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Extra-curricular Help

  1. Feb 23, 2005 #1
    Hello guys,

    I am a 17 year old boy. Science has been a very interesting subject for me …. maybe not theoretical chemistry ;)

    I believe the school curriculum restricts us on the beauty of science. There is more of theoretical work involved and we are left clueless at times as to how this would be enacted practically.

    Therefore, I want to start something on my own ….I like physics the most. Opening my electronic toys/watches/computer peripherals has been a hobby since childhood.
    Do you pro’s have any ideas on what I could do in my spare time? I want to build something physical that I can see and touch. *hint* beginner here.

    My cousin is doing electronics in university (sophomore) and when I ask him what have you made till now … a calculator? a miniature remote controlled car? Anything? … he’s like don’t be stupid … it takes loads of people to make a complete gadget (mechanical engineer, computer engineer . etc).I was thinking maybe I could do some side by side research (nothing huge) and make something small on my own. Is there anything you’ll could point me on to?

    I’ve exhausted ideas concerning simple circuits with bulbs connected in series/parallel, included switches and all. I was looking for something of the next level.

    One problem with me is that, once I learn something I love to simplify it and explaining it to people close to me … however, I’ve noticed most people don’t like me for this, they wait for an excuse to move on. I have begun pretty silent now and I can’t seem to do the general ‘small-talk’ or ‘breaking the ice’ … I only like to talk about stuff that are interesting but people consider me just as a talker. Therefore, I want to do something to prove that what I talk I can do.

    Also I’ve heard of people writing ‘patents’ … what are these? Can I do one myself?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2005 #2


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    I'm afraid your cousin is basically right.
    The age when single-working amateurs could be pioneers and do cutting-edge research is over.
    However, to know how to actually build stuff is a very good start if you're planning on a career within the physical sciences.
    Besides, it can be fun, and a way to build friendships with like-minded persons.
  4. Feb 23, 2005 #3


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    I think patents refers to INOVATIONS/INVENTIONS and there's an office for patents in every country.

  5. Feb 23, 2005 #4
    Hi Arildno,

    Well, since I'm still in High School I don't have exposure to experienced people nor does the school have much of any equipments. The only working things in my physics lab are some voltmeters, ammeters, battery eliminators, light microscope, a few mirrors and lenses. So as of now, I need to obtain materials easily available from stores like Ace etc for doing anything on my own.

    Do you recommend any books that allow me to do an independent study? I'm no science guru ... I just have interest that I want to expand on, so I would prefer books dealing from scratch.

    .... thanks for the replies!
  6. Feb 23, 2005 #5


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    I used to do electronics quite avidly... a long time ago. The biggest project I ever took to completion was an EPROM programmer. I was going to use it to program EPROMs for use in a microprocessor controller, but never finished that... :(

    Of course, I wouldn't recommend doing that as a first project. What I could suggest is you get some basic electronics supplies and start breadboarding. You could try out circuit ideas in advance before you commit them to a circuit board.

    Making permanent circuits is fairly easy using something like Veroboard (or whatever they're calling it these days). Etching PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) is easier than you think, an amateur could do it with basic electrolysis apparatus (even though the pros do it with photo-etching).

    Some projects you could do to start off :

    Home made voltage supply running off mains power for your electronic needs - I'd suggest getting +5V, -5V, + 15V, -15V. The basic circuit is a step down transformer connected to a full-wave bridge rectifier, the output from which is then smoothed with a capacitor and sent to I/C voltage regulators (IIRC 7805 and 7815 are the codes for the +5 and +15V regulators I used). As always be *very* careful with the mains supply, copiously insulating and isolating as much as possible.

    Automatic night light using a photodiode.

    A logic probe to read at both CMOS and TTL levels.

    Basic radio (tuner circuits).

    When you get more experienced, you can be a bit more ambitious, building digital radio tuners, and simple robotics.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2005
  7. Feb 23, 2005 #6
    Hi Curious3141,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Firstly, I'd like to confess I am a newbie.

    I didn't get head or tail of that ... is VEroBoard a program on the PC?

    Hmmm , nevermind that. I guess I have to start some intense reading on circuitry otherwise the questions will keep sprouting. Anyways , thanks again.
  8. Feb 23, 2005 #7


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    A veroboard is a rigid card with lots of holes in it. Parallel copper tracks run in one direction across the card, connecting the holes together. You can disconnect two holes connected by the tracks by scratching out the copper with a sharp screwdriver. You can connect across disconnected tracks with jumper wires.

    Here's a link with a pic :


    Veroboards are cheap and good for beginners who want to make circuits with more permanence than with just a breadboard.

    Oh, maybe you don't know what that is, so I'll explain. A breadboard is a board, again with many holes, and again with parallel copper tracks underrunning the board in one direction. The difference is, these boards are for "prototyping", meaning to test circuit ideas out, then to disassemble. So they're reusable.

    Here's a link : http://www.iguanalabs.com/breadboard.htm
  9. Feb 23, 2005 #8
    i have nothing to say about project ideas, however i do relate to you in the respect that when i know something new or when a entity of any sort needs an explination...i am the one who freely gives it and people are not very thrilled with my lately. i don't understand why i cannot express myslef freely. if they can be heard so can i and by them trying to restrict my sharing of ideas is equivlent to them taking away my natural right of speech.

    why do they only want to discuss what new shose they bought or who is in love with who?
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