Review: Arduino Workshop by John Boxall

The folks at No Starch Press kindly sent me a copy of John Boxall’s Arduino Workshop. I opened the box with a little reluctance as it was roughly the fifth book on Arduino I’d read and none of them were very useful. I’m not an electrical engineer or computer programmer by trade (and I’m often jealous of the many hams who are who can throw together amazing things off the top of their head).

I’m happy to report that Arduino Workshop was the first book I’ve read that helped me really make sense of the practical applications the Arduino is capable of. I spent last night really thinking about what the difference is between those books, and this one. I came up with the answer. This book is the first one which provides real-life projects that seem to make sense in a broader context. Specifically, using the Arduino to solve a real problem or add depth to more mundane projects.

OK, it’s not the first book I’ve read on the Arduino that uses project examples. The difference is, this is the first book where the examples are something more intriguing than 1) build a LED that blinks, 2) watch it blink a lot, #) Yay, you’re done! If I can’t see applicability, my mind tunes out quickly. It’s OK to build a simple flashing LED as you’re beginning to learn, but it’s certainly not the nadir of all projects.

OK, take a look at the projects in this book. They’re just fun sounding!

  • Creating a Blinking LED Wave
  • Controlling Traffic (building a working traffic signal — one of my favorite projects!)
  • Creating a Single-Cell Battery Tester
  • Creating a Quick-Read Thermometer That Blinks the Temperature
  • Creating a Temperature History Monitor
  • Creating a Temperature Logging Device
  • Creating a Keypad-Controlled Lock
  • Building and Controlling a Tank Robot
  • Creating an Accurate GPS-based Clock
  • Building a Remote Control Thermometer
  • Creating an Arduino Tweeter
  • Building an Arduino Texter

These are only just a few of the projects. The cool part is it really gives you a foundation to build, say, an Arduino project that Tweets the temperature from a remote sensor.  You can see how the jump to Amateur Radio-related applications is not far at all.

Anyway, check out the book if you — like me — have been wanting to explore the Arduino but didn’t know where to start. This book gives you everything you need to go from zero to some pretty amazing projects!

If you’re looking to get started without buying the book, the author has a nice Arduino tutorial section on his website. Also, the publisher provides a sample chapter to see if the book might be for you. The book is available in both a print edition ($29.95) and ebook ($23.95). If you purchase the print edition on their website, you also get the ebook edition at no extra charge. If you haven’t had a chance, check out the official Arduino website. Another good resource is a Yahoo! group called HEAP (Hams Exploring Arduino Programming).

(Editor’s Note: Just got an e-mail from the No Starch Press. They created a coupon code for 30% off the print or ebook edition of Arduino Workshop. Enter ‘RADIO‘ in the coupon box at check-out on their website. Please note that other than receiving the book itself to review, we don’t receive a commission or other compensation.)

So, what are the coolest Amateur Radio-related projects you’ve built with Arduino?  Post in the comments below!

Matt Thomas, W1MST, is the managing editor of Contact him at [email protected].

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