Maker-in-residence report Marie-Claire Springham
How to burn resistors
I came to the Makers in Residence as a complete beginner, and so began by picking up a starter kit and a projects book. Putting my faith in the various manuals to show me the ways of these mysterious arduinos…
In fact, after flicking through the published and approved book, I decided it would be a much better idea to get instructions off the internet. Particularly, some guy called HappyMan78 on Instructables…
So I soldered all the wires together to make it look like the picture online. It turns out, this is not how Arduino works. Not to cast aspersions on HappyMan78, but it didn’t work. Either it was him, or it was my plan to “put all the wires in and test it afterwards”. I guess we’ll never know…
It also started smoking.
Breadboards and me, a journey…
As I shamefully unsoldered my sad assembly, Noy and Marcus kindly explained everything I had done wrong. It turns out when embarking on an endeavour such as this, it’s important to know how a breadboard works, so let me elucidate:
The breadboard is where you build all of the circuits necessary to make your project work. Some of them provide power, others connect different parts of your kit together so that the current can pass through and make whatever you want to happen, happen.
Apparently, many years ago, when electronics were big and bulky, people would grab an actual breadboard, a few nails or thumbtacks, and start connecting wires onto the board to give themselves a platform on which to build their circuits:
Circuit on an "original" breadboard (image courtesy of mischka and their awesome literal breadboard tutorial)
What we use now are “solderless breadboards”, which I would have known, if I had read to the book. A breadboard now looks like this:
What you can’t see are the horizontal and vertical rows that dictate how the circuit is going to function. This becomes crucial when trying to figure out why your project isn’t working…
Here they are:
Once inserted into a horizontal row, that component will be electrically connected to anything else placed in that row.
Breadboards also have what are called power rails that run vertically along the sides. These are the vertical rows, indicated with arrows in the picture. These are often more related to the power source than the circuit itself. They provide power to half the board on either side.
Another thing to note are the numbers on the breadboard. if you understand the principles of the horizontal and vertical rails, these become less relevant. However, they’re useful when you’re copying an arduino tutorial or checking you work.
Pro tip learnt along the way:
Use the shortest cables possible, you’ll end up in less of a tangle.
Playing with Character Strings:
So round 2, with gritty determination after my first sad failure, I set to work on another exercise in the book a “Crystal Ball”. With my newfound, knowledge I had significantly more success, which is also when it started to become fun. I downloaded the necessary code off of the Arduino website and Hallelujah! A working machine that answers yes/no questions. Then, I suppose it had been a long day…
I started playing with the code and creating a sassy “Crystal Bitch”. It does exactly what the Crystal Ball does, but with more attitude.
This led me to my final conclusion, I shouldn’t be left alone with tech…