A Guide On Getting Started In Electronics
Regardless of whether you already have an idea for a gadget you’d like to make or if you’re only looking to expand your knowledge, getting started in electronics can seem like a pretty daunting task. However, fear not! We’ve prepared a few simple steps that will help you get started even if you have no previous experience or knowledge.
Step 1: What Are Electronics?
Even if you’re not aware, electronics are all around us. In fact, thanks to electronics, most innovations of the previous century such as computers, television, video games and smartphones came to be.
So, let’s start with a basic definition. Electronics is the science and technology concerned with the design of circuits using transistors and microchips, and with the behaviour and movement of electrons.
Sounds complicated? To put it simply, electronics lets you move electrons around. Still sounds complicated? Don’t worry, keep reading and by the end of this article you should get a basic understanding that will allow you to tackle simple electronics projects.
Step 2: Learn To Read Schematics and Symbols
Electronic schematics can look confusing at first but they are actually pretty easy to understand and read. The ability to read them will help you when working on electronic projects and, if you move on to more serious projects, you will need to know how to draw a schematic in order to move on to circuit board design.
The easiest way to go about this is to take a look at a schematics guide that will show you what each line and symbol on the schematic means. Once you get acquainted with the basics, you’ll be able to read more complex schematic drawings.
Step 3: Get The Basic Materials and Tools
Having the right tools for the job will help you complete any DIY electronic projects with ease. However, finding the right tools can be a tough task. There are so many different tools from different suppliers to choose from and you might get lost and not know where to start, especially if you’re a beginner.
Our recommendation is that a beginner’s tools pack should include:
- Soldering iron
- Solder sucker
- Phillips Screwdriver
- Needle nose pliers
- Diagonal cutter pliers
- Metal soldering iron stand
Step 4: Get a Basic Understanding of the Components
There are a lot of different components that appear in electronics projects but there are a few components that appear in almost all projects. They are:
We suggest checking out any guide to the basics of electronics to get acquainted with these components because you’ll be coming in contact with them often.
If you’re one of those people who learn better through a hands-on approach, there are a lot of great kits out there that will help you understand how these components work together to create a functioning device. A simple Google search should suffice to find these DIY electronic projects for beginners.
Step 5: Learn How to Solder
Once you gather all the tools and understand how the components interact with each other, you can move on to the next step - learning how to solder. Most electronics projects require soldering the parts together so, it’s important to learn how to solder and anyone can learn how to do it.
If you have no experience with electronics or soldering, our recommendation is to get beginner-friendly soldering practice kits. Most of these kits already come with all the components and the circuit board which will help you shift focus on only learning how to solder rather than worrying about gathering all the supplies first.
In case you’ve never soldered before, it might be a good idea to look at a few how-to-solder guides. You can check out any of these:
- Adafruit’s video tutorial featuring Collin Cunningham – a tutorial featuring Collin Cunningham, a super charismatic electronics guru.
- Adafruit’s standard soldering tutorial – A great and thorough video tutorial. An absolute must-read, even if you know how to solder. Make sure to check the “common soldering mistakes” section at the end.
- Sparkfun’s video soldering tutorial – Another well made how-to-solder video tutorial.
- Sparkfun’s standard soldering tutorial – Well written tutorial made by Sparkfun
- Never inhale the dust and the fumes that can be produced by the soldering iron! These can be hazardous so please don't inhale them.
- Never touch the tip of the soldering iron! Even if the soldering iron is turned off or completely disconnected from the power source, there is still a possibility that it’s very hot and therefore can cause very uncomfortable pain if touched.
- Clean the soldering iron! The sponge is your best friend while soldering. Make sure to use it often to clean your soldering iron if you wish to have an easy and simple soldering experience!
- Check your solder joints twice (at least)! Most of the malfunctions in the world of electronics are due to bad solder joints, so regardless if this is your first or 100th soldering project, always make sure to inspect your joints multiple times before proceeding to the next step.
- Know how much solder is needed! Make sure to put just enough solder, not too much, and not too little, since both can cause the device to malfunction.
- Don’t leave any residual solder on the board! The solder should only be on the parts of the console where the pins connect to the board and everything else should be clean. Little pieces of solder all over the board are a big no-no.
Since soldering irons deal with high temperatures it’s very important to adhere to these safety rules. If you need to, read through these rules a couple of more times to make sure you don’t forget them.
Once they are engraved in your memory, your soldering experience will be like a stroll in the park - nice and easy!
Step 6: Discover Integrated Circuits
Up until now, we’ve covered using simple components that will help you build simple circuits. Although simple is fun, it’s likely that you’ll like to move on to more complex projects soon after mastering the basics.
Adding different functionalities to your project such as sound, memory, intelligence, etc. requires using Integrated Circuits. As with everything in electronics, Integrated Circuits can look very complicated in the beginning but once you learn how to use them, you’ll have access to endless possibilities.
A great way to discover Integrated Circuits is to complete a few simple electronics projects that already have Integrated Circuits. One tip here is to find a project that has detailed guides on all the components and boards included in the project to help you understand how everything works together.
Step 7: Design Your Own Circuit Board
After completing the previous steps you should have all the basic knowledge required to design your own circuit board. Once again, this is easier than you’d think. Especially because you can find numerous guides online that cover the basics of getting started with Circuit Board design.
Step 8: Discover Microcontrollers
Understanding Integrated Circuits and being able to design your own Circuit Board is already pretty advanced knowledge. However, there’s still a big area you can explore to use in your electronic projects - Microcontrollers.
As with all the steps before, it’s best to find a guide that will teach you about the basics of Microcontrollers. Then, once you learn how to use a Microcontroller, you’ll be able to create advanced functionalities for your project by simply writing a few lines of code instead of figuring out how to create a circuit of components that would perform the same function.
It’s important to understand that not all these steps can be learned in a day. Even though we said getting started in electronics is simple, if you try to understand all these steps at the same time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
So, give yourself enough time to master each step before moving on to the next one and you’ll be a pro in no time. You can do it!