In this article about ham Arduino coding, our Starter Kit series describes how easy it is to program. If you have problems, get some help from a youngster, perhaps your grandson.
Although most hams have some familiarity with programming languages, their experience with writing code may be rusty or infrequent. The good news is that Arduino makes it quite easy.
- First of all, Arduino programs or “sketches” are written in a subset of C/C++. C-based languages are the most popular and universal. Consequently, lots of helpers and resources are available. Usually, you can accomplish most of your early projects with only the Language Reference. A sketch is comprised of setup() and loop() sections. More functions can be added if and when needed.
- Second, and maybe most important, there are hundreds of Arduino libraries available. A library is code someone else has written to do certain tasks. Libraries exist for running motors, reading sensors, communicating, and so on. Most are free and can be installed with a single click. Almost always, libraries do most of the tricky work for you.
- In addition, sample code and working sketches are sprinkled over the web. Use them “as is” or with a few modifications. Understanding other people’s working sketches speeds up learning. You can usually find working projects that are similar to what you are trying to do.
- Finally, Arduino comes with a very capable Integrated Development Environment. The IDE provides options for supporting different boards, installing libraries, and loading the final compiled code into your device.
Watch this video for an example of writing and running a simple program. Programs are flashed into Arduino using serial communications over USB. Most makers debug their programs by sending serial messages back to the computer. You can find out what is working or not through serial debugging.
Ham Arduino Coding – Clubs can Help
A good way to start is to just load and run some of the built-in sample programs that come with the IDE. Soon you will want to try your own ideas. Coding is very forgiving. If it doesn’t work the first time, just try again. In a few months, you will be doing advanced coding for ham radio projects, like some of these projects from VK3YE.
Most hams can work through Arduino electronics easily, but some will struggle with the coding. Clubs can help. As part of your initiative to bring hams and makers closer together, focus on programming. Workshops on ham Arduino coding basics are a great idea. Write and run a few sketches together. Since beginners learn faster with mentors, members with C++ skills are invaluable.
If you want to go deeper right now, here is a complete Arduino programming course for absolute beginners. Coming up next, we will discuss powering your Arduino projects.