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Christmas Gift for my 15 year old electronics enthusiast

scrumpet

Dec 13, 2014
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Hi,
This is my first post here. My oldest son is 15 and is interested in electronics. He is in 10th grade and spends part of his school day at CIT (The Career Institute of Technology) studying electronics. When asked what he wants for Christmas, he replied that he wanted "electronic stuff". He wants spare parts of things to tinker with, plus a soldering pen and other things. I've already ordered a soldering pen (to replace the lame one he has now), a soldering pen holder, plus this thing:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BT0NDB8/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
"
Arduino Uno Ultimate Starter Kit -- Includes 72 page Instruction Book"

I have 2 questions:
1) Have you heard about this Arduino Uno Starter kit and is it a good thing to get him?
2) What should I get him???? What is available now that you wish you had as a kid? What's appropriate?


I appreciate ALL comments and suggestions!!!! It's not easy to get the right stuff for an electronics enthusiast when you don't know anything about it, so any help you can give is extremely useful!!!

Thanks!

-Scrumpet
 
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KrisBlueNZ

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Hi there and welcome to Electronics Point :)

Electronics covers a wide range of subjects, but I think you've made a good choice, because microcontrollers (like the Arduino) are a very important part of many of them. Also, microcontrollers are really fascinating to learn about, and they're extremely cool. The things you can do with them are mostly limited only by your imagination.

Choosing a starter kit with documentation is the way to go as well, because your son will get almost immediate success with the early projects, backed up by explanations that he will want to learn, and the more complicated projects will be more challenging and more satisfying. There is also a large amount of material available on the web for him to get his teeth into when he understands things better and has some idea of the types of projects that most interest him.

So I think you've made a good choice and a good investment that your son will appreciate now and into the future.
 

Anon_LG

Jun 24, 2014
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Hello

Personally (As a 14 year) I would say yes, an arduino with a starter kit is an excellent option. How advanced is he within electronics? If he has already been using microcontrollers and is competent with arduino he may want something slightly more advanced, such as a teensy board: see here, which is what I am receiving for christmas. If he has not yet started on microcontrollers (such as the arduino) arduinos are an excellent way to learn.

I hope this helps,
 

hevans1944

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One of the best gifts you can give your 15 year old is a dedicated place to work, his own "electronics lab" if you will, where projects will not be disturbed by siblings or others while he is away. A corner bench in his bedroom, or a separate room in the attic or basement, but it is essential that he feel he can walk away from it and come back to find nothing has been disturbed. Nobody, like Mom, coming in to "tidy up" what will surely eventually look like a junk pile. He will eventually learn organization and want to have some small cabinets to store parts in. And he will need a shelf above the work bench to place test equipment and power supplies on. A comfortable stool at the right height is essential. I would recommend something of quality for the stool, adjustable in height to fit him as he grows.

You may want to throw in a few "cheapie" stocking-stuffer items like a logic probe/pulser or a nice three-and-a-half digit multimeter. He should eventually aspire to owning an oscilloscope, but I had to deliver a whole lot of newspapers before I could buy an inexpensive EICO kit oscilloscope and a kit RCA VTVM (vacuum tube volt meter for those born in the 21st century). My parents did provide me with places to work undisturbed (not easy for an Air Force family moving every two or three years), and I am most grateful for that, but all of the "stuff" I acquired for electronics "experiments" came from my own labor and raiding the trash bin behind TV repair shops. Alas, there are no more TV repair shop discard bins to raid, but E-bay is sort of a replacement. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) on E-bay of course.

It sure would be nice if every kid had a Dad like you!
 
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chopnhack

Apr 28, 2014
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hevans1944

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Great advice Hop... except that the OP is Mum, not Dad :)
My face is red! :oops: Sometimes a Mum has to also be a Dad. This Mum seems to be doing just fine wearing the Dad hat, but then women are soooo much better at multi-taskinng than men are. My apologies, @scrumpet. But my advice to resist the temptation to "tidy up" the messes still stands.:D
 

jack20140512

Dec 10, 2014
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the more complicated projects will be more challenging and more satisfying, but I suggest to start with easy project. for example, the project without microcontroller. you can buy some kits from ebay. it's not a good thing if he find some question, however nobody can tech him.
 

chopnhack

Apr 28, 2014
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the more complicated projects will be more challenging and more satisfying, but I suggest to start with easy project. for example, the project without microcontroller. you can buy some kits from ebay. it's not a good thing if he find some question, however nobody can tech him.
+1 on kits.
Did you mean nobody can teach him or tech support him? In either case, I disagree, he can join the forum or mom can help via the forum's help.
 

scrumpet

Dec 13, 2014
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This has all been EXTREMELY helpful, thanks to all of you!! Hevans1994 don't worry about it! Lol. Your advice about an undisturbed work space was very insightful and I totally get it! We're looking in to making that happen.

So I have another question. He just came to me with a late Christmas present idea... he wants a lazer diode from a disc burner. I'm not sure what he wants to do with it, but a few months ago he was on a quest to dig one out of an old computer, however he was unsuccessful. Is this a wise idea, and if so, how do I find such a thing? What do I even look for? Is it available on Amazon??

I'll be sure to tell him about this forum on Christmas after he opens up his prezzies. I think he'll learn a lot here!
 

scrumpet

Dec 13, 2014
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As for organization, I can highly recommend a Plano style box - one of the best ways for organizing the myriad of small parts required for this hobby.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000E3FKTE/
the current price is not the best, I bought mine for $25. They do make bigger units, but they are more $$$.

Edit: Also, from the Teaching Company http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/science/understanding-modern-electronics.html

I already got him this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005QWYF/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I hope for now that works for him! He's just getting started, so we can upgrade if necessary.
 

KrisBlueNZ

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I already got him this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00005QWYF/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
I hope for now that works for him! He's just getting started, so we can upgrade if necessary.
Oh, you will be upgrading it! Personally I use lots of resealable transparent plastic bags of various sizes for storing my stuff. They're versatile and cheap, and space-efficient. There's a good argument for keeping really common parts in individual compartments in drawers or kits like that one, but I can't justify the cost and space needed for lots of that. Simpler, cheaper and more compact to have sets of larger drawers to organise the bags into.

Sorry, I can't advise you on the laser diode. Did he say what he wants to use it for? Does he have any younger siblings? Has he expressed any interest in doing eye examinations on them? LOL :)
 

KJ6EAD

Aug 13, 2011
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Laser diodes are dangerous and not to be trifled with. A DVD writer laser is powerful enough to burn pits in an aluminum substrate and can easily blind.

If your son is fascinated by light beams, get him some simple lenses with which he can collimate the light from an LED to make a "ray gun". Even the light from LEDs can be dangerous when viewed directly, especially if concentrated, but they are orders of magnitude safer than lasers.
 
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HellasTechn

Apr 14, 2013
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One of the best gifts you can give your 15 year old is a dedicated place to work, his own "electronics lab" if you will, where projects will not be disturbed by siblings or others while he is away. A corner bench in his bedroom, or a separate room in the attic or basement, but it is essential that he feel he can walk away from it and come back to find nothing has been disturbed.

My dream !
A lab where i will have enough space to store my parts and access them easily. and a thick wooden workbench.
 

chopnhack

Apr 28, 2014
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Laser diodes are dangerous and not to be trifled with. A DVD writer laser is powerful enough to burn pits in an aluminum substrate and can easily blind.

If your son is fascinated by light beams, get him some simple lenses with which he can collimate the light from an LED to make a "ray gun". Even the light from LEDs can be dangerous when viewed directly, especially if concentrated, but they are orders of magnitude safer than lasers.

Good, I wasn't the first downer :p All kidding aside, +1. There are certain colors of LED's that I would advise to avoid as well as their wavelength could be dangerous too. Some of those purple LED's emit UV (without seeing the spec sheet to make sure they are safe, I would avoid them.) Also the clear lens's tend to produce a brighter light that should not be looked at head on. A fact I remind my kids all the time of... :rolleyes:
They do make clear frosted lens on LED's that are still bright but defract the light sufficiently. And the older LEDs that most are familiar with - color frosted lens's.
 
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hevans1944

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... he wants a lazer diode from a disc burner. I'm not sure what he wants to do with it, but a few months ago he was on a quest to dig one out of an old computer, however he was unsuccessful. Is this a wise idea, and if so, how do I find such a thing? What do I even look for? Is it available on Amazon?? ...
It is natural for a gifted 15 year old to be interested in laser diodes, but these devices are dangerous. I have been working with lasers since the 1970s and shudder to remember the "accidents" that have occurred over the years by people who should have known better, but failed to take even elementary precautions and lost their eyesight. That's a pretty high price to pay. At a minimum, a set of protective goggles, with a blocking filter whose absorption wavelengths include the laser emission wavelength, must be worn at ALL TIMES when working with lasers that are capable of eye damage. There are some exceptions to the eye-protection rule, depending on the class of laser, but any laser that is capable of producing material damage will also produce eye damage.

Lasers that emit non-visible ultra-violet or infrared radiation are particularly dangerous because you can't "see" the beam when it impinges on an absorbing surface, nor when it reflects from a specular surface such as a mirror or metal surface. There are tools available to make such laser beams visible, but these tools are not generally available to a 15 year old.

Lasers that "write" on writable CD media do so by heating a thin film on the back side (label side) of the media using a diode laser aimed at the front side and penetrating through the plastic media to focus on the film layer. This means the laser diode has a very short focal-length, so the focused beam rapidly diverges if there is no disk inserted to intercept the laser beam. This diverging beam rapidly decreases to a lower energy density that poses no threat. But who is to say what happens if the laser diode and its lens assembly is removed from the CD writer? These devices have been used to ablate materials on CNC (Computer Numeric Controlled) X-Y stages by DIY (Do It Yourself) experimenters, and perhaps your son wants to explore this dimension of laser use. If so, he needs a mentor who can properly instruct him in safe use procedures.

An LED (Light Emitting Diode) is a much safer entry route to electro-optic experimentation, but as others here have said, even a powerful LED can be dangerous if one stares directly into it. Start small and let him work his way up as he gains experience and maturity.

Someone (@KJ6EAD) suggested buying him some simple lenses (convex-convex, plano-convex, concave-concave, and plano-concave) in various diameters and focal lengths. Here is a place to start. There are millions of surplus lenses available too, often for a very small fraction of their original cost, but you need to know what you can "get by with" before ordering. Lenses are a lot like gun holsters: eventually everybody who carries a gun on their belt ends up with a drawer full of them.
 
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