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What Is a Mini Arduino®?

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  • Written By: Mike Sabol
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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A mini Arduino® is the smallest member of the Arduino® family of electronics prototyping boards. Arduinos® are used by hobbyists and electrical engineers to create physical computing devices. A mini Arduino® is intended for use when space is at a premium. It is a full-feature Arduino®, and functionally, it is nearly identical to the other Arduinos®. A mini Arduino® can be programmed using the same commonly available programming interface.

One might think of Arduinos® as small computers that interact with the physical world. They can sense a variety of things, including light, temperature, physical position, switches and moisture. They can respond by blinking lights, turning electricity off and on, causing motors to run and even making phone calls or sending text messages. A computer program on the Arduino® monitors the sensors and decides what action to take when a sensor reaches a given value. For example, a light sensor can be monitored and a light turned on when the sun goes down.

Arduinos® were created in Italy to provide engineering students with an easy-to-make microcontroller board to use in class projects. The design emphasized low cost, easy construction and simple programming. The intent was to move students immediately into the building phase of a project. Learning to use an Arduino® turned out to be very easy, and they have become popular with the do-it-yourself crowd in many countries.

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Mini Arduinos® and other members of the Arduino® family can be built from kits by anyone who has a little soldering skill and a steady hand. The original inventors made the design open source, and plans can be downloaded from the Internet without charge, along with assembly instructions and starter projects. After it is assembled, an Arduino® can be programmed with tools that are available free on the Internet.

Arduinos® are very popular with students, hobbyists and startup businesses around the world. New sensors to attach to them continually become available. The list includes cameras, cell phones, sophisticated chemical sensors, voice synthesizers and Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. More advanced members of the Arduino® family are used to control self-piloting model aircraft.

An Arduino® can be plugged into a breadboard or soldered onto a printed circuit board. This makes Arduinos® ideal for use in developing new devices. While on a breadboard, electronic components can be easily moved around and rewired, allowing design changes to be made with little trouble. When the design is complete, the same components, processor and programming can be soldered onto a circuit board and used in production. A mini Arduino® is surface-mounted to conserve space, so it usually is purchased already mounted on a circuit board.

Arduino® inventions include autonomous robots and remote pollution monitoring stations. They connect easily to the Internet, so Arduino® projects can send their results to a computer on the web. Small nine-volt batteries can power them for long periods of time.

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