What are some good projects to give to beginners? I want something that involves some soldering, and ideally has some room for creativity. For example, with Bristlebots, everyone can get their own toothbrush, attach the motor in different orientations, etc, and they will all be a little different. Something where I just solder a bunch of components to a PCB and then everyone's result is exactly the same, feels a little too boring & restrictive to me. I'm looking for things maybe a little more complex than bristlebot, but not so advanced that it requires a microcontroller. Maybe something involving a 555 timer?
BEAM bots are cool..... a lot of them are pretty simple circuits - but they're effective. I also like how they have tiny little power harvesting solar cells :)
There's also heaps of different types and designs of BEAM bot's to experiment with.
Check em out on -> http://www.solarbotics.net/
A simple kit that is useful is the JYE Capacitance meter
Adafruit mintyboost - People go crazy putting it into different types of enclosures
For more of a fun kit, the Meggy jr
Although it isn't the fastest kit to assemble, it isn't difficult; plus you can do many other things with it once finished - you have a game, the opportunity to write your own games, plus get an FTDI cable, then the whole thing is an Arduino development board with a huge RGB LED display, buttons, piezo, etc. Although there is a microcontroller you don't have to program it, but you can later on if you want.
I found this a very interesting question, really with no satisfactory answer so far. It also seems to be a very important issue if we are to get new folks up to speed. (I'm not even sure there is one single answer). Factors I considered are:
- It needs to be fairly cheap. Around $10 - $15 is good. Under $10 is perfect.
- It's OK to use lot of tech, but the goal is to enable a person to focus on one skill. So I'm OK with a pre-programmed microcontroller.
- Opinions vary on this, and all are good, but my personal preference is function over form. (Bauhaus rules! :)
- Should be robust to mistakes. I think it's reasonable to assume that beginners will be spending some time desoldering.
- Needs to have good support and help.
- It seems nice if it can be made into something that is not only electronicsy, and includes (an easy) physical build maybe.
- The level of complexity is hard to pin down. I'm more worried about making it hard to mess up, rather than simple per se, but clearly the two are connected.
Based on this, I developed one to fulfill the need: The DayCounter. It is available here for $9.95: http://wickeddevice.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=9&products_id=25
It has its own website: http://daycounter.wickeddevice.com/