TinkerKit Tutorial: Basics: 01 – Introduction

Basic Lessons:

  1. Introduction
  2. Project Setup
  3. Arduino Software
  4. Starting with the code
  5. Sensors and Actuators
  6. Button & IF statement
  7. Serial Communication
  8. Connect Sensors and Actuators
  9. Button States
  10. FOR Loop
  11. Traffic Light

TinkerKit is a tool used to build interactive products in a simplified way and in a short amount of time. It works with the Arduino board, (if you don’t have an idea of what an Arduino is, spend a minute to read this) with the difference that you don’t have to physically build circuits with low level components like resistors and breadboards; Thanks to the modular system of the blocks, all you need to do is plug them using snapping cables.

The modules are divided in sensors and actuators.

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Sensors can “feel” changes in the surroundings and quantify them. There’s a multitude of different sensors, each one with its own characteristics, they can perceive light (like the one in the picture above), temperature, motion, pressure and so on. From now on, we’ll talk of them as INPUTS.

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Actuators, as their name says, perform an action. They can be instructed to do different activities, depending on the kind of actuator, from making light to motion and controlling other devices. LEDs like the one in the picture above are actuators and they can be referred as OUTPUTS.

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This is the TInkerKit Shield, where all the components are plugged. Just like the modules, it is split in two parts: one for INPUTS and one for OUTPUTS. Each part has six ports, numbered from 0 to 5. INPUT ports are called I0, I1, I2, I3, I4 and I5 while OUTPUT ports are O0, O1, O2, O3, O4 and O5.

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The TinkerKit Shield it’s an Arduino extension. Shields are designed to be stacked on top of the board and each one has different characteristics (we won’t discuss about shields here but if you’re curious take a quick read at this). Be careful to not bend the pins when you plug it on top of the board.

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Hello World!

Ok, now that you’ve been bored with the theory, let’s make something. We won’t go into the details of the code because it’s the first tutorial, but you’ll learn how to open one of the examples provided and see the modules in action.

For this project we need an LED (any led will work, here I’m using the 10mm blue LED) and a light sensor. They’re exactly the ones pictured above as samples of sensors and actuators.

The first thing we need to do is to plug them using one of the cables, let’s start from the light sensor:

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Be sure that the cable is pushed until the bottom of the connector, you should hear a “click” sound and the connection must be very solid like in the picture below.

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Now plug the other end of the cable into the I0 port of the TinkerKit Shield. As we said before, the light sensor is a sensor and it goes into one of the INPUT ports. For the example we’re going to use, is required that the light sensor is connected exactly to the I0 port; although is a good habit to start from the first port available, any of the INPUT ports will work.

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Do exactly the same with the LED, but instead of the I0 port, connect it to the O0. You should have something like this:

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What we are going to do now is to make the LED react at the amount of light in the room. To do so we need to give the modules the right instructions. The Arduino board works like a small brain: when you give it commands, it is very efficient in executing them. Let’s plug it into the computer, using the USB port like a regular external device (a mouse for example).

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In your computer open the Arduino Software and in the top menu, under Tools > Board select your Arduino board. In this tutorial we’re using an Arduino UNO.

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Almost done, let’s just load the right example into the software. Click on File > Examples >TinkerKit >LightSensor. If you don’t see the TinkerKit submenu, it is likely that you didn’t installed the library correctly.

To install the library, you can use Arduino IDE’s built-in libraries manager or copy the content here: TinkerKit Examples Code into”Documents/Arduino/libraries/” (do not create a new folder, just copy the “TinkerKit-master” folder over). Alternatively, you can download them from GitHub Code and Library.

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You should see a new pop-up window with the code snippet, just load it into the board using the Upload Button (cmd + U or ctrl + U).

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Well done! Now your LED should react at the amount of light received by the light sensor. Try to close it in your fist or to place it near a light source, if there’s too much light in the room the notable difference will be subtle.

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Now?

Take a look at the other examples and get familiar with all the different modules. For each example, in the top lines of the code, there are instructions on how to connect the modules. Get familiar with the Arduino Software, play with the existing code by modifying the examples, save your experiments and start to organize your Arduino Folder.

Next Section: Project Setup

3 thoughts on “TinkerKit Tutorial: Basics: 01 – Introduction

  1. Hi, I cant find the tinkerkit example submenu, and I installed the library correctly, so I was wondering how I could get the submenu to appear

    1. Did you copied the “TinkerKit-master” folder to your My Documents folder “../Documents/Arduino/libraries/”? You’ll also need to restart the Arduino IDE after copying the files. How did you install the library?

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