Sunday, December 16, 2018

Electronic LEGO

Basic electronic building blocks

While I never really got any formal training in electronics, I've been playing around with little electronic bits like transistors and LED's for a few years in an attempt to uncover the mysteries on how those devilishly complex things work.

During that time I built a few things that either blinked or made some kind of annoying noise. I also killed a good number of helpless electronic parts when the dreaded magic smoke was released whenever the power was turned on.

While I could make some fairly simple circuits, like a circuit that turned on an LED when it got dark out, I was really limited on how complex of a project that I could build,

As I mentioned earlier, I don't really have the skills at this time to really make something really spectacular. Also if I did make something like that it would likely be fairly big - not a good thing if I wanted to build something that needed to fit in a compact space.

At this moment, I want to build a WiFi enabled device that could sit outside and feed the temperature and humidity to a cloud service so that I could check what the temperature is at home whenever I'm out of town.

Since I also want to make it fairly self sufficient, I also wanted it to be battery powered, with the batteries getting charged each day by a solar panel.

I already had an ESP8266 Arduino board, and some 3.9 Lithium batteries, so I was all set with the WiFi, logic and power part of the project, but I needed something that could feed the ESP8266 with the correct voltage from the batteries and something that could charge the Lithium batteries from the solar cell without the batteries doing something horrible, like catching fire.

That sort of stuff is a bit beyond my skill set. So I was stuck..But then I stumbled upon the promised land.....  eBay!

I've never really looked at eBay before - I was always afraid I would be scammed, so I always was a bit gun shy about it.

But for whatever reason, I causally browsed eBay one night just to kill some time, the first thing that popped up was.....

A pack of 10 lithium battery charger boards with overload protection for $3 and free shipping

A lot of lithium battery chargers

Hmmm... One piece of my problem solve - for less than a package of transistors no less!!!

A quick search on eBay found a similar quantity of .5V-5V to 5V booster boards - for the same price.

All the boards were about the size of a postage stamp.

For less than 10 bucks, I decided to take a gamble - I figure it should have better odds than a lottery ticket.

Six weeks later, a package arrived, and to my delight, I was in business.

So, it suddenly dawned on me, we live in an age where what were once fairly large electronic devices are now being made so small, and so cheaply, that you can just gather the various functional chips that you need and you can easily connect them together to do what ever function that you need to do - Electronic LEGO if you will.

The thing about this is that this is actually a lot cheaper than building something on your own. Granted, you do miss out on the joy of seeing something that you build from scratch come to life.

But I found that using these building blocks to create something to also be equally satisfying, In fact it may be a good place for a new comer in electronics to start - you can build something very functional with minimal risk of seeing any magic smoke. That would certainly build confidence to learn and build more.

So, with that, I'm off to build my WiFi enabled thermometer


No comments:

Post a Comment