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How to Electronics

New tutorials (newtorials?), courtesy of Dave and SparkFun's education department!

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Happy October! We know we can't pull anything over on you guys, and you're right: This is not your regularly scheduled According to Pete. Pete and the SparkFun crew are in New York for Maker Faire, but he'll be back to make it up to you on Monday, October 15. The good news is, if there's one thing we aren't short on around here, it's electronics enthusiasts. 

You might already know Dave Stillman, our developer and pseudo arch-rival of Rob Cowan. Dave's been working with our education department to launch an improved redesign of their tutorials at learn.sparkfun.com. When it's finished (we'll announce it formally but hopefully in a few short weeks!), we'll have a shiny new system built to cater to those just entering the wonderful world of electronics. The tutorials site will be easier to navigate, with improved step-by-step instructions, pictures and details. As a Pete's offering (get it?!) and sneak preview, here are a few tutorials that we've been working on for the site, starring Dave himself. 

Dave builds a twin gearbox -- useful on its own or as an integral part of the ProtoSnap MiniBot.


Dave shows us how to harness the power of hot air to fix common soldering mistakes. You can also use these techniques to set heat shrink tubing or salvage parts from other circuit boards. 


Dave covers the basics of using a multimeter -- an essential tool for electronics experimentation. 


We hope anyone interested in getting started in electronics will find them useful; we think they're pretty handy, and we can't wait to introduce you to the new tutorial setup at learn.sparkfun.com! 

Comments 15 comments

  • I was like OK he has a cutter that's good but you then put them down and the model builder in me (particularly the one that loved building Tamiya brand armor kits) is screaming USE THE CUTTERS.

    You never twist off parts off the sprue. I know this is for internal use and won't be seen but you can mess up parts this way.

  • Great videos Dave! I think you might want to add some of the more dangers of using a "Multi Meter" incorrectly though. That part where you started with 20ma and it registered too much then moved to 200ma and it worked until you stalled the motor to show you needed to move to 10amps was fine and dandy but what if they had used a motor that stalls at like 1amp? It would have blown "a" fuse in the multi meter. You did such a great job starting at 2meg ohms and you had the right idea going but once you got to amps it was a complete fail. Not saying it was not a very good video its just important for more than magic smoke reasons to properly explain multi meter functionality to new users. Improper use of a device like that can lead to serious injury and even death.

    But keep the videos coming. I might criticize from time to time but at least someone is taking it on and doing what we all wish we had to go off of from the early days.

    • I may be wrong about this, but I believe that unless you're exceeding the maximum current that the multimeter can handle (the Fluke on my desk has an 11A fuse), it doesn't matter if you have the current range at a lower setting (e.g. 20mA). The meter will show overrange until you switch to a higher range that can show the true reading, but it won't blow the fuse in the meter.

      • I have a Fluke 77 and there are 2 separate fuses in it, one for each range (11A and 440mA). Not all meters are the same, I'm sure.

    • I might criticize from time to time...

      Please do! These videos - especially the multimeter video - were a bit impromptu. There was no script other than "I think we kind of want to cover ... this today", and I think it shows a bit. There are some serious flaws like those you pointed out and I and the entire education team are open to any and all feedback.

      We are open to suggestions for more basic educational videos as well so let us know what you'd like to see. We'll also make a concerted effort to get more people involved in writing and reviewing the scripts as we write them.


      *edit: Plus what Mike said :)

      • I love all the sparkfun vids. For some reason, it's just a relaxing way to spend 5 or 10 mins.

        That said, in addition to the other comments regarding current measurement, I would also add that I was taught to be careful with the continuity test since it means applying a voltage to the circuit under test. These may damage very sensitive components either through too high of a voltage or reverse voltage.

        Which leads me to wonder: what voltage is used for continuity and what is the current limit?

        Also there is the caution of verifying that the meter isn't set to measure current when you are trying to measure voltage... Smoked two power supplies in a DEC cartridge hard drive in school that way...

      • I figured you would be open to suggestions. But like Paul said some have two fuses. A "quality" multi meter should have 2 fuses for this exact reason. MOST meters that you have to select between 2 ports on the meter for low amps and higher 10+ amps have 2 fuses. But yes please I beg of you please re-shoot this video with a new script as time permits. Again PLEASE I am not dogging on you guys it would be a dream of mine to work there as well as many others on here would agree. What you guys do is insanely phenomenal and I can't praise you guys enough. I just have to step in when its possible for someone to get hurt or damage a sometimes not cheap piece of equipment and I am sure you guys can appreciate that. Keep up the great work!

        • Like Dave said, we're very open to suggestions, but I am a bit confused as to your specific safety concerns regarding current measurement. If you pull more current through a meter than it's rated for, the fuse will blow. This is inconvenient, but the fuse has done its job, which is in effect to keep the meter (and you) from catching on fire. In terms of safety, no matter how much current you ill-advisedly try to measure, the fuse in the meter will protect you (or at least as far as the meter is properly designed and maintained). Granted, you should learn how to avoid blowing meter fuses, and Dave may have been better off measuring current top-down than bottom-up, but I'd like to hear more about your specific safety concerns in this situation. (Now if high voltage is involved, that's another story entirely). Thanks!

  • I can't wait!

  • I've never seen Dave so serious

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