If you are new to Arduino and are wondering what you need to buy to get started with making your own datalogger, things have just gotten a lot easier. We are big fans of Adafruit Industries, maker of the Arduino Datalogger Shield that we’ve used on most of our loggers. For the past several years, they sold a handy kit that contained the circuit board and all the parts you needed to solder you own logger shield in about a half hour. They have recently announced that their new logger shield now comes fully assembled, making it even easier and quicker to build a logger. While it’s not a perfect logger that does everything we’d love to see in a logger shield, it’s by far the best logger board that’s available today. In a later blog post, I’ll talk about some of the things to keep in mind when using logging shields.
To do anything with Arduino, you will need a base Arduino processor board. The Arduino Uno is the most popular general-use board. It’s great for loggers that will be powered full time by a really big battery or mains power. But if you’re building a logger with a small battery, the power regulators on the Uno are rather inefficient, so using something like the Sparkfun Arduino Pro will use much less power, especially in sleep mode, so they make great logger boards. But the Arduino Pro board is a little harder to use since it does not have a standard USB port and power connector, so you’ll need some more complicated tools to do that.
Arduino recently launched their new Leonardo board that is more powerful than the Uno, but it’s still so new that they don’t recommend new users trying it until they work out all the bugs. There are also versions of the Uno with an ethernet adapter built in, and the Arduino Mega, which has dozens of input and output pins in case you’re interfacing with a bunch of things. So it’s best to stick with an Uno for a little while until you get used to the hardware and prototyping.
Adafruit sells some great starter kits to help you get started with all the jumper wires and other random parts you need to work through some of the tutorials you’ll find on the web and in some books. Many new users want to buy an Arduino board and then try building an environmental sensor logger as their first project, but I’d recommend starting off with some of the basic tutorials to give you a better understanding of the hardware and the programming environment. Some of the code and circuit examples we will post on this blog may be too complicated for the beginning user to try, so the tutorials are a great place to start.