It’s no surprise that we here at Hackaday are big fans of Fritzing KiCad. But to a beginner (or a seasoned veteran!) the learning curve can be cliff-like in its severity. In 2016 we published a piece linking to project by friend-of-the-Hackaday [Chris Gammell] called Contextual Electronics, his project to produce formalized KiCad training. Since then the premier “Getting to Blinky” video series has become an easy recommendation for anyone looking to get started with Libre EDA. After a bit of a hiatus [Chris] is back with bite sized videos exploring every corner of the KiCad-o-verse.
The original Getting to Blinky series is a set of 10 videos up to 30 minutes long that walks through everything from setting up the the KiCad interface through soldering together some perfect purple PCBs. They’re exhaustive in coverage and a great learning resource, but it’s mentally and logistically difficult to sit down and watch hours of content. Lately [Chris] has taken a new tack by producing shorter 5 to 10 minute snapshots of individual KiCad features and capabilities. We’ve enjoyed the ensuing wave of learning in our Youtube recommendations ever since!
The ESP8266 has become one of those ubiquitous parts that everyone knows. However, the new ESP32 has a lot of great new features, too. If you want to take the ESP32 for a spin, you should check out [Neil Kolban’s] video series about the device. When we say series, we aren’t kidding. At last count, there were nineteen videos. Some are only a few minutes long, but some weigh in at nearly twenty minutes and the average is somewhere in between.
The topics range from setting up tools and using Eclipse and GDB. There are also tutorials on specific tasks like PWM, analog conversion, real-time operating systems, and more.
KiCAD has been making leaps and bounds recently, especially since CERN is using it almost exclusively. However, while many things are the same, just enough of them are different from our regular CAD packages that it’s hard to get started in the new suite.
[Chris Gammell] runs Contextual Electronics, an online apprenticeship program which goes from concept to assembled electronics covering everything in between. To take the course you pay a nominal fee, but [Chris] posted a very excellent ten-part video series made during the last run of classes which you can watch without charge. The videos go through the basics of KiCAD while hitting the major points to consider when designing and manufacturing your electronics.
The project [Chris] chose is a simple circuit that blinks an LED with a 555. The first videos cover navigating KiCAD’s component schematic editor and library system. Next comes creating circuit schematics and component footprint creation. [Chris] covers PCB layout, the generation of Gerber files, and finally ordering the design from OSH Park — the purveyors of purple boards we’ve come to know and love. The series finishes up with simulating the circuit in LTSpice, ordering the parts, and finally soldering and debugging of the board. If all goes correctly you should now have a single blinking LED.
If the bright summer sun is burning your delicate skin, and you’d rather be locked inside with solder fumes, add this to your watch list now!
Sparkfun Electronics has launched an educational web site with a full curriculum of classes being held at Sparkfun Headquarters. If you don’t live nearby, no problem. You can download the entire curriculum as well. It appears that they will have a tutorial section for those who prefer a per-project approach, but that area is still “coming soon”. We love to see people educating others. Good job Sparkfun, looking forward to seeing more content on there.
The tutorial cites a common situation, where someone is working on a project using an Arduino chip but they don’t want to sacrifice their dev board when just the micro and a few other components would do just fine. A short list of supplies is required, including an Arduino, a proto shield kit, a ZIF socket, and a blank ATmega chip.
The process is probably pretty straightforward and likely familiar to many of you out there. The ZIF socket is soldered to the board and handful of wires are added for powering and programming the new chip. The protoboard is installed on top of the Arduino like any other shield, and using a sketch that [Lady Ada] has made available, the bootloader burning process is a cinch.
It’s a useful tip for newcomers, and definitely a skill that seasoned Arduino users should have under their belts as well.
For any of our regular readers, the lesson will seem pretty basic (and likely full of things to nitpick). However, we imagine his lessons would be quite helpful to anyone looking to expand their electronics know-how.
Now don’t get us wrong, we love the series of electronics tutorials that Jeri has been periodically releasing, but we think there’s plenty of room on the Internet for other willing teachers as well. If his first lesson is any indicator, his tutorials will be easy to understand, sprinkled with a little bit of humor, and chock full of fun videos that demonstrate the subject at hand.
Take a quick look his way if you get a chance – you or someone you know might find his tutorials and reference guides insightful.
We realize that not everyone out there holds a degree in electrical engineering or has the ability to tell NPN transistors apart from PNP transistors by taste alone, so we occasionally like to mention things that appeal to the beginners in the crowd. While there is a clear division between Arduino supporters and detractors, it is hard to deny that the devices have their place, and can be quite useful when exploring certain electronics concepts.
He is not satisfied with simply introducing a concept and handing out a sketch that does the work. He takes the time to expand on the concepts, giving the reader enough detail to use their new-found knowledge in later projects. If you were to follow his tutorials from beginning to end, you would be exposed to LCD screen control, shift registers, real-time clocks, I2C bus communications, and more. These skills and concepts can be carried on to future projects as well as other micro controllers, making his tutorials a very valuable learning tool worth checking out.