April 13, 2012 AT 9:30 am

ASK AN EDUCATOR! “Where can I learn about basic electronics if my school doesn’t offer any courses?”

Alex asks:

I’m currently a junior in high school, interested in electrical engineering. My school doesn’t have any electronics courses, but I’d really like to learn basic analog and digital circuits. Are there any good online courses or other resources you can recommend?

Yuck. I understand your pain as there weren’t any electronics course in my high school as well. But not to worry! It’s 2012 and the internet is your oyster.

My interest in electronics began in middle school when my Dad bought me some of Radio Shack’s “Engineer’s Mini-Notebook” workbooks (if you search google for “engineer’s mini-notebook” you can find some PDFs of old ones.) They are super simple, written on graph paper, and all of the components can be bought at the store. While this was ~15 years ago, and Radio Shack now sells cellphones, you might have to look around a bit to find your parts.

Radio Shack has posted their manuals for their Electronics Learning Lab, which give a pretty decent electronics overview, as well as some simple breadboard circuits. (Manual 1, Manual 2)

There is also a great “Discover Electronics Kit” in the Adafruit store that “contains everything you need to learn the basics of electronics and make your own projects.” It is a pretty sweet kit, and is put together by Sparkle Labs who has courses using their kit on their site.

Aside from ‘ol Radio Shack, there is virtually an infinite amount of online resources focused on learning basic electronics. To name a few:

All About Circuits – provides a series of online textbooks covering electricity and electronics. The information provided is great for both students and hobbyists who are looking to expand their knowledge in this field.

Rice University – they have an online textbook that provide some basic information about electronic circuits. [They] make the assumption that you have no prior knowledge of electronics, electricity, or circuits, and start from the basics.

Lady Ada – has a great basic electronics overview and how it ties into beginning to learn about the Arduino. If you are looking to be an EE, playing with micro controllers is an easy and fun way to experiment with both basic and advanced circuits.

These just begin to scratch the surface of whats available in print and online. The Adafruit Forum and others like it may offer you a great avenue for asking questions and finding new projects. Good luck with your research and don’t let school hold you back!

Don’t forget, everyone is invited to ask a question!

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“Ask an Educator” questions are answered by Adam Kemp, a high school teacher who has been teaching courses in Energy Systems, Systems Engineering, Robotics and Prototyping since 2005.

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