Fab Lab: Intro to Arduino

Throughout the four years I’ve been at UIUC, I’ve probably walked past CU Fab Lab about 8 times (yes, I do realize that’s awfully specific) but never have I had the opportunity to check out what it was about. This week, our class took a trip to the Fab Lab and in my opinion, it was one of the most eye-opening things we’ve done so far. From the outside, it looks like a pretty insignificant, beaten down building. In fact, it is the second oldest building on campus and used to store horse carriages. But inside, it’s an entirely different world of its own.


As seen in the pictures, the lab consists of colorful wall decorations as well as computers and machines buzzing away while at work. Jeff Ginger, the director of the CU Fab Lab, first gave us a brief history of the organization, then a tour of the building itself.

Afterward, I had the chance to work with Arduino for the first time. Arduino is a programmable microcontroller. It contains pieces of codes in which it executes on demand. The Arduino is then connected to LEDs, motors, and motion sensors via IO pins. We first learned how to wire the board. Then, we moved on to connecting it to a computer software and inputting codes that control the Arduino.
17175848_1526496060702045_1425635065_oIt was quite challenging for me at first because of the complexity of the wiring process and the constant feeling that my fingers were way too fat to properly place the wires in the right spots. But with the help of the instructors and peers, ultimately I was able to create an Arduino circuit board in which the LED lights will blink when it can no longer detect light with its light sensor.

Me hovering my hand over the light to make the LED blink.

As someone who hasn’t previously worked with electronics and doesn’t have much experience with coding, I am fascinated by Arduino and its functions. Moving forward, I would like to explore more of this small but powerful machine and its capabilities. Meanwhile, I found quite a few online resources such as this tutorial of basically what we did in this lab as well as a cool video of a fire breathing pony made with Arduino.

3 thoughts on “Fab Lab: Intro to Arduino

  1. Hi Tiffany,

    I was able to do this portion of the FabLab workshops today, and personally, I think that this was pretty fun and challenging at the same time. This was my first time building and making a circuit board so I definitely was surprised on how challenging it could be. However, it goes without saying that after the long process, I was able to successfully get my LED lights and sensors to work perfectly, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Although I though laser cutting and using InkSpace was a lot easier due to familiarity with the software, building a Arduino circuit board was equally, if not more entertaining.

  2. Hi Tiffany! I used to think the building the Fab Lab is in was about to be torn down because of all the construction around it. I do not think that anymore! I thought your Arduino looked perfect! I have never worked with electronics, but after seeing your hilarious fire breathing pony video I can’t wait to make my own!

  3. Hey Tiffany,

    It looks like you did an awesome job on your Arduino circuit board and your video does an excellent job conveying that to the audience: the LED lights are reacting perfectly with the sensor and the lights sure look LIT! I was able to work this week on an LED light board as well where we got to solder the wires and create a light sensor very similar to yours! Anyways, I can definitely agree that I’ve walked past the Fab Lab numerous times (especially my freshman year) and never knew what building it was. And certainly, when I too walked into the Fab Lab for the first time this past Monday it contained the realities of a completely different idea of what I had thought previously. Your video with the fire-breathing pony was very humorous and interesting too. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Fab Lab this week!

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