Ways to get into hobby electronics

  1. I'm a first-year electrical engineering student, and I'm really enjoying what I'm doing, but I'd like to find ways to get into electronics in my spare time as sort of a supplementary learning method.

    I suppose micro controllers would be a good place to start, though I don't know much about them. Are there any good hobby electronics products that I can get (preferably cheaply) that would be good for a college student studying electrical engineering? Something that would be easy to buy would be a plus. I've already looked into the Arduino starter kit, but I'm wondering if there are any other options.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Greg Bernhardt

    Staff: Admin

    Raspberry Pi http://www.raspberrypi.org is also good for interesting projects. There are lots of electronics hobby stores online, just do a Google search.
     
  4. SteamKing

    SteamKing 8,311
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Here are a couple of suggestions:

    http://www.amazon.com/Elenco-SC-500-Snap-Circuits-PRO/dp/B00008W73Z?ie=UTF8&qid=1293373671&sr=8-1

    http://www.amazon.com/Norman-Globus...2TOILRO?ie=UTF8&qid=1293388849&sr=1-2-catcorr

    They may be too basic or too kitschy for you, but they may lead to something more suitable for what you had in mind.

    It's too bad they don't make Heathkits anymore. I built one of their microprocessor kits in college over 30 years ago (Motorola 6800 CPU). You got a good exercise in basic electronic skills like soldering and identifying various electronic components. Heathkit had a variety of different projects you could build, including radios and some early home computers. They had one kit which would allow you to build a 16-bit computer based on Digital Equipment Corp. CPUs.
     
  5. AlephZero

    AlephZero 7,298
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    In your current situation, you probably don't really know what you want to do, and you don't know the "best" way to do any particular option. So just buy a system that looks interesting and is cheap, and accept that you will probably change to something else once you start to get up the learning curve. The most important step is actually getting started.

    There is a wide spectrum from something like the Pi, which can be used as a general purpose computer running Linux, to "single chip" devices like http://www.picaxe.com/ that are aimed more at embedded computing, with the chip interfaced directly to the rest of the electronics.
     
  6. If you want to get into analog, I recommend ham radio. It can be a little quirky and geeky, and they sometimes take themselves way too seriously, but there's no better way to learn RF circuits than to build a receiver and transmitter from scratch. I can recommend a book or two if you are interested.
     
  7. Mark44

    Staff: Mentor

    I put together a couple of kits in the early and late 60s. They were AM-FM tuner/amps. One of them might have been a Heathkit, and I think the other was from Allied. I had a lot of fun soldering the components together. This was well before the microprocessor era, and I didn't follow through when they were offering microprocessor kits.
     
  8. OmCheeto

    OmCheeto 1,851
    Gold Member
    2014 Award

    I will not feign my ignorance that Heathkit had gone under
    But I just googled them, and it appears, they are on their way back. :smile:

     
  9. The Arduino would be a good start. There is widespread support for it and if you get into trouble you can always ask somebody. You would be able to build simple circuits to connect to the board.

    Another option is to purchase an FPGA development board, something like this:

    http://www.makershed.com/Mojo_FPGA_Development_Board_p/mkemb01.htm

    This would allow you to learn Verilog or VHDL, which are hardware design languages. These languages are widely used in industry, and companies frequently prototype their designs with FPGAs before committing the logic to an ASIC. You could also use the FPGA board for a senior project, and use the experience to help get yourself in the door for an internship or first job from graduation.

    Here's a summary of some of the FPGA development boards available that I found:

    http://tristesse.org/FPGA/CheapFPGADevelopmentBoards
     
  10. If computers are your thing, I second the Raspberry Pi recommendation. And there is a fine book, Linux for Embedded and Real-time Applications, by Doug Abbott that can give a great introduction to those type of single board computers.
     
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