But what parts are needed to get started?

After writing an introduction and posting the first cube its probably time to talk a bit about the necessary hardware. After months of fiddling around I take certain things for granted that were really difficult to figure out in the beginning. Therefor I will also talk about the necessary tools and materials starting with the basics in this post.

The most important things are:

  • Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest M. Mims III: This is such a great beginners book for electronics that I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. The cover doesn’t look too fancy but the content is just great. Trust me. You want that book to learn about all the basic electronics stuff.
  • Microcontroller / Arduino UNO: Quote from the Arduino website: Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” 

    Its ideal for beginners as it abstracting away many difficulties when dealing with microcontrollers. The Arduino board itself is error forgiving (as in short circuits) and offers everything that is needed for a quick start but even for more serious projects. It can be easily connected via USB and has a very good documentation. The website offers many useful tutorials and the community around it is very encouraging.

  • Soldering Iron: Obvious but necessary nonetheless. I bought a pretty cheap one from Weller called WHS 40 which has 40 Watts of power and although is not expensive it works really well. The only accessory I needed was a finer tip which is also highly recommended. Irons that have less then 40 Watts take too long to heat up and can get quite annoying to use. My next station will have a little more but for now it works great.
  • Breadboard: This allows easy and fast circuit testing. The first thing I do when I try out a new LED, Transistor or any other part is to get out one of my Breadboards and play with it. Its also helpful for debugging in terms of rebuilding a circuit.

    I recommend having two. One big one with lots of space and than maybe a smaller one which is more handy and more practical to carry around

  • (Flexible) Jumper Wires: Places that sell Breadboards are very likely to sell jumper wires as well. I have them in different lengths and colors and as breadboards, they are highly recommended. There are stiff and flexible ones and I prefer the flexible ones because, as the name implies, they’re flexible!
  • Multimeter: This is the most important tool for debugging and testing circuits. It does not need to be an expensive one but it should be digital and offer a convenient interface. I bought an Voltcraft VC270 and I’m happy with it.
  • Resistors: This might be obvious again but still its good to have a broad range of resistors at hand. I bought two resistor boxes which contain resistors from 10 up to 27.000 Ohm. They are constantly needed especially when following the autodidactic approach of learning. Its great to always be able to reduce or increase the resistance when needed.
  • Transistors: I’d say that similar to resistors its essential to have a some transistors at hand. There are some standard transistors like the BC557, BC547, BC337, BC327. These are very common parts for all kinds of circuits. Basically they are very fast switches that allow to switch higher currents and voltages than your micro controller can supply. 
  • Wires: Simple copper wire or enameled wire for connecting parts on boards
  • Perfboards or Stripboards: When its time to make a circuit more permanent then on a breadboard with jumper wires these are useful for easily soldering everything together using the wires mentioned above.
  • LEDs: I almost forgot.
  • Other Parts: Like switches, potentiometers, light sensors etc etc. They’re not necessarily related to the construction of cubes but its fun to play around with those parts anyway.

Alright. I will write more about hardware as needed.

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