on October 15, 2014
I am a 71 year old man, been in electronics a fair amount of my working career and started programming with the original Apple, Commodore and TRS-80 computers and then made some of my living programming.
I can not comprehend where I might have been able to go had I had a kit such as this Arduino USK when I was a kid. I purchased the kit to use in Amateur Radio applications but who knows where this all may lead.
Thanks for the opportunity to keep busy in my retirement, I think that this kit should be used in schools to not only teach basic electronics but also reading, math and most importantly, how to follow instructions.
Buy a kit and give it to a 12 year old.
on February 21, 2014
You can probably get an Arduino starter kit a little less expensively if you look around here on Amazon or at that auction site.
The Uno looks to be genuine, although it's fairly tough to tell these days, and Vilros is not an official distributor listed on the Ardiono site. It does behave as an Uno and sketches behave normally upon it. The breadboard in the kit is standard fare, but on the cheaper side. Components are all as expected (tough to screw up LED's and hook-up wire!). The "72 page guide" has 12 project in it which are well documented, but no code in the book, so the zip file with the project code needs to be downloaded adding extra steps to getting started. It's also worth noting that some of the projects just won't work as they're laid out in the book when powering (and programming) the Uno by USB; any of the projects that involve the servo or motor draw more power than is supplied to the Uno's 5v rail, and while it doesn't damage anything, nothing happens either. You're left scratching your head as to why the project isn't working. Plug a 9v battery into the supplied barrel plug pigtail, and things start working okay, but the Uno needed to be completely shut down in between sketch uploads, otherwise the IDE throws errors. Again, all technically "works", but not as simply as described in the "guide".
NOTE: This kit is marked up about ten bills for the additional LCD included over then next kit down sold by Vilros. The LCD is sold on Amazon for about ten bucks (much cheaper elsewhere), but isn't the nicest thing to work with, as it takes a bunch of pins to work. There included book doesn't include an example for the LCD, but rather instruct you to go to their website, create an account, and view an example. Their example is a copy/paste of someone elses work, and is poorly documented. These types of LCD's are readily available, and are often used in products, but it might be wise to spend just a few more dollars and get an I2c or other SPI compatible LCD for tinkering, as it'll only use a few pins and are often even easier to code.
All in all, not a "bad" kit, and the guide will give some good ideas starting out, but it's spendy, and the upcharge for the LCD isn't really worth it.
on September 24, 2013
If you have a slight idea about what Arduino is, but you don't know where to start, look no further!
It comes with it's own starter kit guide to get you building various circuits that do neat little things. Nothing to really revolutionize your world, but definitely get you to start thinking like an electronic hobbyist. All the projects provided break down the code inside the Arduino sketch program, but can get overwhelming fairly fast if you're not familiar with programming.
I bought the "Arduino for Dummies" book in conjunction with this and have decided to run through the books projects first as it does a great job in explaining the coding, which is based on the C language. It comes with all the components the "Dummies" book recommends so you will be set in finding out if this seems like a hobby you'd like to undertake.
No regrets in buying this kit and look forward to tackling everything provided!
on December 31, 2014
Great kit, comes with a large number of connecting wires and components. These are definitely enough to get one familiar with Arduino, the way it works and how to program it. Also, one can develop basic understanding of electronic components such as transistors and diodes by doing the sample circuits described in the manual. The manual, although rather simple and at times poorly worded, is going to be sufficient for the beginners, which is absolutely appropriate for this "Starter Kit". Intermediate and advanced electronics hobbyists might find the description simplistic and the components amateurish, but such users can find plenty of Arduino information and the necessary parts online on their own. The use of Ethernet Shield is not describes in the attached manual; look up the information about the hardware and accompanying software libraries on the official Arduino webpage.
This kit makes a perfect fit for someone unfamiliar with electronics and eager to learn the basics.
on December 29, 2013
This is a really great start for someone motivated to learn about electronics. The kit is quite complete, starting with flashing an LED light, and touching topics like controlling lights and motors. There are well documented opportunities to learn about components, electronic theory, and C programming. You CAN buy the individual parts and save a few bucks, but unless you work next to radio shack, this is the way to go.
A major plus is the guide that comes with the kit. There are 12 projects, each with diagrams of the parts, how to connect them, and example programs to make them work. There are even instructions on what to do if it doesn't work right, and references if you want to learn more about particular topics. I should think that a well motivated 8 year old could use this kit with supervision. No soldering is involved except for one motor, and one could use alligator clips from radio shack to avoid that. An adult could handle this kit without previous knowledge of electronics or programming.
There are a few things that would enhance this kit. The main thing would be to buy a plastic organizer box. As you go through the projects, parts and wires tend to get loose and it can be frustrating to find parts after a while. Also, you might consider buying a 9 volt battery or a power adapter. You don't really need it, but it demonstrates that the projects work without being connected to a computer, a key concept because this kit is essentially a computer in itself. Quick note: the servo project does not work well on a 9 volt battery, too much power drain. Works fine when it's on the USB cable.
The rest of this review is pretty trivial, read at your own risk.
The kit comes in a nice closeable box. If you open it carefully, it will keep the parts safe and sound. But, a plastic organizer would be even better. The kit comes with a ton of wire jumpers and as you go through the projects, the pile of wires and parts gets a bit annoying.
You will need to download the software. It is PC, Mac and Linux compatible. I use a PC. The manual gives you the site to go to. You will need to register to get the download, but you don't need to enter credit cards or personal information.
The main parts are the Arduino board and a breadboard to hook up the components. The kit includes a plastic tray to keep things neat. The Arduino board simply snaps in, and the breadboard has an adhesive backing. Unfortunately, I found the clips that hold the Arduino board are a bit fragile. I broke a clip and ended up using foam sticky tape to hold it in. Not a big deal.
As to the projects, I made standard mistakes. I put parts in backwards, stuff like that. The board seems tolerant of this. I did not destroy any parts, I just went back through the steps and found my mistakes. The manual is really good on this part, the diagrams are excellent. As you insert parts in the breadboard, you might think the connections are bit loose, particularly the resistors. But, I just went with it and didn't have any connection issues.
For me, the best project was the servo motor. Turning on lights are one thing, but to make a motor turn precisely is pretty cool. Perhaps a bit too cool. After I got it running, my cat got a bit too interested in the moving thing. On that subject, there is one error I have found in the manual so far. The wire colors on the servo do not match the diagrams. Here is the fix: Negative, black goes to servo brown. 5 volts goes to servo red, and the signal from digital pin 9 goes to servo yellow.
Maybe the best thing about this kit is what happens after you finish the projects. The user might be most interested in the programming, the wiring, the components or electronic theory. That spark of interest could easily lead a young person to a great career choice.
And, maybe your kid will just put this on a shelf, but if it sparks that interest, then it is well worth the cost. Whatever the case, the servo project makes a great cat toy.
If it sparks that interest, there are many add-ons that are compatible, inexpensive, and well documented. One might move on to an LCD display, a range module (tells you distance, good for robotics) and tons of shields, or add-on boards that stack on top to give you ways to do things via networks, or anything else one might want.
In essence, if you or your kids are getting a little bored with legos and erector sets, this would not be a bad thing to try out.
on July 6, 2015
Background: 20 year old college chemistry student, one computer science class taken.
I love working with the Arduino, tinkering and learning while having fun and feeling "in control" too. As far as the aesthetics, I'm not a big fan of the base that is provided. Plastic, black, and advertising "Vilros" in big letters. I threw it away and built my arduino into a nice dark block of wood instead! I give it 4/5 because there are minor issues when you buy an Arduino brand Microprocessor from a company that isn't Arduino. The manual and the computer files didn't match up 100% because of this, but all that required was for me to Google "USK Guide Code" and download the codes for the tutorials. So the crisis was averted but nonetheless the Arduino and all of the parts are wonderful. I am not very experienced with computer science, I took a one month class is all. I was able to get the hang of it pretty quickly! Overall, this purchase was worth it 100%. I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a hobby or especially people like me, a young adult who wants to beef up his brain for a stronger resume and more diverse skill set!
on December 6, 2013
I am a student learning electronic engineering and buying this board and working on different projects gained me a lot more experience. the circuits that i thought were really complex actually turned out to be really easy. And about the board and the parts it came with they work flawlessly. None of them were damaged and i really enjoyed the instruction book it came with, helped me a lot.
on October 14, 2013
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I have not (yet) used all of the components that came in this kit. I've read through all the projects in the book, but so far only built the first couple before I wandered off the reservation and was doing my own tinkering, working up a simple project that will end up being a decoration at this year's Halloween party.
I bought this kit instead of the standard one primarily to get the extra components, especially the Ethernet shield. I've not been disappointed yet by any part (although the soldering of the wire leads to the DC motor does look rather questionable to me), although again I haven't (yet) used them all.
The quality of the code examples from Vilros is outstanding. I'm a programmer by both trade and hobby, and I've seen more than my fair share of horrible code -- and this is not that. Code is straightforward and well-documented, easily up to the quality of the examples that come with the Arduino IDE itself. Paired with the book, I would expect even a novice to be able to follow what it does.
I also really like the Arduino and breadboard holder in this kit, as it means you can easily move your prototyped projects around without worrying about jumper wires falling out of the Arduino or the breadboard. (The booklet mentions that you should screw your Arduino board into the holder, however mine is a screwless one that just uses a pair of plastic clips and some plastic posts to hold the board in place.)
I will say that the projects in the booklet that come with this, although each great for learning various aspects of the Arduino and its abilities to interact with the physical world, are not very numerous. A dedicated person working from one project to the next could likely complete the entire thing in just a couple of hours; if you're not someone with a background in programming or MCUs in particular, you could find yourself at the end of the booklet with no idea what to do next. While the booklet does make an effort to explain how various lines of code work, little time is spent on that, and it may be far too little for someone new to this type of experimentation. If you're a novice, this is still a great starting point, but you should expect to pick up a more complete book to learn from.
My one complaint is that, although this kit includes the Ethernet shield, there are no projects in the booklet that make use of it. I would have liked to have seen at least one project each for the networking and SD card features of this shield. Not a huge drawback for me, as again I am a programmer and I have past experience with MCUs (including programming the controller my team used to control our robot in a high school competition), especially as the Arduino IDE includes examples for both, but again someone without that background could easily find themselves holding this shield and not having any idea what to do with it.
on August 30, 2014
I bought this for a robot I was building with my kids. The Arduino board is a genuine UNO board and the breadboard and tray that came with it made a very nice platform for the control center.
When we first wired up our robot nothing worked. :-( It was too late to debug that night but the next day, I was assisting a teacher in an electronics class. Class was using those same jumper wires and nothing was working??? We ohmed out the jumpers and the connectivity was very poor. We had to make a bunch of jumpers on the spot for the class. Our circuits started working. After I replaced the wires at home, our robot worked too. For the best jumpers, get a good wire cutter/stripper and a spool of solid core wire. Cut wire to length and strip the ends.
The resistors that come with the kit are so tiny and thin that they are tough to work with. While they might handle the current needs of the projects, they don't work well in the breadboard.
The motor that came with the it looked cheaper than some that I picked up in a bargain bin. It works, but not much power and the leads are very delicate.
There are some nice things with this kit, but I wish I had purchased what I wanted separately because other components were low quality. The book is very good for beginners and I liked the LCD display. For more advanced projects though you will want a better assortment of components. There are several sites online with very reasonable prices.
Rather than this kit, I recommend an Arduino book (plenty to choose from on Amazon), and then buy the Arduino board, breadboard and other parts you need piecemeal. Google "electronic components" and there are plenty of options. I found some good deals on Tayda Electronics and Spark Fun (remove the spaces and add a dot com).
on January 22, 2016
For each of the 12 circuits it shows how to create, the booklet provides:
* A formal circuit diagram
* List of parts used
* 3D and 2D diagrams, showing the finished breadboard / Arduino
* Table of component used (e.g., a 330 ohm resistor), and which breadboard positions to use.
* Short discussion of C code used in the IDE
* Expected results
* Short troubleshooting section
* Very brief example of a real-world application
In the booklet, what we don't see much of:
* Thorough teaching of electronics, troubleshooting, etc.
* Instruction on the meaning of the circuit diagram.
* Instruction in WHY those components are used. Why is a resistor needed? Why is it a 10K ohm, and not a 330 ohm? When do you need a transistor or capacitor (the kit includes no capacitors). Note: there is some discussion of pull-up resistors.
* A diagram showing how the current flows through the breadboard (be sure to read the section "How's it all connected" on the page titled Breadboard -- and WHY aren't there any page numbers???)
The result is that if you make a mistake in a circuit, you may have difficulty correcting it. If you want to create a new circuit of your own, you probably won't have the knowledge to do that.
To be fair, there is some teaching in the *.ino code provided for each circuit. It's not all in the booklet. So, you definitely want to read the C code and comments. There are no quizzes, nor code to complete, or anything like that. It's all basically done for you. There could be far better explanation of what resistors, transistors, capacitors, diodes, etc. do. If you somehow learn to create your own circuits, it's going to be on you, or YouTube, or somewhere else.
It includes a Made in USA, Arduino (genuine, not clone, derivative or, I think, counterfeit), which helps support the Arduino community.
It does include a parts list of the entire kit, near the start of the booklet, so ignore the reviewer who said there isn't.
Some sensors that would have been cool to include, but weren't:
* Air quality
You can, of course, purchase these cheaply elsewhere, and use with this kit.
The English is good throughout.
The 12 circuits are:
1. Blinking an LED, similar to Blinky.
2. Potentiometer (using a dial to vary LED brightness)
3. RGB LED
4. Multiple LEDs
5. Push buttons
6. Photo resistor (like to control a night light that gets brighter when it gets dark)
7. Temperature sensor (it's not a very accurate sensor)
8. Single Servo (that you would use to grasp things in robot hands, for example)
10. Spinning a Motor ** Note: I got a bad motor, apparently. My circuit perfectly matches the book. I tried other parts (diode, 330 ohm resistor, transistor, even wires). The code uploads. I entered various motor speeds in the Serial Monitor, which the booklet never mentions is needed. All the motor does is a high-pitched hum. **
11. Relays (to turn things off and on)
12. Shift register