If there's one common feature among all the cool hacks and DIY projects you'll find online these days, it's that they're usually made with an Arduino microcontroller of some sort. But if you lack the programming and electronics know-how to use an Arduino to bring your own creations to life, this simple starter kit will walk you through the basics.

Think of it as Arduino and Electronics 101, minus a final exam. The $80 kit comes with an Arduino UNO so you're using the right model as you work through the various online tutorials, plus a mountain of electrical components including resistors, LEDs, capacitors, a breadboard, potentiometers, and all the wiring you'll need to connect them all together—without a drop of solder.

Will you be engineering a robot assistant by the time you're finished? Probably not. But you have to learn to walk before you can run, and this kit should make you a master at putting one foot in front of the other. [ThinkGeek]