First project – Flashing LED

The Sparkfun Inventors Kit arrived, and I have to admit that it was better than I expected. Packaged in a nice box, it has plenty of goodies, and projects to play with. There are enough parts that I am sure I can go well beyond the scripted projects.

Last night, I did the (really minor) assembly, but didn’t dive in. However, this morning, I dove right in, and did the first project.

As one would expect, it was a pretty simple introduction, probably more to ensure that the software was setup and the hardware is functional.

The goal was to blink an LED at 1 second intervals, and to accomplish this you need to download the Arduino developer’s kit, download the sample source files from Sparkfun, and finally to install the USB->FTDI drivers. Nothing too difficult, but the process is documented well enough that a grade school kid should be able to do it. 

The nice thing is that it doesn’t assume that you are using Windows. There are step by step instructions that cover Windows, Mac, and Linux. One presumes if you use FreeBSD or some other *nix you are savvy enough to download the source code and compile it yourself (all freely available on the Arduino site).

I was a nice guy, and donated $10 to the Arduino foundation when I downloaded the IDE. One day I will blog about my history of how I got to be happy to pay for software, but that is for another day.

Even doing this simple circuit, I did learn some things. At an intellectual level, I know that diodes (as in LED’s) aren’t like resistors. There is this thing called the “diode equation” that describes their response. What this means is that you can’t just drive a diode with a current and not have a resistor in series with it. You will burn it up, so I learnt that you need to add a ~300 – 500 Ω resistor in the circuit.

Off to the second project!