Getting Started with Arduino

This page provides an introduction to using the Arduino with Manylabs lessons. If you need help with any steps, please contact us at


Here is some basic terminology:

  • microcontroller: this is a small computer designed for interacting with physical hardware; there's probably one in your microwave and your alarm clock
  • Arduino: this is a board with a microcontroller built in. It makes it easier to work with the microcontroller. There are several types
  • Arduino Uno: this is the type of Arduino we show below. It's the most common type.
  • shield: this is a board that can be stacked on top of an Arduino; There are many kinds of Arduino shields
  • pin: an electrical connection to a microcontroller
  • digital pin: this pin can be used to read/write on/off (binary) values (typically 0V or 5V for an Arduino)
  • analog pin: this pin can be used to read voltages (typically 0V to 5V for an Arduino)
  • sketch: this is a program that runs on an Arduino
  • Grove: this is a hardware product line from Seeed Studio that makes it easy to connect sensors and other devices to an Arduino
  • WireGarden: this is a software system for communicating with an Arduino from your web browser

This is an Arduino Uno:

This is a Grove shield:

Note This hardware is fairly robust. You can toss all the sensors into a plastic bag. If something breaks, it's not hard or expensive to replace it. The most expensive part is the Arduino, which typically costs $25 to $30. Most of the sensors cost $2 to $10 each.

Important Don't place the Arduino or sensors on a metal surface when they are connected to power.

Hint We recommend using double-sided foam tape for attaching sensors to a table or block of wood.

Install the WireGarden browser plugin

ManyLabs lessons run in your internet browser. For the Arduino to communicate with the lesson, you'll need to install the WireGarden browser plugin.

Important Google Chrome has removed support for some kinds of plugins. As a result, you can no longer use the WireGarden plugin in Chrome. We recommend Mozilla Firefox.

For Mac computers:

  1. Download WireGardenPlugin.dmg.
  2. Open the file.
  3. Drag WireGardenPlugin.plugin into Internet Plug-Ins.

For Windows computers:

  1. Download WireGardenPlugin.msi.
  2. Open the file to install the plugin.
  3. Download WireGardenArduinoDrivers.msi.
  4. Open the file to install the Arduino drivers. You must be an administrator. If you do not install the drivers, the plugin will not be able to recognize the Arduino.

Note If you have installed the Arduino IDE, then you do not need to install the Arduino drivers.

Important If you use Internet Explorer, you must add ManyLabs to the list of trusted sites.