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Starter Kits

Sure, it can be fun to design your own remote controlled robot, but what is really cool is when your robot can sense things and make its own decisions on what to do. That is where the world of sensors comes in and the best place to start is with a starter kit.

This kit from Seeed Studio is excellent. It steps through each of ten sensors. It also includes an Arduino microcontroller built in.


The big thing for this starter kit is you don't need to buy anything else, yet. No soldering iron, jumpers, wire strippers, etc. You just need a PC/laptop or a Raspberry Pi so you can interface with it for programming.

Mechatronic Essentials

Banggood is a great place to get just about anything - especially Maker parts. Here we picked out the essentials for the person on a budget like us. We placed them in the order of importance to outfit your Maker supplies.

Multimeter

MUSTOOL MT108T Square Wave Output True RMS NCV Temperature Tester Digital Multimeter 6000 Counts Backlight AC DC Current/Voltage Resistance Frequency Capacitance

It all starts with a multimeter. Without it, you won't be able to troubleshoot or reverse engineer anything. So, it is our #1 recommended first purchase. Even though this is in the entry level price range it still has the audible continuity feature - which is a must have when troubleshooting so you don't have to look back and force.

BreadBoard

Test Develop DIY 830 Point Solderless PCB Breadboard For MB-102 MB102
The first step in mechatronics is being able to test your circuit with a breadboard. A cheapie will do.

DuPont Pins

40pcs 20cm Male To Female Jumper Cable Dupont Wire
You'll need plenty of these to wire up your circuits on the breadboard. It's good to have them with different end configurations since you will most likely have a variety of breakout boards with different connectors. These are male to female ends.

DuPont Pins

40pcs 20cm Male To Male Color Breadboard Cable Jumper Cable Dupont Wire
You'll need plenty of these to wire up your circuits on the breadboard. It's good to have them with different end configurations since you will most likely have a variety of breakout boards with different connectors. These are male to male ends.

DuPont Pins

40pcs 20cm Female to Female Jumper Cable Dupont Wire
You'll need plenty of these to wire up your circuits on the breadboard. It's good to have them with different end configurations since you will most likely have a variety of breakout boards with different connectors. These are Female to female ends.

Resistors

Geekcreit® 600pcs 30 Kinds Value 1% 1/4W Metal Film Resistor Assorted Kit 20pcs Each Value
You might be thinking resistors are something too complicated to ever know how to use, but you will find that they actually just do two things: limit current and divide voltage. In most mechatronics projects, you use the same mini design such as a 100K resistor on an LED or divide 5V tos 3.3V. You'll use them in every project, so grab this variety cheap pack.

Nano

Geekcreit® ATmega328P Nano V3 Controller Board Improved Version Module Development Board
It's hard to find a cheaper entry point into the world of Making than this Arduino Nano clone. It can be the base of many Smart projects.

RGB LEDS

50pcs LED RGB Common Cathode 4-Pin F5 5MM Diode
I tell Connor, if you can get an LED to blink, you can change the world. It all starts there in the world of making. These LEDS are RGB - meaning they can be set to mix light to make any color.

Capacitors

Geekcreit® 300pcs 10 Values 50V 10pF To 100nF Multilayer Ceramic Capacitor Assortment Kit 30pcs Each Value
Capacitors are the companion to resistors in the world of bleeps 'n bloops. They sound intimidating, but they are really just like quick charging - and quick dissipating - batteries. In circuits, they act like deep fishing holes in a stream allowing the downstream water to stay flowing steady even if it varies upstream. This is a good inexpensive kit that will get you through many projects.

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Servos

MG995 MG996R MG946R Metal Standard Servo 180 Degree Digital Robot 20KG Servo
You projects start getting cool when servos are involved. They allow you to move a joint in your thing exactly to the rotation you want it. Or you can make some linkages to drive linear motion. These are cheap, but have metal gears for good reliability.

Momentary Switches

Geekcreit® 100pcs Mini Micro Momentary Tactile Touch Switch Push Button DIP P4 Normally Open
A primary form of input on a project is a pushbutton switch. You'll use these on at least half your projects.

Permanent Switches

100pcs SS12d00G4 2 Gear 3 Pin Toggle Switch Slide Switch Interruptor On-Off Handle Length 4mm
Pulling your battery on your project will get old. So, these little switches are nice to toggle on your invention.

Protoboard

Geekcreit® 40pcs FR-4 2.54mm Double Side Prototype PCB Printed Circuit Board
If you live in the states, it can take a few weeks to get a board fabrictated - so, protoboard is often the logical option for testing your circuit design before you wait on a boat.

Wire

Geekcreit 140pcs U Shape Solderless Breadboard Jumper Cable Dupont Wire For Shield
Soldering a protoboard can give you a great project that will last years. Not as cool as getting a board fabricated, but its a must for every maker - especially in the States where it takes weeks to get a fabricated board still. You'll want these stiff wires to route your circuit.

Dikes

DANIU Electrical Cutting Plier Wire Cable Cutter Side Snips Flush Pliers Tool
Now that you are upgrading to custom length wires, you'll need a way to cut them to length and strip off some insulation. You can do both with these.

Wire

Mustool® MT223 60W Adjustable Temperature Electric Solder Iron with 5pcs Solder Tips
You'll do great at soldering. It's super easy. The first time you do it you might think its scary, but you'll develop a muscle memory for it and be jamming to tunes soldering in rhythm. This is a great beginner model that will be in your family for years. If you'd like to upgrade, go for one where you can set the temperature.

Solder

DANIU 100g 63/37 Tin Lead Rosin Core 0.5-2mm 2% Flux Reel Welding Line Solder Wire
Solder is essential of course. So essential even Walmart carries it - but at a premium price actually. This is a great price for a great variety of diameters.

Diodes

100pcs IN4007 1N4007 DIP Rectifier Diode Component Kit For DIY Projects
Once you get a few of the early LED projects under your belt, you will eventually do something with a DC motor or coil relay. Those projects will need what you call a flyback diode to prevent creating an overvoltage situation when the motor stops or relay engages. Here is a cheap pack that will last several years for you.

Transistors

50pcs BC547+BC557 Each 25pcs BC547B BC557B NPN PNP Transistor TO-92 Power Triode Transistor Kit Bag
When you need to bring in a little higher amps than your microcontroller pins can handle, you use a transistor. This pack comes with both PNP and NPN giving you some options for your circuit design.

Diodes

5Pcs SONGLE Mini 12V DC Power Relay SRD-12VDC-SL-C PCB Type
Your coolest projects will need to switch in high current and voltage sources to make things move. These Relays are very common for switching on the power.

Voltage Regulator

Geekcreit® DC 2V-24V To 5V-28V 2A Step Up Boost Converter Power Supply Module Adjustable Regulator Board
This boost regulators started getting popularity after LiPos came out with sub 5V packages. They can take a 3.7V LiPo and boost it to run a 5V microcontroller or beyond. The price is crazy on this - less than a buck each in bulk!

Logic Analyzer

USB Logic Analyzer 24M 8CH Microcontroller ARM FPGA Debug Tool
You'll see a lot of makers talking about their $1000+ oscilloscope. You'll find though that this $10 logical analyzer is all you really need for Maker projects unless you are trying to design a next gen device from analog components. A logic analyzer lets you test and reverse engineer signal wires between ICs. Hook it to your laptop and you'll get better charts than an o-scope will give out of the box.

Limit Switches

10Pcs Micro Limit Switch Roller Lever 5A 125V Open Close Switch
Once you get parts moving, sometimes you want to know when they have reached a limit before it wrecks itself. For example, we use these to set the zero of our CNC machines we built.

Battery Holder

4 Slots AA Battery Box Battery Holder Board with Switch for 4xAA Batteries DIY kit Case
Eventually you will want your project off your Maker Desk. This will give you an easy option for AA batteries for simple microcontroller projects.

Proximity Sensor

Geekcreit® Ultrasonic Module HC-SR04 Distance Measuring Ranging Transducers Sensor DC 5V 2-450cm
We must have made a half dozen projects in our early days with these. You can make alarms or contactless limit switch such as for parking a car from these great proximity sensors.

Real Time Clock

DS3231 AT24C32 IIC Precision RTC Real Time Clock Memory Module
Real time clocks still haven't caught on most microcontrollers including the Raspberry Pi. So, if you have a time sensitive project, you'll definitely want to include one of these Real Time Clocks that have a 10 year battery backup.

Bluetooth

Geekcreit® HC-06 Wireless Bluetooth Transceiver RF Main Module Serial Geekcreit for Arduino - products that work with official Arduino boards
For microcontrollers that don't have their own Bluetooth built in, this will let you transmit serial over Bluetooth and handle all the paring without you having to do it with code.


Microcontrollers & Single Board Computers

There are a lot of boards out there, but the reality is you can stick to just a few that are very cheap and you'll find you never will outgrow them. If you do, you'll be designing and fabricating your own designs. Below are our favorites. We've never outgrown them even with our CNC projects.

Uno

Geekcreit® UNO R3 Improved Version + 2.8TFT LCD Touch Screen + 2.4TFT Touch Screen Display Module Kit Geekcreit for Arduino - products that work with official Arduino boards
Even though these are somewhat big by today's standards, the UNO has a billion projects online to learn from. So, we recommend having at least one for learning purposes. This kit comes with displays for one very cheap price.

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Trinket

Arduino Nano IoT 33
This is my favorite microcontroller. It has plenty of GPIO, WIFI, and Bluetooth.

ESP8266

ESP01 Programmer Adapter UART GPIO0 ESP-01 CH340G USB to ESP8266 Serial Wireless Wifi Development Board
This one being so small with such good wifi, it is great for making home automation products. You can even code it to respond to Alexa like a Smart light switch.

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Trinket

Adafruit Trinket
This little ditty put Adafruit on the map for us. It's able to take up to 18V, so it's great for automobile projects if you don't need WiFi.

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Pi Zero

Raspberry Pi Zero W
Being just $10 and being a full blown, camera ready, WiFi enabled Linux single board computer, I find this my most used board. Our RA-Cams are powered by it.

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Pi 4

Raspberry Pi 4
Eventually, you'll want at least one of these. If you are on a budget, it can be your primary computer. Otherwise, it is good for Visual AI projects and anything for advanced robotics.

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Pico

Raspberry Pi Pico
This is the latest design from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It is super inexpensive and blows away the Arduino boards as long as you don't need WiFi on the board.


Cool Stuff We Saved for with No Remorse

As we progressed into the world of making, some things just seemed too useful to resist. So, over time, we either won or saved up for.

Crimpers

SN-01BM AWG28-20 Self-adjusting Terminal Wire Cable Crimping Pliers Tool for Dupont PH2.0 XH2.54 KF2510 JST Molex D-SUB Terminal
Eventually you may desire to make your own DuPont Pins or Molex connectors. These pliers are a must for that. They have a profile that crushes the insulation zone separately from the wire zone to make a perfect crimp.

USB Tester

RIDEN® UM34/UM34C For APP USB 3.0 Type-C DC Voltmeter Ammeter Voltage Current Meter Battery Charge Measure Cable Resistance Tester
These are great for determining the amps your project is pulling. In turn, you can size the battery or the wall wart you want to use for it. It will also help you troubleshoot in case you suspect an undervoltage condition which often bites the Raspberry Pi.

Microscope

MUSTOOL G1200 Digital Microscope 12MP 7 Inch Large Color Screen Large Base LCD Display 1-1200X Continuous Whether we are troubleshooting a suspected bad solder joint or just trying to read the writing on a chip, this thing is awesome. With photo mode, it's way beyond the days of looking in an old school microscope.

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Power Supply

Topshak NPS3010W 110V/220V Digital Adjustable DC Power Supply 0-30V 0-10A 300W Regulated Laboratory Switching Power Supply
It gets old trying to work your device and its battery goes down. A benchtop power supply is the answer. They also allow you to limit current to prevent an inadvertant short from frying parts. We also use them to nurse back rechargable batteries when their smart charger refuses to try.

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SparkMaker

Sparkmaker SLA Printer
SLA printers make much better prints than filament printers. The bummer is they don't have a good bed size, but they are awesome for small parts. This one is ours and we love it.

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Benchtop Multimeter

DM8145 4 7/8 Bench top Multimeter 1000V 20A 80000 Counts Digital Multimeter tester Auto Range Multimetro Digital Voltmeter Ohm
This is really just a nice to have as you can get cheap portable multimeters that pretty much do the same thing. I must say it is convient to have, though. These even can record the readings for 36 hours - not that you'd need that much.

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3D Printer

DaVinci 1.0 Pro 3D Printer
You can definitely get printers at a lower price than this one. But, if you have little kids or cats, you may want to consider one with a full enclosure. This is the one we got on an internet special. If I ever see that special again (<$400), I'll buy a 2nd one.

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Welder

Everlast 256SI Welder
Once you really start making, 3D printing will only take you so far. You eventually will have a calling to constructing with metal frames. That's when a welder comes in. This is a purchase intended to be done once in a life time, so spend a little more to prevent buyers remorse in a year. This model is competive with the big brands, but much more affordable. It does stick, TIG, and plasma cutting.


Materials

These are some great prices for your consumables from Banggood.

Filament

1KG 1.75mm PLA Filament 3D Printing Material For Reprap Prusa i3/Creality 3D Ender-3/Artillery 3D Printer Part
With the number of projects we did, we were suprised how far a spool will go. Even with all our projects, we burned through just about 10 spools in 5 years.


Our Circuit Designs

Below are our circuit designs from our project page. You can get the raw circuits for pennies at PCBWay.

Arduino Nano Shield
ARC Desk Ornament Arduino Nano Shield

This is the Arduino Nano Shield we designed for our Desk Ornament IoT Project. It allows to hook up an OLED, Proximity Sensor, and LEDs cleanly to a Nano IoT 33.










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