When I first learned electronics, it was in the middle of New York City (at Parsons DT). Not only did I lack any sort of storage at school, but I transported my hairy breadboard projects on the crowded subway or by bike. It’s heartbreaking when your in-progress circuit gets mangled in your bag, and it’s especially terrible when it happens on the way to show your project off at an important presentation or critique. “But it worked at home, I swear!” was an all-too-common sentiment in class (always take a video when it’s working!), and so I’m writing this post to help you avoid this trouble with some suggestions for safe DIY electronics transport, whether it’s to school or your local hackerspace. Nowadays my students are expected to bring working prototypes to class, and these are the tips I share with them. Please post up your own suggestions and experiences in the comments.
The quick fix – takeout food container or cheap tupperware
Just plop your circuit in a plastic takeout/tupperware container with a lid. Maybe finish with a rubber band, and toss the thing in your bag.
Have tidy wires in the first place
If you don’t have a hairy mess of wires on your board to begin with, you reduce your risk of wires getting pulled or jostled out of place.
Prototype inside an enclosure – It doesn’t have to be fancy.
Use a cardboard box, foam core, or look through the sports memorabilia display aisle at the Container Store. Affix the breadboard and microcontroller to the walls of the enclosure, even if it’s with hot glue and zip ties. This way it’s easy to pack up the project without having to apply a protective layer that may compress your circuit in an unexpected way. You can see I’m still rocking the cardboard enclosures in my recent Babel Fish project.
The modern solution – Ladyada’s Bento Box
The above solutions are all temporary and still subject to crushing, getting wet, and getting you hassled by bag inspectors on public transit. I would argue that Ladyada’s Bento Box solves all three of these remaining issues by providing a crushproof and waterproof enclosure for prototyping with the Arduino that looks super professional. I use it now to transport prototypes all over NYC, and it works great!
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Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.