Love or hate it? The controversial Arduino Simulator
The simulator is called tinkercad and some people love it and some people hate it. Tinkercad is great because you can easily build circuits using a virtual Arduino and a virtual breadboard and in the same interface you can also write code that will run on that simulated Arduino its fantastic, and this is great because you can immediately watch your circuit and code In action, you can even interact with the circuit components while the simulation is running. So if its got a temperature sensor, you can adjust the temperature on the sensor and see how the circuit responds. If its got a button, you can press the button and see what happens or if it has a distance sensor, you can modulate that distance. Its pretty cool whats, even better, though, is that tinkercad is easy to use. Youve probably used some software before, where you open it up and theres like so many buttons. You want your brain, your brain, just kind of like barfs out a little bit and youre like how am I ever going to figure out this software? Its a bit like overwhelming tinkercad is kind of the opposite of that. Basically, you have some parts on the right. You drag them to the left, and then you just use your mouse to connect them with wires its pretty darn intuitive programming. The simulation is really simple too. All you have to do is click the code button in the top right and then that shows you.
The code editor space and then you can paste your code in there or write your code or, however, you want to do it and then you just click the simulate button and then bam there you go. Your circuit is up and running. You even have access to the serial, Monitor and the serial platter and theres a built in debugger. So what stuff can you use to simulate in this circuit? Well, theyve got some general Parts like resistors, capacitors and diodes, that kind of thing, and then they have input components like buttons, potentiometers sliders photo resistors, photodiodes, Flex, sensors Force, sensors, ultrasonic distance and sensors a tilt sensor, a temp sensor, soil, moisture sensor, PIR sensor gas sensor And a 4X4 keypad – I probably missed something there, but you know quite a few input components for output components. They have things like LEDs, neopixel, LEDs and theyve got the Rings and the strings DC motors with encoders servos, Piezo, buzzers IR remote LCD displays, seven segment displays and some really popular logic gates. They also have some other stuff. Like simulated instruments, you can use like a multimeter, a power supply, a function generator and an oscilloscope theyve got a handful of integrated circuits like five five timers and op amps, and they have different ways. You can simulate powering the project like with batteries or wall power. They even have potato and lemon batteries for those of us who want to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, whats also really handy about tinkercad.
Is they have these built in circuit assemblies that include an Arduino, so you can drag a whole assembly in from the right and theyve got several different pre built examples, but whats nice is. They also come with example, code to run on that circuit. So if youre trying to get familiar with the circuit and the code that might run with it, then it can be pretty handy along this line, and this is a huge benefit here, is that there are a ton of contributed circuit, designs and code designs that people Just make public on the platform Im talking thousands of different circuits that people out there have made. So if youre super lazy like me, what you can do is search for a similar circuit, pull that in and then just make the adjustments you want and youre Off to the Races. Now there is one other thing, thats sort of confusing about tinkercad, but its. Actually, this huge bonus when you go to the tinkercad website to sign up youll notice that it actually looks like a tool thats for computer, aided design like a cad tool. Well heres. The deal before I had mentioned that tinkercad is made by a cad company called Autodesk, and Autodesk is a huge name in the cad industry. So when you sign up for your tinkercad account, not only do you get the Arduino simulator that weve just been talking about, but you also get access to a streamlined, CAD design tool, and all of this is completely free.
This is not a freemium model or you know you pay for more features or anything like that. This is free, as in like yep, you just sign up thats it the fact that you can get up and running so quickly, design these circuits simulate the code. All for free is such a huge payoff. I really cant see any reason for not using it, but if tinkercad so great, why does it drive some people, nuts well heres the deal? It comes down to some limitations of tinkercad, which are very real. So the first thing is, even though there is quite a variety of components, you can simulate it its nowhere near the number of actual components you know out in the world, and so, if you have something like a weight sensor, perhaps or an OLED display or something Like that that you want to simulate, if its not already in the tinkercad parts, Library well youre not going to be able to simulate it another inconvenient drawback about tinkercad is that you cant easily add additional Arduino libraries. If you want to add in an Arduino Library, you have to paste in your header file and your dot CPP file into that sketch in order to pull it in and thats totally doable its just a bit cumbersome now tinkercad does include some built in libraries. As of this writing theres 14 libraries that you can pull from when youre simulating with tinkercad and since code libraries are somewhat the bread and butter of Arduino.
This you know, can be pretty difficult, so lets say you wanted to simulate some iot device that is pulling in a bunch of different libraries. Well youre, just not going to be able to do it with tinkercad. Another limitation you might run into is when youre trying to use Dynamic, real time. Events like if youre trying to time something in milliseconds and you need to either track an amount of time that passed very specifically or have an action, take just perfect amount of time. It wont be as precise as the real thing. Lastly, theres no downloadable version of tinkercad, so its only going to work when you have a Wi Fi connection, so you might be like. Oh man, I thought tinkercad was great, but then all those limitations. Well, let me tell you, I personally push back on those limitations. I am in the party of people who thinks tinkercad is fantastic, its designed for the beginner, its easy to use its free, and yes, it has some ease of use trade offs, namely theres. Not a ton of components that you can add and you cant easily add libraries, but hey dont, throw the simulator out with the bath water if youre new to Arduino, and you want to explore some basic circuits. This is the tool for you, even if youre more experienced with Arduino – and you just want to quickly verify an idea. Tinkercad is a fantastic tool. Bottom line, the tinkercad simulator is a tool youre going to want to have on your tool belt, probably right.
Next to your grappling hook – and this is especially true for t teachers who are trying to bring Arduino and circuit design into their classroom, because tinkercad has really made it easy to integrate. Google Classroom collaboration tools and lesson plans and again, its totally free, whether you just have a personal account or youve, got your entire classroom on there. Now.