Getting Started with ArduBlock

ArduBlock is a programming environment designed to make physical computing with Arduino easier for beginners. Instead of writing code, worrying about syntax, and (mis)placing semicolons, ArduBlock allows you to visually program with a snapped-together list of code blocks.

Installation Checklist

Note for Educators: You will most likely need to obtain administrative privileges from your network or IT administrator in order to install software and drivers.
We recently discovered that ArduBlock is not compatible with the latest release of Arduino. It does work with Arduino 1.6.11 and below.

Install Software

Install FTDI Drivers

Open ArduBlock Tool


Install Software

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ArduBlock is an add-on to Arduino, so you'll need to have the Arduino IDE installed. Since Arduino is multi-platform -- ArduBlock will also work on Windows, Mac, or Linux. If you already have Arduino installed on your system, skip ahead to Installing ArduBlock Only.

If you don't have Arduino installed, we've packaged up a custom version of the software (version 1.6.7), which includes ArduBlock as well as some examples created for our Digital Sandbox. Click one of the links below to download the software, make sure you grab the version that matches your system:

The Arduino software comes packaged in an archived, .ZIP format. Once you've downloaded the ZIP file, you'll need to extract it. Both Windows (use the built-in extract wizard) and Mac (double-click to open) machines should have built-in tools for unzipping.

Mac users can simply run the Arduino application from the extracted folder, or move it into a preferred directory (e.g. Applications) and then run it. Also move the Digital Sandbox Examples folder to your preferred location.

Windows users can move the Arduino folder to a preferred location. Digital Sandbox examples are included as well, in a folder named "Digital Sandbox Examples."


Installing ArduBlock Add-On Only

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If you already have Arduino installed, you can download just the ArduBlock add-on. This file also includes hardware definitions for our Digital Sandbox and some example files. Click the link below to download the folder:

Note: The addon in the link above will only work with Arduino versions 1.6.0 and up. If you're using an older version of Arduino (1.0.6 or earlier) download our previous version of the addon instead. The installation directions will be the same.

All of the add-on items are archived in a ZIP folder. To install the addon extract the ZIP file into your computer's Arduino sketchbook directory. This is a folder on your computer where your sketches and libraries are saved by default. To find your sketchbook location, run Arduino, and open Preferences by going to File > Preferences. The contents of the top text box defines your sketchbook location. Memorize that location and close Arduino.

Arduino sketchbook location

Then extract the contents of the Sandbox_Addons.zip file into that location.

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Install Drivers

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Once you have downloaded and installed any necessary software and add-ons, you will need to connect an Arduino board to your computer to install drivers. This may happen automatically on some systems, but if not, here is a resource for installing drivers manually.

How to Install FTDI Drivers

June 4, 2013

How to install drivers for the FTDI Basic on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Open ArduBlock Tool

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Since ArduBlock is an add-on to Arduino, first we'll open the Arduino program. Windows users should run Arduino.exe; Mac users can click on the Arduino application. You will also need to connect an Arduino board to your computer at this time.

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Let's do some preparation before opening ArduBlock. First, go to the Tools menu, hover over Board and select the board being used.

These screen grabs show the Digital Sandbox as an example.

Tools > Board > Digital Sandbox

Next, go back to the Tools menu, hover over Serial Port and select the serial port number connected to your board.

Windows serial port selection

  • Windows users: This is likely to be COM2 or higher (COM1 is usually reserved for hardware serial ports). To find out, you can disconnect your Arduino board and re-open the menu; the entry that disappears should be the board. Reconnect the board and select that serial port.
  • Mac users: On the Mac, this should be something with "/dev/tty.usbmodem" or "/dev/tty.usbserial" in it.

Finally, to open ArduBlock, go to Tools and select ArduBlock.

Tools > ArduBlock

This will open the ArduBlock interface. Make sure the Arduino window remains running in the background. If you close that, ArduBlock will close as well.

Example of ArduBlock interface

Note: If you don't see ArduBlock under the Tools menu, revisit the Checklist and check that it was installed correctly.


Recommended Tutorials

Now that ArduBlock is successfully installed, here are some tutorials to get you started coding with blocks.

Digital Sandbox Experiment Guide

Your guide to the Digital Sandbox! 16+ experiments that, using a graphical programming language, teach you to blink LEDs, monitor microphones, read temperature, and much more.

Recommended Products:

ArduBlock is a great way to introduce programming with our Digital Sandbox and ProtoSnap series.

SparkFun Digital Sandbox

SparkFun Digital Sandbox

DEV-12651
$49.95
11
LilyPad ProtoSnap Development Simple

LilyPad ProtoSnap Development Simple

DEV-11201
$51.95

LilyPad ProtoSnap Development Board

DEV-11262
5 Retired

Teacher Resources For ArduBlock

Intro to Arduino with ArduBlock

February 6, 2014

Learn the basics of programming in Arduino using the graphical programming constructs of ArduBlock.

ArduBlock and Protosnap ProMini

February 6, 2014

This is a short presentation on how to use ArduBlock - a graphical programming environment with the Protosnap ProMini.

LilyPad with ArduBlock Workshop

June 10, 2014

Presentation materials on using ArduBlock with the LilyPad Simple Development Board during a workshop at Fashion Institute of Technology 6/5/2014.

Additional ArduBlock Resources