Getting started with Photon Maker Kit totally confused

Hello, so I got my Photon Maker kit in the mail. I followed the getting started guide and all was well and good. However, where can I learn about how to use the other components in the Maker kit? The getting started ends and leaves you with no avenues to learn more about how to connect pins on your own and how to use all the other components.

I have zero knowledge on Particle and Arduino and all the tutorials Ive looked at are so confusing and seem to imply that you have knowledge on all the components. What is the relationship between Photon and Arduino? If I follow an Arduino tutorial will it work ?

For example, I want to write “hello world” on the included OLED. Ive been searching for ages on a tutorial on how to hook it up and program it using the components in my maker kit. I came across the following articles but first of all, my OLED has more PINS and I dont have arduino?

Then I come acrosss this one but mine isnt red. What is Sparkfun anyways? Whats the relationship to Particle? How the hell am I supposed to follow this?

There seems to be some tribal knowledge isnt being shared which makes it hard to get started for a beginner. Im willing to learn but where can I get started from the ground floor with tutorials that actually work for my maker kit?


Ping @christine

Sorry about that! I dont have a Maker kit so i cannot help to test the OLED screen.

Sparkfun is an electronics distributor and made some really cool kits and add-ons for Particle devices. The Maker Kit you bought is offered by Particle so let’s try putting more examples to help everyone get started!

Hey there, welcome to the community!
I’ll try and answer some of your concerns/questions.

What experience do you have? Electronics, programming, anything in that general direction?
In all fairness, it’s a maker kit, whereby the Photon is promoted as a wireless development kit. It’s hard to develop things without knowing what you’re doing. It’s like trying to work on a car without knowing how to use a wrench. You might not have knowledge of all the components, but once you’ve figured out the basic principles, it’s a lot easier to get the others working.
That said… There are plenty ways to learn. An Arduino is a microcontroller, as is the Photon. They’re like tiny computer you can program, specifically made to ‘control’ things, which is what they’re good at. Programming an Arduino is done using the Wiring language, which can also be used on the Particle devices. That’s pretty much where the similarities end though. The particle devices use very different hardware which make them a lot more capable.
Luckily, however, the biggest changes have been abstracted, and are available to use with the wiring language. Thanks to that, a lot of Arduino tutorials are also applicable to the Particle devices. Due to the hardware differences, some changes to code may be required though, which you should keep in mind.

In many cases, yes, that will work. In other cases, maybe, with some small modifications. In a select few, hardly, due to major hardware dependencies, which basically requires you to rewrite the entire code.

Considering your lack of experience in this field, might I suggest you start off a bit less complicated? First try some small, seemingly simple, projects. Blinking LEDs are basically the ‘hello world’ of electronics. Advance from there using some other components, which preferably don’t require complicated libraries, yet. Once you’ve got the hang of that, try making it increasingly more complex. As you may have already figured out, hooking up, and configuring, a display like that is quite involved, and not as easy as one might expect. Starting with simpler things allows you to get used to the way these components are hooked up, and more importantly, how it’s written up.

Well, just because a Ferrari isn’t red doesn’t mean it’s not a Ferrari. It’s just a color. PCBs come in a variety of colors, whereby red happens to be the signature color of Sparkfun. Sparkfun is a big company dealing in maker electronics. They help start-ups, provide services aimed towards makers, as well as creating their own products. The latter is what connects them to Particle. They’ve created several ‘shields’ which can easily be hooked up to a Core/Photon and interacted with. Sort of plug&play extensions. One of them is an OLED screen, which I figure is what you stumbled upon.
Following the tutorial on their site may, or may not work, depending on what board was used and if the pins are configured in the same way. If not, you’ll have to adjust for that in code. Seeing as this might be a bit complicated, might I once again suggest you start off with something a bit less involved.

I’m tempted to call it ‘basic knowledge’, but can understand if that sounds harsh. Trust me it’s not meant that way. If you’re planning on doing something serious with the kit, you’ll need some basic knowledge of electronics (resistors, capacitors, etc). That’s true for every field that deals with electronics, and Particle is no different in this regard.
An LDR for example shouldn’t really have to be explained. If you’ve ever heard of a voltage divider, you should at least have a rudimentary idea on how you might be able to use one of those. Explaining how to hook up LEDs, and why you require resistors is also something that’s considered ‘basic knowledge’ in my (personal) opinion.
That said, there are some excellent tutorials out there for arduinos which deal with all these, and more, kinds of situations. If you’re really just starting off, getting a couple of starter books might not be a bad idea. Getting an Arduino (clone) might also help you learn things more easily, since most guides/tutorials are specifically aimed towards Arduino.
With that in mind, I’m sure there will be tutorials for particle devices as well. Arduino is a bit older, so it’s had a bit more time to mature. Particle is still young, and actively growing. With time, I’m sure these resources will improve (if they’re not already secretly working on something).

So, the above might sound a bit scary, but let me assure you it’s very much doable. The Spark(/Particle) Core was my first microcontroller, and I’ve found it a great way to learn things. The community here is also exceptionally helpful, so if you ever get stuck, feel free to ask for help. I’m sure there are plenty of people willing to help out, as I’ve seen them do before.

Best of luck!


Particle is Arduino like and most things translate easily but it really is just something you’ll have to pickup as you go. As for the oled check this thread and find @peekay123’s port of the adafruit libs. I think there are even examples of how to wire it. If not msg me and I’ll shoot you a pin map of my setup. There are examples in the port on @peekay123’s github.

To use external components you will either use native commands to write a pin high (on) or low (off) for more complex devices (like oled) you need a library. Think of a library as a driver and the software to control it. It is important to understand the comms layer your device will use as that determines how to hook it up. The oled you have supports i2c and SPI. Each has its pros/cons but pick one and hookup according to that and make sure your pin definitions match it. I am happy to throw together a quick write up for the oled and a photon if you don’t get what you need from that thread.

The OLED that came with your Photon Kit is called: - OLED 0.96inch 12864 display module blue.
The sad part is i have the same kit and i also found no help as well on how to set it up or even just run “Hello World” on it. Its really not to much help online right now with a step by step process tutorial. I tried looking for the last 2 weeks and finally gave up. But hopefully you find something and if you do please share the link because it will help me as well.

Also answered here

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If you are new to electronics and/or microcontrollers in general, then I could totally understand being confused and overwhelmed. There’s a lot to learn, and trying to find the right information in the vast sea of the web can be hard when you don’t already know what questions to ask. The Photon is generally considered a slightly more advanced product (due to its built-in networking capabilities and such), and it hasn’t been around nearly as long as the general Arduino boards. So you are more likely to find lots of beginner tutorials that use an Arduino (probably an Uno board) than specifically for the Photon.

That said, a lot of the knowledge easily transfers from one platform to another, and you often only have to worry about differences in the main voltage (typically either 5V or 3.3V), and in the specific pin numbers for certain specialty functions. For example, on an Arduino Uno, there is an on-board LED tied to pin 13, but on the Photon, the on-board LED is on pin D7.

As others have suggested, if you are new to all this, you might want to work on some other basics before you jump right into trying to hook up an OLED display. It might seem boring to start with simpler projects, but if you don’t want to destroy your components (including, possibly, your Photon board), you really should get familiar with some basic concepts around voltage, current, resistors, Ohm’s Law, LEDs, inputs and outputs, digital vs analog, etc.

There are a lot of good tutorial sites. I would suggest looking at the ones on and

Personally, I found Adafruit’s All About LEDs Tutorial to be very helpful in helping me understand the role of the common “current limiting resistor” in circuits.

Also, you may notice that Sparkfun has a video tutorial for their Photon Inventor’s Kit, and a lot of that might translate over to your Maker Kit.


That is very understandable. I have personally done all the blink leds ( about 20 different ones) examples a noob can do at this point. I even went so far as watching a Arduino tutorial to hook up the pir sensor that came with the photon kit and got it working. So at this point for me i at least want to be able to say i put each component from the kit together and used it properly. But i understand that its not much info out there yet for the Particle support and everything is in Arduino. The reason i took a chance on Particle was b/c it felt like something new, different and special. Ive heard about Arduino for some time now but it didn’t feel special. But now having spent money into the particle ecosystem, it seems the support/help you ask for, you’re pushed towards Arduino but if i wanted a Arduino board thats what i would have bought lol but i guess if thats what i have to do, i don’t see why i should continue to learn Particle if i need to know Arduino to learn Particle. Hope you understand that statement.

Totally agree with you there. I have Arduino envy now because I could have just got an arduino and followed tonnes of basic tutorials. Instead, I’m stuck on blinking lights. While its cool that I have wifi access - more tutorials would be nice.

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Lots of projects you can replicate can be found on

They are Particle based projects. Enjoy!

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I was in the same scenario, new to IoT and photon and arduino “sketches” and ino files. the best place I found for the “maker kit” was at github:
Lots of great information for the parts that come in the kit.
Hope that helps.

@freddyroosevelt and @cr_huber

There seems to be a slight misunderstanding :wink:

You won’t need to learn/know Arduino to learn Particle. It’s more like you need to learn/understand C and Wiring which are the “language” Arduino and Particle understand.
And since Arduino is around longer than Particle there is more to find about it.
But since both share a lot of things you can peep across the fence over to Arduino to find info that’s just not yet published under the Particle brand.

As with human language there is no need for each publisher to have their own English dictionary in order to enable people to understand their books.
But using the dictionary of publisher A does not mean that you have to read their books and unless publisher B offers an own dictionary you won’t be able to understand B’s books.
Sure if B uses words unknown to A, these specialities need to be documented by B.

I hope I could bring across what I do mean :wink:



great explanation.

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thanks for the reply. The thread you mentioned was a bit over my head. Would you be able to send me your pin map and maybe a quick word or two on once its wired how to write to it in the IDE. Anything you can pass along would be greatly appreciated

I can send you an i2c pin map. Are you using SPI or i2c?

I’m using just whatever is in the maker kit

I don’t have a maker kit so I’m not sure which oled you have. Many of them work on spi or i2c. How many pins are hooked from you oled? Can you post a pic of you oled and photon with the jumpers in place as well as the firmware you are flashing to your photon please?

The display coming with the Photon Maker Kit is a SPI/I2C 128x64 OLED (SSD1306 compatible) that can be used either way, but comes preconfigured as SPI.
To turn it into an I2C device you’d only need to bridge on jumper on the bottom side of the PCB.

The other thread referenced above has grown a bit further and could be marked as solved (which I’m going to do right now ;-))
Near the bottom of the thread (#36ff) you’ll find some snaps of a working setup and in the preceeding posts the hints to get things running.

here is the device i have . I am flashing the latest firmware