Lab 2: Working with Particle primitives & Grove Sensors

Project Goal Start programming your Argon, read sensor data, and leverage the device cloud.
What you’ll learn How to interact with sensors, using Particle variables, cloud functions and publish/subscribe.
Tools you’ll need Access to the internet for and Plus the Particle CLI, Particle Workbench, a Particle Argon, and Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh
Time needed to complete 60 minutes

In this session, you'll explore the Particle ecosystem via an Argon-powered Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh with several sensors!

Tip: Go back to the source
If you get stuck at any point during this session, click here for the completed, working source.

If you pull this sample code into Workbench, don't forget to install the relevant libraries using the instructions below!

Create a new project in Particle Workbench

  1. Open Particle Workbench (VS Code) and click Create new project.

  2. Select the parent folder for your new project and click the Choose project's parent folder button.

  3. Give the project a name and hit Enter.

  4. Click ok when the create project confirmation dialog pops up.

  5. Once the project is created, the main .ino file will be opened in the main editor. Before you continue, let's take a look at the Workbench interface.

Using the command palette and quick buttons

  1. To open the command palette, type CMD (on Mac) or CTRL (on Windows) + SHIFT + P and type Particle. To see a list of available Particle Workbench commands. Everything you can do with Workbench is in this list.

  2. The top nav of Particle Workbench also includes a number of handy buttons. From left to right, they are Compile (local), Flash (local), call function, and get variable.

  3. If this is your first time using Particle Workbench, you'll need to log in to your account. Open the command palette (CMD/CTRL + SHIFT + P) type/select the Particle: Login command, and follow the prompts to enter your username, password, and two-factor auth token (if you have two-factor authentication setup).

Configuring the workspace for your device

  1. Before you can flash code to your device, you need to configure the project with a device type, Device OS firmware version, and device name.

    Open the command palette and select the Configure Project for Device option.

  2. Choose a Device OS version. For this lab, you should use 1.4.0 or newer.

  3. Select the Argon as your target platform.

  4. Enter the name you assigned to your device when you claimed it and hit Enter. You're now ready to program your Argon with Particle Workbench. Let's get the device plugged into your Grove kit and start working with sensors.

Unboxing the Grove Starter Kit

The Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh comes with seven different components that work out-of-the-box with Particle Mesh devices, and a Grove Shield that allows you to plug in your Feather-compatible Mesh devices for quick prototyping. The shield houses eight Grove ports that support all types of Grove accessories. For more information about the kit, click here.

For this lab, you'll need the following items from the kit:

Note: Sourcing components
You won't need every sensor that comes with the Particle Starter Kit for Mesh for this project; however, the sensors that aren't used for this build, are used in other Particle Workshops and tutorials.

  1. Open the Grove Starter Kit and remove the three components listed above, as well as the bag of Grove connectors.
  2. Remove the Grove Shield and plug in your Argon. This should be the same device you claimed in the last lab.

Now, you're ready to start using your first Grove component!

Working with Particle Variables plus the Temperature & Humidity Sensor

The Particle Device OS provides a simple way to access sensor values and device local state through the variable primitive. Registering an item of firmware state as a variable enables you to retrieve that state from the Particle Device Cloud. Let's explore this now with the help of the Grove Temperature and Humidity sensor.

Connect the Temperature sensor

To connect the sensor, connect a Grove cable to the port on the sensor. Then, connect the other end of the cable to the D2 port on the Grove shield.

Install the sensor firmware library

To read from the temperature sensor, you'll use a firmware library, which abstracts away many of the complexities of dealing with this device. That means you don't have to reading from the sensor directly or dealing with conversions, and can instead call functions like getHumidity and getTempFarenheit.

  1. Open your Particle Workbench project and activate the command palette (CMD/CTRL+SHIFT+P).

  2. Type Particle and select the Install Library option

  3. In the input, type Grove_Temperature_And_Humidity_Sensor and click enter.

    You'll be notified once the library is installed, and a lib directory will be added to your project with the library source.

Read from the sensor

  1. Once the library is installed, add it to your project via an #include statement at the top of your main project file (.ino or .cpp).
    #include "Grove_Temperature_And_Humidity_Sensor.h"

    Tip: Get any error message from Workbench?
    From time-to-time, the intellisense engine in VS Code that Workbench depends on may report that it cannot find a library path and draw a red squiggly under your #include statement above. As long as your code compiles, (which you can verify by opening the command palette [CMD/CTRL+SHIFT+P] and choosing the Particle: compile application (local)) you can ignore this error.

    You can also resolve the issue by trying one of the steps detailed in this community forum post, here.

  2. Next, initialize the sensor, just after the #include statement.
    DHT dht(D2);

  3. In the setup function, you'll initialize the sensor and a serial monitor.

    void setup()

  4. Finally, take the readings in the loop function and write them to the serial monitor.

    void loop()
    float temp, humidity;
    temp = dht.getTempFarenheit();
    humidity = dht.getHumidity();
    Serial.printlnf("Temp: %f", temp);
    Serial.printlnf("Humidity: %f", humidity);

  5. Now, flash this code to your device. Open the command palette (CMD/CTRL+SHIFT+P) and select the Particle: Cloud Flash option.

  6. Finally, open a terminal window and run the particle serial monitor command. Once your Argon comes back online, it will start logging environment readings to the serial console.

Now that you've connected the sensor, let's sprinkle in some Particle goodness.

Storing sensor data in Particle variables

  1. To use the Particle variable primitive, you need global variables to access.

    Start by moving the first line of your loop which declares the two environment variables (temp and humidity) to the top of your project, outside of the setup and loop functions.

    Then, add two more variables of type double. We'll need these because the Particle Cloud expects numeric variables to be of type int or double.

    #include "Grove_Temperature_And_Humidity_Sensor.h"
    DHT dht(D2);
    float temp, humidity;
    double temp_dbl, humidity_dbl;
    void setup() {
     // Existing setup code here
    void loop() {
     // Existing loop code here

  2. With global variables in hand, you can add Particle variables using the Particle.variable() method, which takes two parameters: the first is a string representing the name of the variable, and the second is the firmware variable to track.

    Add the following lines to the end of your setup function:

    Particle.variable("temp", temp_dbl);
    Particle.variable("humidity", humidity_dbl);

  3. Next, in the loop function, just after you read the temp and humidity values from the sensor, add the following two lines, which will implicitly cast the raw float values into double for the Device Cloud.
    temp_dbl = temp;
    humidity_dbl = humidity;

  4. Flash this code to your device and, when the Argon comes back online, move on to the next step.

Accessing Particle variables from the Console

  1. To view the variables you just created, open the Particle Console by navigating to and clicking on your device.

  2. On the device detail page, your variables will be listed on the right side, under Device Vitals and Functions.

  3. Click the Get button next to each variable to see its value.

Now that you've mastered Particle variables for reading sensor data, let's look at how you can use the function primitive to trigger an action on the device.

Working with Particle Functions and the Chainable LED

As with Particle variables, the function primitive exposes our device to the Particle Device Cloud. Where variables expose state, functions expose actions.

In this section, you'll use the Grove Chainable LED and the Particle.function command to take a heart-rate reading, on demand.

Connect the Chainable LED

  1. Open the bag containing the chainable LED and take one connector out of the bag.

  2. Connect one end of the Grove connector to the chainable LED on the side marked IN (the left side if you're looking at the device in a correct orientation).

  3. Plug the other end of the connector into the Shield port labeled A4.

  4. As with the Temp and Humidity sensor, you'll need a library to help us program the chainable LED. Using the same process you followed in the last module, add the Grove_ChainableLED library to your project in Particle Workbench.

  5. Once the library has been added, add an include and create an object for the ChainableLED class at the top of your code file. The first two parameters specify which pin the LED is wired to, and the third is the number of LEDs you have chained together, just one in your case.
    #include "Grove_ChainableLED.h"
    ChainableLED leds(A4, A5, 1);

  6. Now, initialize the object in your setup function. You'll also set the LED color to off after initialization.
    leds.setColorHSB(0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0);

    With our new device set-up, you can turn it on in response to Particle function calls!

Turning on the Chainable LED

  1. Start by creating an empty function to toggle the LED. Place the following before the setup function. Note the function signature, which returns an int and takes a single String argument.
    int toggleLed(String args) {

  2. In the toggleLED function, add a few lines turn the LED red, delay for half a second, and then turn it off again.

    int toggleLed(String args) {
    leds.setColorHSB(0, 0.0, 1.0, 0.5);
    leds.setColorHSB(0, 0.0, 0.0, 0.0);
    return 1;

  3. Now, let's call this from the loop to test things out. Add the following line before the delay.

  4. The last step is to flash this new code to your Argon. Once it's updated, the LED will blink red.

Setting-up Particle Functions for remote execution

Now, let's modify our firmware to make the LED function a Particle Cloud function.

  1. Add a Particle.function to the setup function.
    Particle.function("toggleLed", toggleLed);
    Particle.function takes two parameters, the name of the function for display in the console and remote execution, and a reference to the firmware function to call.

  2. Remove the call to toggleLed from the loop.

Calling Particle functions from the console

  1. Flash the latest firmware and navigate to the device dashboard for your Argon at On the right side, you should now see your new function.

  2. Click the Call button and watch the chainable LED light up at your command!

Working with Particle Publish & Subscribe plus a light sensor

For the final section of this lab, you're going to explore the Particle pub/sub primitives, which allows inter-device (and app!) messaging through the Particle Device Cloud. You'll use the light sensor and publish messages to all listeners when light is detected.

Connect the Light sensor

To connect the light sensor, connect a Grove cable to the port of the sensor. Then, connect the other end of the cable to the Analog A0/A1 port on the Grove shield.

Using the sensor

Let's set-up the sensor on the firmware side so that you can use it in our project. The light sensor is an analog device, so configuring it is easy, no library needed.

  1. You'll need to specify that the light sensor is an input using the pinMode function. Add the following line to your setup function:
    pinMode(A0, INPUT);

  2. Let's also add a global variable to hold the current light level detected by the sensor. Add the following before the setup and loop functions:
    double currentLightLevel;

  3. Now, in the loop function, let's read from the sensor and use the map function to translate the analog reading to a value between 0 and 100 that you can work with.
    double lightAnalogVal = analogRead(A0);
    currentLightLevel = map(lightAnalogVal, 0.0, 4095.0, 0.0, 100.0);

  4. Now, let's add a conditional to check the level and to publish an event using Particle.publish if the value goes over a certain threshold.
    if (currentLightLevel > 50) {
    Particle.publish("light-meter/level", String(currentLightLevel), PRIVATE);

  5. Flash the device and open the Particle Console dashboard for your device. Shine a light on the sensor and you'll start seeing values show up in the event log.

Subscribing to published messages from the Particle CLI

In addition to viewing published messages from the console, you can subscribe to them using Particle.subscribe on another device, or use the Device Cloud API to subscribe to messages in an app. Let's use the Particle CLI to view messages as they come across.

  1. Open a new terminal window and type particle subscribe light-meter mine.

  2. Shine a light on the light sensor and wait for readings. You should see events stream across your terminal. Notice that the light-meter string is all you need to specify to get the light-meter/latest events. By using the forward slash in events, can subscribe via greedy prefix filters.

Bonus: Working with Mesh Publish and Subscribe

If you've gotten this far and still have some time on your hands, how about some extra credit? So far, everything you've created has been isolated to a single device, a Particle Argon. Particle 3rd generation devices come with built-in mesh-networking capabilities.

If you have a Xenon on hand, why not try creating a mesh network with your Argon and adding the Xenon by following this lab in the Particle docs? Then, use Mesh.publish and subscribe to add some interactivity between your two devices, like taking a heart-rate reading when the SETUP button on the Xenon is pressed, or lighting up the D7 LED on the Xenon each time the barometer sensor takes a reading.

Appendix: Grove sensor resources

This section contains links and resources for the Grove sensors included in the Grove Starter Kit for Particle Mesh.


Rotary Angle Sensor

Ultrasonic Ranger

Temperature and Humidity Sensor

Light sensor

Chainable LED


4-Digit Display