Getting Started with Electronics and Engineering at Home
Electronics and engineering are everywhere in today’s society. Lots of children want to learn and be a part of this world of new and exciting technology. They could be the next big inventor, or the creator of the next big thing. Engineering starts at home. There are lots of low cost options to start creating new and exciting things. Many of these options are even free and online. I’ve lined up some fantastic resources for you and your child to get started with electronics, engineering, and learning together.
Code.Org is a nonprofit that hosts several free online courses to learn coding. They teach code using Block code, meaning that you connect together drag and drop blocks to make a code and complete a goal. You can get started today for free, with no sign ups required and complete an Hour of Code course in less than an hour. Perfect for grades K-12
Raspberry Pi is a low cost single board computer that can be attached to any screen. Raspberry Pi’s start as low as $10 for the board. They can be used for lots of different projects and Internet of Things projects. They also come with several block coding and type coding softwares built in to learn how to code and create. Raspberry Pi is an Open Source technology.
Arduino is a modified C language for code. It is a completely typed code and lots of different circuit boards use Arduino IDE as a programing interface. Arduino IDE is free and available online or as a free download. Common boards that use it are the Arduino Uno (an official Arduino board) and the Adafruit Feather. There are several Feathers with different controller chips on them for different purposes. Adafruit is open source and publishes learn guides and tutorials for all of their products and projects using their products.
Adafruit is an Open Source Hardware company in NYC devoted to making products for people to learn how to code. All of their products have good documentation and tutorials on how to use it. I recommend ordering parts from them as well as two of the best boards for learning that I know of. They also host live engineering video streams on Wednesday nights. For more information check out adafruit.com
The Adafruit Circuit Playground is a single board that has a bunch of sensors and lights on it that make it easy to learn to code. You can use Microsoft Make Code with the Circuit Playground Express. Make Code is a free online block code in the browser. You can also program any Circuit Playground in Arduino or Circuit Python. There is also a Circuit Playground YouTube series from Adafruit to teach kids about electronics, from A to Z. This corresponds with a coloring book and plush characters available on the Adafruit store.
The Micro:bit is a python based board from the UK. It was released in America earlier this year and Adafruit is the first US retailer. It is a low cost single board with a bunch of lights and sensors. You can code with several different block code platforms including Microsoft Make Code and you can code it with typed code in a language called Python.
3D printing is becoming increasingly common. You can get a good beginner printer for as low as $200 (a very good price for a printer). Pictured to the right is the Micro 3D printer from M3D. This is the printer that I use and I love it. It is super user friendly and comes in several colors. It’s small and quiet enough that it could be running in any environment. You can find free 3D models on Thingiverse and you can create your own using TinkerCAD, SolidWorks Apps for Kids, or Autodesk Fusion 360 for free.
There are tons of resources out there to get inspired with different projects and programming languages. Adafruit is a fantastic place to look for videos and tutorials on how to do different projects. You can also look on Instuctables to see what different people have made. Every week, Adafruit hosts a live Show and Tell where makers, artists, hackers and engineers from around the world show and share their project. Right after is Ask an Engineer Live, where you can learn about what’s going on the world of electronics and making and ask your questions to a world class female engineer. You will also get a super-secret 10% off discount code for the Adafruit store.
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