What Is Arduino?
Arduino is an open-source single-board microcontroller that’s loved by makers around the world for its open nature, affordability, and ease of use. You can think of it as a lightweight Raspberry Pi with limited processing power but impressive versatility.
If you’ve never programmed an Arduino before, you have absolutely nothing to worry about because getting started with it is very easy. All the projects listed in this article come with source code, so you can get them to work first and figure out how they work second.
Top 15 Arduino Programming Projects for Learning
Now that you know what Arduino, it’s time we list the top 15 best Arduino programming projects for learning. Because we’ve made sure to include something for beginners and more experienced programming users, it doesn’t matter if you’re completely new to programming or already have a few projects under your belt.
1. Blinking LED
Everyone who’s new to Arduino should start with this simple project, which demonstrates how you can get a physical output (a blinking LED in this case) using an Arduino and a few lines of code. The reason this is such a great introductory project for beginners is simple: you already have all the parts you’ll need if you own an Arduino board with a built-in LED.
If you meet this one condition, you can go ahead and plug your Arduino into your computer and start the Arduino Software (IDE). Then, use the code found at the bottom of this page to program the LED to blink. Since the code is well-documented, you should be able to quickly understand how it works and modify it to make the LED blink faster or slower.
Okay, so you know how to make an LED blink and feel ready to tackle more complicated projects. Great! We have just the right project for you. With an inexpensive temperature sensor (also called a thermistor), you can turn your Arduino into a thermometer and use the collected temperature data to power future projects or just to keep you informed.
The guys over at Circuit Basics provide very detailed instructions accompanied by clear illustrations and code examples. All you need to do is follow the instructions step by step, and you’ll have your own Arduino-powered thermometer in no time.
3. Light-Following Robot
Believe it or not, but you can build your own Arduino-powered robot even if you’re on a tight budget (especially if you have basic tools and Arduino parts lying around). Once finished, the robot will chase around the brightest light it sees, so you can play with it using a flashlight. You can then improve it by adding additional sensors and tweaking its programming too, for example, avoid walls and other obstacles.
This project, called The Arduino Mothbot, has been featured on Instructables and viewed by over 100,000 people. It’s great for introducing kids to the magic of programming using readily available electronic parts to create something amazing.
4. Robot Arm with Smartphone Control
This is one of those Arduino projects for learning that really shows the true potential of the tiny single-board microcontroller. To complete the lengthy tutorial published on HowToMechatronics, you’ll need a 3D printer, multiple servo motors, and the HC-05 Bluetooth module for controlling the robot arm using your smartphone. 3D printing and coding skills are not required since HowToMechatronics share all 3D models and source code on their site.
The robot arm can be theoretically programmed to perform any complex motion, so you shouldn’t have much trouble impressing your friends by making it write something on a piece of paper or simply wave hello.
5. Buzz Wire Game
This Arduino project takes the classic buzz wire carnival game to the next level by adding an Arduino-powered digital display with status information. The instructions over at MakeUseOf recommend you use a coat hanger to construct the course, but we recommend a piece of thick copper wire instead because you can then make the course however long or intricate you want.
Of course, you could create this game without any programming just by using a 9V battery and buzzer, but learning to program with Arduino is all about having fun, and you can certainly have a lot of fun with this project.
6. Heart Rate and SpO2 Monitor
Why would you buy a fitness tracker when you can create a heart rate monitor capable of measuring your oxygen saturation using Arduino? Besides an Arduino board, you need for this project is the MAX30102 pulse oximetry and heart rate monitor module, some OLED display, and buzzer, although the last two components are optional.
Since you can buy the MAX30102 module for as little as $1.5, the cost of this heart rate and SpO2 monitor certainly beats the cost of off-the-shelf heart rate monitors with oxygen saturation measuring capabilities. Head over to the Arduino Project Hub for detailed instructions on how to put it together.
7. LED Cube
Arduino boards are so affordable that there’s no reason to feel bad about using them for purely decorative projects that serve no practical purpose whatsoever. One such project is this LED cube, which consists of 64 LEDs arranged into a 4x4x4 grid. With the power of your Arduino, you can make the cube come to life and display various cool patterns.
Admittedly, a project of this kind can be somewhat tedious to make since it involves a lot of repetition, but it will hone your soldering skills to perfection. If you don’t have a soldering iron, we highly recommend the Lukcase TS100, which works with any laptop power adaptor and heats up in just a few seconds.
8. Word Clock
This elegant and fully functional Arduino-based word clock was created by Maker Lewis of DIY Machines and published on Electromaker.io. The main component you need to create it, is this 8×8 64 RGB LED display, which is used to illuminate a 3D printed clock face.
If you don’t have a 3D printer and don’t intend to buy one, then you can program a simple digital clock using any standard LCD display for Arduino. This tutorial explains everything in great detail and features a sample code that you can simply copy and paste to make your clockwork.
9. Earthquake Detector
There are many fantastic Arduino programming projects for learning on Instructables, but this earthquake detector is among the most useful ones. If you live in an area with a lot of seismic activity, you can use it to trigger certain emergency procedures, such as shutting down the main water supply to your house or sending a message to your relatives. Alternatively, you can connect it to a portable power source and use it to monitor seismic activity in a remote area and transmit the gathered information online.
Just keep in mind that this earthquake detector doesn’t reflect all the possible acceleration changes for earthquakes in the Richter scale, so don’t assume that it can measure up to professional earthquake detectors costing thousands of dollars because it can’t.
10. RFID Smart Lock
You probably think that building an RFID smart lock has to be complicated and expensive, right? Far from it! Most of this project revolves around the Mifare MFRC522 reader module, which you can get on Amazon for just $10, and the rest is described on MakeUseOf.
Okay, so creating an RFID smart lock isn’t all that complicated, but is it a good idea to attempt something even professional so often can’t get right? Well, that depends on your expectations. If you’re interested in this Arduino programming project for learning because you want to gain some valuable experience, then you should go for it. But if you expect to end up with a truly secure RFID smart lock, we recommend you order one online instead.
11. Vending Machine
If you feel like building something complex and undeniably impressive with Arduino, this Arduino-based vending machine may just be the right project for you. To create it, you obviously need some power tools and basic carpentry skills, in addition to the ability to connect together all electronic parts and write the Arduino code.
The good news is that HowToMechatronics walks you through building your first Arduino-based vending machine step by step and even provides a detailed 3D model of the vending machine that you can use to take all measurements. The person behind this project didn’t use a 3D printer, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t improve upon his design and give your vending machine an even nicer case.
12. Audio Spectrum Visualizer
This project is aimed at audio enthusiasts who would like to improve their programming skills while building something fun. We recommend you use a large LED display so that your spectrum visualizer stands out and illuminates the entire room when you listen to music at night.
A project like this is all about soldering and coding. Mastering the former skill is up to you, but the instructions and code samples published on the Arduino Project Hub can help with the latter. It’s worth noting that you can feed audio to the visualizer not only from your music system but also from any headphone output.
13. Alarm System
You don’t need an expensive alarm system to catch an intruder off guard and scare them with a loud sound. All you really need is an Arduino, ultrasonic sensor, and piezo buzzer. The idea is to detect motion using the ultrasonic sensor and then turn on the piezo buzzer to deter any intruder nearby.
To learn more about this project, head over to this site, or just watch the video above. It goes without saying that this simple alarm system is not a substitute for a real security system. That said, if the intruder you’re dealing with is an annoying sibling or the neighbor’s cat, this solution will work great and won’t cost you a lot of money.
14. Flappy Bird Clone
If you’re not interested in building physical contraptions using Arduino and just want to practice your programming skills, why not make a clone of Flappy Bird, the viral mobile game where the player controls a bird, attempting to fly between columns of green pipes without hitting them?
Flappy Bird is such a simple yet fascinating game that there are countless programming tutorials and forum threads dedicated to it, so you shouldn’t have much trouble programming it from scratch even if you’re just a beginner. Besides Flappy Bird, you can also program an Arduino Tic-Tac-Toe game or a portable game of chess.
Yes, that’s correct. You can use Arduino to create a flamethrower—and not just any flamethrower… a punch-activated arm flamethrower. Just watch the video above to understand what we mean. This is hands down the coolest Arduino project we’ve ever come across, which is why we decided to end this article with it. It’s true that it’s more about building the actual flamethrower than programming the punch action, but we’re more than happy to make an exception.
If this is your first time building a punch-activated arm flamethrower (of course it is), make sure to read the tutorial posted on the Arduino Project Hub carefully from start to finish so that you don’t make a stupid mistake and burn down your house.