Young Scientist – 320 Project Lab


This past week I was taking my usual trip through my local Value Village thrift store when I came upon something really rather cool that I wanted to share with you guys. Tucked at the back of a shelf in the toy section I found this Young Scientist 320 Projects Lab. I was shocked when I opened it up to find this kit not only to be in working condition but that most if not all of the components were still present in the box, including the numerous IC chips (more on them later). I decided for 6.99 Canadian how could I lose and brought the project lab home for to try it out.

I’ve only been able to find very limited information on the 320 projects kit or the Young Scientist brand itself. For this reason I can’t say exactly when it was released or the products history but based on the “Laptop PC styled” case and the windows 95-esc graphics on the lid I would assume the kit came out some time in the mid to late 90s.

I have played with a number of other electronic kits through my life and generally have mixed feelings about them. Kits like Snap Circuits or many Radio Shack’s 200 in one, 150 in 1 ect. offer a great introduction to circuits and basic components, however they always left me wanting. Once you have completed the projects designed for the kit there is nothing left to do and the box finds itself gathering dust. Though the knowledge you gain through these projects is invaluable there is no easy way to transition from them into further electronics work.

The Young Scientist 320 Project Kit seems to have a slightly different philosophy. The usual spring connectors we know from Radio Shack kits are present but they are secondary. They are organized around a breadboard placed dead in the center of the kit. This kit uses standard through hole components the same as the ones you would use in any hobby electronics project. This means you can build and solder together any project from the kit onto protoboard and also build essentially any electronic circuit within the kit. Further within the instruction manual it encourages “Young Scientists” to expand their component collections and even gives some basic instructions for salvaging parts.

Another exciting feature of this kit can be found on the breadboard and that is the power supply. The power rail of this breadboard is split into 6 sections providing easy access to a full range of common voltages (1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, 7.5 and 9).

The kit also included a number of IC chips. Again these are standard through hole components the same as you would use in any hobby project. There was no surprise in finding the hobbyist heavyweight 555 timer along with some standard op-amp and amplifier chips but I was pleased to discover the set also contained a fairly complete array of digital logic gates, counters and decoders. The inclusion of these digital components allows for some extremely complex builds towards the end of the project book including Function Generators, Logic Probes, various games and Octave Generators (just to name a few).

As an adult with hobby electronics experience I am loving this kit but I should say in closing that it is not for everyone. The decision to use standard through hole components and a breadboard makes this a far more versatile project lab than others I have worked with and allows for the construction of far more complex projects but it is a double edged knife. If you are an absolute beginner to electronics the smaller more fiddly parts can be confusing or challenging to work with and the level of difficulty in many of the projects could be discouraging. For this reason this is lab is likely better suited to someone with some knowledge of electronics, components, resistor codes ect. Still, If you have some basic knowledge or are up for the challenge, a project lab like this one can be a great way to build your skill level and play with hundreds of new and interesting circuits.

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest

Sourcing Parts

There are a number of great sources where you can purchase components as needed, today I’d like to go through a few of the ones I’ve used and hopefully give you an idea of where you can go to get all the parts you’ll need for any project you tackle. This is by no means a comprehensive list but the below suppliers are where I source the majority of my parts.

Local

Buying local is typically the most expensive way to get parts but that is balanced out by the instant gratification you receive from walking into a store, giving them your money and walking out with your components. Though I wouldn’t recommend purchasing large quantities of parts in this way it is incredibly useful to have a store you can run to if you find yourself missing a specific piece you need to complete your project. Not to mention the right shop’s staff can be an excellent source of expert advice.

Radio Shack – I’ve read and been told that Radio Shack can be a good source of parts but unfortunately where I am located (In Ontario) we only have Circuit City which I have not had very much luck with. Typically their prices are extremely high and the selection is almost none existent.

Independent Stores – Independently owned electronics retailers are typically your best bet for a local parts supplier, if you can find one… Unfortunately due to competition with online retailers and the niche nature of their products these shops are getting harder and harder to find, but if you live in a large enough city have a look around and you may find something great. Typically you will pay substantially more than you would ordering parts online but you will be able to get the components you need without causing delays to your project.

Online

All Electronics – All Electronics was the first site I began ordering from and I’ve always had good experiences with them. They have reasonable costs and an easy to navigate site. Though they do not have as large a selection as some other suppliers this can actually be beneficial when your starting out, there is nothing worse than wading through a thousand different types of 10 ohm potentiometers just to try and find a volume control .

Jameco – Jameco is similar in scope to All Electronics though I’ve switched quite a bit of my business to them as I’ve found they stock a few more obscure parts (some CMos logic chips and the like) which I wasn’t able to find through All Electronics. My recommendation would be to try both these sites to get a feel for them and where both of there strengths lie.

Digikey – A moment ago when I mentioned wading through a thousand types of potentiometers… welcome to Digikey. I would recommend waiting until you are fairly comfortable with component types, manufacturers and specs. Often times without a specific part number for what you’re looking for you will end up sifting through page after page of near identical parts into oblivion. That being said if ever there is a part you can not find elsewhere or an IC too obscure to be widely available. Digikey will have it.

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest

Building a Parts Library

Building a comprehensive component library is one of the most crucial steps to take as you delve deeper into the world of electronics. Having to order parts for each new project can be time consuming, cause delays as you wait for parts and limit your ability to experiment with different component values and test different circuit layouts to find what best suites your needs and tastes. That being said building a parts library is not something that happens over night, it is an ongoing process which will likely continue throughout your life in DIY. Today I’m going to go over a couple techniques I use to ensure my collection continues to grow. In an upcoming article I will also be going over a number of sites you can source parts from, which ones I prefer and what situations each is best for.

Click Here To Read More

 

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest

A Simple Explanation Of Ohm’s Law

Ohms LawIf you’ve spent time reading about electronics or DIY you’ve likely run into Ohms Law as it is one of the most fundamental building blocks to understanding how electronics work and designing circuits. The above diagram may even be familiar to you. But what does it all mean? Today I’d like to spend some time exploring Ohms Law to provide you with a greater understanding of the principal and of electronics as a whole.

Ohms Law describes the relationship between three basic elements of a circuit, The Voltage (V), Current (I) and Resistance (R) and shows how each of these values are interconnected.

The most common analogy used to describe this principle is to visualize a series of pipes with water flowing through them. Each of these values can be associated with a characteristic of the pipe system.

  • Voltage – The force with which water is being pumped into your system, with electronics we can modify this by using higher voltage (or more) batteries or a higher voltage power supply.
  • Resistance – The factors which restrict water flow through the pipe, for instance the width of the pipe or a partial cutoff valve. Resistance in a circuit can be added using resistors of various types
  • Current – The speed at which water which flows through the pipe

Imagine if you had two sets of pipes which are identical width and length. But you attached them to different pumps, one of which had double the force of the first. The resistance against the water would be identical (Pipe Size) but because the voltage (pump strength) is higher on the second set of pipes the water will move much faster through it causing it to have a greater current. In order to make the current the same between the two we would either have to adjust the voltage (Pump Strength) of one of the pipes to make them equivalent or adjust the resistance (Pipe width) to make up for the difference.

Adjusting the resistance would balance out the difference in voltage allowing the same amount of water to flow.

Lets try a real world example. Lets say I have a light bulb which runs off 1 ampere (Current) and I have 2 AA batteries in series giving me 3V of power. How do I decide what value of resistor to use to complete the circuit?

Using Ohms law we know that R=V/I, which we can substitute the values from the above example to complete :

R = 3/1
R = 3 ohm

From here you can take a 3 ohm resistor off your shelf, plug it into the circuit and you are in business!

Share and Enjoy

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Pinterest