Blinky Lights and More

This post is actually a little late in coming. So many projects, so little time. Several weeks ago I decided I wanted to engage my son in learning electronics. We’re on the cusp of entering middle school and one of his prospective schools apparently has a great electronics focus. I owe my dad for my current livelihood and hope to pay it forward.

Many of you may remember growing up with or even building your own HeathKit items. That’s how it was in our house in the 70s and 80s. My dad built our TV, stereo, and even our game console. I still remember when he came home one day with a Timex kit computer. I spent many hours pouring over the horrible membrane keyboard of that thing with a copy of Popular Science in my lap while I laboriously entered line after line of BASIC code.


I remember keeping a notebook handy to record the location on the tape for each program I’d saved so I could reload them later. I never had a printer but it was a great day when we got the 4K memory upgrade! Hmm, or was it the 16K? 🙂


I got nostalgic a while back and even picked up a Timex/Sinclair 1000 for old times’ sake. One day I’ll figure out how to connect it to one of our modern TVs.


The Timex was followed by a Vic 20 and a collection of various other computers. I loved playing Parsec on my brother’s TI 99/4A. All of this early experimentation ultimately led to me making a living as a software developer.

Sorry for the little trip down memory lane. I digressed a bit. Let’s get back to the Pi. So as I was saying, I’d like to spark my son’s interest. The primary focus at the school is actually marine science but he was intrigued by the underwater “robot” the kids had built. I’m hoping I can harness that interest and that the two of us can build our own Raspberry Pi-controlled robot.

Here are some very simple projects I’ve built while knocking the dust off my own knowledge. Although I’m formally trained as an electronics technician it’s been over 20 years since I actively thought about all of the various components and how they interact. I think this will be a great experience for both of us.

For years I’ve had an awesome MB-106 breadboard waiting for an excuse to be used and now I have it. This thing is great as it has over 2300 contact points. It’s incredibly flexible.


I have a couple of GPIO breakout boards for the Pi. The theory behind the CanaKit board is nice because it also provides 3 and 5V breakouts to connect to your breadboard. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work well with a larger board like this one. For this I’m using a breakout from Sunfounder.


Here’s the layout for the first video you’ll see. It’s a simple demo of making the lights flashing. Nothing too exciting but heck, you have to start simple for the kids, right?


Here are a couple more videos. I didn’t think to snap pics of each setup. In hindsight I realize I should do better at that.

I’ll try to post more of our projects as we go. Right now I’m having trouble with my motor controller so the robot isn’t very mobile yet. Stay tuned!

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