I’m a book fiend. The dictionary word is biblioholic, I have an addiction for books. There are a few books I keep at every workstation or home library. These include the 4th edition Pocket Ref by Thomas J. Glover seen below, and also Charles Platt’s seminal series, Encyclopedia of Electronic Components, available now in three volumes. With Volume 1 focusing on ‘power sources’ and the fun-damentals of electronics (think how things work), Volume 2 focusing on ‘signal processing’ (or the art of turning one thing into another thing, like power into light, or signal into a/v), and the latest Volume 3 chock-full of all-things-sensors, these books will greatly expand your already infinite knowledge or just as easily lay the groundwork for your future command of the craft. So I begin with those in my recommended list of Back to School accessories.
The other thing I keep at every workstation is a physical push-button calculator. Yes I know I always have a smartphone on me, and yes I know it’s basically a super-sophisticated advanced calculating machine! But nothing beats the rewarding nature – or reassuring nature, frankly – of pushing a physical button. Especially when doing math. And yes I actually use this SpikenzieLabs Calculator Kit – because I made it myself in about an hour, and that is rewarding!
The rest of the items below are recommended accessories for you or the young engineer, artist, maker, or designer in your household. Here’s to making back to school be back to fun!
Pocket Ref – 4th Edition – by Thomas J. Glover: Have you ever wanted comprehensive information on a diverse amount of subjects in a pocket sized, well-organized format…and not had a cell phone signal or internet connection?
Look no further! This pocket reference book is actually incredibly cool – even if you have a smart phone, wear a pair of Google glass, have read all of Wikipedia, etc. It’s 864 pages of comprehensive tables, maps, formulas, constants, conversions, everything! There are knot tying diagrams, pictures of airplane signals, the dictionary of American sign language, spice scales for hot peppers – the list goes on and on and on. (read more)
Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 1 by Charles Platt: Want to know how to use an electronic component? This first book of a three-volume set includes key information on electronics parts for your projects—complete with photographs, schematics, and diagrams. You’ll learn what each one does, how it works, why it’s useful, and what variants exist. No matter how much you know about electronics, you’ll find fascinating details you’ve never come across before. (read more)
SpikenzieLabs Calculator Kit: The SpikenzieLabs Calculator Kit another one of a kind, 100% original SpikenzieLabs’ kit. Easy to solder with through hole parts that it is both useful and super cool! Comes as a kit of electronic and plastic parts, after it is assembled you will have a lovely battery-powered pocket calculator. If you’re feeling extra-adventurous, the chip is programmed with an Arduino-compatible bootloader so it’s very hackable as well. Some tools are required to assemble: soldering iron, solder, and wire cutters. You’ll also want some masking tape and a hex wrench (although we just used pliers assemble the screws) (read more)
Bare Conductive Paint – 50mL: Bare Conductive Paint is a multipurpose electrically conductive material perfect for all of your DIY projects! Bare Paint is water based, nontoxic and dries at room temperature.
Bare Paint is the first non-toxic electrically conductive paint available to consumers today. This unique child-friendly material is designed for people of all ages to explore and learn about electronics with an inclusive, easy-to-use material.
Bare Paint provides a dramatically different method of interacting with electronics as it can be applied to almost any surface, including cardboard, paper, wood, wallpaper, walls, textiles, and some plastics. (read more)
Hand-Moldable Plastic – Low Temperature Thermoplastic – 100g Bag: They look a lot like sushi rice, but don’t eat ’em – these are Low Temperature Thermoplastic Beads! Also known as “Friendly Plastic”, “Instamorph”, “Polymorph” and many other names. These 100g bags are full of ivory-colored polymorph plastic beads with a low melting point of about 60°C (140°F). Heat up some water with a kettle or microwave, then dump the beads in. They’ll turn clear and start sticking together into a wax-like blob. You can then knead, mold and shaped the blob by hand and left to harden. Once hardened, it has the feel and durability of polyethelene and a translucent white color. Don’t like the shape? Simply place it back into hot water, it will soften and you can re-shape it as many times as you like! (read more)
Solar Charging Handbag – Put a solar LiPoly MintyBoost on any bag: Welcome to the summer of solar! Why not soak up some free power from the sun? Charge your gadgets on the go by making your own solar battery charger, then affix it to your favorite handbag or backpack. This is a fun soldering project you can build in an afternoon!
When you’re out in the sun (or as long as your bag is), the battery charges up. You can simultaneously charge your phone when the sun is bright, and the battery will keep supplying juice long after the sun goes down.(read more)
Sugru – Black and White Pack: Sugru! Soft-touch silicone rubber that molds and sets permanently. Sticks to aluminum, steel, ceramics, glass, wood and some fabrics + plastics! sugru is the incredible new air-curing rubber for hackers, makers, gadget lovers & anyone else who wants to make things or make their stuff work better. Self-adhesive to most other materials, and flexible when cured, sugru is a versatile tool for hackers and makers – Repair and strengthen damaged cables and housing, mount components where you want them, strengthen attachments and protect against vibration, and a hundred other uses we’re sure youʼll find for it. This is great for prototyping. (read more)
Magnetic Pin Back: These magnetic pin backs have two pieces: a metal bar with adhesive strip and a plastic piece with two strong rare-earth magnets. Affix the metal bar to your FLORA projects– it’s just the right size! Then attach your FLORA project to any garment without poking holes in your clothes. The magnets are strong enough to hold up even a hefty circuit! (read more)
Small Alligator Clip Test Lead (set of 12): Connect this to that without soldering using these handy mini alligator clip test leads. 15″ cables with alligator clip on each end, color coded. You get 12 pieces in 6 colors. Strong and grippy, these always come in handy! We often use these in conjunction with a multimeter so we don’t have to hold the probes in place. (read more)
EL Wire, Tape, and Panel Guides: Outline your costume in light! We have 12 guides online that you can build step-by-step, or use as inspiration to assemble your own wearable EL project. Glowing Star Chuck Taylor Sneakers anyone? (read more)
For storing small parts (especially SMT/SMD components), these little modular boxes are ideal. They have individual clear pop-open covers so you can keep only the ones you want open – less risk of mixing up parts or having a spill. The brilliance of these boxes is that they also snap together, in any configuration you want. You can mix all the sizes to make the ideal box for your needs, and add on more containers as necessary. There’s a leaf-spring hinged top that will last much longer than an all-plastic molded top. Check out our Tiny Modular Snap Boxes, Small Modular Span Boxes, Medium Modular Snap Boxes, Large Modular Snap Boxes, and Antistatic Modular Snap Boxes.
Mini Illuminated Momentary Pushbutton – Red Power Symbol: This Mini Illuminated Momentary Power Button it an adorable breadboard-friendly tactile switch that has a built-in LED. It provides a simple way to add a tactile switch and a colorful universal power symbol to your project.
The tact switch is about the same size as 6mm tactile switches and can snap into a breadboard. There are an additional two pins that connect to the anode and cathode of a small LED that shines through the top. (read more)
August is Back to School Month here at Adafruit! Each week we’ll be bringing you a two #BackToSchool posts on the blog! Stay tuned for product and gift guides, tutorials from the Adafruit Learning System, and inspiration from around the web! Get started by checking out Adafruit’s educational resources, such as our kits and project packs, suggested products for young engineers, blog posts for educators and an extensive selection of books to help you learn!
Have an amazing project to share? Join the SHOW-AND-TELL every Wednesday night at 7:30pm ET on Google+ Hangouts.
Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!
Learn resistor values with Mho’s Resistance or get the best electronics calculator for engineers “Circuit Playground” – Adafruit’s Apps!
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