Here is the first step of a new project I’m working on.
I often teach electronics to people who have no previous experience and there are always the same problems. How do you explain how electricity works so that it’s understandable, but also so that you don’t simplify it too much? How to get the people to understand the way you need to connect different parts? How does the breadboard work?
I personally think that starting with schematics is not a good way. Especially when teaching people who are not very technically oriented. It’s important to eventually get to schematic symbols and understanding them, but it is challenging enough to get these tiny components in your hands and trying to get to know what they do without the level of abstraction that schematics bring. That is why I like to start with the actual components and real wires. And that is why I like to use Fritzing. I can draw a pretty clear picture of the circuit we are working on and show it to everyone without messing around with document cameras or similar setups.
Fritzing has its limitations also. It’s a 2d image and something more complicated than the picture above might get very messy and hard to read. Doing the same thing on a real breadboard is also not ideal since electronic components are very small and a dozen or so people trying to see what you are doing is not going to work so well.
So this got me thinking the other day: “What if I just make the breadboard much bigger?”
I fired up the laser cutter at Aalto Fablab and this is what came out of it. It’s not actually working yet, but I’ll probably make the metal strips for it next week. I have some ideas how to do that, but I’ll need to revise the designs a bit more. And I’ll also make supersized versions of all basic components. Here are some quick tests that I cut at the same time as the board.
I haven’t actually used these yet in teaching, but I will the next time. I’m hoping that larger scale 3d version of the breadboard should clarify things.
I also have another use for this same idea, but more on that later.