In this lesson, you will build on lesson 4, adding the facility to control the LEDs from your computer using the Arduino Serial Monitor. The serial monitor is the ‘tether’ between the computer and your Arduino – it lets you send and receive text messages, handy for debugging and also controlling the Arduino from a keyboard!
For example, you will be able to send commands from your computer to turn on LEDs.
In this lesson, you will use exactly the same parts and breadboard layout as Lesson 4. So, if you have not already done so, follow lesson 4 now.
In this lesson, you will learn how to use eight large red LEDs with an Arduino without needing to give up 8 output pins!
Although you could wire up eight LEDs each with a resistor to an Arduino pin (like we did for an RGB LED in Lesson 2) you would rapidly start to run out of pins on your Arduino. If you don’t have a lot of stuff connected to your ‘duino its OK to do so – but often times we want buttons, sensors, servos, etc and before you know it you’ve got no pins left. So, instead of doing that, you are going to use a chip called the 74HC595 Parallel to Serial Conveter. This chip has eight outputs (perfect) and three inputs that you use to feed data into it a bit at a time.
This chip makes it a little slower to drive the LEDs (you can only change the LEDs about 500,000 times a second instead of 8,000,000 a second) but its still really really fast, way faster than humans can detect, so its worth it!
In this lesson, you will learn how to use a RGB (Red Green Blue) LED with an Arduino. You will use the analogWrite function of Arduino to control the color of the LED. At first glance, RGB (Red, Green, Blue) LEDs look just like regular LEDs, however, inside the usual LED package, there are actually three LEDs, one red, one green and yes, one blue. By controlling the brightness of each of the individual LEDs you can mix pretty much any color you want.
We mix colors just like you would mix audio with a ‘mixing board’ or paint on a palette – by adjusting the brightness of each of the three LEDs. The hard way to do this would be to use different value resistors (or variable resistors) as we played with in lesson 2. That’s a lot of work! Fortunately for us, the Arduino has an analogWrite function that you can use with pins marked with a ~ to output a variable amount of power to the appropriate LEDs.
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
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