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Everything Else » Advantages over Arduino?

May 29, 2012
by mcguinnessdr
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I was wondering what advantages Nerdkits has over Arduino. My Computer Programming teacher is wanting to center our class next year around robotics, so he asked me (I've been in his class the longest) to help him figure out what we should buy for next year. We are looking at three choices, Nerdkits, Arduino, and Lego NXT. The Nerdkit and Arduino look pretty similar, but I was wondering how you guys think they compare. The Nerdkit is $7 to get a new new ATmega328P, which is the same microcontroller as the Arduino, which costs $30. The Arduino does look a little easier to work with though, and has a much bigger community behind it. We are also looking at the Lego NXT because even though I think it is very limited in what you can build, the easy lego building system is a major plus, as opposed to building a body for an Arduino or Nerdkit powered robot out of cut plastic or some other material. So, I just wanted to get your guys' opinions on this to try and figure out what we should get.

May 29, 2012
by 6ofhalfdozen
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Hiya mcguinessdr,

I know nothing about the Lego stuff, so I won't say anything here. There is another thread around here somewhere talking about arduino vs nerdkit, which might mention it, but I can't remember. Not sure where though.

Anyhow, as you mentioned, for most cases there is no actual chip difference between arduino and the nerdkit. The programming/software and the "frames" are the only difference. To my way of thinking, the big difference is that with the nerdkit you learn more C and get exposed to more of the "nuts and bolts" of how things are done, while the arduino is more of a "get it done" type mindset. In the arduino, you can slap a "frame" or two on it, cut and paste in some code samples and you are pretty much done with a lot of things. With the nerdkit, you need to figure out what you want and how you want it, code it, wire it up, test it, rinse and repeat as needed. So for my learning needs, the nerdkit offers everything I wanted and needed. In your case, I don't know how in depth and how much material was desired to be covered. The nerdkits might be a bit too much. But from my perspective that my math classes in Jr High went over a ton of binary and hex math I would have loved to get a programming class based around nerdkits, instead of our computer class that spent months going over extrememly basic stuff(a mouse is an input device, a hard disk is a device inside the case that holds information, yawn yawn yawn)

just my 2cents..

May 29, 2012
by Ralphxyz
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Really the thing is what do you and your fellow students want to take with you?

With the Arduino and Lego you can be up and running tomorrow but six months or six years from now you will still in the same place.

Where as with the Nerdkit you will be constantly growing.

I have an Arduino and it is great to implement some code driver and move on and forget about it. But when I want to learn something it definitely is the Nerdkit and this forum that teaches me things.


May 31, 2012
by mcguinnessdr
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So why do you say that the learning will plateau with Arduino, but not with Nerdkit?

May 31, 2012
by pcbolt
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mcguinnessdr -

This is an interesting question. I looked around the LEGO site and it is pretty amazing what the kits come equipped with. You could be up and running a fairly sophisticated robot in no time at all. It also looks like you have a choice as to how you program the projects, from a graphical only programmer (Lab View?) to 'C'-like text programmers. This is a big plus because students can get interested quickly then delve into the "nuts and bolts" by using the 'C' language. Since this is a computer programming course, that would be the ultimate goal. I'm not sure what age group you are targeting, but anything at the junior to high school level would be about right.

Nerdkits is at the other end of the spectrum (with Arduino close by). To build a robot with Nerdkits, you'd have to explore electronic components, power systems, and mechanical design. This may sound like a disadvantage, but by the time you put all those things together, you'd have a deep understanding of embedded computer systems. If you take a look at the Nerdkits video of the Servo-Squirter, you'll get an idea of the level of detail you'd be dealing with. As a side note, even though Arduino has a bigger community, the folks here are very knowledgeable, friendly and more than willing to help.

I would guess that for an introductory course, the LEGO would appeal to the broadest range of students. If you are prepping for a college computer science or electrical engineering program, Nerdkits would be a better choice.

June 03, 2012
by Ralphxyz
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the learning will plateau with Arduino

Actually you can get very advanced programming Arduino if you get into programing the C++ libraries.

I meant you'd plateau with arduino if you just used the Arduino "sketches" that some else did.

The LEGO is very interesting but I do not know where it will lead you where as with the NerdKit it is just a very good foundation that you sorta have to build upon, that is the NerdKit more or less forces you to do more to get other projects running.

Like pcbolt said what is the age group?


June 16, 2012
by mcguinnessdr
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It's for a highschool class (9-12). I would prefer using the Nerdkit, since I plan to go to college for robotics, but the Lego would probably be better for the majority of students. Copying other peoples Arduino Sketches shouldn't be a problem, since our teacher is very strict about copying code. I haven't talked to my teacher lately since it's summer break, but I'll ask him what's going on with the planning soon. I guess if he does decide to go with the Lego, I can just work on the Nerdkit at home, especially since I have a project this summer that I plan to use it for. Thanks for all the help, and I'll let you know if we have any more questions or if we come to a decision.

June 16, 2012
by missle3944
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I might wanna chime in here.I have a few friends who have arduinos and we are all in highschool right now. With my nerdkit I feel like I know more about the basis of microcontrollers and technical specs of them. When I talk to my friends about bit shifting,eeprom write byte, and interupts they have a blank look on their face like they don't know exactly what I'm talking about! I've personally never tried an arduino but I'm sure its a good tranistion to go from a nerdkit to an arduino but not from a arduino to a nerdkit. I also think that a nerdkit is more lower level and similar to what industry uses. I know they don't use nerdkits ha, but I think you use this stuff more than arduino code and what not. Please don't feel like I'm bagging on Arduinos! I'm debating if I should buy one right now but I don't want to have to buy another serial to usb converter.


June 17, 2012
by Rick_S
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Arduno has a USB serial adapter built onboard so you wouldn't need anything else. You can even program an arduino board just like a nerdkit, you just have to make small changes to the makefile. Depending on how your teacher taught, programattically, the NK vs. Arduino differerences could be negligible, learning circuit building would favor the NK.


June 19, 2012
by HansRoaming
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For me the Nerdkit got me over that initial hump in electronics and from there I could go off and self learn. Basically the Nerdkit is low level embedded programming and electronics made easy with the excellent book that comes with it.

For me the value was loosing the 'fear' of getting started with electronics and actually being able to see results. Having set up Eclipse with the AVR plugin and using both Nerdkit bootcode and an USBASP I think it is better than using the Arduino IDE and the fact I'm coding in C rather than the Arduino language is a plus (not to mention subversion support).

I do have a couple of Arduino pro mini's and also make use of Arduino libraries so using a Nerdkit doesn't exclude their use it.

June 21, 2012
by Ralphxyz
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Hey HansRoaming, we should have a discussion (here in the forum) about using arduino libraries. There has be some questioning the feasibility of using the libraries but nothing about how to use them or examples of actually using an arduino library.

Of course this should be a topic in the Nerdkit Community Library.


June 21, 2012
by mcguinnessdr
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My teacher has decided to use a very simple robot for the first part of the year, then move on to Lego NXT, and finally onto the Nerdkit. I haven't talked the specifics with him, but it sounds like we will be really getting into the hardware by the end of the year. Thank you guys for all your help!

June 22, 2012
by HansRoaming
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"and also make use" should have read "and will also make use", but as the core libraries are just C++ you can use them just fine, for example

The Arduino IDE basically has a pre compile step that does some mangling of the source code then passes it off to avr-gcc which is the same tool chain as the Nerdkit.

July 05, 2012
by bluestang
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I have to agree with Raphxyz in the learning aspects the Nerdkits will get you to a better understanding of the lower level and much more of an understanding of exactly what has to happen in order for C code to interact with your end goal. The great thing about arduino is the community of already written code and available options, so yes with arduino you can get up and running in hours but then when you get time go back and look at the arduino code and try to rewrite it in C for the nerds kit than not only will you get a great working project right away but you will gain the interest in to learning how exactly it works with the Nerdskit, plus the guys that started this went to a school that i could never afford and honestly that is a huge resource.

October 05, 2012
by Bushy
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The original question was: Advantages over Arduino?

The answer is: none, if you are looking for plug-n-play fun.

I also agree with Ralph, nuts and bolts are the way to go to learn anything, at least with hardware; software can be so forgiving--unless it controls hardware! I have so far fried pins off a dip switch, several LEDs, and most lately the A-side of a L298N stepper motor controller. (I might just stink at this stuff, but I plan to keep trying.)

As for your students, I say: buy them both if you can, and let them decide whether to have fun or also possibly get on a career path.

October 05, 2012
by Noter
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I haven't used Arduino to develop software but I do like the looks of some of the hardware made for it. Should be easy enough to put the nerdkits bootloader on these and carry on as usual.





October 05, 2012
by JimFrederickson
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It seems to me that a big factor is going to be what your teacher is comfortable with as well as what his capabilities are...

Have your teacher programmed in C before?

How comfortable is your teacher in programming in C?

Has your teacher programmed in assembler before?

How good/comfortable is your teacher as digital hardware and basic electronic circuits?

Lego, Arduino, Nerdkits...

If your teacher is not good or comfortable with any of these things then Lego is likely the best choice...

The choice between Arduino and Nerdkits is kind of in-between.

The Nerdkits Guide is GREAT...

But if what is there, generally, are things that your teacher has NEVER done then he will become more of a "bystander" or "referee" than a "Teacher"...

For me, as a student, that has never made a difference. I do know for man though that without a "Teacher", actually "Teaching", a class is not very useful to them.

My perspective in High School, well all Schooling prior to college or trade school, has ALWAYS been that it should provide a "Good Foundation for Future Learning"...

To that end I lean towards Nerdkits.

Much more hands-on, and much more "foundational". There are NUMEROUS avenues of discussion that would be appropriate in a classroom.

Providing there is an appropriate "Teacher"...

From on "ongoing perspective" Nerdkits also makes alot of sense because of the cost.

The most likely thing to get broke is the Microcontroller and that can be replaced separeately, and relatively cheaply.

So it may be, because of the budget, that it would easier to continue to the program if replacement parts are cheaper.

October 07, 2012
by bpenglase
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You might be interested in this article. It's actually a series of 3 about moving to ARM. Of note in it, is the following:

"This leads to the final disadvantage of moving to 32 bits: the time required to learn a new environment. With respect to coding, the switch from eight to 32 bits is not that noticeable as long as you are coding in C or C++. The difficulty lies in the switch from the finely polished Arduino libraries to the dirty but extremely powerful CMSIS libraries. Instead of spending time browsing the Arduino Reference Website, you will most likely be combing through 500-plus-page user manuals looking up registers and what they do. This may sound daunting at first, but once you realize how much more control you gain from this, you may feel like programming with an Arduino is like taking a shower in a raincoat."

I think because of that above, the Nerdkits offers a big advantage over Arduino. My personal opinion is that if you don't know too much, and want to start, depending on how comfortable you are with programming in general, you might want to start with the Arduino, then move to Nerdkits to get the experience without the libraries, then continue onto other systems.

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