Don’t buy the Arduino & Raspberry Pi

Watch the video version of the article here

Robots: Does the term strike fear in your head? Have you always wanted to learn but just not sure where to start?

Well you have come to the right place. There are ton’s of people like you who want to learn robotics, but they are confused by the myriad of information out there, most of it is too complicated and not for absolute beginners. Firstly

Step 1: Avoid the Arduino at all costs

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the Arduino or the raspberry pi platform. However, the biggest issue with them is that they aren’t created for novices.

To program an Arduino, you need to first know basic computer science principles & how to write java/c style code. That means, you will need to understand how to write the syntax. That means being able to dechiper and code text like “if (buttonState == HIGH) {digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);}

The crazy part is that that isn’t even the full code used to do something as simple as turning on a basic light.

It gets worse since the default Arduino IDE 1(the program where you write the code) doesn’t give you clear explanations when there is an error in your cod, where it is, and how to easily fix it. Granted, this can be solved by installing a custom IDE like Platform.IO or Eclipse. However, these third party offerings add more complexity to the setup process and can make it even more complicated to setup for the first time.

The Raspberry Pi is worse than the Arduino for beginners

While the Arduino is relatively simple with its plug and play interface (Plug into a computer and flash code), the Raspberry Pi requires a full operating system to be installed just to boot into the system.

Furthermore, you need additional peripherals like an external monitor and keyboard+mouse just to boot in for the first time. (SSH is a great way to avoid peripherals but its even more complicated for a beginner).

Considering you manage to set-up your Raspberry Pi computer, you are still not out of trouble, you will still need to write code. To its credit, the raspberry pi supports multiple programming languages unlike the Arduino. However, getting them to run automatically without plugging in a monitor and keyboard every time you power your Raspberry Pi means that you need to create automated scripts that run your code on boot which is even more confusing for beginners.

Ranting Aside, How should you learn robotics?

The best platform for learning robotics is BBC’s Micro:Bit. The Micro:Bit was specifically developed by BBC to teach school kids how to learn robotics.

1. The Micro:Bit uses beautiful picture based programming.

The Micro:Bit uses Microsoft’s MakeCode as seen below, but allows you to convert your code to text-based (JavaScript) code in just one click. This allows you to easily understand what the text equivalent of your code is. Furthermore, the MicroBit also can be programmed

2. Micro:Bit has tons of sensors and electronics built in.

A compass, an accelerometer(orientation & force sensor), a 5×5 led screen, 2 buttons, bluetooth radio, temperature sensor.

Do you know how many sensors/electronics(GPIO) the Arduino comes with? just 1 tiny, measly led attached to pin 13.

Do you know how many sensors/electronics the Raspberry Pi comes with? 0! (Unless you count Bluetooth/ WiFi as a sensor for incoming information)

Built in sensors on the Micro:Bit makes it so much easier to actually learn how to write code/program without any understanding of electronics & hardware and how to wire it.

3. MicroBit has alligator clip compatible pins.

When you finally learn basic programming, and finally want to attach external hardware/electronics for your projects, its extremely easy to do so with large alligator clips instead of the small jumper pins that the Arduino and Raspberry Pi use. 

Furthermore, unlike the Raspberry Pi, the Micro:Bit (and the Arduino) can run off of a battery pack with variable voltages making it easier to integrate in projects.

4. Micro:Bit has seamless wireless connectivity.

The MicroBit literally uses one simple block of code to send information to other MicroBits and one code block to receive information. It literally can’t get easier. While similar products like the X-Bee exist for the Arduino, it is extremely expensive and requires you to manually wire it.

Moreover, the MicroBit has Bluetooth that allows you to flash your code remotely and also connect it to other Bluetooth devices such as your smartphone to add more functionality to your projects. You can do the same natively on the Raspberry pi, but it is notoriously difficult to setup for a beginner.

The MicroBit can be programmed from a web browser.

Arguably the best part of the MicroBit is that it is programmed on a web browser. What this means is that unlike the Arduino & Raspberry-Pi, you can program your MicroBit from your phone, IPad (or any tablet), laptop, or heck even a smartwatch running a web browser. This combined with the fact that you can flash code over Bluetooth means you don’t need to plug in your MicroBit to your device to flash your code/projects.

Micro:Bit Online Course 

If you want to learn & master the MicroBit, sign up for my FREE course “A-Z Robotics: Learn coding & electronics on MicroBit through fun projects.” Get access to the full course with 45 lectures, and over 5.5 hours of content by signing up down below.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.