SIK Experiment Guide for Arduino - V3.3

This Tutorial is Retired!

Please note that this tutorial is for the SparkFun Inventor's Kit version 3.3. If you have SIK version 4.0, check out the latest tutorial. Do you have the old v3.3 kit and want to upgrade to v4.0? Try getting the SIK bridge pack !

View the updated tutorial: SparkFun Inventor's Kit Experiment Guide - v4.0

Contributors: HelloTechie, Toni_K
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Experiment 2: Reading a Potentiometer


In this circuit you’ll work with a potentiometer.

A potentiometer is also known as a variable resistor. When powered with 5V, the middle pin outputs a voltage between 0V and 5V, depending on the position of the knob on the potentiometer. A potentiometer is a perfect demonstration of a variable voltage divider circuit. The voltage is divided proportionate to the resistance between the middle pin and the ground pin. In this circuit, you’ll learn how to use a potentiometer to control the brightness of an LED.

Parts Needed

You will need the following parts:

Suggested Reading

Before continuing on with this experiment, we recommend you be familiar with the concepts in the following tutorial:

Hardware Hookup

Ready to start hooking everything up? Check out the Fritzing diagram and hookup table below to see how everything is connected.

Pay special attention to the component’s markings indicating how to place it on the breadboard. Polarized components can only be connected to a circuit in one direction.

Fritzing Diagram for RedBoard

RedBoard Fritzing Potentiometer

Having a hard time seeing the circuit? Click on the Fritzing diagram to see a bigger image.

Fritzing Diagram for Arduino

Arduino Uno Fritzing Potentiometer

Having a hard time seeing the circuit? Click on the Fritzing diagram to see a bigger image.

Open the Sketch

Open Up the Arduino IDE software on your computer. Coding in the Arduino language will control your circuit. Open the code for Circuit 2 by accessing the “SIK Guide Code” you downloaded and placed into your “Examples” folder earlier.

To open the code go to: File > examples > SIK Guide Code > SIK_circuit02_potentiometer

You can also copy and paste the following code into the Arduino IDE. Hit upload, and see what happens!

   /* SparkFun Inventor's Kit
 Example sketch 02 -- POTENTIOMETER

 Measure the position of a potentiometer and use it to
 control the blink rate of an LED. Turn the knob to make
 it blink faster or slower!

 This sketch was written by SparkFun Electronics,
 with lots of help from the Arduino community.
 This code is completely free for any use.
 Visit for SIK information.
 Visit to learn about the Arduino.

 Version 2.0 6/2012 MDG

int sensorPin = A0;    // The potentiometer is connected to analog pin 0                  
int ledPin = 13;      // The LED is connected to digital pin 13
int sensorValue;    //We declare another integer variable to store the value of the potentiometer

void setup() // this function runs once when the sketch starts up
  pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);

void loop() // this function runs repeatedly after setup() finishes
  sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin);    

  digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);     // Turn the LED on
  delay(sensorValue);             // Pause for sensorValue in milliseconds
  digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW);      // Turn the LED off
  delay(sensorValue);             // Pause for sensorValue in milliseconds

Code To Note

int sensorValue;

A “variable” is a placeholder for values that may change in your code. You must introduce, or "declare" variables before you use them; here we're declaring a variable called sensorValue, of type "int" (integer). Don't forget that variable names are case-sensitive!

sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin);

We use the analogRead() function to read the value on an analog pin. analogRead() takes one parameter, the analog pin you want to use ("sensorPin"), and returns a number ("sensorValue") between 0 (0 volts) and 1023 (5 volts).


Microcontrollers are very fast, capable of running thousands of lines of code each second. To slow it down so that we can see what it's doing, we'll often insert delays into the code. delay() counts in milliseconds; there are 1000 ms in one second.

What You Should See

You should see the LED blink faster or slower in accordance with your potentiometer. If it isn't working, make sure you have assembled the circuit correctly and verified and uploaded the code to your board, or see the troubleshooting section.

Real World Application

Most traditional volume knobs employ a potentiometer.


Sporadically Working

This is most likely due to a slightly dodgy connection with the potentiometer's pins. This can usually be conquered by holding the potentiometer down.

Not Working

Make sure you haven’t accidentally connected the wiper, the resistive element in the potentiometer, to digital pin 0 rather than analog pin 0. (the row of pins beneath the power pins).

LED Not Lighting Up?

LEDs will only work in one direction. Double check your connections.