You have purchased the Arduino Starter Kit. you have followed all the basic Arduino tutorials. but now you’ve hit a stumbling block — you need more bits and bobs to make your electronics dream come true. Luckily, if you have an Arduino board, you can simply stack the functionality on top as shields. The shields are specially designed for the Uno board with the same shape and pin alignment; You just plug them in and you have an instant functionality upgrade.

Ethernet Shield ($45)

The official shield from the makers of Arduino, the Ethernet shield is a great way to make your Arduino project work independently of the computer while still maintaining network contact to communicate with the world. Another interesting addition to this board is a microSD card slot; so if your project needs large data files like videos or mp3s, or just templates for your led cube, you can store them there.

You can even host a website that you can use to present information about your project’s sensors to the world.

arduino shields

Before buying, be careful: Ethernet shields depend on versions . I bought the v3 only to find it didn’t fit on my Uno v2 board — two extra pins were added to the v3 Uno. Since the Ethernet Shield is actually more expensive than the Uno, if you find yourself in this situation then the easiest solution is to just buy a new Uno to use with the Ethernet and then keep the old board for other projects.

Or you can just check the version number on the back of the board before you buy, but where’s the fun in that?

Shield with 4 relays ($20)

Now you can actually turn on the kettle over the Internet!

Relays are a key component in many Arduino home automation projects, simply because they allow higher voltage circuits, such as mains-powered devices, to be turned on and off—electronically isolating one circuit from another. You’ve probably already played with one relay in your starter kit, and you’ll know that you need a few other components, such as a transistor or an optocoupler and a diode. If you need more than one relay, your breadboard will load very quickly.

This 4 relay board solves by neatly packing 4 sets of relays and necessary bits on one board. Using 4 IO pins, you simply pull the HIGH pin to switch the corresponding relay. Each relay will carry up to 3 amps, although you can of course use a low power relay as a replacement for the switch. This particular shield can also be connected to an RFBee instead of an Arduino for radio control.

It goes without saying — if you’re using this to switch mains power devices directly, be extremely careful when working with the project, as it’s basically like you’re removing a cover from an outlet.

Arduino shield projects

Warning. In the picture above I used stackable contact latches, to avoid contact with the USB port. The legs from the relay protrude a little from the bottom, and if high voltage is applied to them, they can fry your Arduino or, even worse, your computer. Some people use offensive tape instead to cover their legs.

Protoshield (~15$)

Protoshield doesn’t actually do anything, which is why it looks so simple. However, if you’ve been using a breadboard to breadboard and prototype your project and now want to turn it into something more permanent, you can solder everything to one of these and then proceed to stack other shields on top. Essential!

Arduino shield projects

LCD screen with 16 character display, 2 pins only ($20)

The benefits of having an LCD screen for your project are clear — your Arduino can display messages . However, this usually requires 7 or more I/O pins, greatly reducing the number available to you. This screen is built using I2C communication bus (serial protocol used by many devices), which means it only uses 2 pins, and can even be connected to other components on the same bus (the signal is daisy-chained).

In addition to the screen, 4 direction buttons and a «select» button are provided, providing an interactive interface without the need to connect to a PC. If you don’t like monotony, upgrade this 1.8 inch 18-bit TFT color screen.

arduino shields

Keep in mind that not all shields are fully stackable; some will have to go to the top of the stack since they don’t have pins at the top (or it doesn’t make sense to move in the middle of the stack like on an LCD screen).

Are you just getting started with Arduino? No problem, we have several interesting textbooks that you can try. Have you used an Arduino shield? If so, let us know in the comments what and what you have created with it!

Image credit: John @ TronixStuff

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