Top 10 Arduino Sensor Boards & add ons

I thought I’d put down a little list of my top 10 things I do with my Arduino boards at home. I’ve been experimenting a lot with ambient circuits, up cycling and things like that so you could say that these things are skewed towards that kind of thing.

  • UltrasonicUltrasonic Sensors – be careful with these, I bought a pack of 4 from a dodgy supplier and the MAX232 chips had a bug which causes them to overheat rapidly and they get hot enough to burn stuff. You can use these in a lot of things, I’m currently using two as the eyes for a small robot I built to keep the cat occupied.
  • PIR Sensors – these are cheap and cheerful little blighters. Ambient circuits usually require some kind of human interaction, so ultrasonic and PIR are both decent ways to do that. Depending on how you direct them and mix them they can become quite an human interaction tool.
  • Bluetooth HC-06 – With speeds up to 250kbps the HC-06 is perfect for fast remote serial ports which can be accessed easily from a computer or android device. The HC-06 unlike the HC-05 is reprogrammable, you can hack it in various ways messing with it’s internal setup for the serial port. This is the fastest and easiest way to add a radio to a remote device that I’ve found, and I’ve tried NRF24’s, RF12’s, Wifi shields and other means. These are certainly in the category of just works(tm).
  • WS2811 RGB LED Strip – Unlike the 2801 the 2811 has individually addressable LED units, whereas the 2801 has 2 LEDs per controller. It works well with the FastLED library and lets you separate the LEDs onto individual faces of a 3D shape. They’re also significantly cheaper than BlinkM’s are and much easier to obtain in large quantities.

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  • Gyroscope – If your project has any moving parts, it’s a good idea to put an accelerometer in there, it can give you feedback in interesting ways. Very useful to have on around.
  • MSGEQ7 – With no particularly easy way to say it, it’s an equaliser IC this little chip will take a sample of audio and tell you the value of it on 7 different frequency bands. It’s useful for doing things like defining colours to be illuminated in time with music and things of that nature. Microphones will need a little amplifier to get them working but it’s a genius little chip.
  • DHT11 – Another favourite of mine is the DHT11, temperature and humidity. You can connect these up to one of these mini arduino+rfm12b boards and you’ve got a thermometer and humidity sensor anywhere.
  • rfidRFID Kit – This cheap and cheerful RFID kit can be used in all kinds of ways, creating proximity based installations or interactive spaces where each object in the space has it’s own unique ID.
  • Motor shield – There are tonnes of motors laying to waste because they’re not re-used, I collect them up and put them to work when I need one so a motor shield is always useful to have. Obviously you can always bang something together with a few transistors, but a decent motor shield for testing is always handy.
  • Screw shield – always handy to have around a screw shield can save a lot of time when prototyping.

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