The Arduino family microcontrollers are a great starting point for learning about robotics. They are very easy to program and interface to a variety of motors and sensors. They are also very popular so you can learn and benefit from a vast internet community with lots of tutorials, examples and troubleshooting guidance. Even advanced roboticists will appreciate the ease with which they can test parts and ideas using Arduino microcontrollers.
The first step to using an Arduino is to install the required software. The Arduino software is called an IDE or Integrated Development Environment and is used to create programs that the microcontroller understands. There are versions of the Arduino IDE available for Windows, Mac and Linux computers. Here we will focus on the Windows version but the other versions are very similar. The Arduino IDE can be installed using the following steps:
Make a note of where you unzipped the Arduino software. because you will need it to install drivers in the next step and when running the Arduino IDE.
You may need to install drivers so that Windows can talk to your Arduino Uno. For this step, you will need to connect your Arduino Uno to your computer using a regular USB cable. When connected, a green power LED will light up.
If someone previously installed the appropriate software onto your PC then Windows will find it automatically. However, if this this the first time anyone has ever connected an Arduino Uno to your PC then you will need to install the drivers manually.
If Windows complains that it can’t find the correct drivers, open the Windows Device Manager by pressing the Windows + R keys simultaneously to bring up the “Run” dialog box. Type “devmgmt.msc” into the Run dialog and press the Enter key to launch the Windows Device Manager. The Device Manager window will open showing a list of various types of hardware devices.
You should see a highlighted device named “Unknown device”. Right click on the “Unknown device” entry to open its context menu and choose “Update Driver Software”. A new window will open asking how you want to search for the driver software. Click on “Browse my computer for driver software” and then browse to the “drivers” folder inside the Arduino software folder. The Arduino folder is located where ever you chose to extract it after downloading it in an earlier step. Press the “Next” button to install the software. Depending on your settings, Windows may ask you to confirm the installation. Windows will install the appropriate Arduino driver so that you can connect your Arduino.
Now that you have installed the Arduino IDE and the appropriate driver, you can begin using your new Arduino Uno. In this you will run one of the existing example programs to blink the LED on the Arduino. To verify that the Arduino Uno is working properly, make sure your Arduino is still plugged in via the USB cable and perform the following steps:
Congratulations! You have now verified that your new Arduino Uno is working properly have run your first Arduino program. To learn how to program the Arduino, we encourage you to check out our other articles for various robotics programming topics.