It looks like the Martian winter may have claimed another victim, with reports that Chinese ground controllers have lost contact with the Zhurong rover. The solar-powered rover was put into hibernation back in May 2022, thanks to a dust storm that kicked up a couple of months before the start of local winter. Controllers hoped that they would be able to reestablish contact with the machine once Spring rolled around in December, but the rover remains quiet. It may have suffered the same fate as Opportunity, which had its solar panels covered in dust after a planet-wide sandstorm and eventually gave up the ghost.
What’s worse, it seems like the Chinese are having trouble talking to the Tianwen-1 orbiter, too. There are reports that controllers can’t download data from the satellite, which is a pity because it could potentially be used to image the Zhurong landing site in Utopia Planitia to see what’s up. All this has to be taken with a grain of dust, of course, since the Chinese aren’t famously transparent with their space program. But here’s hoping that both the rover and the orbiter beat the odds and start doing science again soon.
It can be surprisingly hard to find decent analogies when you’re teaching electronics basics. The water flow analogy, for instance, is decent for explaining Ohm’s law, but it breaks down pretty soon thereafter.
Hydraulics aren’t as easy to set up when you want an educational toykit for your child to play with, which leaves them firmly in the thought experiment area. [Steve Mould] shows us a different take – the experimentation kit called Spintronics, which goes the mechanical way, using chains, gears, springs and to simulate the flow of current and the effect of potential differences.
Through different mechanical linkages between gears and internal constructs, you can implement batteries, capacitors, diodes, inductors, resistors, switches, transistors, and the like. The mechanical analogy is surprisingly complete. [Steve] starts by going through the ways those building blocks are turned into mechanical-gear-based elements. He then builds one circuit after another in quick succession, demonstrating just how well it maps to the day-to-day electronic concepts. Some of the examples are oscillators, high-pass filters, and amplifiers. [Steve] even manages to build a full-bridge rectifier!
In the end, he also builds a flip-flop and an XOR gate – just in case you were wondering whether you could theoretically build a computer out of these. Such a mechanical approach makes for a surprisingly complete and endearing analogy when teaching electronics, and an open-source 3D printable take on the concept would be a joy to witness.
Looking for something you could gift to a young aspiring mind? You don’t have to go store-bought – there are some impressive hackers who build educational gadgets, for you to learn from.
Learning anything new, especially so broad and far reaching as electronics, can be hard. [IMSAI Guy] knows this because he gets asked regularly “how do I learn electronics?” Many of you reading this will have a few ideas to pass along (and we encourage you to share your take on it in the comments below) but there is an even greater number of people who are asking the same question, and [IMSAI Guy]’s take on it is one that this particular Hackaday writer can relate to.
According to [IMSAI Guy], an excellent place to start is the ARRL Handbook. The ARRL Handbook is an electronics and RF engineering guide published by the Amateur Radio Relay League in the US. It’s a wonderful reference, and past editions can be had very inexpensively and are every bit as handy. Many hams will have a copy they could be talked out of, and you can likely find one at your local library. Where to start in the Handbook, then?
[IMSAI Guy] recommend starting with whatever catches your fancy. As an example, he starts with Op Amps, and rather than diving straight into the math of how they work or even worrying to much about what they are- he just builds a circuit and then plays with it to intrinsically understand how it works, a “learn by doing” approach that he has found extremely helpful just as many of us have. We also appreciated is very straightforward approach to the math: Don’t bother with it unless you need to for some reason, and definitely don’t start by learning it first.
In fact, that same reasoning is applied to any subject: Learn it as you need it, and don’t start by learning but rather by doing. The learning will come on its own! Be sure to check out the entire video and let us know what you think, and how you approached learning electronics. Thanks to [cliff] for the great Tip!