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how to solder electronicsSo you are interested in learning how to solder electronics?

There are several fun kits you can build from scratch, and they require soldering the components onto printed circuit boards (PCBs). If you have never soldered before, the task may seem daunting, but soldering is a skill that you can easily learn.

You will need a few tools, a kit, a good soldering how-to or tutorial, and I won’t lie, some patience as well (ok, sometimes plenty of it). Some kits can have hundreds of solder joints!

Maybe thousands? Transistor Clock by KABTronics, anyone?

* Image source: Solder, by oskay on Flickr

Here’s a Short Collection of Resources to Get You Started

First of all, there are thousands of tutorials and how-tos online (Google and see for yourself!), and I won’t reinvent the wheel. I picked three resources that are well-presented, thorough, and fun to go through. A comic book created by mightyown.com, an excellent resource from ladyada.net and a series of three videos by Dave Jones of EEVBlog fame. [click to continue…]


An Arduino Breadboard ProjectOK, so you’ve bought one of the Arduino boards, downloaded some development software, and figured out how to talk to the Arduino to do simple tasks. Now you want to introduce Arduino to the outside world, so you’ll have to learn something about electronics in order to keep that “magic smoke” (more like the odoriferous black cloud of doom!) from escaping from your new little workhorse.

The easiest way to get the Arduino practicing safe outside world contact is to use one of the many “shields” that are available. These are circuit boards which are especially created to interface the Arduino and plug right on to the Arduino board. [click to continue…]


EEWeb electronics forumAs a computer scientist turned electronics hobbyist trying to fill the gaps in my knowledge of electronics, I find myself visiting the electronics forum over at EEWeb quite a lot these days. (I am a lurker not yet ready for my de-lurking move, though). They are a community of EEs eager to help others, sharing tons of online resources, news, projects and general electronics expertise. Whether you don’t know what a microcontroller is, or are looking for an affordable used oscilloscope on eBay, you are sure to benefit from the information on their forums.

Electronics Fun

Ready for a break? Check out Return to Zero, their comic strip.

Looking for a challenge? Check out their electronics quizzes!


As I move to the next phase on the IPON project, and before I commit to a circuit to be implanted in the first plush object, I was considering the following:

In my last post I presented the circuit I’ll be implanting in the plush objects; it used a force sensor (FSR) to be placed on the plush animal’s nose, which when pressed, will trigger the behavior response to that. (By the way I connected the sensor to a digital input, which means that the force applied, an analog value, was translated to either a 0 or a 1; it would have been better to use an analog pin and calibrate it so that it wouldn’t require so strong a force. The cutoff used on the digital pin requires too much force to be used.)

I’m thinking instead of a FSR to use a push-button, as it will represent a savings of over $5 per plush object (remember, this project’s intended goal is to serve as electronics teaching to high-school at-risk students. So price is an important design factor). [click to continue…]


IPON circuit with diffused RGB LED

On my last post I introduced the IPON project, and today I’m sharing the implementation of Phase 0 of this project. (You may want to refer to the previous post if you haven’t yet read it, as this post will probably make much more sense if you know what the IPON project is about).

In Phase 0 I have the complete circuit and sketch that make up Phase 1, except the circuit is not yet implanted in the plush object. It’s just a rough prototype to make sure things work before I go about murdering cutting up a dear plush companion.
[click to continue…]


Plush ObjectThe Identified Plush Object Network is one of a few bigger projects that I want to work on this year. The idea is to create a network of small plush animals that interact with users, each other, and the Internet. I called it “Identified” because as a separate project I’m working with an RFID reader/writer module I want to create a simpler interface for, and once that piece is working each object in the network will be tagged as well.

The motivation for the project is non-profit work I want to do in the future with at-risk minority youth here in Orange County, CA. I want to create something that can be built in phases that get increasingly complex as the students learn, but that starts simple enough to enable hands-on participation from day one. Software improvements will be made in each iteration. [click to continue…]