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Selecting an Arduino board and some shields for only $30

I was recently asked to recommend a variety of arduino shields and boards for someone who wished to start learning but with a budget of only $30. Here are the boards and modules that I picked then I will explain some rationale and why I didn’t pick some of the other shields and boards that are available

First of all the boards and shields – all of these come from Aliexpress. i have checked Amazon, Ebay, Banggood, Dx and others and for me in the UK you cannot beat Aliexpress – you may have to wait a few weeks to get the parts, if that’s an issue buy from a local source in your country but you cannot beat the prices that I see. I also did not pick the cheapest price I found and these do not include shipping which is very cheap. Also I did not look for one vendor so these would be multiple deliveries – you can look for a single source if you desired.

I got these for under $25- so a little leeway with shipping and price changes.

LinkPriceDescription
UNO R3 MEGA328P CH340 CH340G for Arduino UNO R3 + USB CABLE$2.91Arduino Uno
Rich Shield + IR Remote$5.66Rich Shield
UNO Shield Ethernet Shield$4.58Ethernet Shield
LCD Keypad Shield For Arduino$2.60LCD Keypad Shield
V5 Sensor Shield Expansion Board Shield$2Sensor Shield
Clock Shield$5.24Clock Shield

So there you go, first of all some of the shields I didn’t pick and decisions I made with the list above

I decided to avoid one of the all in one kits that contain breadboards, components and sensors – these kits are good but I wanted a simple and easy experience of simply plugging in a shield to an Arduino without worrying about poor connections, correct polarity of components, reading values of components like resistors and some of the other minor issues that can occur.

We did not pick any shields that required any external components, there are many excellent motor shields but you obviously need a motor and a key thing here – you need an external power supply for the motor. I looked at the relay shield but again without external components. There are prototyping shields you can buy but again you need extra components to fully use these.

I did not select any niche shields – this is a shield for me like a Neopixel shield, MP3 shield or a CANbus shield to name a couple of examples. They are very good but slightly limited in what you can do with them. The MP3 shield ideally needs an SD card and a display for example to make it more useful.

With a limited budget we obviously ruled out any expensive shield – a Yun shield is great but at over $20 its a little costly if you are on a  tight budget.

Arduino Uno

You can pick up an Arduino Uno clone like the one in the image below for under $3, you can obviously pick up a mega for a few extra dollars but I would start with an Uno just to get you up and running.


I have never had a problem with a clone board – this one comes with a USB cable, in case you do not have one.

Rich Shield

In my opinion the best shield for beginners – you can pick up the Uno above and this for under $10 and that would be a great start for learning.

Full of useful components like a DHT11, display, LEDs, buttons, ldr, buzzer and even an EEPROM that you can see in the picture above. A great shield and this one even comes with a  basic IR remote to use the IR receiver.

This is a great shield for a great price

Ethernet Shield

This is the most basic way to connect to the net or set up a basic webserver for controlling sensors. You need a wired network connection but its a very easy shield to use with many examples online and many built into the Arduino IDE


Now you may prefer a wireless shield if you do not have a network connection, in that case there is a CC3000 and ESP8266 shield but these cost a little more

LCD Keypad shield

A nice, basic introduction to working with an LCD. This shield also contains a few buttons that you can use. Many examples online and you can then expand in the future to connect sensors and displays the values on the LCD or upgrade to a more advanced shield.


There are more advanced shields that have TFT displays but these cost a few more dollars and I have had problems with getting libraries to work, the LCD shield is very easy to use

Sensor shield

OK, this is actually only useful if you want to connect external sensors and modules, it makes it easier to connect these using female to female dupont cables


If you don’t plan on ever using other sensors or modules – you will not need this and can remove it from the list

Clock shield

Another shield which is aimed at beginners, this one actually was designed to be a clock/alarm.


As you can see from the image above it contains a few components that are very useful for beginners – a display, buzzer, buttons, ntc thermistor and an RTC. So you can create a few experiments with this shield as well as a clock/alarm or timer

 

Conclusion

You can see what I picked – I think this is great for beginners and you can complete a good amount of experiments with  an Arduino before you delve into more complex shields, sensors and prototyping.

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