My adventure with electronics and automation started about 4 years ago. I didn’t have a clue what am I doing, so I simply jumped the gun and got a random board and a couple of sensors to play with. Looking back, it wasn’t the most efficient approach, but the maker’s space was not the same 4 years ago as it is now. If I had to start over again, I’d save myself some time and frustration and pick one of the starter kits. Thanks to Elegoo, I got my hands on Elegoo Super Starter Uno kit. It’s a clone of Arduino with some bits and bobs to get you started.
Inside the box
Elegoo Super Starter Uno kit comes with the clone of wildly popular Arduino UNO, a bunch of sensors, modules and electronic components to get you started. There is a CD (c’mon guys! It’s not 90s!) with instructions which can be also downloaded from here. The kit priced at roughly £35/$35 gets you:
It’s a decent pick and mix of components that will keep you busy. Included instructions will walk you through the setup process and show you how to interact with each component. Unfortunately, these are available as PDF only, it would be nice to see associated video for each component too! I do appreciate the fact that instructions are available in several languages.
The instruction set is split into 3 parts: setup, module learning and multi-module projects. Looking through the various sections, these look well documented and illustrated. You won’t need anything else than in the box to complete these tutorials. It would be nice to add a link to most interesting projects made using Elegoo Super Starter Uno kit by others.
Getting the best value
Set up the Arduino IDE and get comfortable with installing the libraries and managing the boards. Instruction is provided, so it will only take a moment. You could start by trying out every single component included, but once you feel comfortable, I would encourage you to take on a project. It’s by far the best way of understanding how things work, overcoming small obstacles while following a guide from someone who already accomplished it.
Make sure parts you have come with plenty of references and SEE IT COMPLETELY THROUGH. There is nothing more discouraging than abandoning the project halfway through, and nothing more rewarding than using your DIY creation on the daily basis!
Project: Mini Photo Studio
For some time now I wanted to up my thumbnail making game. I wanted a nicely lit up backdrop with a turntable. The components listed inside the Elegoo Super Starter Uno kit gave me the idea. Turns out, Brian Brocken had beat me to it. What’s even funnier, he used the same kit to achieve this! His turntable looks pretty good, and has a brilliant way of triggering pictures with a Bluetooth remote! I guess I don’t have to reinvent the self turning wheel any more, so I’ll use his project! Thanks, Brian!
I have added this neat Thingiverse STL to create backdrop stands. I used A1 colour cardboard sheets, so I needed a makeshift wooden stand to keep the light 3D printed components in place. Lastly, I ordered battery-powered LED lights with brightness and colour temperature to lit up objects correctly. I’d consider 2 to be minimum, but I got 3 of them since they were on sale £12 each!
Instead of rewriting the tutorial, I will simply list all tips I have for you for this project:
- use supplied prototyping hat, cut off or de-solder the headers to keep it low profile
- Screw-in the hat before soldering
- colour code the wires
- if you have an LCD screen with I2C, you will save yourself a lot of cable management
- solder joystick and pots cables first, drill through holes for better cable management
- instead of 10kΩ pot, I believe you can add a resistor at R9 at similar value (not tested)
- cut the potentiometer’s legs short and surface mount it to PCB to keep the profile as flat as possible
- use grease to lessen the friction on the bearing
- supply 5V/2A to Vin of UNO and 5V pin of the motor driver
- sacrifice a USB cable and drill a hole into the enclosure to supply the power
- you may need to modify the remote holder
- use 3M tape to secure the motor driver and remote bracket
- remove LEDs from the motor driver, otherwise, the light is visible on the turntable’s surface
- bicycle spokes make for perfect hinge rods
- use a drill to attach the printed parts to a flat surface, or wooden separator
- to keep the size to minimum, I shallowed out my wood separator and screwed it from the top to keep the flat profile
- consider 2nd mounting position for A2 sheets or vertical placement of the backdrop
- make it heavy otherwise it won’t keep the cardboard in position
- mark parallel points on the backdrop’s edges to secure the board without skewing it
- if you scale up brackets, you will need a thicker wire for the hinges
Starter kits like Elegoo Super Starter Uno kit are a great way to get someone hooked on DIY and making. Sure you could get individual components cheaper, but the kit comes in a perfect gift form factor, has instructions to follow and gives you a sense of direction. Once you know, what’s what, you will be buying components in bulk directly from manufacturers, hand-picked and selected for the individual projects in mind! Trust me!
Now that the project is complete, I can enjoy my new photo studio. I will definitely get decent use out of it! As a bonus, the turntable could be used to scan 3D objects. Even though the project is done, I already come up with ways I could improve it. The Bluetooth remote could use an external switch and charging port. I could print out bigger turntable surface and add 1/4 inch mounts to the backdrop mount so I can place the lights on flexible stands. For now, I will enjoy what I have. I will revisit this in the near future. What other improvements would you think of? Let me know in this Reddit thread.