Another FB Construction Project

RevEBreadboard800Last night, my ham radio club, ARROW, held its annual construction night. As reported earlier, we built Bare Bones Board Arduinos, the cute, little microcontroller shown at right.

A dozen guys built one, and all but one got them working. I’m not sure why, but he decided to troubleshoot his Arduino at home.

Perhaps the most challenging part about building the kit was mounting the surface-mount inductor. The technique that I, and most of the other guys used, was to tin the pads, hold down the component with either a tweezers or needle nose pliers, and then reflow the solder. One guy had a heckuva time doing this as the component markings were slightly misprinted on his board, with the ink covering those pads. Carefully scraping off the ink with an X-acto knife remedied that situation.

Several people commented, “They’re cute, but what can you do with one of those things”? Well, the latest issue of QEX has an article that uses the Arduino as a keyer. As I noted in the previous blog post, I have an idea to use mine to interface a paddle to my computer, so that I can send code to the computer instead of typing on a keyboard. Another crazy idea I had was to hook a solenoid up to one of the outputs and key a straight key connected to a rig.

Of course, there are a bunch of other possible uses, including controlling a remote antenna switch and monitoring power supply or battery outputs. There are dozens of other applications outside the shack as well.

Of course, being ever vigilant for topics for future club meetings, the answer to the question, “What can you do with an Arduino”?, is now on our schedule. Next January or February, we’ll have a talk about a) how to program the Arduino and b) what one ham did with his.


  1. Hi Dan, Have you seen the Set/Oct 2009 QEX? The cover article describes using the Arduino as a CW keyer. The basic program presented would be a good starting point. Then you could focus in future sessions on adding features.

    73 de NT7S

  2. Jason–
    Yes, I do have that article–I mentioned it in the post above. I have a couple of ideas on how to extend that code. The first is to have the keyer output actuate a solenoid that would operate a straight key instead of just feeding the digital output into the rig. That gives a more visual display of what’s going on.

    The second would be to use the Arduino as an interface to a computer. You “send” characters to the Arduino using paddles and the Arduino would decode the paddle input and then send characters to a computer via the USB port.

  3. Oops, I feel dumb. I think I got distracted when I read your article and missed that sentence. Good luck with the project.

  4. I bought an Arduino board a couple of weeks ago, just to get a feel of what it is and what one can do with it. I’d be very interested to see what other hams are creating with it, besides the omnipresent keyers and frequency meters. I’m trying to build an LC meter myself – not very original either, but I can use the meter and its a nice learning project.

  5. Cool! Let us know how that goes. I think that would actually be a very good use of the Arduino.

  6. I’ll post some stuff on my blog later this week:
    I have all the hardware finished and I’m fine tuning the software for measuring inductors a bit. Measuring capacitors is working already.

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