Tutorial #0: Introduction to Microcontrollers

By Tommy Dylan

Introduction to Microcontrollers

By Victoria Bradbury

Microcontrollers are mini-computers that allow us to quickly and easily bring sensory information into computers, or to send data out and control a real-world object. When I started using them in 2007, I began with the Basic Stamp II:

Basic Stamp 2

The Basic Stamp II was a powerful microcontroller and it had come a long way from its predecessors, but the setup was a headache!

In 2008, I switched to the Arduino and this has been the standard for these 10+ years, because it is a comprehensive and robust system for creating electronics for interactive artistic projects.

You don’t need to be a programming wiz to make a lot of cool things happen with Arduino, and the more you do, the more you will learn about creating and editing code to make your projects what you want them to be.

Leading with a project is the best way to learn, so once you grasp the basics, begin following an idea and see how the tech and the concept can lead and shape one another into a compelling interactive or reactive sculptural object.

Arduino Software

In The Glass Electric, we will principally be using the Arduino platform. Alongside the Elegoo kits we asked you to buy, we have a range of other sensors and outputs that we can use during our workshops.

The software we use to programme our Arduino can be downloaded here:

Download and install instructions.



Fritzing is great for documentation and copying circuits

We recommend taking regular photographs as documentation of your circuits. This way you can easily rebuild them. Fritzing is also a really nice tool for documenting and sharing your breadboards.

We can also use PasteBin to share code. If you have not come across it, basically you can paste documents and easily share a link. It works nicely with code.

Things Tommy has pasted can be found here.

Arduino Tutorial Documents

Main Arduino Lessons

The Arduino for Dummies book is an excellent resource for getting to know the Arduino and basic electronics.

Download the book here.

The first two chapters are very useful for beginners as they provide the basic knowledge required to get started.

  • Part I: Getting to Know the Arduino
  • Part II: Getting Physical with the Arduino

The examples provided with the Elegoo kit also include a wealth of lessons, libraries and example code for the many sensors in your kit.

These can be downloaded here

Additional Lessons

This website contains a series of tutorials that we will use to learn the basics and get started integrating Arduino, Processing and electronics with our sculptural objects.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi

Some people might choose to use the Raspberry Pi. Its capabilities extend beyond what the Arduino can do. For example, with the Raspberry Pi, you can connect directly to the Internet, run Processing, use video and images or if you need to interface with a more complex web service through an API.

The best source of information is the Raspberry Pi Foundation