Your Arduino Kit


  1. What is Arduino?

  2. Hardware
  3. Software
  4. References

  5. Project

1. What is Arduino?

"Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments". (from

Arduino can use sensors ( for instance, temperature, tilt, and light) to test the environment and can control lights, motors, sound, and more. In later labs, you will get an opportunity to try out these things.

The goal of this lab will be to make a light on the Arduino blink. To get there, you need to know:

  1. The hardware - the Arduino Uno
  2. The software - the Arduino IDE (Interactive Development Environment)

The following two sections will discuss the hardware and the software.

2. Hardware

As mentioned earlier, Arduino consists of two major parts: the hardware (the Arduino board) and the software (the IDE). Let us consider hardware:

Not too long ago, working on hardware meant building circuits from scratch, using hundreds of different components with strange names like resistor, capacitor, inductor, transistor, and so on.

Every circuit was "wired" to do one specific application, and making changes required you to cut wires, solder connections, and more.

With the appearance of digital technologies and microprocessors, these functions, which were once implemented with wires, were replaced by software programs.

Software is easier to modify than hardware. With a few keypresses, you can radically change the logic of a device and try two or three versions in the same amount of time that it would take you to solder a couple of resistors.

(page 19 of Getting Started with Arduino by Massimo Banzi)

So, we don't have to solder things together. We will temporarily build our circuits on a breadboards and change code to modify how the device responds.

2.1 Breadboard

The key to building temporary circuits is a solderless breadboard. The following diagram (modified from page 94 of Getting Started with Arduino) depicts what the breadboard looks like inside (the colors here are not realistic, but meant to aid in describing the underlying pieces).


The thing to note is that there are strips of metal (shown in blue or red) connecting the rows and columns together. Each hole has a spring loaded contact underneath so that when you poke a wire into the hole, a clip grabs onto it.

There are two kinds of metal strips:

  1. rails- (shown in red on the diagram above) connecting the 25 column holes. Notice that on your own breadboard, the rails are between the solid pair of red and blue lines. Typically the "+" column will be connected to the power and the "-" column will be connected to the ground.

  2. bars- (shown in blue on the diagram above) connecting 5 holes at a time in the direction of the letters. Notice that there is a gap in the middle.

2.2 The Arduino Board

Let us spend a few minutes looking at the board (modified version of the picture taken from

Arduino Uno

Throughout this lab you will connect wires to many of the pins encircled in pale red:

3. Software

As mentioned earlier, Arduino consists of two major parts: the hardware (the Arduino board) and the software (the IDE). We will now learn about the Arduino IDE (A fancy way of saying the application where we will write our code). In a later lab we will examine the code.

3.1 Opening Arduino on the Mac

  1. Type arduino into Spotlight
  2. Click the match that appears in the "Applications" section of the list


The Arduino IDE will now start running.

3.2 Overview of Environment

The following diagram demonstrates the areas of the Arduino IDE:


There are three main regions:

  1. Input Area - this is where you will type or edit code.

  2. Status Bar - this is where you get information about the status of your code. For instance, "Done compiling." or "Done uploading." are two messages that appear in the Status Bar.

  3. Program Notification Area - this is where you get additional details about the status of your code. Pay attention to this area if you notice that compiling or uploading are not working. Errors will be described here.

3.3 Settings

At this point, you should plug your Arduino devices into the USB Port for the Mac.

If you get the following message, click Cancel:


You might have to adjust some settings of the IDE to get Arduino to work on the Mac. The following two diagrams illustrate the settings for the Arduino Uno in the Mac lab:

  1. Under the Tools menu, select Serial Port and /dev/tty.usbmodem1d11 (there may be slight differences in the numbers after usbmodem on your machine)

    Note: On Windows machines, the settings for the Serial Port will be different (likely some COM port, eg. COM3). Also note that on Windows machines, the Tools menu and Upload buttons may be slow if your OS knows of many COM ports.

  2. Under the Tools menu, select Board and Arduino Uno

3.4 Your First Blinky Light

And now, for the moment that you have been waiting for, let us see something happening.

Under the File menu, choose: Examples | Basics | Blink. As shown in the diagram below.


A new window will open with code in the input area. You now have your first sketch, which is a special name that Arduino uses to mean a program, or a unit of code that will be run on the Arduino board (hardware). We will be looking at that code more later.


Let us try running the code:

  1. Press the Verify button. Verify
    You will notice messages "Compiling..." and then "Done compiling" in the Status bar (below the code).

  2. Press the Upload button.Upload
    You will notice a couple of things:
    1. messages of "Uploading to I/O Board.." and then "Done uploading" in the Status bar.
    2. TX and RX lights will blink when the uploading occurs.

  3. You should now notice a light (labeled "L") blinking on your board. Congratulations, you have gotten your first sketch running on the Arduino board!

The below diagram (modified from illustrates where to look for the lights mentioned above.


A little more about these lights:

  1. The TX and RX lights flash when data is being transmitted to or from the computer (using the USB connection).

  2. L is a special built-in light that is connected to pin 13. When the pin is a HIGH value, the light is on, when the pin is LOW, it's off. This might not mean anything right now, but you will notice that L blinks on and off after you have uploaded the code.

So, you have a light blinking. This is just the beginning; next lesson, you'll learn more.


4. References

5. Project

You should spend a few minutes putting your kit "together". These are things that you can do now.

  1. Unbox the Arduino and attach the rubber feet to the bottom. They just peel right off the sheet.

  2. Unwrap the USB cable. Keep the twist ties. They'll be useful for organizing your wires.

  3. Sort your wires by size. There are a lot of small ones, and a few each of some larger sizes. The twist ties from the USB cable might come in handy here.

  4. Identify all the electronic components in your kit with the help of the eletronics primer handout.

Get your Arduino working on your own computer:

  1. Install the Arduino IDE from:

  2. Install the Driver. Follow the installation instructions for your operating system on the handout I gave you.