Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ordering Components & Misc Notes

* I'm trying to avoid the inevitable "special trip" to Radio Shack that always seems to be necessary five minutes after you begin wiring up a circuit. It happens. You get into a circuit, you're close to finishing, and you discover you have the wrong component or you lack a key one. Sometimes the wrong component can still be substituted, but most of the time you want to try and have the correct one on hand just so you know you've done everything you can to ensure the success of an experiment.

Today, I've put in an order with Jameco for a substantial number of components that will get me up to Experiment 15. I haven't looked beyond Experiment 15 (in Appendix B) but I imagine there'll be a lot fewer parts to order as the experiment numbers creep higher based on what I'm seeing from Experiments 5 to 15... lots of repeated components. That's good.

Even better? The almost 40 components I ordered only added up to $17.33 not counting shipping. If you've got the time, pick the slowest boat shipping you can handle. Here's a list of the components I ordered that you can match up with Appendix B.

My first bulk component order for Make: More Electronics. Certainly not my last.

For this order, I didn't order just one of an item, even if it calls for just qty-1. At these prices, I'm grabbing two and sometimes more of an item because I know I'll eventually use them. In the case of the 555 chips, I have some on hand... somewhere... I just don't want to get a headache squinting to read the little doodads and it's easier to order a bunch now and start my New & Improved Electronics Organization Method rather than the three tubs of mixed up components I'm using now. I knew that not organizing them to begin with would come back to haunt me...

I chose Jameco for one reason... Mouser was out of the phototransistor and I didn't want to wait the estimated three weeks. Jameco had them in stock, I added 3 to the cart... and then just kept working my way through Appendix B. If I do find that I'm missing something after this package arrives, I have access to ACK Electronics here in Atlanta who usually has just about everything I need... but at a higher price and at a 20-minute drive. Hopefully I got everything with this order. Probably not.

*  Why are you learning electronics? I can think of a dozen reasons, but a key one is that I want to be able to make special items and circuits rather than buy them pre-built/wired. I've got all sorts of ideas running through my head for fun and interesting circuits, and only after completing Make: Electronics did I have the confidence to just dive in and start breadboarding and making mistakes. When I see something fun to make, I don't want to worry that I lack the skills to solder it up or figure out the correct wiring after looking at the sketchy documentation. I can do it, and I've done it. Over the last few years, I've purchased a few items here and there that required me to make some jumps or assumptions regarding a schematic... amazingly, the knowledge I gained from Book 1 has allowed me to not only complete those iffy projects, but to understand exactly WHY they work.

I mention this only because I've had an amazing opportunity handed to me this summer -- a local school has asked me to teach a beginner electronics class for ages 8 to 12. This one week camp got 22 kids signed up, about 15 of them in just a few days. It filled up so fast, the school has asked me to teach a second camp later in the summer and I've got 5 signed up for that one... and hopefully it will reach the minimum (10) in the next few weeks for it to occur.

This isn't a theory class. Just about 90% of what these kids will be doing involves hands-on activities, some taken from Book 1. They'll learn about circuits and voltage, resistance, and current and plenty more... but my goal isn't to take them too deep on these subjects but instead get them to making things and hopefully light that fuse that will cause them to go home and ask their parents for more books, more kits, and more components to use (and probably destroy).

It's going to be a fun week, and I'll likely share some more here once that camp gets underway on June 16. (And posts for that week are likely to be few, so just be warned.)

On Day 1, I'm taking in a bunch of the special projects I've built over the last few years. My hope is to get those young eyes wide open and curious about how they can make these things. Right now, I'm putting together the little group of items you see below left so I can wear it as the kids come into the room on Day 1... think it'll grab their attention?

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