Quest to learn to build and program electronics

I have decided to create another blog category on my personal blog to throw information and progress while expanding one of my earliest childhood interests “electronics”. Like many other kids I looked at electronic XMAS toys and wondered how they really worked inside. This resulted in me grabbing the nearest screwdriver (pointy knife) and opening the toy with much vigour and excitement. Often I would break something and I would forgot what order to reassemble it in and the toys would never be the same again (remote control semitrailer and electronic battle ship game comes to mind, sorry mum). But one the toys was opened my mind went nuts, I could see batteries, motors, lights, fans, wires and funny coloured bits (resistors and capacitors) power thingies etc.

When I was a child I remember my grandads sheds (he had a few as he moved house every 6 years or so), sometimes my granddad was in his shed fixing something (mower blades or tools). He always had neatly arranged tools and boxes of stuff and jars with nuts and bolts. I had a great time playing in his sheds and searching for things to do and play with. I want to pass on my fascination of electronics and programming to my kids in a similar environment to my grandads shed and also automate my home and make some cool gadgets along the way.

Part of my quest to learn electronics (for real) was triggered by my desire to fill my 3yo son’s (and soon to be 2nd child) minds with knowledge, wonder and a more than basic knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), electronics can help teach a fair bit of this as well and hands on experience. Also learning electronics is a kind of stress reducer, work/home demands are always changing but electrical knowledge all but stays constant (apart from miniaturization of components).

I find it quicker to do date calculations in code in excel so I am sure I will be able to program the electronics with ease but I have no doubt it will be an uphill battle teaching this old dog all the ins and outs of electronics (the right way). I will be hitting google a fair bit when it comes to searching for information and schematics and I would lie to share that with kids and older tinkerers.

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With a second child on the way I need a non-time consuming hobby to use to distract my 3yo when bubby 2 and mummy need a rest and to read up on in the small hours when I am putting baby to sleep.

Learning Goals:

  • Learn basic Electronics (components and theory).
  • Learn to program a Raspberry Pi
  • Create and control basic electronic circuits, read sensors, move mechanical objects and talk to the internet.
  • Learn to scale down code and hardware to the Arduino‎ platform.
  • Fix household items.

Physical Goals:

  • Create a battery powered Arduino circuit to install in the greenhouse to auto mist in hot weather from tank water). Report on temperature, and humidity.
  • Create a 100% automatic weather station that uploads details about temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, smoke detectors, wind gusts, dew point, solar exposure, cloud cover, rainfall, soil moisture etc (how: many cheap sensors and custom circuits).
  • Create a battery powered automatically arming home security system with cameras, sensors (pressure, line of sight intrusion detection, magnetic car detection in the driveway, sonic, movement, infrared etc), sms and email alerts with offsite image backup.
  • Home automation (air conditioner on/off, watering system, wild bird seed deployment, rain cover, water tank level reporting, smoke detector (inside and out) remote bushfire protection (recycling roof sprays) etc) (how: many cheap sensors and custom circuits).
  • Remote control grey-water diverted from the shower (how: waterproof remote and 80mm solenoid to divert flow).
  • Auto detect and count bird species at the bird feeder (how: webcam and image processing).

  • Automatic home brew temp system for my dad.
  • Weather cam for my mum.
  • Fun kids projects, remote control robots.

Costs:

Setting up for a Raspberry Pi and or Arduino is about $100 each, much less than gold clubs.
Raspberry Pi Board.

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Choices of Arduino boards and bits.

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Sensors are dirt cheap on ebay (about $3 each) and are often compatible with the Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards.

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I already have a Raspberry pi and Arduino and have started my quest, watch this space.