I was sent a review unit of Seeed Studio’s Grove Beginner Kit for Arduino to try out and give my honest opinion. So, here it is!
As you can see in the picture above, the Beginner Kit is a large circuit board comprised of several smaller boards, connected by small “bridges” that can be cut with a knife or wire cutter to detach them from each other. This gives you a flexibility – leave everything connected as an integrated experience (useful for education where you don’t want to lose the bits while doing the basics) or cut them into the constituent parts (more useful for hobbyists with several projects in mind).
The main Arduino board is a Seeeduino Lotus based on the ATMega320P chip. It is constructed in the normal Arduino shape, making it compatible with shields but it is dominated by 12 Grove System connectors. Surrounding the Lotus are 10 different sensor and input boards.
The boards are as follows:
- 0.96″ OLED display
- Full-sized potentiometer
- Light sensor
- Sound sensor
- DHT temperature and humidity sensor
- Air pressure sensor
- 3-axis accelerometer
These boards are initially connected, as I previously said, by circuit bridges but can be detached and then re-connected using Grove cables (which are also included). Also included in the kit is a microUSB cable (more on that later).
What about learning materials?
Seeed have, very sensibly, included a quick reference to the Arduino language on the inside of the lid. On the back of the box is a link/QR code to the full tutorial-based guide. The tutorials take you through from saying “Hello, World” over the Serial monitor, through blinking an LED and sounding a buzzer all the way to reading the sensors and using the little OLED display. The tutorials even explain, line-by-line, what’s going on in the code so you’re learning as you go.
It’s great that they give you all the basics but they also give a few small projects where the components are used in combination. Imported libraries are used, and the instructions to install them are clear. The quality of the English in the tutorials is much better than I was expecting (far better than my Chinese, I assure you!) although occasionally you do have to read things twice to understand them.
What did you think of it?
I went through all of the tutorials and played around with the kit for quite a while – really enjoyed myself, learning some stuff about how to bring the components together using the Arduino IDE. I was impressed with the tutorials, as I’ve said before. In places, especially where the code was explained, I was reminded (in a positive way) of the CamJam EduKit resources.
The hardware is excellent. I think the idea to make the sensors detachable (albeit permanently) is very clever and makes the kit much more exciting than if it was a true single circuit board. I can easily imagine making a box for the kit contents and using the different sensors poking out the sides of the box, or perhaps mounted properly inside. It’s great they they included the 10 Grove cables so that you don’t need to buy them to make full use of the kit. The kit can also be used with the 300+ Grove modules that are out there already, which is terrific. I’m not one (particularly) for hardware eco-systems, but Grove does make it very easy to get going using components without messing about with, for example, resistors.
They also include a microUSB cable… It’s a 30cm cable. This makes it practically useless so I needed to find one of my own. I would suggest a 60cm cable at least be included in future, just for practical reasons.
I particularly liked the demo code that is pre-installed on the Lotus. It takes you through each connected sensor using the potentiometer and button as controls and the OLED to display the readings. You can see this in action in the short video below:
Occasionally, I found that the instructions were a little lacking, and not completely fool-proof. For instance, the Serial monitor in the IDE needs to be set to 9600 baud for the Hello World example, and that wasn’t immediately obvious. I also noticed that sometimes the tutorial writer(s) break their own naming conventions – so we get ledPin but also ButtonPin. It’s a minor annoyance, but the tutorial code doesn’t always teach good habits. A little tidying up around the place would make them perfect.
Overall, a very positive experience with this kit from Seeed and one I fully recommend, especially for beginners to the Arduino world.