Developing An Open Source Electronics Trainer

It’s a safe bet that most Hackaday reader’s interest in electronics started at a young age, and that their early forays into the world of hardware hacking likely involved some form of “playground” kit. As long as you didn’t lose any of the components, these kits promised the user that hundreds of possible projects were just a few jumper wires away. Extra points awarded for when you decide to toss away the manual and fly solo.

While there’s still no shortage of such products on the market, [Josh Kittle] felt the concept could do with a freshening up. His open hardware “Microcontroller Trainer” harkens back to those old multi-kits, but adds in the sort of high-tech gadgetry that makes the modern DIY world go round.

It’s still got the traditional layout: a center mounted breadboard surrounded by an array of LEDs, a handful of buttons, and a pair of potentiometers. But there’s also sockets for the Raspberry Pi, ESP8266, ESP32, and Arduino. Plus a few of their most popular friends to keep them company: a .96″ OLED, 2.4″ Touch TFT, and a BC05 Bluetooth module.

Originally [Josh] created this design to help clean up his own workspace, figuring he could just put his most used components on a single compact board. But as you might expect, others expressed interest in the concept. Now he’s producing them as kits, and even working his way towards a third hardware revision that adds features such as an integrated 18650 battery for portable use.

While electronics kits that have you build a functional device are a great way to learn the ropes, we’re always glad to see fresh takes on the classic electronic “playground” concept.

Automatic Component Tape Cutter For When Your Electronics Kit Hits The Big Time

Even for the simplest of products, production at scale can be big challenge. For example, you might find yourself spending many hours manually counting and cutting strips of component tape to go with the DIY electronics kit your selling on Tindie. [Tom Keddie] found himself in similar position some time ago, and built himself an automated component counter and tape cutter.

[Tom] posted the video of his old machine (see it after the break) after a call for help from another Twitter user who found himself with a lot of component strips to cut. The frame of the machine is made from 20×20 aluminium extrusions and laser cut plexiglass. The tape is pulled off the reel by a stepper motor using a 3D printed sprocket, with the tape held on by Lego wheel and tension spring. A second idler sprocket with tensioner is used to guide the tape through two photo-interrupters that can count holes in opaque tape or the components in clear tape. The cutter itself it an Exacto blade mounted on a wooden block in a guillotine-like arrangement, driven by another stepper motor and a threaded rod as lead screw. Everything is of course controlled by an Arduino. Although not used any more, [Tom] says it worked very well in its day.

The availability of cheap laser cutting, 3D printing and components like aluminium extrusions and stepper motors have really made it possible for anyone to add some automation to production in the home workshop. You won’t be surprised that we’ve seen something like this before, but we’ve also seen similar machines for wiring prep and through-hole resistors. Let us hear your production hacks in the comments, or drop us a tip if you’ve documented it!

Continue reading “Automatic Component Tape Cutter For When Your Electronics Kit Hits The Big Time”

Fail Of The Week: Where’s Me Jumper?

Just in case you imagine that those of us who write for Hackaday are among the elite of engineering talent who never put a foot wrong and whose benches see a succession of perfectly executed builds and amazing hacks, let me disabuse you of that notion with an ignominious failure of my own.

I was building an electronic kit, a few weeks ago. It’s a modular design with multiple cards on a backplane, though since in due course you’ll see a review of it here I’ll save you its details until that moment. In my several decades of electronic endeavours I have built many kits, so this one as a through-hole design on the standard 0.1″ pitch should have presented me with no issues at all. Sadly though it didn’t work out that way.

Things started to go wrong towards the end of the build, I noticed that the temperature regulator on my soldering iron had failed at some point during its construction. Most of it had thus been soldered at a worryingly high temperature, so I was faced with a lot of solder joints to go over and rework in case any of them had been rendered dry by the excessive heat.

In due course when I powered my completed kit up, nothing worked. It must have been the extra heat, I thought, so out came the desolder braid and yet again I reworked the whole kit. Still no joy. Firing up my oscilloscope I could see things happening on its clock and data lines so there was hope, but this wasn’t a kit that was responding to therapy. A long conversation with the (very patient) kit manufacturer left me having followed up a selection of avenues, all to no avail. By this time a couple of weeks of on-and-off diagnostics had come and gone, and I was getting desperate. Somehow I’d cooked this thing with my faulty iron, and there was no way to find the culprit.

Continue reading “Fail Of The Week: Where’s Me Jumper?”

Crappy Robots And Even Crappier Electronics Kits

Robots and DIY electronics kits have a long history together. There probably isn’t anyone under the age of forty that hasn’t had some experience with kit-based robots like wall-hugging mouse robots, a weird walking robot on stilts, or something else from the 1987 American Science and Surplus catalog. DIY robot kits are still big business, and walking through the sales booths of any big Maker Faire will show the same ideas reinvented again and again.

[demux] got his hands on what is possibly the worst DIY electronics kit in existence. It’s so incredibly bad that it ends up being extremely educational; pick up one of these ‘introduction to electronics’ kits, and you’ll end up learning advanced concepts like PCB rework, reverse engineering, and Mandarin.

Continue reading “Crappy Robots And Even Crappier Electronics Kits”

Impersonating FBI Agents And People Who Can Solder

[Dale Botkin], [N0XAS], is a competent designer for the amateur radio crowd and has a part-time business on the side selling a few kits. As anyone who owns a business, works in retail, or simply interacts with the general population will know, eventually you’ll have to deal with one of those customers. [Dale]’s latest horror story (here’s the coral cache but that doesn’t seem to be working either) comes from someone who bought a little repeater controller. You’re looking at this customer’s handiwork above. It gets worse.

After this customer completely botched an assembly job, he contacted [Dale] for some technical assistance. [Dale] graciously accepted a return and received the above mess of solder, wires, and parts. Then an email disputing the Paypal charge arrived. The customer wanted a refund for the original kit and the cost of shipping it back.

Oh, but it gets better. After posting this story, [Dale] received yet another email from an FBI agent demanding that his original post be taken down. The email from the FBI came from a Czech domain, so of course this is a totally legit demand.

So there’s your, “worst customer ever” story from the world of kit electronics. The assembly is impressively bad, even for something that was ‘professionally installed by an electrician’, but mail fraud and impersonating federal officials just takes this over the top.


Quick note: any doxxing in the comments will be deleted, so just don’t do it.