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In the past I would see and hear Arduino and used to just think it was something used for young students learning about electronics to play with. I saw it as a way to interface software and hardware - controlling hardware such as motors, lights, etc., using software put onto a compact hardware device - the Arduino.

I was curious (because I like to play with stuff, too) and the first board I bought was the Yun because it had internet access and USB built in. I wanted to make an automated camera that would take a picture based on movement and then send that picture to my local network for storage. A sort of simple, cheap security camera. I never used it - I wound up getting a HD DVR security system - so the Yun sat unused for the longest time.

Then one day, my department at work wanted to decorate our office for Halloween based on a theme around the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie. One of the guys mentioned we could make one area like the scene where the poison darts come out of the wall when it was walked past. It was then that I had a flash of inspiration for the first real use for my Arduino - an automatic system that would "launch" darts and blow puffs of air that would be synchronized with the dart "throwing". The darts and "puffer" would then reset automatically to be ready for the next person to walk by. It was a lot of work but turned out awesome and worked perfectly!

Since that first real project I have used it on other things, like another Halloween project to simulate thunder and lightning as part of a haunted house theme and most recently for a slot car lap counter. As of this writing I still have the Yun and also three Uno boards!

This page is dedicated to some of those projects, so that others may be inspired to build something of their own using ideas from here, or building the same projects, or just seeing what is involved in a typical Arduino project. Feel free to take anything offered here and use it for yourself!

My Arduino Projects
  • Slot Car Lap Counter
    This is a four lane digital lap counter that uses an LCD shield and requires no physical connection to the race track. It has a sheet of reed sensors that slide underneath the track wherever you want the laps counted. It works by using the magnets built into the slot cars and reed switches that use that magnetic field to close the switch when the car passes over them.
  • Lightning and Thunder Simulator
    This uses an MP3 shield that is connected to an amplifier for the deafening sound and to a strobe light for the lightning. The Arduino controls the lightning by randomizing the time interval between "strikes", and then randomizes the number of times and intervals between individual flashes for each "strike".
  • Poison Darts/Puffer
    This project uses no shields, just a custom external interface board, two air solenoids that connect to an air tank/compressor for the "puffer" action and two R/C airplane servos for the dart action.
Getting Started/References
  • Arduino Website
    The main source for everything Arduino. The home page, the Holy Grail of Arduino. If you are just getting started then go here!
  • Arduino Language Reference
    This is where I am continuously going back to to see what functions are available and how to use them.
Places To Buy Stuff From
  • Adafruit Industries
    This is the place to get Arduino shields. Other places sell similar stuff but these guys put a lot of effort into making sure the drivers for them (software that runs the hardware shield) are current and work! I have struggled with other shields I bought elsewhere with the same functionality only to learn the drivers they offer do not work. Adafruit ROCKS!

    I have also noticed that Amazon is starting to carry some of their products as well which can help with shipping sometimes.
  • Sparkfun Electronics
    I have bought a couple of things from these folks when I couldn't get something from Adafruit in time but they offer slightly different versions of the Adafruit products. Because of this you will need to use their drivers and sometimes they don't work, which can add a lot of frustration to a seemingly simple project.