5 Things To Avoid When Working With Arduino

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Learning to use Arduino boards is a great tool for any Maker. The versatile design of Arduino boards combined with the wide range of compatible electronics allows access to a wide range of exciting projects. In this post, we will be looking at some of the common mistakes made when working with Arduino boards and how to avoid them.

1. Incorrectly Powering the Board

You have gathered all the parts you need for your next project and are eager to get started. You connect your Arduino board to a power supply, turn it on, and suddenly all the magic smoke escapes from the board.

This is a far more common mistake than you would think. Makers from beginner to expert have experienced this problem. So what happened?

The most common cause is incorrectly connecting the board to the power source. If you connect V+ to GND and Ground wire to VIN it will apply reverse voltage to the board. This will most likely fry your board or severely damage it. It might be possible to repair the board but even if repaired there can be persistent issues.

The way to avoid this is not to rush. Take your time when connecting your board to the power source. Check that V+ goes to VIN, and Ground wire goes to GND before switching anything on. Note: Don’t remove GND before removing V+. If there is no GND for the power to travel through then it might travel through signal lines or other components. This can damage the board and any connected components.

Summary image of powering Arduino

2. Running Components Directly from Pins

Starting a new project is exciting and powering components directly from the board pins might seem like the easiest option. This may be acceptable for low-powered components but not all components draw the same amount of power. Trying to draw more power than the Arduino provides can damage the board. Components, such as motors, that draw a varied rate of power are the most likely to damage your Arduino if connected directly to the pins.

The solution depends on the components being used. For components that draw a varied rate of power, we recommend making or purchasing a suitable Arduino Shield. Components that draw a more predictable amount of power, such as 5V LED strips, require suitable transistors, MOSFETS, or relays.

Summary image of running components from Arduino

3. Misunderstanding Breadboards

Breadboards are a great asset for any Maker. It allows you to learn and test electronic circuits before assembly. Breadboards come in a variety of sizes from mini to full size. If you don’t know how to properly use a breadboard you can damage components.

To correctly use a breadboard you need to know how the rails work. On full and half-size breadboards the outer rails work horizontally and the inner rails work vertically. Mini breadboards only have vertical rails. Outer rails are the power rails and can either run the entire length or half the length of the breadboard. The inner rails are for placing components. The horizontal rows / vertical columns are separated along the centre by a groove, which means that you typically get two sets of five connected pins on each row/column, which are of course sandwiched between the power rails on the larger breadboards.

Science Buddies made a very useful video discussing breadboards.
How to Use a Breadboard by Science Buddy

To avoid any issues when testing your project with a breadboard take a moment to check the wiring and component placement.

Summary image of Breadboard issues

4. Soldering Mistakes

Soldering is a skill that is incredibly useful for Makers. It takes lots of practice to master soldering and all its techniques. Depending on your project and the Arduino board you have you might need to do some soldering. With smaller Arduino boards soldering becomes far more challenging due to the smaller pin sizes. All it takes is a small piece of solder to bridge pins together and cause a short circuit for damage to components and boards to occur.

To avoid this we recommend you practice your soldering with prototyping PCB. Don’t rush any soldering you do and always check your work before turning anything on.

Summary image of soldering mistakes

5. Common Issues with Arduino IDE

If you have encountered issues while using Arduino IDE then here are some solutions to avoid possible future issues.

Missing/Outdated Libraries
So you have installed a library on Arduino IDE but you are encountering an error or cannot compile your sketch. Check that you have all the required libraries and make sure they are up to date (Unless a specific library version is required). Example codes will often specify the required libraries at the start of the code with #include <—–>.

– Incorrect COM Port
If you are unable to upload your code to the board you may have selected the incorrect COM Port. To check this navigate to the Tools menu in the top bar and hover over the Ports menu. You should see the name of the Arduino board along with the COM port that it is using.

– Power Only Cables
Although a lot of the USB cables that we use all look extremely similar, the truth is that not all USB Cables are made equally, and some of the low-cost variants are built simply to provide power, with the data cables disconnected to save on production costs. This is usually perfectly fine, but if you’re struggling to upload data to your Arduino, try a different cable, or consider testing the cable to see if your computer can communicate with your mobile device to make sure that the cable is capable of data and communications.

– Outdated Drivers
The drivers installed on your computer are responsible for running external hardware devices such as Arduino boards. An issue with the Arduino driver can prevent your computer from recognizing your Arduino. To update the drivers open the Device manager, find the Arduino’s USB port, right-click on the port and click update driver.

Summary image of Arduino IDE Issues

Conclusion

Due to the variety of Arduino boards and compatible electronic components we are sure we have missed a few tips. If you have a tip that you think could help other Makers please post a comment below.

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