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What is Arduino?

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RadioShack to offer a class on a popular microcontroller that ‘feeds the imagination’

 

By Matt Schepeler

Do you love to tinker?

Do you have some clever ideas for creating a better mousetrap?

If so, you might want to consider taking an “Introduction to Arduino” class being offered by Brooklyn RadioShack.

What is an Arduino? It is described as “a tiny, easy-to-use open-source microcontroller” that’s inspired thousands of people around the world to make the coolest things they can imagine – from toys to satellite gear. It is a great teaching tool for the budding engineer sort or even people who simply want to fool around with creating gadgets in their basement.

The class will be held by Frank Pohs, a lifetime tinkerer who loves electronics and enjoys sharing the possibilities the Arduino system offers.

“It can be used for a variety of things,” said Pohs, who teaches a robotics class at Washtenaw Community College and manages the buildings’ electronics systems.

“This particular board was originally built in Italy and has been around for about 10 years,” he noted, adding that access to classes has been limited in areas like Brooklyn. “It is a great tool for teaching and can be used for a variety of things. It is a very versatile platform.”

In a Ted Talk, Massimo Banzia, who helped invent the device, points out several creative inventions stemming from the Arduino – from operating homemade drones, to helping handicapped individuals play video games, to making a customized graffiti painter, to measuring the well-being of a plant. “This plant will say ‘I am really hot’ or ‘I need water right now,’” said Banzia.

 

Someone even made a chair that tweets when someone passes gas. “This project actually gives a new meaning of what it means to Twitter,” joked the inventor.

Of course, there are much more serious applications. In Japan, some residents were concerned that the government was not being open enough after the nuclear reactor accident. The Arduino was used to create a custom Geiger counter with a network interface.

“They made 100 of them and gave them to people around Japan,” said Banzia. The data is published on a website. “You can actually get valuable, unbiased information,” he said.

Banzia listed several more applications for the device. There is a link to the entire Ted Talk in the story on our website at www.theexponentextra.com.

For people living in and around the Irish Hills who would like a real, live teacher to discuss the platform, a class will be held on Saturday, April 21 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Brooklyn RadioShack, 305 S. Main St., Brooklyn. There is a small fee for the class, which will include part kits and software. To learn more or make a reservation, call the store at 517-592-3718.

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