Arduino has an enormous fanbase around the world and is frequently used for classes, hobbies, computer tinkering, and projects from hopeful inventors. Sure, it may not be quite as user-friendly as rivals like the Raspberry Pi, but this programmable logic controller is even more customizable than the former. To celebrate its long-term success, we’ve collected 12 of the coolest, most revolutionary, and most entertaining Arduino projects currently in existence. Prepare to be wowed — and then inspired!
Do keep in mind that these projects are a bit complicated, some more so than others. A few of them you could probably do in a weekend, but many are long-term projects that are more suitable for a semester project or summer hobby. We also tried to avoid projects that require a 3D printer for most of our top picks, but access to one of these printers may still be helpful.
Cats, for some reason or another, often times will not eat their food — even if the bowl is full — until they witness their owner top off the meal with a little fresh kibble. The Arduino Servo Cat-a-pult looks to automate this rather annoying daily task. A pressure sensor mat — placed in front of your cat’s food dish — activates the device. Once the mat is actuated, the Cat-a-pult hurls its payload of pet food in the general vicinity of the dish before your beloved pet can even begin to complain. Everybody wins.
This project will certainly take a little longer than some of the other Arduino projects we’ve listed — and there are much simpler Nerf gun Arduino designs out there, for those looking for a less daunting task — but it’s worth the extra effort. This schematic transforms your run-of-the-mill Nerf Vulcan gun into a sentry gun capable of tracking your enemies (and loved ones) and unleashing a salvo of styrofoam mayhem.
There are hundreds of cool Arduino projects out there, but none of them are quite as cool as this “augmented reality laser cutter,” a phrase we just like saying over and over. To be clear, you will need to use an open-source laser cutter for this project, because it needs to be compatible with your Arduino unit. The goal here is to replace tedious cutting parameter inputs with simple gestures, which also require motion tracking. It all comes together in this very impressive, challenging project called Chalkaat, which is Hindi for “let’s cut!” The device uses motion cameras and tracking pens, so the cost is going to amount to several hundred dollars for all necessary parts.
If you are looking for an easier project, possibly one you can work on with your kids, then look no further than the PipeBot. The required materials — which include all your essential mechanical engineering tools plus some inexpensive wheels, motors, batteries, and other odds and ends — keep the price low, and when constructed, you get a roly-poly pipe that you can control with your smartphone!
Well, the name is definitely cool, but you’re probably wondering how this project works. It uses an Arduino Uno, an LCD readout, and a sonic ranging module to judge various distances. A receiver picks up the sonic waves that reflect off objects, and uses said data to compute the distance to a solid object. It’s a little like the laser speed detectors the police use, but this one was developed by a 13-year old for sheer entertainment. We suggest getting a little inventive about how you house the various components.
With a simple fingerprint scanner module and other basic components, you can build yourself a real security scanner for… just about anything that you want. This particular model is for your garage door, which could come in handy, but you can easily customize it to cover a wide variety of tasks. Someone probably needs to make a model that locks the refrigerator from anyone not using your fingerprints.