Learning about electricity and electronics: our favourite kits and books

The world of electronic design and electrical engineering is vast, and can be a daunting task to find a comfortable start. Hobby and Toy Central provides a variety of products to get young, curious minds started and tools to get more experienced hobbyists to experiment and increase their knowledge and skill.

Electricity BookIf you are interested in the fundamentals of electricity, more specifically the science of it, the Eyewitness book ELECTRICITY is a wonderful place to get started and draw inspiration. ELECTRICITY, recommended for ages 8 and up, gives a historical account of the questions about electricity that have baffled mankind over the ages and the interesting answers that were revealed by the scientific method. The book is short, sweet, and dense with information that keeps the reader interested all the way through by using many colorful diagrams. The book also includes a CD with all the diagrams and pictures in the book and a poster.

 Electricity and Magnetism kitIf you wish to follow the proverb you learn best by doing, then the Thames & Kosmos kit Electricity and Magnetism might be for you. The kit provides 62 easy to conduct experiments that show the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Set up experiments using magnets, iron filings and conductive wire and build simple circuits involving lights and switches. The experiments will give you the knowledge and materials to construct your own Morse code telegraph key and a loud speaker. Some experiments require additional house hold items such as a ruler and a pencil to complete. This is an excellent educational tool for children and young adults ages 8 and over.

Static Science kitStatic Science is another kit that provides hands on experiments. There are 6 easy to follow experiments all about static electricity. This is a much smaller kit than the Thames & Kosmos kit; however the smaller size makes it more economically friendly. There is little overlap between the two kits. Most Static Science experiments can be done using house hold items, however having the convince of having everything you need along with the instructions makes this kit worthy of considering. 

Motors and Generators kitIf you have ever wondered how electric motors work or how the electricity in your home is generated, you can consider another fantastic kit by Thames and Kosmos. Using the electric motor and generator kit, you will be able to construct your own electric motor and an electric generator. With 25 experiments you will learn all about how power is generated and the close relationship between generators and electric motors.

Snap Circuits kitOnce you have learned about electricity and electrical circuits, it's hard to ignore the urge to build more elaborate contraptions. SnapCircuits gives the means to build and experiment with electrical components that are safe and easy to use. All SnapCircuits components are interchangeable which gives the freedom to create your own unique circuits, once you have completed the included projects, by mixing multiple kits together or by adding one of the many expansion kits available.

SnapinoThese days it's hard to find a purely electrical device. Most electronic devices include some software. The Snapino kit is a fantastic start for Arduino programming and experimenting with the integration between software and electrical hardware. Recommended for ages 12 and over, Snapino teaches Arduino programming, a skill that carries over to many aspects of your electrical education. Many high schools use Arduino in their classrooms and higher education facilities use Arduinos for school projects and prototyping.

Soldering kitAt this point in your electronics journey it's a good idea to learn how to solder. Soldering is an essential skill required for any electrical work. The Learn How to Solder kit is a fantastic way to learn through hole soldering, that is soldering components behind the board as oppose to the surface. The kit includes everything you need, including soldering iron and wire cutters, to construct your own siren with flashing lights and volume control. My personal favorite part about the kit is the copper testing pads on the left side of the board which allows you to experiment and get use to how the solder behaves once heated before moving on to soldering your parts.

Soldering ToolkitIf you are not interested in making a siren, Amerikit provides a soldering tool kit that includes, solder, soldering iron, soldering iron stand, tip cleaning sponge, de-soldering pump, wick, and an instruction booklet on how to solder. Although the soldering iron does not have temperature control, it is more than sufficient for learning how to solder before spending a lot of money on a temperature controlled iron. 

 Another recommendation that will make soldering easier is a helping hand. Since soldering requires the use of both hands, it is hard to place two pieces in the correct orientation and have them stay their long enough for you to solder. The helping hands will hold your components in place which allows you to solder comfortably and without frustration.

Helping Hand 1Helping hand 2Helping hand 3

Electronics LabIt's still possible to move to more advance electronics without having to solder. The Electronics Lab by Maxitronics gives you countless electronic components that can be used as you wish without any soldering. All components are pre soldered and allow for an easy plug and play approach to building circuits. You will learn schematic symbols, names, look and function of many different electrical components and instructions on how to create 200 exciting projects such as building your own radio. 

That is pretty much all you need to start your electronics journey. By using these kits you will have all the knowledge you need to create and design your own circuits from scratch and start another journey in intermediate and advanced electronics. Here is a list of tools you need to begin with: 

  1. Soldering iron ( preferably temperature controlled)
  2. Solder 
  3. Soldering wick
  4. Wire cutters 
  5. Spur cutters
  6. Helping hands 
  7. Digital multimeter

Our staff would be happy to help you learn more about these products – just ask.