When it's time to learn how to use your Arduino, your hardest task might be just deciding on a project or platform. Try fixing a broken toy -- it's the perfect solution.
When a cheap, radio-controlled car breaks, it often finds itself in the trash, destined for the landfill. This lucky toy, however, got a reprieve thanks to an Arduino and an old Xbox 360 controller.
A user on the Adafruit forums that goes by kottok.motors wanted a project to do that would help them learn the Arduino. A broken car is the perfect development platform for such a thing. It already has all the important parts of the enclosure in place, motors mounted, and battery compartment ready to go. All you have to do is add your own electronics. While you could theoretically salvage the motor drivers from the existing electronics, kottok.motors has chosen to completely replace the circuit with one of their own.
The Xbox controller was gutted and the switches re-wired. The task of trying to decode the proprietary serial signals that the controller was built to output just wasn't worth the time and effort. Instead, the buttons are simply wired directly to the Arduino. You'll note that this car is no longer radio controlled, it is now wired. The next fun educational step might be to add a wireless module! While they didn't share a schematic, they did share the Arduino code, so you could try this out on your own if you wished.
For Christmas I recieved my first Arduino. I don't have an electronics background at all, but I always though they looked fun. I never picked one up cause I had no idea what to do with it. Well after getting one and making a light blink I still had no idea. Then one day my son's rc car broke and I thought it would be cool to drive it with the arduino. This is what I came up with.
You record button presses for fwd, left, right. .25 seconds per press. flip the switch and it drives. I'm hooked, so now I'm trying to learn as much as I can to get ready for a local autonomous vehichle comp in June.