# Where to Learn Electrical Online

The other day I was taking apart my VEX controller because I was bored and thought to myself, “there is so much in here that I don’t know” when it comes to the basic stuff for FIRST I know most of it but, this knowledge doesn’t help a lot if I plan to go into electrical engineering in the future. After searching google for about an hour today I haven’t really found a place where I can learn more about electrical components and (relatively)complex circuits. I was hoping someone here would have a place where I can learn the basics of all plain electrical components (capacitors, transistors, resistors, integrated circuits, etc. etc.) and how to implement these components. Does anyone know of a website to help me?

MIT’s opensource education service could help you out with this, perhpas in the EE department.

As a member of academia, I don’t think I’m supposed to do this, but I’ve used Wikipedia on plenty of occasions to brush up on my electrical basics.

You will want to look at basic DC circuits first:

Components:
Resistors
Capacitors
Inductors

Concepts:
DC Voltage
Current
Resistance

Equations:
Ohm’s Law
Kirchoff’s Current Law (KCL)
Kirchoff’s Voltage Law (KVL)

Then move on to the basic digital stuff:
Semiconductors
Diodes
Transistors

It will be a lot of reading - and you definitely can’t learn it all at once - but this should get you started.

I’d recommend letting AC systems wait until college since (1) there are none in your Vex controller (unless you are using a power adapter) and (2) you need to have a strong grasp of complex numbers, phasors, and frequency-domain transforms to be able to do the fun stuff.

It was a lot easier when you could actually see the parts, with all the modern surface mount components, now you need a microscope to see a resistor!

When we were about 10, my twin brother and I started with a very simple single transistor sound amplifier. By the time we were 12 we (and our older brother) built a Heathkit color TV, a year later a tube oscilloscope from scratch, and then he went on to make all kinds of neat stuff, but I got into cars instead.

Maybe one of those old 200 in 1 Electronics Experiment kits like they used to sell at Radio Shack would be a good place to start? They have big enough parts that you can see what’s going on, along with good literature explaning how the circuits work. Look on ebay or thrift stores…

Andy, have you taken Physics yet? Even in high school physics you go over some very basics and fundamentals of electronics and components. If you haven’t I would suggest try to swing by a local university or community college bookstore or even your local library, if it’s good, and see if they have physics textbooks you can buy/borrow. A very common physics text at the university level is Physics for Scientists and Engineers by Tipler. Another common book is Physics for Engineers by Halliday Resnick and Walker. You can also Amazon search these and purchase them for studying. The physics textbooks will give you some basic fundamentals and explain these, mathematically, in algebraic and introductory calculus concepts, so it should be easier to understand.

Once you go through those I would suggest looking at university/community college bookstores for an introductory electrical engineering circuits book. This will go into a lot of detail on not only the basic electrical components but also integrated circuits (ICs). It will start off probably explaining ICs with operational amplifiers. Be careful when looking at the college level texts because for some universities up through calculus 3 and differential equations can be a pre-requisite for some circuits classes. So, the mathematic descriptions can be very complex. But, I’d suggest getting a hold of some text books, start off at your local library.

Those Radio Shack electronics any good? I never had one but they always looked pretty neat. A little pricey though.

Parallax has some good stuff for learning. It too is not free though, but you get to play with it.

Andy,

I have found the following book, intended to teach the elements of electronics to non-EE scientists (such as chemists and physicists), to be extremely useful as an introductory text into electronics: **Electronics and Instrumentation for Scientists **by Malmstadt, Enke & Crouch](http://www.amazon.com/Electronics-Instrumentation-Scientists-Howard-Malmstadt/dp/0805369171/ref=sr_1_6/002-8875483-9212001?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207563487&sr=1-6)

I know that this book is over 25 years old but, IMHO, it is still very relevant to the beginner. For example, the chapter on microcomputers will seem a bit dated until you realize that functionality of the 6’ racks in 1981 is basically the same as the PIC microcontroller chip in your robot controller.

Good Luck,

Mike

Go here and get yourself the 2007 ARRL softcover closeout version for only \$ 19.95

http://www.arrl.org/catalog/index.php3?category=Technical%2C+Electronics%2C+and+Communications+Reference

You will notice there are several great mentors on CD with amateur radio ‘callsigns’.

Don’t laugh at me…but here is what I’ve done.

My daughter, 11 years old was interested in electronics. So I found radio shack had this kit called snap circuits:

Snap Circuits

It cost \$90 for the grand kit, and she’s already put together the AM radio circuit in less than 2 weeks. Granted…she’s doesn’t KNOW what everything is doing…that’s where dad kicks in with a multi meter and explains when you measure across this resister in series you should expect to see this voltage drop…and teaching the basics of ohm’s law.

However, I am a firm believer the best way to learn is you have to get your hands on it, reading stuff online or books is for the birds, getting your soldering pencil out is the way to learn but costly…the rat shack kit above is the good solution for hands on training, even for my 11 year old. By the time she’s old enough to be in FIRST robotics, I hope to have half my brain in hers.

I really wish we all had download ports in our brains, we could reprogram are kids or even our wives, er uh…well download and share information with others.

Neat idea, but then we’d miss out on life! Seems some of us learn best by making mistakes.

Reading about electronic theory will only get you so far…you need to get some parts and play with them! That’s why I recommended the old Radio Shack experimenter boards. They were way too expensive for us when we were kids, so we’d get broken and surplus stuff and play with it (I have a nice molten solder scar on my finger from when I was 10).

I think the snap kits from radio shack above are pretty close to the expermitter boards, without the soldering

We may be talking about the same thing, the boards I’m talking about use little springs to make connections, no soldering needed.

I’m in physics right now and we’re just starting static electricity now and are going into electricity right now.

I have one of these kits somewhere around my house

Thank you for your help so far everyone

I was in FIRST in high school and now serve as a mentor, one of things that sparked my interest in Electrical Engineering was taking apart different things. As a student I do recommend wikipedia and yes there are several kits out there that can teach you the electrical side. If you want to combine that with a robot there are examples such as:

TekBots (eecs.oregonstate.edu)
BoEBot (Parallax.com)

and I would also recommand looking for introduction to electrical engineering classes at colleges around the country, having toured places like MIT and CMU they have many online resources where you can look at whats taught to first term students at those places. Of course I recommand TekBots because its at my school, but many colleges have simple kits that come with a breadboard or a pcb (printed circuit board) which introduce to those components mentioned by the others. Specifically in the vex brain there are two microcontrollers from microchip which is a leader in the microcontroller market, I would also look up this on wiki.

Hope you get inspired by Electrical Engineering like I did

Also if you don’t want to purchase check out your local library for books, some good ones I have found are “Electronics For Dummies” and if you want projects go for “Electronic Projects For Dummies”. Both of these books are farelly good about teaching some of the basic components.

All these websites are very helpful, but I would still hope to find a website that goes over the proper use of a component rather than the equations behind that component

EDIT: I just started looking through howstuffworks.com and it’s been helping me more on what I want. Something like http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/capacitor1.htm helps a bit because it gets me into the basics of exactly what the capacitor does and what it could be used for.

this website looks alright.
http://www.interq.or.jp/japan/se-inoue/e_parts.htm

A book like this

also can help as it has practical explanations of the electronic components that you add to the simple robot as you build it. For example, lots of time is spent explaning resistors, and playing with them with a voltmeter, and learning how Ohm’s law works with real life examples

The how stuff works page looks like a big help!

The problem is that the two go hand in hand. You can’t really do many interesting things with a single capacitor, inductor, or resistor. The interesting applications are the ones that involve combing the capacitor, inductor, and resistors together. Unfortunately, you need to know the math and basic concepts on how the operate before you can move on.

When I saw the title, I was forming a post in my head, but apparently everything I was going to say was voiced by Squirrel first!

With most of the winds stolen from my sails, let me just throw my two cents behind the spring board circuit kit. The key to those kits is to MODIFY your circuits after you cookie cutter build them.