We used the Arduino in our DIY PCR thermocycler machine a while back, and it didn’t take much to convince me that the Arduino, a micro-controller, is a powerful tool that could be used for a lot of DIY bio equipments and processes. With that in mind, and for those who wanted to tackle the DIY PCR machine but who are total novices with electronics, programming, etc, I thought I should provide some resources so you’re not left like I was: with a cool new Arduino, the ambition to build a PCR machine, and a clueless look on my face.
I downloaded several books about Arduinos, but they were annoying and bloated. It’s ironic, as I write this, but the best tutorials are videos, in my opinion. So below are a few resources on Arduino basics. Keep in mind, these tutorials go beyond the scope of the DIY PCR machine, but they are a good starting point, will help you complete the PCR machine, and can empower you to do even more cool stuff in the future. Without further delay, here are two Arduino tutorial video series on YouTube:
Arduino Course for Absolute Beginners by Open Source Hardware Group:
This is a gem. If you fall into the category of absolute beginners, you’ll love it. Their first video goes over the various components of the Arduino to give you the lay of the land. Subsequent videos go into downloading and opening the software up and a very beginner-friendly pace and the beginning elements of the code one has to write. Don’t freak out at that notion. These guys take it slow. You will feel comfortable! They’ve got at least 20 some odd videos, including 12 serial videos of tutorials that build upon each other, and they also offer a paid course for more advanced stuff. Check it out! I highly recommend it.
Tutorials for Arduino by Jeremy Blum:
Jeremy touts himself as an educator, an electrical engineer, a programmer, and a hacking enthusiast. His videos are much longer and get much more in-depth than some of the beginning videos from the people at Open Source Hardware Group. Both Jeremy Blum and Open Source Hardware Group cover some of the same ground, but with Jeremy’s tutorials you’re going to be doing code about 7 minutes into the first video whereas you’ll be 20 minutes in (which will be at about video 4 or 5) before you hit any code at all. Which one do I like best? I like them both. For the total novice, start with Open Source Hardware Groups, otherwise you’ll be drowning in “initializing pins outputs” before you really have a grasp on what you’re doing. For someone with some programming background, Jeremy Blum’s course is going to get you up to speed at a more satisfying pace.
Written Material Tutorials/Guides for the Arduino
Going to be away from your computer or from wifi? There are a few books or other resources out there to help you get started. For starters, Jeremy Blum published his own book on the subject. I haven’t read through it, but it looks prodigious, let me say. I downloaded a few items from the Kindle store
Make: Basic Arduino Projects: 26 Experiments With Microcontrollers and Electronics
A word of warning: this book starts out with the line “So, you’ve bought the Ultimate Microcontroller Pack to build some cool and fun Arduino projects.” Well, actually, I hadn’t. If you have, this book will teach you about the Arduino while running you through a series of increasingly complex (or perhaps just ever expanding in scope) experiments. Some of them won’t thrill you, but some look kind of cool. Either way, it is a hands on approach to learning, even if it isn’t edge-of-your-seat fun.
Getting Started with Arduino
by Massimo Banzi- This guy basically started the Arduino project, from what I can gather. He is happy to talk about how he doesn’t like to talk about projects but likes to dive in, which he ironically talks about for the first three chapters of the book (at least the chapters are short). If you want it from the horse’s mouth, this is where to get it. Still, a slower pace than the previous book mentioned. This one is not heavy on experiments. While it does have some things for you to try out, you’re a third of the way through the book before you get to even making LEDs blink.
Make is a magazine that focuses on the maker movement. The two resources listed above are books, but they are put out by Make. However, Make: does have a few actual magazines dedicated to projects you can tackle with the Arduino, including a Lego and Arduino Projects issue and an archived issue of Microcontrollers and Arduino (issue 25).
Lastly, Make: also has some pretty cool kits they sell, if you want some things bundled together, as well as a page dedicated to Arduino that teases a lot of projects in their publication as well as some cool video tutorials of a handful of projects including Smart Clocks and LED striplights where you can control the color from an app on your phone.