Build a Toolbox

December 20, 2015

To start building custom home automation projects, you’ll first need to build a toolbox of both items and skills. The list I propose below is a recommendation on how to get started. Your toolbox will likely end up being slightly different and will evolve over time. For our future projects, I will assume that these basic items are in your toolbox and that we won’t need to purchase/learn them anew.

As a side-note on blog building, a friend suggested that we register with Amazon Associates, that way if anyone purchases the items linked on our blog, we will receive a small percentage of the sale. All of the links below are now linked through this program!

Physical Toolbox

Arduino Prototyping
Arduino Mega2560 Arduino Mega2560 Most of our projects require a micro-controller such as the Arduino Mega or Uno. They are easy to learn how to use and have a strong community available for questions, support, and ideas.
Custom Circuit Starter Kit Custom Circuit Starter Kit To get started with the Arduino, it helps to get a kit of basic custom circuit prototyping parts. We will use these items over and over again in our projects during the prototyping and design phases before creating the final product. Consider getting the Starter Kit with Arduino Mega2560 all in one.
Arduino Software Arduino logo Download the Arduino software to start creating sketches in C/C++.
Multimeter Multimeter The Arduino and some of the components we will use are pretty particular about the types and magnitude of current and voltage they can handle, so this tool will come in handy to make sure we don't fry too many things. We will fry some things though. You can be sure of that.
Soldering Stand Soldering Stand The soldering iron is a handy tool for creating custom circuits. It does require a little bit of practice and finesse--I list some helpful places to start gaining this skill in the Mental Toolbox below.
Solder Solder We'll need solder to do the soldering.
Soldering Helping Hand Soldering Helping Hand I tried to get by without this handy soldering assistant at first, but quickly realized it was a necessity after burning a few of TheConnMan's fingers from having him hold the circuits.
Double-Sided Circuit Board Double-Sided Circuit Boards We'll need these boards to create custom shields from the Arduino once our design is finalized.
Hook-up Wire Kit Hook-up Wire Kit We'll use these wires to create custom circuit shields for the Arduino and more.
Needle Nose Pliers Needle Nose Pliers These pliers are very useful for detailed work with wires.
Multi Tool Stripper, Cutter, and Crimper Multi-Tool Stripper, Cutter, and Crimper We'll use this multi-tool for stripping, cutting, and crimping wires for custom circuits.

Now that we’ve got our Physical Toolbox squared away, there are also a few pieces of knowledge and skills that we will assume you’ve got as we go through these projects. If you don’t currently have these items under your belt, we’ll provide a few links below for good places to start honing these skills.

Mental Toolbox

</table> Some things you **won't** need to recreate our pretty dece projects include: * A degree in Electrical Engineering and/or Computer Science (neither of us has them) * Expensive proprietary software--when possible, we'll lean on open source projects * Years of experience perfecting the skills listed Our projects are only pretty dece, not super perf, so no pressure. =) Happy Holidays and see you soon for our first real project post! \- JMad
Electricity Basics We'll need a basic understanding of how electric voltage and currents work and how to manipulate them for our needs. All About Circuits Online Textbook
</br> Basic Electronics Instructable
Circuit Component Basics We'll need to understand, at a high level, some basic circuit components such as LED lights, resistors, capacitors, and switches. Explain That Stuff: Electronics
</br> Another List of Basic Electronic Components
Programming Basics We'll need to know at the very basic level how to read and understand a program written in C and/or C++. Arduino Foundations Tutorial
</br> Arduino Playground Notebook
Prototyping with a Breadboard We'll often use a breadboard to prototype circuits and troubleshoot issues, so we'll need to understand how to use this powerful tool for our needs. How a Breadboard Works<></td> </tr>
Soldering We will get a chance to practice and improve our soldering skills with time as we build more projects. Soldering Basics Instructions
</br> Soldering for Beginners Video
Basic Code Debugging Though we'll try to highlight common pitfalls and issues that may arise during your project build in this blog, you may still run into problems particular to your setup and will then get the chance to practice the essential/exasperating skill of debugging! You lucky dog, you. There's really no one-size-fits-all method here, but Google is your friend when it comes to debugging.
</br> Stackexchange Discussion on Arduino Debugging