Friday, 5 July 2013

Breadboard Electronics Starter Kit from Mallinson Review

We've tried out the Mallinson Electrical's Electronic Project Beginner Starter Kit which is a breadboard based introduction to electronics that was designed for the seller's 13 year old daughter.

There are various breadboard electronics kits on the market but this one is an inexpensive starter kit that still gives you plenty of scope for learning the basics in a hands on way.

Note: Andrew Mallinson provided a review kit for TechAgeKids. This doesn't affect our opinion of the kit.

The difference between this kit and a lot of others that are available is the price. It's inexpensive (around $22 shipped to the US at time of writing) and sticks to the basics. Some of the larger kits might be a bit overwhelming to a complete beginner, so being smaller isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's also useful to have a low cost option for supporting what a teen is learning at school or trying out a new hobby to see if they are really interested. See our breadboard kits for kids article for a wider choice of kits.

The kit includes a small breadboard which has an adhesive pad on the back so you could mount it in a project or case later if you wanted to.

There's a good selection of basic electronics components including resistors with a range of values, variable resistors, transistors, LEDs, capacitors, diodes and even an integrated circuit - the 555 timer.

You also get a selection of wires in lots of different colors to make it easier to understand your circuits.

As well as the components you get a guide booklet which I'm very impressed with. It provides a basic introduction to electronics including descriptions of the components that are included in the set. You also get a couple of simple circuits to get you started.

There are more projects online at breadboard projects to make at home, we just used a tablet to display these. (Note that some of the projects do require additional components.)

The kit comes very well packaged (as shown in the video.) The components and manual are inside a resealable plastic bag which you can use to keep everything up together.

And the components are sorted into smaller resealable bags that are attached to a piece of card. I kept the bags on the card so I could pop the components back to store them. You might want to buy a small plastic project storage case to make it easier to find the components you want, but you'll be able to get by with the resealable bags initially.

Before starting we recommend reading the booklet and watching the first part of this video by Andrew Mallinson which explains how breadboard works.

Make sure to read the safety advice and understand that some components need to be connected the right way around.

It works!
You'll also need a 9V battery and some wire cutters / strippers to strip the covering off the ends of jumper wires. If you don't have wire strippers you can manage with scissors, but the right tool will do a better job and be easier to use.

First we tried out a simple circuit from the included booklet to light up an LED.

You need to find the right resistor from the included selection. The guide booklet includes a guide to decoding the color bands on the resistors which is very handy. And the example given is the resistor needed for the first circuit.

We then displayed the other website projects on our Kindle Fire tablet so we could easily follow them.

You do have to do some thinking to make sure you are choosing the right resistors (there's a guide in the booklet) and positioning the wires correctly.

A motivated teen will probably be able to work things out for themselves but I think many would require a bit of adult assistance when they are getting started. Lots of tweens would enjoy working together with a parent to use this kit.

The kit is well put together and the supporting material is very useful for getting started. Hopefully we'll see more projects added to the website that can be completed using the kit, the ones that are there are good, but it would be useful to have a few more that make good use of all the included components.

After completing the provided projects you can find other projects on the web and you'll often have the required components to complete them - there's lots of scope for building interesting and fairly complex circuits with the components you have. Once you get to this point you might want to purchase a few more components to extend the kit (a buzzer is always popular!)

Teens that really get into electronics and start designing their own circuits will have a useful collection of components to form the basis of their  projects.

Summary: A great value introduction to electronics using breadboard and proper electronics components. Do expect to have to put in some effort to find enough projects to really make full use of all of the included components.

Buy: | Mallinson Electrical (UK)

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