As I mentioned in my previous column, my son and I want to explore robotics as a hobby and a learning experience. We don’t have an unlimited budget, so I wanted to do some estimating of what it would cost to do it using different technology standards. In the first part, I explored Lego Mindstorms, but the open-hardware (and free software) Arduino system has been getting better and better. So I want to consider that possibility in this column and make a comparison to see which is a better option for us.
Arduino is much newer, having only come into its own in the last few years. But it’s also a fully open-hardware (or Open Source Hardware — meaning that the plans are free for anyone to use to make Arduino components), and indeed, there are multiple Arduino suppliers to choose from. Software host environments for communicating with and programming Arduino controllers are available as free software packages in various well-established programming languages. The whole Arduino culture is very free and open.