Getting Dad Started with Arduino

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Getting Dad Started with Arduino

Father’s Day 2011 is just up ahead and I’m sure that a large percentage of us have waited until the last minute to get dad a nice little something. If you have one of those dads who patiently taught you how to repair your car, rip plywood on a table saw, replace a video card on your PC, or any other hands-on activity, then you’ve got a dad who’ll likely enjoy a gift of 21st century tinkering: the Arduino. MAKE has some great Arduino-related gift ideas for dad, no matter what his skill level may be: Newbie, Tinkerer, Pro. And given the short notice, you could always print out this article and give him a Maker Shed Gift Certificate. Let’s take a look at a few Shed goodies.


The Newbie – What’s an Arduino?

If you’ve got a father who isn’t familiar with Arduino, consider yourself lucky. Lucky because getting started with Arduino has never been easier, especially with so many great books and bundled packages that make learning and experimenting with the Arduino enjoyable, with nearly everything you need right out of the box.

One of the best Arduino bundles going right now is the Ultimate Microcontroller Pack. This kit is customizable, allowing you to select the microcontroller that is included with the kit (your choice of Arduino Uno, Netduino, or Netduino Plus). For newbie dad, we recommend getting the Arduino Uno version and adding in the optional Getting Started with Arduino book PDF. Total price for the Ultimate Microcontroller Pack with Arduino and book is $159.94. Your dad will have just about every component needed to assemble some great projects — LCD screen, servo motors, breadboard, resistors, shrink tubing, LEDs, switches, resistors, capacitors, speakers, a number of motors and buzzers, and more. When the kit arrives, point your dad to the Make: Projects site and our Make: Arduino page and he won’t bother anybody for weeks!

Additional Ideas for Newbie Dad
Here are some other gift ideas for a dads just getting going with the Arduino:

  • Make: Volume 25 – Arduino Revolution – an issue of MAKE magazine devoted to Arduino!
  • Arduino Quickstart Pack – if the Ultimate Microcontroller kit might intimidate dad a bit (or is beyond your budget), maybe ease in a bit slower with this combo kit. You get the Getting Started with Arduino book and an Arduino Uno which will likely be enough to get dad hooked. He’ll have to supply a few electronic components of his own (or make a quick trip to a nearby electronics store.
  • Make: Electronics – A foundational understanding of electronics will be a huge help in prototyping and building projects with the Arduino. This is THE book to teach dad the fundamentals in a fun and very hands-on way, with 36 experiments to conduct.
  • Helping Hands – Every dad learning Arduino (and electronics in general) can always use an extra set of hands. Fortunately, when you’re not there, dad can reach for this more compliant assistant.
  • MAKE Project Tin – It’s an empty tin box. But the best DIY projects need a home, and this is a nice looking tin just ready for dad to populate with components.


The Tinkerer- OK, Now What Can I Do?

If dad has gotten his Arduino to light up some LEDs, turn a motor or two, and he’s maybe figured out how to get a few sensors to talk to the world, then he’s probably ready for the next step — actual, useful projects to build with his Arduino!

Start him out with the MakerShield which will provide him with a place to solder or attach more components, and then throw in a Mintronics Survival Pack that comes with a mini-breadboard and a handful of useful components. He might need some help with project ideas, so be sure to get him a copy of Make: Volume 25 and a Maker’s Notebook so he can write down his build notes and project ideas.

Finally, point him to and tell him to click on the Projects tab. There, he’ll find plenty of tutorials as well as a community of Arduino users that share their projects, answer questions, chat with one another, and more. And have him bookmark our own Make: Arduino page, which is the front end to all of the Arduino-related offerings here on MAKE.

Additional Ideas for Tinkerer Dad
Here are some other gift ideas for a dad who’s comfortable with Arduino basics and looking to do more:

  • MintDuino – Give dad a portable version of the Arduino that’s assembled on a breadboard and perfect for prototyping anywhere he may be.
  • Jumper Wires – You can never have too many jumper wires! If he’s ever tinkered with electronics on a breadboard and NOT had one of these jumper wire sets, he’ll love this gift.
  • Beginning Arduino – While the book starts out with material that’s great for The Newbie, the it quickly gets into some advanced building and programming techniques, including robots, Ethernet shields, and RFID tech. Tinkerer Dad won’t be able to complain about a lack of Arduino-related projects to chew on.
  • 2WD Arduino Compatible Mobile Platform – Look, dad’s building a bot!  Need I say more?
  • MotorShield for Arduino Kit – Throw this in with the 2WD Mobile Platform and give him a head start on building his robot, providing him with the means to independently control the drive motors.

The Pro – What Do You Need Me to Build?

If dad thinks he’s pushed the limits of his Arduino, then he’s in for a surprise. Just type in “shield” in the search box on and you’ll find dozens of Arduino Shields (plug-in boards that offer specific features and functions) that will keep him busy for years to come (or months, if he’s already an Arduino wiz). The MakerShield is perfect for all sorts of prototyping and the Data Logging Shield is great for collecting sensor data generated by your Arduino projects.

Another great gift for Pro dad is a package of Arduino clones. One can never have enough Arduinos sitting around on the workbench, so dad might enjoy a couple Freeduinos that won’t break your bank. And because Pros are always running out of other electronics components as well,  be sure to ask him what he needs more of. Resistors?  Capacitors?  LEDs?  Then enter “grab bags” in the search box and get him some inexpensive bundles of the components he’s lacking.

Additional Ideas for Pro Dad:
Here are some other gift ideas for a dad looking to delve deeper into Arduino:

  • The Arduino Cookbook – If dad needs a bit of code or a wiring diagram for a specific Arduino-related hack, it’s likely to be in here. This dense and well-organized book is the most comprehensive tome to date on coding for Arduino and it should be on every Arduino hobbyist’s desk.
  • Ardweeny – Pros are always looking at ways to reduce the size of their inventions, especially for embedded microcontroller projects. Give dad the smallest fully-capable Arduino-compatible device currently available!
  • Voice Shield Kit for Arduino – If dad is looking for a challenge, tell him to try and build his own Ard-2-D2. This voice shield will at least get him started with the bleeps and whoops part.
  • Ethernet Shield for Arduino – If he wants his creations to be accessible over the Internet, or work with Internet services, he’s going to need this inexpensive shield. You’ll get bonus points because he has to solder it up himself (unless he hates soldering — but then, what sort of Pro would he be?).
  • Mintronics Survival Pack – This fun little tin of geek candy (“Dad, no, don’t eat it!) packs over 60 popular electronics components in a mint tin so dad can take his toys with him wherever he goes.

Don’t forget to check out our Make: Arduino page, our gateway to all of the Arduino content on the site.

In the Maker Shed:
Maker Shed Gift Certificates
Let dad choose his own tools, books, and components from this article (or anything else he has his heart set on). Give him a Maker Shed Gift Certificate. Dad will be able to use the gift code right away.

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