Where to start learning

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by inkyvoyd, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. inkyvoyd

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    Hello all,
    As some of you might know already from the mesh analysis questions I have posted, I'm trying to learn more about circuits, which will lead to a Science Olympiad competition ultimately.

    The only problem is that I have little experience to working with circuits. I mean, little, as in basically none. I have requested help from my science teacher, but the only resources she has are a lot of galvanometers of various amplitudes, and some other very basic stuff. The only problem is that she's missing resistors, and stuff like breadboard. Now I talked over my problem with my sister, who did say (she's in college) that she might be able to ask her professor. However, I think it's a better idea that I buy a simple kit to get started.

    I'm wondering what I should buy (we do not have a vehicle at our disposal so preferably it'd be online), and even suggestions as to where to learn more about this subject in general (practical usage of circuits and stuff).

    Any help whatsoever is greatly appreciated. If I have posted this in the wrong section, please let me know, as I do not mean to break any rules.

    Thanks again!

    EDIT: Also, I forgot to mention - I need something that's cheap and basic less than 100 dollars for sure.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  2. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    What do you see at the very top of this web page?
     
  3. inkyvoyd

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    It'd be better if you just point out what I'm missing. There is no need to be passive aggressive.
     
  4. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    Passive aggressive? You are kidding right? You are way too sensitive. If you want to participate around here then you need to do some work on your own. Why don't you try clicking on the links that say Vol 1-DC, VOL II- AC etc.? See what happens.

    If it is components that you need then that is going to depend on where you live but eBay is always a good source.
     
  5. inkyvoyd

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    I'm not looking for books on theoretical material, I need something to physically work with.

    I posted here in hopes that I'd get some insight on where to start working on (building) projects.

    If those books mention where to buy supplies on the other hand, thanks for leading me
    EDIT: I've looked at the table of contents and have failed to find any material hinting on places I can buy stuff.


    As for ebay - direct links or suggestions would be helpful, as I have tried to imply, I am completely new to the subject of handling electronics, and a simple search makes me lost in results. Thanks. And if it helps any, I currently reside in the state of Virginia.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2012
  6. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

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    If you bothered to look you would see that there are various labs that you can complete. They have a list of parts. The catalog numbers might be outdated, for example some call for Radio Shack part numbers which they make next to nothing anymore, they do have some resistors, 555 timers but that is about it. But the parts are still the same and obtainable elsewhere. But it depends on where you live. In the US mouser.com is a good choice but there is also digikey, Circuit Specialist, Sparkfun and a ton of other places in the US.
     
  7. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    There are many sources for project kits. Radio Shack, Edmund Scientific, Velleman are just 3 off the top of my head and I'm sure there are many others. Look around and see what looks interesting. Some are more educational, some are more just assembly projects.
     
  8. inkyvoyd

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    Okay, clarification: I have tried to do a simple search, but obviously a simple search brings upon a lot of results. I am searching for educational material, or just breadboard and assorted resistors with a power source. As for specific parts - if I had a list of parts I needed to get I would not be here.

    I am just wondering if anyone would be so kind as to point me in a general direction for the kind of stuff I need. It'd be helpful if you could give a specific link to a website with educational material, or somewhere with supplies that I might need. I am incapable of doing this with confidence myself and that is why I posted on this forum in the first place.

    Thanks.
    I will look into those - are there any very specifically educational?

    Thank you.
     
  9. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    No one can help you if you are not willing to help others help you. You don't mention your country of origin or the project you are planning.

    You need to provide details of what you want to do.

    As for searching for parts on a vendors site, all share similarities but all are different, Most have parametric searches. You just need to get on to a suppliers site and start learning how to use it.

    But you first need to have a project in mind. The labs at the top of this site are a good start, They give a full list of parts. All you need to do is to get the list, learn the suppliers site and order the parts.
     
  10. inkyvoyd

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    I have missed some vital information; sorry.

    I am from the US; currently residing in Virginia. I search for materials that would allow me to understand more about dc circuits (like measuring resistance, currents, etc). I'm also wondering if I should be looking for something else - the above is what I have in mind, but I am not 100% sure I have assumed the best path.

    Looking around on Amazon, I'm seeing some cheap breadboards, resistors, LEDs - the company "microtivity" pops up a bit. For measuring circuit currents and understanding resistor networks, would it be a good idea to go ahead and spend around 20 dollars on breadboard, leds, and resistors?

    Or should I do something else?

    note: I need a basic understanding of capacitance, but I'm currently assuming that I should focus more on the simple stuff before thinking about more complicated things.
     
  11. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    You say you are looking to learn about circuits, then you say you are not looking for educational material, then you say you are. :confused:

    Again look at the links at the top of this site.
     
  12. inkyvoyd

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    Uh - I'm trying to say I'm trying to learn more about circuits with something I can build with?

    I mean I have read suggestions that to learn more about testing resistance I should buy some stuff, construct my own circuits, and measure current/resistance?

    Anything wrong with that logic?
     
  13. spinnaker

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 29, 2009
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    Look at the links at the top of this site.
     
  14. panic mode

    Senior Member

    Oct 10, 2011
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    hi Inky,

    you can get material you are interested in through numerous electronics stores such as
    DigiKey, Mouser or Newark. note that in their offer same product may come up several times based on packaging (individual, reel, tape, pack of 5 etc.) so pricing may vary. some of them also have minimum order quantity so if you need 10pcs of something do not order part number that has minimum order of 5000. if you do, you may find out that $0.05 resistor, in 5000pc bulk may exceed your budget. order dozen different ones and you could have a problem.

    to get started in electronics it is good idea to get variety of through hole components and breadboard. as you learn more and gain skill you will move to surface mounted components. they are more common, cost less, take less space etc.

    some places offer 'grab bags' of mixed components. this is an easy way to get bunch of different value components and some strange junk.

    also always check availability, many products are not in stock and that, you don't want to order something that will take 2 months to get (make sure you click on "in stock").

    simple breadboards are
    http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/TW-E40-510/438-1109-ND/2618532
    http://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/A000032/1050-1012-ND/2639000

    you will also need a multimeter, any multimeter is better than nothing but if you can, get something that is not the cheapest thing you could find. also you may want to look into what measuring ranges are available. bare minimum is voltage, resistance, current, diode test and continuity test but you will likely appreciate one that also can measure capacitors for example. some have bunch of things but that does not make them useful. one thing i find silly is transistor check for example.

    you may want to add:

    one or two potentiometers (10k and 100k for example),
    assortment of common resistor values (such as 100, 220, 470, 1k, 4.7k, 10k, 47k, 100k)
    some ceramic capacitors (1nF, 10nF, 100nF)
    some alu capacitors (10uF, 100uf, 1000uF)
    few transistors (2N3904, 2N3906)
    few diodes (1N4007, 1N4148)
    few LEDs (they always come in handy)

    nything you can get in bulk is usually much cheaper (check Amazon for resistor kits, etc.)

    the list can go on and on but this would be the most basic thing to get started. then you can try to get some samples, many companies offer them (opamps, power transistors, microcontrollers, voltage regulators etc.)

    few tools would not hurt either (tweezers, wire cutter, wire stripper, etc.)
    another essential item is the power supply. even small adjustable one will get you started but it is nice to have fixed ones too (5V and 12V). many people salvage old PC power supplies for this.

    when i started i only had a soldering iron and multimeter.
    they ware essential since most of parts i had at that time have been taken from old boards.



    good luck...
     
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  15. tshuck

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 18, 2012
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    I found this to be of great help in learning the basics. This is about the only thing I will ever recommend from Radioshack, but there it is. The author of the lab guide/learning manual, Forest M. Mims III(?), is really good at explaining what is happening in the circuits and what you can do to improve/change the circuit after it's built.

    Edit: it covers basic analog and digital circuits...
     
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  16. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    If you want a basic "toolbox" of stuff to tinker with, that will last for a long time, I'd start with a cheap multimeter. Harbor Freight has one for $5 or less that is just fine, and you'll be able to use it for lots of things around the house. I just used mine to fix those blasted light strings at XMAS.

    Then I'd get a magnifying glass and a good work light. If you're young with good eyes, this is less of a must-have but I don't think anyone would regret buying this versatile tool. It's just so darn handy to be able to easily see what you're working on. I use a kid's hand-held magnifying glass and I also have one on a small weighted pair-of-hands tool.

    You may want a soldering iron but you could wait until you know you're going to build something, or tear something apart. I use one that came with a built-in holder and sponge and has temperature control. Prices are all over but you can find one for under $20 that will go a long way.

    A breadboard is a must-have, in my opinion. Unlike the previous tools, there's not much else you can do with it if you get bored with electronics. But a breadboard is definitely the right tool for the job if you want to tinker and learn and prototype. I wouldn't skimp. Mine is Archer and came from Radio Shack over 20 years ago.

    The Shack also used to sell a resistor assortment with maybe a couple hundred 1/8 watt or 1/4W resistors spanning values from 1Ω to 10MΩ. I don't know if they still do but that's what I recommend looking for. You don't want to be limited for lack of a resistor, and you don't want to buy more every time you make something.

    I've bought cheap parts (LEDs, op-amps) on e-bay without problems but there are plenty of horror stories. Mouser, DigiKey and Newark are a few more reliable suppliers and I'd use them for anything of much value.

    One of the first projects many folks take on is building themselves a power supply. I'd start with the power supply scavenged from an old computer. Save it from the landfill. They're very handy for your lab bench. Then learn how to use the linear voltage regulators such as LM317, 7805 and 7812.
     
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  17. inkyvoyd

    Thread Starter New Member

    Dec 6, 2011
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    Thank you all for the very helpful responses - I must go to bed as it is late here; I will read them in further detail tomorrow.
     
  18. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
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    One thing I forgot to mention - hookup wire. Get a few rolls of wire of different colors, of the size meant for your breadboard. Get a wire stripper that looks like a real tool (not a toy) and has preset grooves for stripping your gauge of wire and smaller. It'll cost only a couple dollars more and is SO much better.
     
  19. takao21203

    Distinguished Member

    Apr 28, 2012
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    I want to mention LTSpice, this is a good simulation software.

    For basic circuit it is easy to use. And it is free to download.

    I also recommend a resistors kit as well capacitor kit from eBay.
    They have LED packs in all sizes as well.

    There are even vendors, including US vendors, who sell specially made beginners kits (also known as electronic kits or component kits).

    The PICKIT3 or the Stellaris Launchpad from Texas Instruments are good for microcontrollers.

    Many circuits can be done in software these days, in the end it helps you saving for components. It is also quite the trend since the mid 1990s to use a microcontroller, and to reduce discrete components.

    Don't build a power supply yourself, it is not so much interesting, and it can be expensive. Get a good quality caged 12V electronic transformer, and wire it, or get a laptop PSU (which gives good 20V and has short circuit protection). There are also universal wall adapters.

    These caged electronic transformers however are small, and don't include DC jacks, just screw terminals. A question of preference.

    Futurlec for instance is a vendor that especially likes it to sell to hobby users, beginners, students, but also they are well known as professional selllers. Means they are not just limited to beginners components.
     
  20. davebee

    Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2008
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    I started writing up my list of suggested parts and beginning experiments until I browsed that link to the Radio Shack Electronics Learning Lab, and saw that it includes everything I was going to suggest, and more.

    Go for it - get that lab and its lesson manuals, and work through them. You'll learn the basics, and you'll have an experimenter board that you'll use for years.
     
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