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.
The Arduino Servo Cat-a-pult
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.
Nerf Vulcan Sentry Gun
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.
AR Laser Cutter ChalKaat
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.
Easy Robot Toy PipeBot
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!
Ultrasonic Range Finder
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.
For some serious nerd cred, try out this Pong clock, which shows the time via an automatic game of pong that adds up the two scores to hours and minutes as needed. The handy blog linked above provides a full explanation of the project’s steps, which taken together shouldn’t cost more than $100. The LED matrix panels also open the door for a lot of creativity, so we suggest thinking about your desired color and style before you begin.
High-Speed Photography Set
If you don’t want to merely create a random device, but rather a solution that enables amazing content production, take a look at this high-speed photography project. This particular device was created when a photographer wanted to capture some slow-mo images of falling water, but didn’t have any reliable way to snap them. However, with an Arduino unit, the right flash, and some MacGyvering, you too can build a set that includes a dropper rig designed take more reliable slow-mo shots. The readers in the comment section have even more great ideas on how to create more complex photo sets.
Yes, this project has a cool name, but the concept is also pretty awesome. It’s a printer that turns sounds into language, essentially turning everything it hears into onomatopoeia. It’s part art project, part computer science, and part electrical engineering, all of which harness the abilities of piezo sensors and a thermal printer. If you travel to Switzerland and sign up for the class, you can even learn how to make one directly from the creators, or you can try to assemble one yourself based on all the information available.
LED Light Display (Cube Version)
We know, we know, everyone has an LED light display for their little computer project, but this one really goes beyond the norm. It looks incredible and allows you to show off just how much better your project truly is. This cube of lights requires 64 LEDs and a handful of resistors to put together, as well as a steady soldering hand. Fortunately, all the planning has already been done for you — the fun part is coming up with an awesome light sequence.
If you can afford the proper candygrabber components, then you can build what might be one of the most impressive Arduino projects to date. Once built, the grabber can be controlled in real time via an internet connection, and includes a video stream so you can see what you’re doing from anywhere. Whether you like crane machines or just want something to pass the time with, this is fantastic project that may or may not require some serious computer science chops.
Your Own BB8 Droid
All right, it’s not going to get much cooler than this (or more complicated). We suggest you read this Instructable, if only to see how impressive it is to combine everyday household items, components from other toys, and some top-notch engineering skills into a passable BB-8 replica. You don’t even technically need a 3D printer for this guy, although we imagine it could prove helpful. It’s not an easy or short project, but it probably feels amazing when you’re finally done with the prototype.
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