Any good summer electrical projects?

I was just wondering if anyone had any good electrical projects that I (or anyone else interested) could do now that school’s out for the summer. I’m currently looking to get parts to build a Mintyboost, but after that I’m not sure what I should play with. I’d really like to get my hands dirty now that I’ve got some free time. if it helps at all, I already have a basic knowledge of electrical circuits, though I’m a little fuzzy fuzzy on capacitors and haven’t gotten into logic gates, and I know how to solder and all that good stuff. I just haven’t been able to find any projects here on CD while I was digging around.

so to all you more experienced electrical types, what kind of electrical projects or learning resources can you recommend to a high school student like myself?

The electronics guy on our team took home our Robot cart and is wiring it with lots of cool lights over the summer. :cool:

I suspect that Chris is more into the circuit design aspect of EE. Am I right? This is not often discussed in FIRST.

Chris you should look into some of the more common logic gates and learn what they do. After you do that, try to make a timer or stop watch. I don’t know of any activity kits that would help you.

absolutely right, alex. I’d try doing something with an arduino, but I’m still trying to figure out how all this works, so I’d rather not get in too deep. I will look into the stop watch idea, though. messing with the logic gates is probably a good place to start

my summer project is making a Lego breakout for an arduino. this way i can make lego robots and then use the much more powerful arduino to control them.

If you like to control stuff with a computer there is a kit made by Velleman-kit that is cool. It is model # K8055. You will need to solder it together and then you have a USB interface device that has lots of inputs and outputs and even has two PWM outputs that could control a Victor or Jaguar. Sample code is supplied in VB, C++ and a few others. I used it in an EECT class I taught last semester for a basic overview for students to learn about PC control.
It is great to hear you want to do something this summer. That is way better that setting around playing video games. Good luck with what ever you decide to tackle.


hmmmm…I just got done putting together a computer, which involved some welding, as well as assembling an electronic kit (the clock).

Several years ago I built a “homebrew” Nixie clock, but I have sources for old parts, which you may not have available. (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

You might not want to get into this high voltage stuff until you understand the necessary safety precautions.

When I was young, we had Heathkits available, although we never had enough money to buy them ourselves. Dad bought a TV kit that my brothers and I put together when we were in Jr. High, I still have the TV, it still works.

My guess is that getting into electronics now, is not the same as it used to be…everything now is so small! All the ICs are surface mount, etc. And vacuum tubes are pretty much gone, even as displays.

In my experience, Ardunios are pretty hard to mess up. The materials aren’t written for engineers and technical people, they are written for non-technical people who want to get their feet wet. It certainly helps to have people you can ask, but I’m pretty confident you could figure an Arduino out on your own. In addition, their forums are conveniently filled with knowledgeable people who love to help.

You might try this for some old time electical fun. Some of the projects would make neat shelf displays or gifts.

We are trying to build something that we can use for next year. One of the project ideas is a battery load tester that will check if the battery is still good. Our design can be found at

That’s really cool! I’d love to do something like that, but I don’t think I have a good way of getting any nixie tubes…

anyway, I think I’ve got a decent idea of what I’ll be doing this summer, and I also found my dad’s old EE texts, so I should be good for the next couple months. I would like to know if there’s a particular model of Arduino I should get if I should go in that direction, or if it’s really more of a “what fits my budget” kind of deal. either way, I’m making a parts run tomorrow :smiley:

I am interested in what you have done but for some reason I cannot get to the web pages. Is there any reason for this? I have tried on 2 of my computers with 2 different web browsers. I also tried at different days/times.

Oh, my hosting company seems to have some DNS issues…sorry!

You might try it from a different internet provider, perhaps at some place that has free wifi.

Asking for good electrical projects is going to yield you tons of different opinions. Let us know what you might be interested in (basic home automation, Remote control vehicles, electronic art, hobby radio?) and we can give you some basic projects to get you feet wet, and then send you in the right direction to find increasingly complex projects. For example if you want to stay in the robotics field, perhaps start with beam robotics, then move on to incorporating an arduino (or your choice of other micro) and using servos that can be controlled directly with the board. Eventually build your own speed controllers, then try different sensors. If robotics doesn’t seem practical to you or their is something you find very interesting let us know and we can give you better ideas of what may be fun.

As far as building the classic circuits (stop watch, head phone amp, etc) I appreciate what they are and that they teach basics of electronics but I don’t think it is necessary to start this low level. Eventually you learn how/why these things work, I believe that you can start out working at a higher level, if you need an amp you can buy an IC that will serve your purpose, eventually you will learn what is going on inside, in the mean time it really isn’t that important. See the big picture first, the rest will make sense as you go.

Thanks for the advice. As far as what I’d like to do, though, I’m not really sure. I’m starting with this Mintyboost project simply because it’s simple and highly practical. Otherwise I know I just want to mess with something. I’m sure I’ll get a better idea of what I’m really interested in once I’ve done a couple projects, but this is all pretty new to me

I would like to remind your team that the AGM batteries we use are slightly different than a typical lead acid cell and may yield some misleading results. Double check the battery spec sheets from the manufacturer.

Summer would be a great time to get your Ham license. There are a variety of small kits for ham transmitters and simple receivers. Check out Ramsey kits or just search the internet. Ham clubs have classes and hamfests (ham flea markets) run license tests and are a great source of cheap parts and used equipment. The Colorado QRP club (that is for low power users) has a website and list local fests here

I’ve actually already gotten my license (KD0IKL), though I had not thought of doing a kit. I will certainly look into that, though. I also noticed that there’s a festival next Saturday, so I will probably check that out

FB on the ham license. Summer is always a ham’s season for planning antenna projects before the snow flies. Have you tried your hand at HF QRP? It’s a challenge but can be fun and rewarding.

I’m not a fancy electrical type, but I have an interesting project you might try:

I was trying to microwave popcorn last night, and I had to listen to the kernels pop and stop the microwave after I started hearing 2 seconds of silence between pops. This was pretty annoying because I had to sit there for 4 or 5 minutes hitting “add 30 seconds” on the microwave. I bet you could make a device that would hit the required keys on a microwave (+30sec and stop) and use a microphone or some audio device to recognize pops. Maybe throw in a couple 555 timers (one to check time between pops, one to keep the microwave running by hitting +30sec), logic gates, a relay or two (controlling solenoids that press the microwave’s buttons), and you’ve got a reasonably complex circuit to perfectly cook popcorn.

Best of luck in your summer projects.

Why couldn’t you just set the microwave to run for 5 (or more) minutes then wait until the popping started to slow, then stop the microwave (at the right point) and clear the time? Seems like that would prevent you from needing to stand by the microwave for more than ~30sec.

The point is that one still has to pay attention to the popcorn for the 4 or 5 minutes to stop it at the right time.

I think discussing my popcorn microwaving technique is a little off topic :rolleyes: