About this project
NEW: European & International option now available - see below!
After the phenomenal interest in my GPIO Xmas Tree for Raspberry Pi kit recently, I was left in no doubt that people enjoy soldering small electronics kits. The only problem is: getting enough kits to solder! There are some nice kits out there but they're not always particularly affordable and the postage charges can soon add-up.
Wouldn't it be great it you could have some sort of subscription where a fun-to-solder kit plopped through your letterbox each month? That's exactly what I thought! And if you could learn a bit about electronics on the way, so much the better.
I've been designing small kits for a little while, but I think a kit subscription is a novel idea and, with enough Kickstarter backers, it should be a viable project. Whether it's for you or is a gift subscription for a keen young solderer, it should be a lot of fun soldering a new kit each month (well, nearly every month - see below!).
Each parcel will come with instructions on how to build the kit and most kits will come with additional components for you to experiment with. The precise details of what you'll get each month may vary a little bit (and will depend partially on the number of backers), but this is the plan:
Parcel #1: LED Fun! As well as a mini robot kit for you to solder, you'll also get a pack of assorted LEDs, resistors, connectors and a battery clip so you can learn how to use LEDs in your own projects.
Parcel #2: Transistor Heaven! This parcel includes a classic 'two-transistor astable' circuit which flashes a pair of LEDs alternately. You'll get to experiment with how the flash rate is controlled and you'll also learn how to use a transistor in a mini project that uses stripboard (a useful kind of prototyping board that lets you solder-up your own projects without needing to make a PCB first).
There'll be a short hiatus between Parcel #2 and Parcel #3 (see 'Risks' below), so thank goodness for....
Raspberry Pi Bonus! (despatched with parcel #2) I've got rather a lot of parts here for a Raspberry Pi kit which was less popular that I expected... it's still good fun so, rather than have them collect dust, here's an extra bonus for subscribers! It's a little board to connect to the Pi's GPIO port and has a pushbutton and three LEDs that you can control with a Python program. Not got a Raspberry Pi? Don't worry, you can opt to receive a bonus pack of mixed LEDs and resistors to keep you busy during our hiatus instead!
Parcel #3: Audio Amplifier! This is our first kit to use a 'chip' and it's a nice battery-powered audio amplifier which you can use to amplify the sound from an MP3 player, smart phone or Raspberry Pi. Of course, you could build it into a nice enclosure like an old tobacco tin, Turkish delight box, or whatever else you can find.
Parcel #4: Mystery Kit! This is still to be determined... if I get enough backers to fund the manufacture of a new batch of PCBs then I hope to design a brand new kit for your enjoyment. If not, then you'll get a great kit from another manufacturer of the same sort of complexity as the rest of the kits here.
Parcel #5: Getting Ready For The Festive Season! You'll get a fun mini Xmas Tree that runs from a 9v battery and some rainbow colour-changing LEDs that you can use to make seasonal decorations.
HOW WILL IT WORK?
If all goes to plan, kits will be sent out towards the end of each month, starting with Parcel #1 at the end of April. Parcel #2 should go out towards the end of May and then there will be a gap of a month (see 'Risks') and Parcels #3, #4 and #5 will follow at the end of July, August and September. All parcels will be sent by 2nd class Royal Mail (UK only).
NEW EUROPE/INTERNATIONAL OPTIONS!
Postage is often a significant cost when sending out kits, so the contents of each of these parcels has been chosen to fit within the restrictions of Royal Mail's "large letter" postage band. However, I've had a number of messages from people who would like me to post to Europe and further afield, so I've come up with an option which might suit some people. It is quite a bit pricier, but that's because Royal Mail's postage is approximately 5 times higher for non-UK parcels. Anyway, the Europe/International option is: all of the above kits but in THREE parcels send at the end of July, August and September.
The current plan is: Parcel A will be the robot and two-transistor flasher, Parcel B will be the Raspberry Pi bonus (or alternative LED pack) and the audio amplifier and Parcel C will be the mystery kit and the Xmas tree. This plan may be subject to change to ensure I keep within the weight limit each time! Apologies the option is a little pricey but please have a look and bid if you like the look of it! (There are two options: one international, one European).WHAT WILL I NEED TO MAKE THE KITS?
You'll need a soldering iron with a stand and you'll need to know how to solder (or have someone to demonstrate). You'll also need solder and some wire cutters. Most kits run from a standard 9v PP3 battery so you'll only need to buy one and then you can use it with all the kits. However, the Audio Amplifier needs a bit more 'juice' and is best run from four alkaline AA cells (it will work with a 9v battery, though, providing it's a good quality one). Oh, and you'll need a Raspberry Pi to make use of the Raspberry Pi bonus (if you choose that option rather than the LED bonus pack option). A screwdriver could be handy, too, as could a desoldering tool (solder sucker).
WHY IS YOUR SUPPORT IMPORTANT?
Making affordable electronics kits like these is really only viable when there's enough people interested in using them. Components are expensive when bought in small quantities and manufacturing PCBs is prohibitively expensive unless I get lots made. With enough support from Kickstarter backers, this should make an original, viable project.
THANKS FOR READING!
If you've got this far, thanks for reading and I hope the project appeals to you. Maybe I'm mad to think a kit subscription could interest anyone? I hope not, but let's find out!
Risks and challenges
The designs for four of the five kits are complete, so there's no risk there: it's really just a case of getting enough backers to make the project viable. The fifth kit is a work-in-progress: I've got some nice ideas for a few kits and, if there enough backers, I can afford to get a PCB manufactured for one of these designs. If there aren't enough backers to fund a new PCB run then I've found a few good kits from other manufacturers that will make pleasing replacements.
Generally, I've costed-up the kits and checked for component availability and it should all be fine. However, some of the components may have to change according to costs & supplies but I'm not anticipating that happening. It'll probably just be the odd thing like cosmetic changes or changing the colour of some of the LEDs.
There is one other small thing that might impact this project.... I'm due to become a father for the second time! In a few month's time I should have another little future solderer in the house and, as you might imagine, a sleep-deprived father is not the most reliable packer-of-kits and taker-of-parcels-to-the-post-office. Mistakes would happen, trust me. That's why I've built-in a pause between Parcel #2 and Parcel #3 and you get a bonus in the second parcel to keep you busy during June.
This, of course, is why all of the above dates are potentially subject to change. However, I've planned ahead carefully and it should all be OK! If you're worried that Parcel #2 could be scuppered by an early baby arrival, don't worry: my plan is to compile parcels #1 and #2 as soon as the Kickstarter campaign is completed so it only involves putting parcels in the post box and no great thinking on the part of my brain which will, most likely, be mush from lack of sleep. Whatever happens, though, I'll keep you posted through Kickstarter updates.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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