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November 9, 2016 AT 12:30 am

Adafruit Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Getting Started with Electronics (Kits!)

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“Getting started with electronics” and “kits” are pretty much synonymous. To begin with the former you’re pretty much going to have to – and want to! – acquire some of the latter. Thankfully the options these days are more than your standard ‘learning projects in a box’ (although those still exist too). Nowadays they include wearables, music-making synths, and programmable devices. Some of my favorites are below – with some containing as few as a couple dozen through-hole solder components. And of course there’s always the all-inclusive breadboarding kit-in-a-box for absolute beginners!

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But first…

Ladyada’s Electronics Toolkit

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Before you get started with getting started with electronics, you’re going to want to acquire some basic tools of the trade. These include but are not limited to a basic soldering iron, solder sucker & wick, multimeter, clipping and trimming tools, and more. Some are more familiar than others but all will come in handy at some point during your experimenting.

Starting out on your electronics adventure?
Want to wield the mighty soldering iron?
Tired of saying “I’d totally get into electronics if I only knew what tools to get…”?

Working with substandard equipment is a terrible way to learn electronics: a lot of frustration with too little success. The right tool set will keep you progressing without the stressing.

This toolbox contains carefully selected hand tools that will last you for many many years.

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More-than-one Project Kits


Flotilla Mega Treasure Chest Starter Kit

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Flotilla is a range of smart, friendly, and affordable modules that you connect together to create amazing projects that can sense and react to the world around them. Brought to you by Pimoroni, the Flotilla Mega Treasure Chest Starter Kit is their ultimate Flotilla package.

You’ll get fourteen Flotilla modules, three complete kits – the audibly offensive Noisemaker synth, a cute little paper-craft mood light, and an all-singing, all-dancing line-following robot – as well as eight other super-simple Cookbook recipes to get you up and running in two turns of a ship’s wheel — wow!

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Thames & Kosmos Electronics Experiment Kit

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Somewhere between ‘snap circuits’ and classic breadboard projects (see the next product for a great breadboarding kit) is this kit-in-a-box from Thames & Kosmos:

This lovely little kit from Thames & Kosmos is a nice alternative to ‘snap-circuits’ type learning kits. There’s still no soldering, but there are proper wires and a bread-board-like workspace so the projects are a bit more realistic. This is a basic starter kit, a good companion to learning with an Arduino since it covers more of the essential analog/digital type basics which sometimes get skipped over when using microcontrollers. It’s also great on its own! Thames & Kosmos kits are excellent quality so we hope this is the first of many kits we carry from them.

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Discover Electronics Kit – 2.0

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Discover Electronics Kit contains everything you need to learn the basics of electronics and make your own projects. It contains the most common electronics components as well as a prototyping breadboard for you to get started right away. Easy full color diagrams teach you how to bring your own ideas to life. The Discover electronics kit uses standard components. All of these parts can be used by the beginner or the advanced user. As you grow and learn all of the parts in the kit are still useful in more advanced projects and can be expanded on by using additional parts.

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Through-hole kits – soldering required


MintyBoost Kit – v3.0

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Make your own iPod/iPhone/GPS/etc… battery-pack and recharger!
This project includes all the electronic parts necessary to build your own MintyBoost: a small & simple (but very powerful) USB charger for your iPod (or other mp3 player), camera, cell phone, and any other gadget you can plug into a USB port to charge.

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Conway’s Game of Life Kit – v1.3

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In 1970, John Conway came up with a 1-player game called Game of Life. The Game of Life is a mathematical game that simulates ‘colonies’ that grow or die based on how crowded or lonely they are and is known for the way it creates a beautiful organic display out of randomness.

Here is a design for a simple electronic project that plays Conway’s Game of Life. Make one kit and keep it on your desk, or attach multiple kit modules together to create a large display.

Originally created by Dropout Design, this revision adds a few extra features. The kit is very easy to make and an excellent first electronics/soldering project. It is perfect for workshops since at the end everyone can connect their completed module together.

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SpikenzieLabs Calculator Kit

I have one of these on my workstation – they’re a great beginner kit that is also office-functional!

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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)

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Drawdio kit – v1.1

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Drawdio is an electronic pencil that lets you make music while you draw! It’s great project for beginners: An easy soldering kit with instant gratification. Essentially, its a very simple musical synthesizer that uses the conductive properties of pencil graphite to create different sounds. The result is a fun toy that lets you draw musical instruments on any piece of paper.

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Solar Powered SKULL Blinky LED Pendant Kit from Lumen Electronic

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Scary. Solar. Skull-y. The Solar Powered SKULL Blinky LED Pendant by Lumen Electronic Jewelry is an awesome new kit where, with a little soldering, you can make a battery-less blinking skull. That’s right, there’s no coin battery! Instead, a 1 Farad super capacitor is used to store energy. It takes around an hour to make and, when you finish, you can charge it either with a USB or with the power of the sun.

It takes less than 2 minutes or so to fully charge through the USB and 15 minutes from direct sunlight. In darkness, it’ll last for almost 90 minutes – making it the perfect goth accessory for outdoor Disneyland adventures or indoor Bauhaus concerts (you can charge it during the opening act).

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“Three Fives” Discrete 555 Timer Kit – v2.0

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The “Three Fives” Discrete 555 Timer kit from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories is a faithful and functional transistor-scale replica of the classic NE555 timer integrated circuit, one of the most classic, popular, and all-around useful chips of all time.

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The following kits have more through-hole parts, and/or may require additional programming with external cables and devices.


TV-B-Gone Kit – Universal v1.2

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The TV-B-Gone is a kit that, when soldered together, allows you to turn off almost any television within 150 feet or more. It works on over 230 total power codes – 115 American/Asian and another 115 European codes. You can select which zone you want during kit assembly.

This is an unassembled kit which means that soldering is required – but it’s very easy and a great introduction to soldering in general. The kit’s powered by 2x AA batteries – that aren’t included – and the output comes from 2x narrow beam IR LEDs and 2x wide-beam IR LEDs.

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MintySynth Kit – 2.0

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The MintySynth kit – 2.0 is a great way to make your next musical creation while experimenting with electronics and programming. Open source and hackable, the MintySynth is an Arduino-compatible synth kit that fits in an Altoids tin.

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Adafruit MENTA – Mint Tin Arduino Compatible Kit with Mint Tin

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Introducing the MENTA, a portable minty Arduino-compatible project that fits into a common mint tin. We took our super popular Boarduino series, and wrapped it with a prototyping area into a rounded PCB that slots directly into an Altoids-sized metal tin. We included everything you expect to jump-start your project:

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We’re excited for the Holiday Season here at Adafruit, and we can’t wait to share that excitement with you! Stay tuned into the blog where you will find new, handpicked gift guides five days a week from November 7 through December 23rd, 2016 alongside holiday themed tutorials and builds!


Free Deals

Adafruit offers exciting deals and free items when you shop with us. As of February 23rd, 2016 3:00 PM ET we are currently offering FREE UPS ground (Continental USA) for orders $200 or more.

Some restrictions apply


Adafruit Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2016

Here are your 2016 shipping deadlines for ordering from Adafruit. Please review our shipping section if you have specific questions on how and where we ship worldwide for this holiday season.

The Adafruit Shipping Department works hard to get your orders out as quickly as we can, but once they’re in the hands of our carriers they’re out of our control.

Carriers have been struggling to keep up with the sharp rise in online orders. UPS, FedEX, and USPS all experienced delivery delays over the last few years.

So all the Adafruit Shippers say: Please be sure you get your gifts early! Order as soon as you can! Once you place your order we’ll ship like the wind!

Please note: We do not offer Saturday or Sunday service for UPS or USPS.

Sunday, Dec. 25, 2016, Christmas, no UPS or USPS pickup or delivery service.

Monday, Dec. 26, 2016, no UPS or USPS pickup or delivery service.

Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, no UPS or USPS pickup or delivery service.

Sunday, Jan. 1, 2016, New Year’s Day, no UPS or USPS pickup or delivery service

Gift Certificates are always available at any time.

When in doubt contact us!

Domestic Orders

UPS ground: Place orders by Friday 11am ET – December 9, 2016 – There is no guarantee that UPS Ground packages will arrive by December 23.

UPS 3-day: Place orders by Thursday 11am ET – December 15, 2016 – Arrive by 12/23/2016.

UPS 2-day: Place orders by Friday 11am ET – December 16, 2016 – Arrive by 12/23/2016.

UPS overnight: Place orders by Monday 11am ET – December 19, 2016 – Arrive by 12/23/2016.

United States Postal Service, First Class and Priority: Place orders by Friday– December 9, 2016 – Arrive by 12/23/2016 or sooner.

International Orders

USPS First class mail international: Place orders by Friday – November 18, 2016. Can take up to 30 days or more with worldwide delays and customs. Should arrive by 12/23/2016 or sooner, but not a trackable service and cannot be guaranteed to arrive by 12/23/2016.

USPS Express mail international: Place orders by Friday – December 2, 2016. Can take up to 15 days or more with worldwide delays and customs. Should arrive by 12/23/2016 or sooner.

UPS WORLDWIDE EXPRESS, UPS WORLDWIDE EXPEDITED and UPS EXPRESS SAVER (UPS International orders): Place orders by Friday 11am ET – December 9, 2016 – There is no guarantee that international packages will arrive by December 23 2016.


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