As the Arduino surges in popularity, people keep dreaming up crazier and more complex ways to use it. We’ve rounded up five of the most impressive Arduino projects on the web to show what’s possible with such a versatile and inexpensive platform. Be warned – these projects aren’t for beginners, but if you’re looking for a challenge and something to brag about, they could be just the ticket.
Click any item on the list to jump to the relevant section:
- Open Energy Monitor – Build a home energy monitoring system
- OpenMoCo – Make automated camera control rigs like the pros
- DIY Drones – Fly an unmanned aerial vehicle
- DIY Magic Mirror – Create a cinema-worthy prop
- Arduino beer brewing – Get yo’ geeky drink on
Open Energy Monitor is an open source energy monitor for use throughout your entire house. Much more than just a quick circuit you slap on your utility meter, OpenEnergyMonitor consists of multiple components that work together to take readings on energy consumption by room or device, room temperature, and more, then feed all of it wirelessly back to a dashboard that can be displayed locally or through a web interface.
We like Open Energy Monitor a lot because it’s a great introduction to real-world systems. When you build a home monitoring or automation platform, you’re using your Arduino as part of a larger network rather than just a standalone device. Learning how to get your microcontroller talking to the outside world is critical as you graduate to more complex projects, and OEM provides a great example of a polished, well designed architecture.
As described in the expanded title, OpenMoCo is all about enabling motion in photography. Whether shooting video, time-lapse, or panoramic photography, accurate camera motion is often an important consideration. As many photographers know, professional equipment for automating camera movement and activation can be prohibitively expensive. OpenMoCo serves as a repository for community knowledge on how to design and create motion control tools on a budget.
Most OpenMoCo tools start with the OpenMoCo reference design, which is a modular platform that consists of an engine, interfaces, and elements. The Arduino-based engine covers the brains of the operations, interfaces include various UX controls and displays, and elements comprise motion tools such as stepper motors or actuators.
Have you ever seen Predator drones in the news or watched the robot planes in Terminator movies and thought “Man, I wish I could build one of those”? Well, now you can. DIY Drones describes themselves as “the home for everything about amateur Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)”. We don’t think too many people would argue, as the community has grown to over 20,000 members and is one of the top 100,000 websites in the world.
DIY Drones goal is to create hardware and software for any type of aerial robot, whether it be a helicopter, plane, quadcopter, or blimp. Their site is packed with various user groups, blogs, and forums, all with useful information on starting your own project. The DIY Drones store offers their premier product, the ArduPilot, a universal autopilot board equipped with an Arduino Mega 2560, 6-axis gyro/accelerometer, and GPS. Depending on what type of vehicle you’re creating, you can flash appropriate software such as ArduPlane or ArduCopter and be completely ready to fly. If you’re interested in drones or even radio controlled aircraft of any type, check out the site, because there’s a wealth of useful experience for any level of hobbyist.
The DIY Magic Mirror is nifty contraption that will turn heads at your Halloween party, theme house, or even a bar. By combining an Arduino-compatible sensor kit with a laptop display and open-source software, you can create a mirror that interacts with visitors and spits out custom messages with text-to-speech. The site is more of a business venture than some of the other communities here, but the code is out there and the prices for the hardware are reasonable. You can get as involved as you want, by building the kit from scratch and even adding a breathalyzer so your mirror can publicly shame friends that overindulge at your holiday party.
Arduino beer brewing
Home brewing has gotten increasingly popular recently, as breweries get smaller, equipment gets cheaper, and Portland hipsters get more discerning in their IPA preferences. Luckily, Arduino can make this process easy, and a number of enterprising hackers have posted information on their automated beer brewing journeys.
The best resource we know of for this type of project is the HackaDay beer hacks category, which has plentiful examples of homemade mashtuns, kegerators, and automated dispensers, all enhanced with Arduino.
There are also several other noteworthy destinations for Arduino-powered beer projects. First up, Kegbot is an impressive and full featured beer tracking and pouring system. As described on their site:
Kegbot is a free, open-source project to turn your beer kegerator into a computerized drink tracker. Kegbot is an open source project, intended to beer enthusiasts, DIY hackers, homebrewers, and anyone with an interest in monitoring their beer.
Next, homebrewing.com has an article on home brewing automation with Arduino, which links to several other projects such as the Halfluck Automated Brewing System (HABS) grain brewing machine.
There’s enough here to keep you tinkering for a while, but we know we’ve only scratched the surface of great high-level Arduino projects. Do you have any suggestions that we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments. In the meantime, happy hacking…