Electronic Learning Kit options

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by stubbsonic, Mar 24, 2011.

  1. stubbsonic

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 24, 2011
    I'm interested in improving my understanding of electronics and would like advice about learning kits.

    Over many years, I've done simple DIY projects, rewiring musical instruments, and repairing audio cables & connectors. But I'd like to address gaps in my knowledge.

    I was intrigued by a kit I saw in Radio Shack by Forrest Mims III with a simple breadboard and a handful of projects.

    After looking around, I've seen some higher end kits with 500-project kits (by Elenco, and by Ramsey), as well has kits that focus on programming a micro-controller by Nerdkits, or Arduino kits by adafruit.

    I realize the Arduino and Nerdkits don't focus on basics and are specific to programming an MCU chip. But I wondered about being about to combine or integrate either of those kits with the other type of learning kit that includes a breadboard.

    Here are my goals:

    1. Learn about basic electronics, circuits, functions, reading schematics, etc.
    2. Build some interesting projects to help reinforce my learning.
    3. Have fun while I wrap my head around difficult theory.
    4. Be able to use the kit to demonstrate basic concepts with students especially with audio-related projects.
    5. Learn about basic programming of digital chip-- especially if decent quality audio or MIDI is possible.
    6. Not waste money on bad quality kit, or with poor written materials.
    7. Make relatively useful projects (like an FM transmitter?)

    Are there significant learning advantages to the Elenco or Ramsey kits vs. the cheaper RS/Mims kit?
  2. Wendy


    Mar 24, 2008
    The main thing is to read, always. For example, the AAC book linked to on top of the page has an experiments section. Most of the experiments are cheap and easy, which an eye to getting the principles down.

    I cut my teeth on Forest Mimms books, if you are lucky you might see him post on this site, he is a member.

    What really got me started back when was the 300 in 1 projects, it had little springs that you used to attach wires into. After you go through all the circuits (which will keep you busy) you start designing stuff for yourself. It was sold by Radio Shack, and has long since been discontinued, but I see equivalents all over.
  3. Markd77

    Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    I'd be tempted to go with the Forrest Mims III kit. The other kits seem to have a built in mutimeter (I'm guessing that is what the LCD is for). It's probably a good idea to pick up a cheap multimeter or two which can help understand things better. Also maybe some extra solderless breadboards.
    As for the microprocessor part, you will get a variety of opinions. Personally I like PICs by Microchip but there are dozens of alternatives all with advantages and disadvantages. You can download MPLAB software for free from the Microchip site to see if you get on with it, before even getting anything. The same is probably true for a lot of the other systems.
  4. hgmjr


    Jan 28, 2005
    It sound like you are just beginning to start your electronic learning experience. Like Bill and Markd77, I don't think you can go wrong with the RS/Mims kit. F. Mims III only associates himself with quality products. His booklets are legendary and can provide a strong introductions into electronics.

    You will also benefit from supplementing your reading with the AAC ebook at www.allaboutcircuits.com

    I also think that your goals are very well structured. Make sure that you have become comfortable with the basics before you launch into microcontrollers.

    The RS kit comes with a 555 or 556 chip so you will be able to build many of the circuits that Bill Marsden has published here in his Album.

  5. stubbsonic

    Thread Starter New Member

    Mar 24, 2011
    Thank you for your responses. This site is a great set of resources!!

    I got the RS/Mims Learning Kit yesterday. From my first reading of the book, it looks like its going to be fascinating. I like the handwritten text and nice clear drawings. Presenting complex info in a clear way is an art.

    I appreciate your advice. I expect to be back with more questions, but for now, there is much reading and tinkering to do.