Educational electronics training kits

Discussion in 'Electronics Resources' started by mhanssonph, Dec 25, 2012.

  1. mhanssonph

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    Dec 25, 2012
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    I am looking for educational electronics training kits that can be used to teach analog and digital electronics to students in a classroom setting, or even in a home schooling or hobbyist environment. I am especially interested in low-cost, no-solder kits; especially if they are open-source. Does anybody know of any such kits? If any have already been mentioned in this forum, I apologize.

    All I can find are the usual 300-in-1 or 500-in-1 type kits, or breadboard-type kits or solder-parts-on proto-board type kits. They all seem to suffer drawbacks in terms of initial cost, reusability (for classroom teaching) or pedagogic value.
     
  2. bertus

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  3. mhanssonph

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    Dec 25, 2012
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    This is a great eBook! Detailed and thorough; thanks for pointing it out to somebody new on the site.

    However, regarding the proposed "home lab" I am looking for something quite different. I am very familiar with breadboards, I grew up with the Philips EE kits, I went through various prototyping methods through college, I set up a prototyping facility for Timex when I worked for them as one of the R&D managers, and lately I've been teaching embedded systems development to teachers at schools in the Philippines.

    I have yet to see a type of kit that is useful in, let's say, a high school classroom in a developing country. They can't afford a lot of equipment and the students can't afford to spend for components. Breadboards are also not very pedagogic when you start having a lot of connections. If somebody knows of a better method, I would be most appreciative.

    The ideal kit would allow you to teach basic electrical concepts, analog electronics, digital electronics, and microcontroller-based system design using the same kit, without soldering, in a pedagogic, easy-to-connect manner, at low cost and while reusing all components as much as possible. Is that too much to ask for? ;-) Oh, and ideally it should be open source too to keep costs _really_ manageable.
     
  4. bertus

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  5. MrChips

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    If I were creating an electronics classroom from scratch with limited resources I would seriously consider the following options.

    1) Banana jacks on small blocks of wood.

    2) Spring terminals in peg board.

    3) Solderless prototyping breadboards.

    I can post some photos if you do not know what I mean.
    You can choose all three for different levels of instruction.
     
  6. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    What do you consider to be the deficiencies of the 300-in-1 type kits? I don't know what state these kinds of kits are in today, but my interest in electronics started when my uncle gave me a Radio Shack 65-in-1 kit when I was about nine years old. All of the components in that kit were mounted on a large piece of cardboard in the middle of the symbol for that component and the leads were connected to spring terminals located at the ends of the printed schematic pins. The book contained a set of 65 projects that included a schematic, a pin connection list, and a theory of operation. This was before the days that these kits had ICs in them, but it had a solar cell, a meter movement, a light-dependent resistor, several transistors, some switches and pushbuttons, a coil antenna, a speaker, a buzzer, a lamp, a couple relays, and a bunch of resistors, capacitors, and a few inductors. Other items that I don't remember, too, I'm sure.

    What shortcoming do you see from a kit like that?
     
  7. mhanssonph

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 25, 2012
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    These are not bad options for a low-cost setup, I agree.

    However I feel that none of them allow for easy expansion to circuits with many connections, such as microcontroller circuits with an LCD, etc.

    Also, for something like #2 I remember from the Philips EE kits, which I used extensively as a kid, one tended to spend so much time on the mechanical setup that the learning from the electronics got lost somewhat. I recall plugging in all the spring terminals first, then assembling the parts and connecting them, then switching the whole thing on and checking if it worked. If it did I was "done", and if it didn't I tended to look for whichever "mechanical" error was present. Ideally a kit/assembly process should encourage iterative experimenting.

     
  8. bertus

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    Hello,

    I have used the EE kits too.
    Here is a page with links to a lot of the instruction manuals of those kits:
    http://ee.old.no/library/
    (most of them are dutch or german).

    Bertus
     
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  9. mhanssonph

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 25, 2012
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    The kits that have components on "modules", where connections between them can easily be made, I agree are good for educational purposes. For the Radio Shack kit that you describe, though, I see two issues:

    * They are difficult to scale to larger circuits, especially digital ones. To build an 8-bit multiplier, for example, you end up with so many connections that the assembly method quickly becomes cumbersome and you spend more time assembling and less time thinking.

    * They tend to be expensive and proprietary. For a school in Zimbabwe, for example (I lived there for 3yrs), buying a classroom of 25 $100 kits is typically not an option, not to mention the availability of spare parts or the (typically) limited documentation or course material.

    I hope you guys don't find me overly negative on this topic. It's just that I love electronics and I am looking for a better way to "spread the gospel". It seems to me that there is an opportunity here for a good open-source, low-cost kit, if an optimal design concept can be found. Or am I wasting my time and I should be happy pushing breadboards?

     
  10. MrChips

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    [​IMG]


    This is exactly what I used as a teenager and what launched me into the world of electronics.
     
  11. MrChips

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    As I said, you can choose depending on the level of instruction.
    I agree that (1) and (2) would be cumbersome to use for ICs but they both serve well for elementary introduction to electronics.

    In (1) the major expense is the cost of banana jacks. Surprisingly, this is still a great way for students to grasp the difference between series and parallel circuits.

    (2) is exactly what was used in the Philips EE kit. You can make this yourself using pegboard. You can still purchase the spring clips. I had exactly that and now regret having given them away. I would have liked to be able to show how this is used.





    A simple option is to use small wood screws and pieces of wood:

    [​IMG]


    Another solution I used is shown below. I have a collection of DEC cables which has mini banana plugs on the ends. I made matching jacks by simply winding small coils with brass wires and inserting them in holes in rectangular pieces of wood.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]




    For ICs, it is hard to beat the solderless breadboard for prototyping:

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2012
  12. MrChips

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    Here is another electronic kit using spring clips:

    [​IMG]




    [​IMG]



    You can purchase the spring clips separately in quantity and they plug into standard pegboard.
     
  13. WBahn

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    Mar 31, 2012
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    I think it's possible that you are hoping for a bit much -- you want something super cheap that is suitable for teaching everything from voltage dividers to at least mid-level digital circuits. That's quite a lot to ask for. Think of the llist of components alone that would have to be included in order to accomplish all that.

    Is there some way you could tap into the "one computer per child" program (or similar) and use a physical kit for the basic stuff and a simple simulator program for the rest? I'm a big fan of hands-on hardware experience, but what you are trying to accomplish may be more realistically accomplished with a more software-centric solution.
     
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