Electronics Starter Kit for a beginner with nothing


18 posts
by Tom Lewis » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:24 pm
As the title states, Im looking for a complete starter kit in electronics to use the GPIO Pins, im a complete noob to electronics and havent got a clue what I need.
Can someone point me in the right direction please?
I was considering picking out some wires, led's small motors, switches on farnell, also resisters and transistors (I haven't got a clue what they do but they seem to be in every hardware diagram ive seen!)

Im a software kinda guy, coming from a website design and development background, PHP & mysql, So to teach myself python and interact with some basic Led's motors etc, but without burning up my pi!

Thanks!
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by jamesh » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:56 pm
The Gertboard will come as a kit I believe - not sure of the schedule though - not too long....
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by rasbeer » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:08 pm
Would this do the trick, with the Pi standing in for the Arduino?

(IIRC they use different voltages, but does that matter for these components?)
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by mdewey » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:21 pm
Get a multimeter. It does not have to be an expensive bells and whistles one as long as you can tell (1) what is the resistance between these two points? (2) what voltage is coming out of here?

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by Tom Lewis » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:57 pm
It looks like a cheaper option to buy everything separate from farnell, A multimeter! That's something I forgot I need.

That Gertboard looks fantastic, I keep seeing these "Shields" is that the right terminology? show up, ive seen a few, but they all are more expensive than the pi itself! Any idea how much this Getboard will be?
Just watched this video seems like it has a ton of useful features http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dp_PNI9Q ... _embedded#!
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by piglet » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:58 pm
I'm in the same boat. No idea about electronics design and was looking at these in addition to the gertboard:

SK Pang starter kit for Raspberry Pi,: http://www.skpang.co.uk/catalog/starter ... -1107.html - however I don't want that case. Not sure where best to get the bits without the case.

Also looked at Slice of Pi: http://shop.ciseco.co.uk/slice-of-pi/ being used as an expander board: http://nathan.chantrell.net/20120602/ra ... der-board/

I need something easy enough to get an understanding and safe enough not to trash the pi as I try to spend time learning this stuff with my teenage daughter.

*ponders* so much to learn and so little time.
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by exartemarte » Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:00 pm
If you are starting from scratch you are going to need components, wire, a few simple pieces of kit and guidance.

For guidance there are online tutorials - quite a good one is linked from this site's front page if you scroll down far enough, and there are also interfacing articles in the MagPi online magazine. (But see also the project kit, below.)

The problem with components is that you don't know what you need until you get started, so buying a project/experimenter's kit can be a good move. This one (link) looks like reasonable value and comes with breadboard, components, and instructions including experiments and component colour codes. It's not Pi-specific, but that's not a bad thing - if you can build simple free-standing circuits then you'll have a better understanding of what's going when you connect things up to your Pi.

To connect the breadboard to the Pi you will need a handful of male-female jumpers like these (link).

To use the wires in the project kit you will need a small pair of wire cutters - there plenty on eBay. I would also echo mdewey's suggestion - being able to make measurements with a multimeter (link) will help the learning process no end.

When you need bits and pieces you may find that sources such as HobbyTronics and Technobots are more hobby-orientated that RS or Farnell. If you live near a Maplins store you can often buy what you need over the counter - they're a bit more expensive but there's no waiting and you save on the postage.

And if you do a lot with breadboards you'll find a bunch of these to be a great time saver (link).

Good luck!
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by AndyMallinson » Wed Jul 04, 2012 4:33 pm
We sell a basic starter kit aimed at the person looking to learn electronics. I would love to have the time to use it with the Pi, but time always seems so short.
If anyone has bought one of these kits for use with the Pi, we would love to hear from you. we will be happy to post your projects on our facebook page.
You can view the kit at our eBay store, mallinson-electrical
Really hope this helps, good luck and best wishes
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by babbage » Thu Jul 05, 2012 11:47 am
This may be a controversial suggestion in a Pi forum, but trying to take myself from exactly the same position, I have found getting an Arduino kit is the way to go. If you're in the UK Earthshine electronics and Oomlout both do great starter kits, there are loads of tutorials available and plenty of books too.
The support eco-system for Ardunio is far in advance of this type of thing for the pi in this respect (as you would expect, they have a large head start) and the knowledge gained on the Arduino is transferrable.
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by clickykbd » Thu Jul 05, 2012 12:31 pm
Nothing wrong with getting the Arduino kits. It is more established, better docs for beginners. All the components will apply to both, but you'll have the bonus of owning an Arduino too (which you will probably want eventually anyway if you are interested in these topics).
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by Tom Lewis » Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:54 pm
Thanks for all the awesome replies guys, I completely forgot I made this post, its crazy that two of you recommended that Mallinson-Electrical, I ended up buying This Set! I also picked up a cheapo mulimeter, its soo cheap and crappy Im kind of wishing I bought a better one that could automatically select the correct setting for me, I think its the exact same model exartemarte recommended. I also bought some wire-strippers and wire-cutters.

I read online somewhere that you can cut up an old IDE cable to connect the pi to the breadboard?

I also bought a £1.66 LCD Moduel display, because it was dirt cheap and uses "HD44780" which I saw some tutorials used, alas it is 5V.. Ebay Link I would love for this to be my first project, getting this LCD to display some text, Is it possible with the kit that I bought? I have read online that its dangerous playing with anything that isn't 3.3 volts as it could fry the pi, I haven't got a clue where to start!

On a side note, whoever's in charge of the CSS styles on this forum REALLY needs to change the hyperlink color's!
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by Reider » Sat Jul 14, 2012 1:59 pm
I got this;

http://www.skpang.co.uk/catalog/starter ... -1070.html

But you have much of it and the sandwich case is available separate. Though I did find it useful to stick the breadboard on the provided area on the sandwich case, stops it moving. You want some male/female jumper leads, you can get 10 for about £1.99 at Tandyonline, I suggest at least 2 sets as I need more and had to make some from old computer motherboard/case power leads. (Needed 12 and had 10).

http://www.tandyonline.co.uk/

Get a 10k pot, I had to buy 5, needed for the contrast adjustment. Got them for about £3.50 here and then a few pence for a pin header (see below);

http://oomlout.co.uk/potentiometers-bre ... p-241.html

The 16x2 and the 20x4 are catered for in this part of the forum;

viewtopic.php?f=32&t=8021

Texy did the 16x2 in Python code and I merely amended it roughly (work in progress) for my 20x4 LCD Module to work in Python code. My description of the hardware connection process is here in my forum;

http://wraspi.freeforums.org/lcd-module ... n-t77.html

The above is to connect directly to the RasPi. This one is to connect to an Arduino Uno Board and use it`s own software library;

http://wraspi.freeforums.org/lcd-and-arduino-t76.html

It`s best to use a pin header soldered to the LCD connectors, a little solder and often. Start with it pressed through the connectors and into the Pi (short side to the LCD display). Then wedge the other side of the LCD with some coasters to keep it level and the pin header at the right angle. Slowly and gently apply solder to both ends of the pin header, only enough to tack it. Check it`s all level and flush, maybe check for shorts with the multimeter from one pin to the next. Then tack the rest of the pins and check the MM again. Add enough solder to keep it all fastened but don`t put so much on you touch the pad next to it or solder the pins together.

I got the pin header and a 00256 Sparkfun 20x4 LCD Module from Proto-Pic ;

http://proto-pic.co.uk/basic-20x4-chara ... -green-5v/

But SKPang, where I got the starter kit from sell the same 20x4 sparkfun (red backplane, not as in the pic) if you fancy a bigger LCD and want to get it with a sandwich board and/or any other products;

http://www.skpang.co.uk/catalog/basic-2 ... p-144.html

You may or may not need to Google for the schematics and pin descriptions as they change from one LCD Model to the next and even within their own range. Tricks are 1-14 then 15 is LED+, 16 is LED- (sometimes 15/16 reversed too. Others are LED-, LED+ then 1-14, some are 14 only and no backlight. Some places sell the LCD and give 14 pin schematics with a 16 pin Module. so just be careful, tried and trusted models and treble check everything then mix in a bucket load of common sense.

OK, finally some LCD Modules are 3.3V so no problem there. Mine is 5V and so is yours. You need a level shifter or a header board of some description to change the voltage. What we did was at our own risk, as is all my help and descriptions-it`s your choice to continue, your fault if it dies, sorry I have to make that clear. I can only say it worked for me and others, I killed one 16x2 or it was a dud, at the end of the day that`s down to me, nobody else. OK, what we did with no level shifter was tie the R/W pin to GND so it never reads from the module. We still connected it to 5V because the module needs 5V but in not reading from the module the Pi sees the connection as a 1 and accepts it. Just like we use 4 bits (DB4-DB7) and ground the other 4 bits (DB0-DB3), the 4 grounded ones still transfer data but are otherwise turned off unless we wire them for 8 bit mode where DB0-3 and DB4-7 are used. Look at the pics on the link to my Forum and you`ll see this from the first image, the white one with black text-you need one like that for your module. Use the coloured one as a reference to what GPIO pins to connect to and triple check.

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by mahjongg » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:34 pm
Tom Lewis wrote:I also bought a £1.66 LCD Moduel display, because it was dirt cheap and uses "HD44780" which I saw some tutorials used, alas it is 5V.. Ebay Link I would love for this to be my first project, getting this LCD to display some text, Is it possible with the kit that I bought? I have read online that its dangerous playing with anything that isn't 3.3 volts as it could fry the pi, I haven't got a clue where to start!

LCD's such as this work perfectly when the control signals are 3.3Volt, in fact just 2.0 Volt is enough.

With LCD's as this its possible to read the contents of the LCD registers, which potentially would put 5V on the data lines, but its possible to wire the LCD up so that you can only write to the registers.

If you are still afraid you make a mistake simply wire 1K resistors in series with all the wires going to R-PI GPIO's! This would largely protect the Raspberry PI from putting 5V on its inputs.
It would mean the current flowing from the 5V source into the GPIO's would be limited to 5V - 3.3 V = 1.7 Volt which divided by 1K give a current flow of 1.7 mA. So in worst case just 1.7 mA will flow into the GPIO's through the protection diode inside the GPIO port logic to the SoC's 3V3 supply.

Because the LCD's inputs have a very high input resistance 1K resistors do not diminish the voltage level reaching the LCD.

Two tips:
normally a power on reset capacitor is connected to ground, is pulled up to VCC, but with these kinds of LCD's a strange trick is used to make them compatible with two fundamentally different 8-bit microprocessor busses, one as used by microprocessors like the intel 8085 and z80, and the other like 6809 and 6502. When controlling the LCD it doesn't matter which one you pick, but it matters for the software, so you have to be aware which one you use.

Normally the LCD is controlled by writing bytes into an 8-bit register, but when you have a limited number of control lines, you can switch the LCD to "nibble mode". Only control the upper 4 bits, and tie the lower 4-bits to ground. Then send a "magic sequence" to the LCD which will switch the LCD to nibble mode.

Details are in the LCD's datasheet.


Also remember to add a resistor divider, or potentiometer for the LCD contrast, and a series resistor for the backlight LED's.

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by exartemarte » Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:55 pm
Tom Lewis wrote:I also picked up a cheapo mulimeter, its soo cheap and crappy Im kind of wishing I bought a better one that could automatically select the correct setting for me

Opinion is divided on autoranging multimeters. Personally I don't like them - I prefer something that makes you stop and think about what you're going to measure.
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by clickykbd » Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:08 pm
On the tools subject: This kit would really only appeal to those with ZERO tools yet... I had a few already and some preferences for others, so I didn't buy it... but it does provide the basics in the "tools" category and is worth a look if you have nothing and are looking to stay under a budget for tools.

Ladyada's Electronics Toolkit -
http://adafruit.com/products/136

Adafruit also has some "experimenters" kits and other things suitable for beginners with nothing it seems.

If you have kids in the house (age 2 and up), this is really neato for teaching analog concepts. Hell I'm an adult beginner and I think they look fun!
http://littlebits.cc/
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by mikerr » Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:50 pm
babbage wrote:This may be a controversial suggestion in a Pi forum, but trying to take myself from exactly the same position, I have found getting an Arduino kit is the way to go. If you're in the UK Earthshine electronics and Oomlout both do great starter kits, there are loads of tutorials available and plenty of books too.
The support eco-system for Ardunio is far in advance of this type of thing for the pi in this respect (as you would expect, they have a large head start) and the knowledge gained on the Arduino is transferrable.

+1

You'll get results with hardware projects quicker and easier with arduino - especially if you're talking multiple servos, sensors and motors.
http://oomlout.co.uk/arduino-starter-kit-ardx-p-183.htm

I do think Pi and arduino make a good pair. Arduino is weak in areas that Pi is strong: video and audio, usb & network connectivity,storage
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by AndyMallinson » Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:50 pm
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by Si. » Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:44 pm
MonkMakes has a breadboard-based starter kit for the Pi.

http://www.monkmakes.com/#!/~/product/category=0&id=32645469

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