Posted on

Introducing our Local Schools to the Marvel of 3D Printing

3D Printers for Schools

Engage Explore Educate!

It’s no secret that Education is a huge part of Proto-PIC’s philosophy, it’s part of our mantra! We are always brainstorming new ways to engage teachers and their pupils with Electronics based STEM systems. Hands-on exploration and tinkering with these systems provides a fun, informative and engaging expereience for all and we believe when STEM is taught this way, it sticks!

Storm in a (3D Printed) Teacup

Back in June we got a hold of a new 3D printer for the Proto-PIC office and it is safe to say our kids couldn’t get enough of it. The ability to be able to physically make anything that your mind can conjure up does have a certain magic to it! One does have to think that Minecraft has had more of an effect on a generation than we would care to admit. The amount of time the kids were spending on CAD tools in order to bring their imagination’s inventions to life got us thinking.

Following a good old fashined tea-fuelled Brainstorming session, we thought about how we could bring the fun to the rest of the local schools. If you cast your mind way way back (maybe even a bit further than that) to when you were a bright eyed and bushy tailed Primary School pupil! Imagine that you got placed into a group within your class and were tasked with building a stable bridge out of items similar to but not limited to, straws, paper and sellotape. The objective simple; the bridge must hold a small weight without collapsing.

Its 2020 now, we can make this better. The Fife Primary School 3D Printed Bridge competition was born.

Survival of the Sturdiest

The plan, provide three local Primary Schools with a 3D printer each along with all the tools and basic training for the teachers to get the kids started.

Teaching the Teachers.

Each school must produce the following:

•Design a bridge of at least 25cm in length that can stand up to a weight of 5Kg distributed across the span

•Design /build landscape and define bridge requirements

•Finished bridge is to be printed using the supplied Dremel 3D printer

•The bridge will need to be printed in different sections, but there are no limits to the amount of components

•Produce a project plan, great scenery and an asthetically pleasing bridge

Prizes will then be awarded to each bridge for a variety of different factors, industrial design, presentation, project management and more! Now that’s better than some straws and tape right?!

When there’s a will there is a way

Due to the recent news of school closures across the UK on the basis of public health, we were saddened by the thought that this meant the project would have to be put on hold until it was business as usual across the country. With the government outlining ways to continue teaching the curriculum to pupils at home, we made it our duty to do exactly that!

Instead of delivering the Printers to an empty school, we have created a dedicated competition area in the Proto-PIC office for the school printers and attached an accessible camera feed to each. Any pupil can e-mail their bridge competition CAD creations via their teacher and we will breathe life into their schools entry, allowing the kids to watch their parts being created by the printer via a real-time camera feed!

Three Printers. Three Schools. One Competition.

Sky’s the Limit

We are ecstatic for the kids to get started with their creations and stay productive during this turbulent time. Using technology we can truly overcome any barrier and get the most out of ourselves and our enviroment! 3D printers and Filament are now availbile from the Proto-PIC webstore, why not get involved today and start your creative learning adventure!

A wild Oddish (3D printed) appears!

Posted on

Lilypad Arduino

Lilypad Arduino main board
Lilypad Arduino

Lilypad Arduino is changing the way we look at and experience clothing with electronics textiles or e-textiles. You can make dresses that read you poetry or have sensors smuggled inside lace. Or if you like, add projections into your petticoats! What will your first project be?

What are e-textiles?

Put simply, e-textiles are fabrics that have electronics embedded in them. They react like any other circuit, but the components are often design to be easily sewn. The components have blunter corners and a flatter profile to avoid snagging. Most components are washable, but do check to make sure you know which ones.

Conductive thread

The biggest difference between e-textiles and traditional electronics is the use of conductive thread. Conductive thread consists of normal filaments (tiny strands of cloth), each coated with a micron-thick layer of natural silver. It’s the silver that carries that current and works the magic!

SparkFun DEV-11791 Conductive Thread – 60g (Stainless Steel)

Before you start with Lilypad Arduino

Sew around each connecting pad at least three times – this will ensure a good connection.

There’s no need to sew in resistors. If you look at the tiny Lilypad LED boards, they already have a surface mounted resistor in place, so you don’t have to worry.

Lilypad Arduino

You will need

Lilypad coin cell battery holder or board

Coin battery

Lilypad LED board pack

Lilypad ON/OFF switch

Conductive thread

Aida embroidery fabric

Embroidery Floss (for patterns around your circuit – you want it to look good)

Needle

A simple circuit

For this simple circuit, we are going to sew together four LEDs in parallel with an ON/OFF switch.

Both of these diagrams show the same circuit. Drawing out your idea beforehand can help you plan what’s going where.

schematic - Lilypad Arduino
graphical diagram - Lilypad Arduino

Neatly sew together the positive (+) ‘wire’ (the side indicated by the red floss), making sure to loop around each component’s pad at least three times. When you reach the last LED, simply tie a knot and cut the thread. Do the same for the negative (-) wire. As with normal electrical wire, the conductive thread will short-circuit if you allow it to touch itself, so make sure all loose ends are cut short.

What is Lilypad Arduino?

Lilypad Arduino is a wearable programmable system. As with other Arduino models, you can upload sketches to it. You can instruct it to have input and outputs, powering it with a battery or USB. A small lithium battery is perfect for the Lilypad Arduino Simple Board. It has a JST socket (a type of DC connector) so it’s easy to remove and charge.

Note: Do not use more than 5.5V or you’ll end up frying your Arduino!

Warning: Unplug the battery before washing and hand wash in cold water with a gentle detergent. Do not dry clean.

How do you upload a sketch for Lilypad Arduino?

Arduino software is available free from this link. Once that is installed, upload your sketch to your Lilypad Arduino by using an FTDI USB adapter. Now you have your fabric sampler all ready. You can now play! Code, adapt and let your imagination run wild!

Lilypad Arduino

Take this to the next level!

Why not try a more complicated circuit? This project uses a light sensor to change the colour of an RGB (red / green / blue) LED and flash a set of white LEDs in parallel. The opportunities are endless.

You could light up the dancefloor in a charged circle skirt, send messages via your tanktop or explore a city with a sensor-triggered guide sewn into your shoes.

Conduct your own experiments in style! Proto-PIC are a UK Distributor for Sparkfun Lilypad and we can source all the components you need. If you don’t see what you need on our site, we can order and ship very quickly, so do contact us and let us know what you need.

Posted on

STEM Gift Ideas

STEM gift ideas
STEM gift ideas

Take a look at our STEM gift ideas. Give the makers and inventors in your life, a gift to spark their imagination and inspiration, this Christmas.

Preparing today’s children to become the innovators and inventors of tomorrow, begins with play and exploration outside the classroom. A new study called “Jobs of the Future” states STEM jobs will increase at double the rate of other jobs between now and 2023.

STEM Gift Ideas Benefit Skills Development

Our STEM gift ideas are a way for children and young people to learn hands-on. They bring theory to life in fun and interactive ways.

Grove Starter Kit for Arduino

The Grove Starter Kit for Arduino is the perfect starter kit for Arduino beginners. No troublesome soldering and no complicated wiring. You can focus on learning the Arduino. This kit includes a Base Shield which has Grove connectors on board. You will receive twelve Grove modules, included in the kit. To help you get started, you’ll be able to follow the very helpful manual, included. Check out the full range of Grove Kits here.

“These Grove starter kits are a really neat and self-contained solution for anyone wanting to get started developing with Arduino.”

Martin Usher, Proto-PIC Managing Director

Grove Starter Kit for Arduino

STEM Gift Ideas: SparkFun Inventor’s Kit

SparkFun Inventor's Kit STEM Gift Ideas

Another great way to get started with programming is with the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit. Likewise in hardware interaction using the Arduino programming language. The kit includes everything you need to complete five overarching projects. It consists of 16 interconnected circuits that teach everything from blinking an LED to reading sensors. The culminating project is your very own autonomous robot! Above all, no previous programming or electronics experience is required to use this kit.

There is a full-colour, spiral-bound guidebook included. This contains step-by-step instructions for building each project and circuit with the included parts. It includes circuit diagrams and hookup tables. Full example code is provided. New concepts are explained at the time they are used. As you go along, troubleshooting tips are offered.

The Arduino starter kit does not require any soldering. It is recommended for beginners aged 10+.

Proto-PIC Maker Club ~ STEM Gift Ideas

Proto-PIC Maker Club

Treat your young inventors to a gift that keeps on giving with an annual subscription to the Proto-PIC Maker Club. If you’d like to make a 20% saving, sign up for the annual subscription. You’re invited to be part of an exclusive Maker Club at Proto-PIC with an electronics project posted every month. This is an ideal gift for aged 12+. Gain hands on electronics experience, develop coding skills and work with new components. A Proto-PIC maker club subscription fosters creativity and builds resilience. Every month, children can learn at their own pace. They will build confidence, resilience and develop problem solving skills. Our kits help build confidence and encourage knowledge application. Maker Club subscribers are taught skills and knowledge which will bode well for their future careers.

Stocking Fillers – STEM Gift Ideas

Ensure you include in Christmas stockings, some STEM gift ideas that promote learning in a stealth way. Our soldering kits are perfect for beginners. You may like to complete our free short course on soldering in the Proto-PIC Academy.

Lighthouse – Beginners soldering kit

Lighthouse – Beginners soldering kit

Soldering Kit for Beginners

Soldering Kit for Beginners STEM Gift Ideas

Heart Soldering Kit

Heart Soldering Kit STEM Gift Ideas

Unigeek – A Unicorn Badge Soldering Kit

Unigeek - A Unicorn Badge Soldering Kit

Proto-PIC’s soldering kits are a great introduction to soldering and basic electronic principles. Take a look at our full range of soldering supplies and kits here.

LED Range – Diffused, Clear, RGB, 3mm, 5mm and 10mm

An ideal stocking filling are our range of basic through hole LEDs. They are available in 3mm, 5mm, 10mm in all the standard colours. LEDs are a staple of every electronics project.

LED Range – Diffused, Clear, RGB, 3mm, 5mm and 10mm

Carbon Film Resistors

Carbon Film Resistors

Similarly, don’t forget your current limiting resistors! Because they are made by Royal Ohm, they are also great quality. They have a tolerance of 5% and will suit most electronics requirements. For a 5V circuit we recommend 150 Ohm or 180 Ohm resistors.

Our Top Sellers in STEM Gift Ideas:

1Sheeld+ Arduino Shield CEL-14333

 1Sheeld+ Arduino Shield CEL-14333 STEM Gift Ideas

1Sheeld turns your IOS or Android smartphone into a re-configurable Arduino shield.

With one of these, the sky is the limit with what you can do. You can do all sorts of things from controlling a radio controlled car to sending social media messages. Receive a tweet to water your plants. You can do anything that a powerful smartphone can do.

DSO Nano v3 Digital Storage Oscilloscope

DSO Nano v3 Digital Storage Oscilloscope STEM Gift Ideas

The DSO Nano V3 is a pocket-size compatible 32bit digital storage oscilloscope. Based on ARM -M3, it’s equipped with 320*240 color display, SD card, USB port and recharging function. It’s compact, simple to operate; meets the basic demands of school lab, electric furniture repairment and electric engineering.

Arduino UNO compatible project starter kit

The Proto-PIC Arduino UNO compatible project starter kit offers great value for money. The recipient of this kit will be able to make a huge number of projects. You will receive a handy storage box, as shown in the picture. We’ve included some useful tutorials on Proto-PIC’s YouTube channel.

Arduino UNO compatible project starter kit
Arduino UNO compatible project starter kit STEM Gift Ideas
Arduino UNO compatible project starter kit STEM Gift Ideas

Festive Lighting – LED Strips

Most noteworthy, don’t miss stocking up on LED strips for mood lighting and festive lighting displays. The LED strips are great value for money. Use them for accent lighting, lighting up kitchen cupboards, around the television and for shelving. Our waterproof range allow you to use outdoors for spectacular lighting displays. You can choose from a range of sizes.

Posted on

Microbit Lesson Plan

microbit lesson plan

This blog post is full of ideas to support schools in their STEM curriculum. Don’t miss downloading the Microbit Lesson Plan for use with the Phys:bit and micro:bit.

In the lead up to the Christmas holiday break, you can get your students into the festive season. Your students will enjoy our countdown timer project for the New Year. On completion of Proto-PIC Academy courses, students can download a certificate of achievement.
Visit the Proto-PIC STEM Academy

Educator Discount

We offer 30-day accounts
for all UK & Irish Schools, Colleges and Universities.


*PO Value must be over £50 ex VAT

Microbit Lesson Plan

Microbit Lesson Plan

Microbit Lesson Plan

The Scottish Schools Education Research Centre (SSERC) suggested using BBC micro:bits as an aid to teaching potential dividers. And also switching circuits. SSERC have written some programs on how you can wire up “choc block” connectors. This is so you can use the devices with electronic components such as LDRs and LEDs.

Some teachers reported students found the approach too fiddly. As a result, Proto-PIC worked with educators to develop the Proto-PIC board and accessories for the BBC micro:bit. Click the image above to read the SSERC STEM bulletin.

Click to learn more about the Proto-PIC Phys:bit kit – physics classroom add-on for micro:bit & download Proto-PIC’s microbit lesson plan

Microbit Lesson Plan

Introduce your class to exciting new components to work with every month. Create a STEM project, with Proto-PIC’s electronics monthly subscription box.

Each kit box contains an electronics project. Plus, a colour printed instruction magazine for students to follow with step-by-step instructions and learning topics.

Proto-PIC Maker Club is aimed for anyone aged 12 to adult. Your students will gain hands-on experience of working in electronics and develop their coding skills. Your class will gain real-life skills that are used in professional, technical careers. Students will develop skills, build confidence, work with new components, create projects and collaborate.

Order the quantity you require for your class and these will automatically be shipped in the third week of every month.

You can choose to subscribe on a monthly, bi-annual or annual basis. Receive a delivery of kit boxes every month for the duration of your subscription.

Order Maker Club Now
Microbit Lesson Plan

Proto-PIC Out and About



In September, Proto-PIC enjoyed a fantastic time at Insp-Hire, a new event for those aged 4 to 14, and their parents or guardians, to learn about the fourth industrial revolution and how this will impact their future. The event was held at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Technology is moving at such a pace and Insp-Hire aims to to educate and excite children about their future careers – and find out what skills they might need to get their dream job!

On the day, there was inspirational speakers including Gillian Docherty from Data Lab, an amazing interactive exhibition space with virtual reality, digital twinning, 3D printers, electric vehicles and more. There were workshops where parents and children could interact together to learn to solve a cyber security attack, code Lego and build their own Fitbit. Plus much more, including Proto-PIC’s stand where children received a free soldering kit and enjoyed becoming the greatest living banana pianist with the Sparkfun Makey Makey Kit

To top it all off….the event was free of charge! And was a great day out for families.  
BBC Micro:bit Schools
The Proto-PIC Gas:Bit gas sensor breakout board for the BBC Micro:bit is a best-seller and popular with schools. It is simple to use. The gas:bit adds a range of gas detection capabilities to the Micro:Bit, including hydrogen, methane, propane, smoke & more. Click the image above to learn more.

STEM Education

Proto-PIC are passionate about working with Educators to share their knowledge and interest in STEM subjects. We provide a range of services and products to support schools, colleges and universities in developing their STEM curriculum. This includes, running Maker Club workshops and training. One of our most popular classroom workshops is developing an automatic plant watering system. We run this both directly with students and with teachers, as part of, STEM teacher training.

Primary Schools

Micro:bit schools Lesson Plans
The BBC Micro:bit is an ARM-based embedded system developed by the BBC for use in education. It is aimed at getting children into electronics – something very close to our hearts at Proto-PIC – and can be programmed via a web interface. It has LEDs mounted on the board so children can make scrolling messages or simple graphics. They can even connect up other things like temperature sensors using the croc clip rings on the board.
STEM for Primary

Secondary Schools

STEM Lesson Plan
Enable your students to set their ideas alive with activities using the BBC micro:bit, Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Working closely with you, we can design specific projects and kit for hands-on learning. Our work is aligned with the curriculum, supporting students develop their skills in communication, problem-solving, collaboration and critical thinking. As well as, skills in exploration, invention, computational thinking and curiosity.
STEM for Secondary

Higher Education

Micro:bit Lesson Plan
A number of key education services are provided by Proto-PIC. We support the development of STEM curriculum through the project design and manufacture of components. Proto-PIC can also assemble kits purchased from our store for you, write Arduino sketches, provide design consultancy, and can program a wide range of Atmel AVR chips as well as PICs. Encouraging a love for STEM is close to our hearts.
STEM for HE
If you’d like to discuss further, how Proto-PIC can support your STEM curriculum, please contact us by phone or email.
Posted on

Electronics Components

electronics components

Proto-PIC is a leading purveyor of electronics components and an interactive, inspiring hub for Makers and Educators. Our site is the place to learn via the Proto-PIC Academy, share in our community forum and discover latest news and products. Buy electronics, receive FREE technical support and join our Maker Club. Plus Educators and Students, don’t forget to sign up for your educational discount.

Proto-PIC brand new Electronics Components website
If you have previously shopped with us before, you will need to do a one-time password reset on our new site. 
Please click here to reset your password
Here’s just a few highlights, which we think you’re going to like.
components at Proto-PIC
Enhance your knowledge by learning for free at the Proto-PIC Academy. If you pass our short courses, you’ll earn a certificate.
Start learning with Proto-PIC now

Maker Club

Proto-PIC Maker Club
Proto-PIC Maker Club is an electronics, monthly subscription box. Our limited edition Proto-PIC Maker Club, gives you a monthly box containing an electronics project delivered directly to your door. This exclusive club is limited in numbers, with an electronics project shipping in the third week of every month. When the quota is gone, it’s gone! Save 20% on a 12 month subscription! 
Learn more about the Maker Club here
Student and Educator discounts at Proto-PIC
We offer educational discounts to all UK and Irish schools, colleges and universities on all orders over £50 ex VAT. Order Maker Club kits for your classroom and receive a further discount on the subscription savings.If you’re an Educator, read about our work with schools in the STEM Bulletin. 

If you’re a student, contact us with your valid.ac.uk or .edu email address and tell us which course you are studying. Once we check your eligibility, we will then send you an email with a lovely Coupon Code entitling you to save 10% on the product prices of any future purchases made including the Maker Club, until the end of the summer term. Stock up on all the electronics components that you need.

Top Selling Electronics Components

DSO NANO V3 DIGITAL STORAGE OSCILLOSCOPE
Electronics Components at Proto-PIC
1SHEELD+ ARDUINO SHIELD CEL-14333 - Electronics Components at Proto-PIC
MICRO:PIXEL EDGE 1X10 WS2812B BOARD FOR MICRO:BIT

Besides electronics components, there is a whole host of services offered by Proto-PIC. Click the image below to read more about our range of consultancy services for individuals, educators and business.

Electronics Components at Proto-PIC
Posted on

Soldering Tutorial

Soldering Tutorial – How to Solder

Here’s a beginner’s guide to soldering tutorial. From this you’ll learn how to solder.

soldering-tutorial_1200x360

If you want to make anything that involves an Arduino, raspberry pi or any kind of circuitry, the odds are that you are going to have to solder something to a circuit board. Don’t worry – it’s much simpler than it looks and Proto-PIC have some fantastic soldering kits to get you started! Soldering is a key skill to master if you want to work with electronics. It’s a tricky business too: if you want to attach metal wiring or components to a PCB (printed circuit board) a little finesse with a soldering iron goes a long way.

Soldering Tutorial Basic Kit

basic kit for soldering

Clockwise from top left:
1. Solder Wire
A 60% tin, 40% lead wire (commonly called a 60/40) is probably the easiest solder wire to work with and is easy and inexpensive
2. Solder Iron and Stand
A pencil-style 25W will see you right. Don’t skimp on the wattage – longer heating times with cooler irons damage the integrity of your solder joint.
3. Sponge
Most stands should come with a sponge and a place to store it. A 100% cellulose sponge is the most effective. Before you start soldering, make sure that your sponge is dampened with water and wet to the touch.
4. Diagonal Cutters
5. A small pair of diagonal wire cutters will allow you to trim the excess from your newly soldered joints.

image shows soldering iron dipped into sponge

Once you’ve turned on your iron and heated it to the correct temperature – 370 degrees centigrade should be about right for 60/40 wire – you need to clean the iron and ‘tin the tip’. Wipe the tip of the iron on the damp sponge to prevent any oxidation and then immediately touch a small amount of solder wire to the tip of the iron and wipe it away on the sponge.

Soldering Tutorial Handy Tip: Never use files or abrasives like sandpaper as it will damage the plating and ruin your iron

image shows soldering iron tips

Solder Iron A is an example of a dirty tip. If you’re having trouble tipping, you can repair an oxidised tip by treating it with tip-tinning paste. Solder Iron B is what you should be seeing – a thin, shiny layer on the tip of the iron.

images show a pcb board

To prepare the PCB, make sure that it’s free from dirt / fingerprints and oxidation by cleaning it with rubbing alcohol. Now, putting your board in a vice if you have access to one, is a very useful way to steady it and leave your hands free to hold the solder wire and iron in the place you want them – it’s really important that the parts being joined do not move, as if they do you end with a faulty ‘cold joint.

image shows soldering iron being used to solder parts to a board

Strip the wire / component you wish to solder free of its plastic casing. Then hold the wire at the point at which you wish to create a joint and heat it with the iron. Once the metal is heating, touch the tip of the solder wire between the iron and the wire / component so that it melts and flows into the hole and on your wire, joining them together. Once enough solder has coated the join (it should only take a few seconds), carefully remove the iron and allow the solder to cool.

image shows clippers being used to snip excess wire

Once your joint has dried, clip the excess wire / component with the diagonal clippers as close as you can to the board. A well-bounded joint will look like a smooth, shiny, slightly rounded pyramid.

Soldering Tutorial Handy Tip: Take care not to inhale the soldering fumes in lead-based solder. Make sure you work with mouth and nose protection in a well-ventilated area.

images shows common issues in soldering joints

Common Issues

(Clockwise from top left)

1. Overheated joint

This blackened mess was caused by the solder not flowing well, which usually happens because of a dirty or under-heated iron. You can fix the problem by cleaning gently with a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol and starting again.

2. Cold Joint

Cold joints are caused by not allowing the solder to melt completely. They make a circuit unreliable and prone to cracks. You can recognise a cold joint by its rough / lumpy surface and can fix one by simply reheating the joint with your iron, being careful to remove any excess solder by drawing it off with the iron’s tip.

3. Disturbed joint

Disturbed joints look very similar to cold joints – crystalline and rough. However, such joints are caused by movement during the solder’s solidifying process. You can simply reheat the area and repair the damage but be sure to keep your tools as still as possible.

Posted on

How to Assemble the Temp:bit

tempbitmain

tempbitmain

First of all you need to check the content of your kit which is easy as it only contains the PCB and a tmp36 sensor.

You will also require the following parts:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Flush cutters or snips

Step 1.

Taking the tmp36 as shown, you need to bend the two outer pins as shown below.

 

Taking the tmp36 as shown above you need to bend the two outer pins as shown below.

temp bit tutorial 2

Step 2.

Place the tmp36 through the holes as shown below.

 

Now taking the heated soldering solder all 3 pins to the board as shown below.

 

Step 3.

Taking your cutters snip the legs away taking care as the legs can fly off with some force. Placing a finger on the end of the leg when cutting can reduce the risk of flying legs!

You are now done. You can click here to view our tutorial on how to use the tmp:36 with a micro:bit. Please note this was before we released the board and shows just the sensor.

temp bit tutorial 5

Posted on

Lighthouse – Beginners Soldering kit

First of all you need to check the contents of the kit you should have the following:

Kit contains:

  • 1 x 220 ohm resistor ( Red, Red, Black)
  • 1 x 82k ohm resistor (Grey, Red, Orange)
  • 2 x 220k ohm resistors (Red, Red, Yellow)
  • 2 x Diodes
  • 1 x Power switch
  • 1 x CR2032 battery holder (battery not included)
  • 2 x Capacitors
  • 1 x Lighthouse PCB
  • 1 x Stand PCB
  • 1 x White LED

You will also need a soldering iron, solder, flush cutters for snipping off the legs of the components and eye protection.

Step one:

We want to start by placing the components with the least height first, so in this case it’s the resistors. As you can see the lighthouse has the resistor values printed on the back of the board. Resistors aren’t polarised so it doesn’t matter which way around they go. It’s very important you get the correct resistor in the correct place, pay super close attention to the colour bands.

220 Ohm

220k Ohm

82k Ohm

Once you have placed the resistors through the holes, bend the legs slightly to hold them in place then solder them to the board. To solder them first tin your iron (apply a little solder to the end of the tip.) Next place the edge of the tip of the iron on the solder pad so that it is also touching the leg of the component.

Step two:

One you’ve soldered all of the resistors you need to trim the legs down. Using the flush cutters position them as shown below.

Carefully snip the legs off, you may want to hold the end of the leg gently with one finger so they don’t go flying off across the room!

Your board should now look like this:

Step three:

Now we want to solder on the LED. You’ll notice that the LED has one leg longer than the other, this is the positive leg and needs to be aligned with the + on the board. When placing the LED, don’t sit it all the way down – you need to bend it up 90 Degrees so it sits in the space provided. Once you have placed it correctly solder it in place then place the transistors. These are the black D shaped components. The image on the back of the board shows which way the around they should go. Once these are soldered and the legs trimmed it should look something like this:

Step Four:

Now we want to solder the capacitors in place. These are the round metal cylinders. These are polarised which means they need to go a certain way around. If you look at side of them you will see one side has a minus printed on it.

The leg at that side is the negative and the longer leg is the positive. The positive legs should be aligned to the middle of the board, like this:

Now they are in position solder them up and trim the legs and your lighthouse should look like this:

Step Five:

Now for the battery holder!

If you look at the circle on the back you can see it has one hole inside it and another just above it, this shows you what way around the holder needs placed. Once placed solder it up and trim any excess and it should look like this:

Step Six:

We now need the power switch, don’t worry about which way around this goes, simply pop it in the holes at the bottom, solder it up and trim the pins and it should look like this:

Step Seven:

Finally we’re almost done! now all you need to do is slot the base into the bottom of the light house and solder the two together. Soldering one or two joins should be more than enough to keep it together. When soldering it lay the whole thing on it’s side and solder them like this:

Now that’s done it should look like this:

Now simply pop the battery in to the holder and switch it on! you now have a magnificent flashing light house, well done!

Did it not work?

The first thing to check it that all of the points are properly soldered, next check that you have the resistors in the correct place. Still not working? is the battery charged? and the correct way around? (writing facing up) . Also check the transistors are facing the correct way, the round side facing down and that the Capacitors are aligned with the minus showing on the outer edges. Finally is the LED the correct way around?

Tried everything and still can get it to work? contact our technical support by  email along with a picture of the board to [email protected]

Posted on

Arduino Based Voltage Meter

Arduino Uno R3 Main Board Front/Top View A000066

I was looking at making some videos on Arduino development, and while planning the recording sessions, I thought about using a web-cam to show a multi-meter screen to show readings on a circuit. While this would not be too difficult to arrange, I thought ‘What if I could read the voltage and display it on my PC screen!’.  This lead to a mini project . .

      The first step was to read the voltage using an analog input on the Arduino, and scale this to the actual voltage, As I am using a USB connection to power the Arduino (and my final project) – I read the voltage using my multi-meter and took a note of this (5.14 Volts), to use later in my code. I then wrote code to print the voltage reading to the Serial Monitor :

VoltMeter1.ino      int myVoltageReading = 5.14;      unsigned int analogIn = 0;      void setup()      {              Serial.begin(115200);      }       void loop()      {              analogIn = analogRead(A0);              analogIn = map(a, 0, 1023, 0, myVoltageReading * 1000);                if (analogIn < 10) Serial.print(“0”);               if (analogIn < 100) Serial.print(“0”);              if (analogIn < 1000) Serial.print(“0”);              if (analogIn < 10000) Serial.print(“0”);              Serial.println(a, DEC);              delay(150);      }

This is reading the analog port every 150mS and sending the voltage to the serial monitor in micro Volts. A good start. Now to write a C# application to get this info and display it on screen. Using Visual Studio, I started a new application, and designed a form with a nice big font displaying ’00:000 V’.  This was going to be my canvas. I then needed a way to select the COM port that the Arduino would be connected to, I had used a similar piece of code in an earlier project, so I just cut and pasted that into my new project. I also added a drop down box, label and a button. I then wrote the serial data handler part of the application. The application would open the serial port, and when it received some data, it would call a function that took this data and updated the display. Unfortunately this did not go as I had hoped due to the data structure (or lack of structure) as the application would often show random values. I then decided to update the Arduino sketch to send a header, and footer to the data. This would allow the C# application to parse the data in a controlled manor. Here is the update :

VoltMeter2.ino

      int myVoltageReading = 5.14;
      unsigned int analogIn = 0;
      void setup()
      {
              Serial.begin(115200);
      }

      void loop()
      {
              analogIn = analogRead(A0);
              analogIn = map(analogIn, 0, 1023, 0, myVoltageReading * 1000);
              Serial.print(“@”);
              if (analogIn < 10) Serial.print(“0”);
              if (analogIn < 100) Serial.print(“0”);
              if (analogIn < 1000) Serial.print(“0”);
              if (analogIn < 10000) Serial.print(“0”);
              Serial.print(analogIn, DEC);
              Serial.print(“#”);
              delay(150);
      }

      This is now good for reading voltages up to myVoltageReading, but some of the circuits may require up to 9 Volts (or higher). This can be arranged using 2 resistors, and a small change to the code. I am using 2 x 8.2K matched resistors (I matched them using my multi-meter), though you could use 2 resistors of the same unmatched value if you just wanted approximate voltage. I connected the resistors in series, one end to GROUND on the Arduino, the intersection of the resistors to the A0 pin, and my input probe to the free end of the resistor pair. Updating the code to the code below, I could now read up to 10V and I also stabilized the reading by taking an average of 10 reads. I used my meter and a 9V battery to give a reference so I could ‘trim’ the top end. I decided to do this rather than use a voltage reference as I wanted this to be as cheap as possible.

VoltMeterFinal.ino

      unsigned int analogIn = 0;
      void setup()
      {
              Serial.begin(115200);
      }

      void loop()
      {
              for (int loopy = 0; loopy < 10; loopy++)
        {
               analogIn = analogIn + analogRead(A0);
               delay(10);
        }
              analogIn = analogIn / 10;
              analogIn = map(analogIn, 0, 1023, 0, 10190); // The last value here has been trimmed – 9.2V on Milti-meter matches
              Serial.print(“@”);
              if (analogIn < 10) Serial.print(“0”);
              if (analogIn < 100) Serial.print(“0”);
              if (analogIn < 1000) Serial.print(“0”);
              if (analogIn < 10000) Serial.print(“0”);
              Serial.print(analogIn, DEC);
              Serial.print(“#”);
              delay(50);
              analogIn = 0;
      }

      Now that I have this up and running, I wanted to make the project as small as I could. I got a 5V pro-mini and an FTDI based USB to Serial board (Though any USB -> Serial adapter would be OK) and soldered them together, one on top of the other.  I had an old muti-meter, and using the leads from this, I made my probes, and then secured them with hot glue (After soldering them to Ground and the Resistors), finally wrapping the electronics in heat tubing. This is now sitting in my tools drawer, ready to go. I have built one of these for myself, for using at home.

Click here for the code for this project.

Posted on

Day of the Geek Badge

This is a short guide on how to assemble the day of the geek badge.

First up you need to check that you have everything you need:

Included:

  • Skull PCB
  • 20mm Battery holder
  • LEDs
  • Pin back

Not included:

  • CR2032 Battery
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Pliers
  • Flush cutters

Step 1.

Place the battery holder into the provided holes and solder to the board, make sure you get this the correct way around! You need to be able to insert the battery from the bottom of the badge.

Step 2.

You need to apply solder to the centre of the pin back pad on the PCB. Tin your soldering iron then hold the tip against the large round pad on the rear of the PCB then apply solder, you want to cover about half of the area of the circle in the centre.

Step 3.

Using your pliers hold the pin back onto the centre of the pad you have just applied the solder to. While holding down with the pliers heat the pin back and hold the iron in place until you notice the solder flow to the edge.

Next remove the iron while still holding in place with the pliers. This will stay very hot for a while so be careful!

Step 4.

Turn the board over and insert the LEDs, ensuring the short legs are towards the centre of the board. Next turn the board back over again and solder the legs in place.

Step 5.

Using your cutters it’s time to snip the legs from the LEDs. You should wear eye protection as the legs can fly off!

If you want to have your badge stand up on a desk only snip the inner two legs and bend the remaining legs down slightly.

Step 6.

Insert the battery writing side facing out and you are ready to augment your best threads with some Dia de los Muertos geek fusion!