Before we can start, you’ll need some supplies. I have put together a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves, and of the best IoT starter kits based on my own experience.
If you want to get started with IoT but are on a tight budget, your best option is to get a complete starter kit. These contain all you need to dive in.
I have played with 7 or so different kits; of those, two stood out as being excellent – the others, some cheaper, one more expensive, either lacked spare components for easily-breakable items, weren’t packaged well and thus had many bent pins, or came with too few wires, or without enough variation in lengths.
The Best IoT/Arduino Starter Kits:
- Ultimate Arduino Starter Kit, Deluxe Bundle, with book ($149)
- Ultimate Arduino Starter Kit, Deluxe Bundle ($129)
- 16Hertz Uno Ultimate Starter Kit #3 ($69)
Note: There is a more expensive version of the second kit available, but it isn’t worth the difference in cost.
Of these two kits, I enjoyed the official one more, but the 16Hertz kit, despite being quite a lot more affordable, really wasn’t lacking anything major compared to the other; although the official kit does include a great book, which I personally found very helpful, and continue to use as a quick reference guide. (The book is available as a PDF from the Arduino website when you buy the official kit, so if you’re more likely to read a PDF than a printed book, you’re better off with the second link.)
Important! All three kits come with a USB cable which can provide power and upload your code to the board, but only the 16Hertz kit comes with a separate power supply. You don’t need one, but if you prefer using one (I do) over USB, they’re $5-6. This is the one I grabbed.
Additional Boards (Uno R3)
The main board at the center of everything you make (at least for now?) is going to be an Uno R3. The above links are both for off-brand boards, available for good prices and great for getting started. You do NOT need these to get started, but personally I have found having a few extra, along with breadboards (next) is great as I don’t have to unhook everything between experiments; sometimes I make something I want to work on more later, or just don’t want to pull apart because I think it’s cool. That’s when these are really useful in the early stages, although we will use them later on as well. (I’d suggest 2 or 3 extras, although you could make do with 1.)
Note: The best board, by far, is the Intel Edison Kit, which includes the Edison chip, along with a breakout board (Uno) but unlike the above has a lot built in, including storage, wifi, bluetooth and a ton of other stuff we’ll talk about at a later date. It’s $134, so if you’re just starting out it may not, yet, be for you; but despite having only very limited experience myself at this stage I’d still highly recommend it moving forward – it’s not just a board, it’s a system, and it is the best I’ve seen to date. (I’ve been buying IoT bits and pieces like I normally buy boots… I love boots, I should buy more boots… but I digress; my point is, it’s a strong endorsement.)
Moving on! Whether or not you buy extra boards, you should pick up 2 or 3 solderless breadboards, in addition to the one that will come with whichever kit you pick from above. If you’re sticking to a tight budget, I’d buy the breadboards before the additional Unos, because this is what your components will get hooked up to, so you can still keep most of a project intact even without a free Uno available.
That’s the only set of breadboards I’ve bought that is still available, so I can’t really recommend any others as I haven’t tried them myself, but there are single boards available on Amazon if you prefer.
… and that’s really it as far as must-haves and things that are great if you don’t mind spending a little extra for more parts. So, I’m going to move on to the nice-to-haves; even if many of you may not want them now, moving forward you’ll find they’re either required, or extremely useful.
- Red, Yellow, Black wire spools pack ($11-12)
- Red, Yellow, Black, Blue, White, Green wire spools pack ($22)
Both are made by the same company, Electronix Express, and 22-gage, if you’d rather buy some at local hardware store. The second pack is better as it’s easier to see what is hooked up to what, but either works.
Note: Red and black wires should be reserved for power and ground, (power in/out) so you’d end up using only yellow for everything else.
- Capri Tools Wire Cutter and Stripper ($10-$11)
I’ve used wire strippers for other stuff in the past, this is probably the cheapest set I’ve had, but also by far the best.
For now that’s all.
There are other items I can suggest later, and I do want to talk about a few options you have for soldering irons if you don’t currently own one, but what is covered here will be enough for you to get started and build many, many things both using my own upcoming tutorials, the learning materials in the documents provided with each kit, and any other online resources you might check out. (I’ll make a list of my favorites later on.)
Stay tuned and please consider sharing this post or following me on Twitter 🙂
PS – If you’ve found a kit that is truly complete, well packaged, contains enough elements for a magnitude of newbie to intermediate level projects, please let me know; I’m happy to go pick it up and if it is among the best I’ve used, I’ll add it to this list.