One of the most frequent requests I receive, and the one I least like to answer (I’ll explain why later), is to recommend a Starter Kit for beginners who want to start with Arduino.
Whether for yourself, as a gift for a son/daughter, partner, or friend, choosing from the large number of available components can be a very difficult task for someone who is just starting out or has no experience.
I really think that one begins to truly enjoy the world of Arduino when you tackle a complete project, like a small radio control car or a robotic arm. Starting with one of these projects can be a good way to get started.
But, on the other hand, it is totally logical that at first we want a series of varied components with which to “tinker”, experiment, and learn. I assure you that you don’t need to spend a fortune to make a great starter kit for Arduino.
On the Internet, we will easily find sellers offering Starter Kits for Arduino, with different components and prices. As many of you may imagine, in general, the Kits that are sold are quite expensive.
Even in those where the price of the components themselves is not reasonable, they have the problem that they usually mix really useful components with others that are not at all, and for which you are paying the same.
So why is it hard for me to advise an Arduino Kit? The reason is that, really, there is no single ideal Kit to start with. There are so many components and what may be interesting for one person may not be for others.
Also, when you recommend a Kit, you don’t really know how much money the person you are advising wants (or can) spend. If you recommend a cheap and small Kit, they may feel that they are missing components later. Worse still, if you recommend a slightly larger Kit, someone may end up stretching their budget because they don’t feel like they are buying a bad Kit.
Making it clear that there is no single perfect Kit, and, I assure you, with a certain effort, I will give you my recommendation for an Arduino starter kit for between 15 to 25€, with the necessary components to assemble a good and well-stocked arsenal to get started with Arduino.
What do we need in an Arduino Starter Kit?
If we want to start in the world of Arduino, we will obviously need an Arduino. There are many Arduino models available, but it is normal to start with an Arduino UNO. We can also use an Arduino Nano, which is identical in characteristics to a UNO but with a smaller size and slightly cheaper. But it is normal to start with the UNO, in addition to the fact that you frequently have to solder the terminals on the Nano (which is easy, but you need a soldering iron).
On the other hand, we will need a breadboard, a “board with holes” that are internally connected electrically, and that is used to make connections quickly and can be reused. Most of the assemblies we make will be on breadboards.
We will also need cables with Dupont terminals, which are rectangular terminals that are the appropriate size to connect easily to both Arduino and modules, and to the breadboards.
Other common components will be resistors of different values, a few LED of colors, and some pushbuttons. The LEDs and pushbuttons, in the long run, are not as useful as they seem. But they are common components in the first assemblies, so it is normal to include them in a beginner’s kit.
On the other hand, we will need sensors to take measurements and react to the world around us, such as temperature sensors, light sensors, vibration, tilt, magnetic fields, among many others.
Logically, we will also need actuators to perform actions on the world, such as various types of motors (DC, stepper, servos), or outputs by transistor or relay to turn other devices on and off.
Finally, we have other devices such as controllers (potentiometers, joysticks, matrix keyboards), displays (LCD, Oled, TFT), SD card readers, real-time clocks, RFID readers, and communication methods (IR Remote, Bluetooth, 433Mhz, 2.4Ghz, Ethernet, Wifi).
But… that’s a lot of things! Well, don’t worry, it’s not as much as it seems.
It is easy and cheap to make a varied assortment in each of these categories with more than enough components to learn thoroughly about Arduino, which is ultimately what we want the Kit for.
The rest of the components are either uninteresting or too specific. My advice is to acquire the rest of the components only when you have a specific need, because otherwise you will end up buying components to try them only once, and they will end up in the drawer.
So let’s start with the selection of the components that will make up our Arduino Starter Kit.
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Choosing our Arduino Kit
Choosing an Arduino
The first thing will be to buy one of the various Arduino models available. Currently, they are very cheap devices. The normal thing is to start with an Arduino UNO, which we can find including the USB cable for about 3.50€.
If you prefer, you can opt for 1 (or even 2) Arduino Nano, which cost 1.70€. Remember that the characteristics are the same as those of the UNO, the only difference is the size, and the difficulty that you will probably have to solder the pins.
Basic component kit
The next step is to provide ourselves with basic electronic components. We can find very cheap kits with the necessary components for about 2.0€.
The Kit we are looking for contains a breadboard, a few Dupont cables, resistors, LEDs, and pushbuttons. That is, most of the basic components we need for all our assemblies.
Carefully look at the image and find a Kit that is similar, and that does not have many more, or fewer, components.
The interesting thing about these Kits is that they allow us to acquire a few units of each component. If we bought them separately (only cables, only resistors) we would end up having a large quantity of each one, but at a price several times higher.
Within the sensors, there are some very interesting kits that include 37 types of sensors for about 10€. This includes temperature sensors, light sensors, magnetic sensors, humidity sensors, flame detectors, infrared receivers.
Other components for our Kit
With what we have seen so far, for about 15€ we have covered most of the needs to get started with Arduino and needless to say, we have components to play with until we’re tired.
However, there are other components that deserve a separate mention because I consider them particularly interesting. Here is a small personal collection, although I remind you that it is not mandatory to buy them all.
HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Sensor
It is an HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor that is used to measure distances (approximately).
It’s not the most useful sensor in the world either, but many robots use it to detect obstacles, and it is quite common to find it in tutorials. We can find it for about 0.65€.
IRF520N Transistor Output
It is a digital output amplification stage using an IRF520N MOSFET transistor, which we will use to connect direct current loads of up to 24V in direct current and a maximum of 1A.
It is useful if you have plans to handle devices at these voltages (for example, a fan, an electromagnet). We can find it for about 0.60€.
L298N DC Motor Controller
The L298N is a controller that allows you to control two direct current motors. We can vary the speed and direction of rotation of both motors.
It is a very common component in small wheeled robots, in fact, we will see it frequently in projects on the blog. We can find it for 1.30€.
The servos are a special type of motor that, instead of rotating continuously, are positioned at the angle we specify. They are widely used in all types of robots, from turrets, robotic arms, and complex robots such as hexapods or bipedal robots.
The SG90 is a small servo motor with a cost of 1.20€, which will serve us perfectly to learn to use servos in our projects.
28BYJ-48 Stepper Motor + ULN2003
Stepper motors are another type of motor that also do not rotate continuously. Instead, they need a signal from a processor, and with each pulse, the motor advances an angle (or step).
The 28BYJ-48 is a small stepper motor that will serve us to get started in its use and control. The ULN2003 is a simple controller. We can find a kit with 28BYJ-48 motor + ULN2003 for 1.60€.
I2C LCD or Nokia 5110 Display
Many projects incorporate some type of display. Personally, I don’t like them very much, I find it more interesting to collect information and display it on the computer. But the truth is that they are components that you will frequently find in tutorials on the Internet.
The most common displays are the LCD HITACHI HD44780 with I2C controller, which we can find for about 1.70€.
A good alternative, not as well known but superior in features, is the Nokia 5110 display, which we can find for a similar price of 1.80€.
This little technological marvel costs 1.25€, and for me, it is one of the essentials because it allows a lot of advanced projects, such as guiding and orienting robots, controlling a PC with the movement of an Arduino, platform stabilization, among many others.
Developing a Starter Kit to get started with Arduino is quite cheap. Even when we tackle complex projects, we will see that most projects, except the most advanced ones, are also cheap.
No matter how much clever sellers and blogs try to make money by inflating prices, always remember that Arduino has become very popular precisely because of its ultra-low price.
We have seen that for about 5.5€ we have a basic Kit to start doing Arduino projects. It can even be less (4.80€) if we use an Arduino Nano instead of a UNO, although it is normal to start with an Arduino UNO.
If we add a cheap Kit of 37 sensors for about 15€ we have a Kit with a good amount of components to play with. Not all of them are equally useful, but the average price per module comes out to 0.40€, when bought separately they would cost between 0.60-1.10€. So it is a good way to get a well-stocked kit to start with.
If we add to this the rest of the components that I consider useful (servo, DC controller, stepper motor, MPU6050…), for about 24€ we have practically all the standard components we need to learn Arduino.
Certainly if someone makes all the components in this Kit work, they should stop considering themselves a “beginner”. Also, by this point, they will have found out if they don’t like the world of Arduino and prefer to have another hobby (like planting petunias), or if they really love it and want to delve deeper into the field.
From here, my advice is to start doing specific projects, and acquire the rest of the components as we need them (and only if we need them, or we will end up throwing money away).
As projects become more complex, we will need more cables, more Arduinos, batteries, or a Bluetooth module to control Arduino from a computer or smartphone. We may even replace Arduino with another model like the ESP8266 that includes Wifi for Internet access, or start combining it with mini PCs like Raspberry PI or Orange PI. This will in turn force us to learn new programming languages and technologies, allowing us to tackle larger projects.
In short, with this Starter Kit for about 15-24€ we have more than enough components to get started in the world of Arduino, electronics, and robotics. A world that literally has no end, and that as a hobby can bring you great fun, and can even have a positive effect on studies or the work world.
I hope it is useful for you. If anyone has any other essential components, we are delighted for you to leave us your opinions and suggestions in a comment.