What else ?

Besides the hardware the Arduino offers an IDE: an integrated development environment. This allows you to write new software and to upload it to the Arduino. The IDE is available for Linux, MacOS X and Windows. It also comes with plenty of example programs - or "sketches" as they are called in the Arduino world. You can simply load them from the menus and runs them with a simple mouse click.

But that is still not all. The hardware allows for stacking so called "shields". There are plenty of shields available and they offer various functionalities. For example there are shields to control motors, shields for adding wifi, shields for adding bluetooth, shield for adding LCD displays etc.

If you have a problem that needs a micro-controller, then there is a good chance to exists already some hardware ready to use.

In summary

The Arduino is a low cost platform eases the entry into the world of electronics and at the same time it is very useful for rapid prototyping. If you don't have one yet, grab yours now!