You’ll use a lot of tools, electronic components, and construction materials in Intro to Physical Computing. This page is a guide to how to start shopping for them.
Intro to Physical Computing Kit
We’ll be using a standard Intro to physical computing kit for this class. It contains the basic parts you need to understand the technical material covered in the assigned lab exercises. Between this kit and the parts available in the shop, you should be able to complete most of the class without buying electronics. When you want a wider range of sensors or actuators for a particular project, however, you may need to go shopping.
Here’s a list of what the kit contains. There are a few slight differences between the grad and undergrad kits based on what’s covered in each curriculum:
|Item||Vendor||Part Number||Grad or undergrad?||Photo|
|ARDUINO NANO 33 IOT WITH HEADERS||Arduino||ABX00032||both|
|830-point breadboard||Amazon||MB-102 (CHANZON)||both|
|MULTICOLOR BUTTONS – 4-PACK||Digikey||1568-1757-ND||both|
|220 ohm resistors||Digikey||220QBK-ND||both|
|1 kilohm resistors||Digikey||1.0KQBK-ND||both|
|10 kilohm resistors||Digikey||10.0KXBK-ND||both|
|5MM WHITE LEDS||Digikey||BL-BZX3V4V-1-B02-ND||both|
|POT 10K OHM 1/5W PLASTIC LINEAR||Digikey||987-1310-ND||both|
|SPEAKER – 3 DIAMETER – 4 OHM 3 W||Digikey||1528-2435-ND||both|
|ROTARY ENCODER MECHANICAL 24PPR||Digikey||PEC11R-4215K-S0024-ND||grad|
|LIS3DH TRIPLE-AXIS ACCE||Digikey||1528-1516-ND||both|
|USB Micro Cable||Digikey||380-1431-ND||both|
|Right Angle Gear Motor||ServoCity||638336||grad|
|HITEC HS311 SERVO, STOCK OPTIONS||ServoCity||31311S||grad|
|TB6612FNG MOTOR DRIVER BOARD||Digikey||1568-1756-ND||grad|
|JUMPER WIRE M/M 6″ 20PCS||Digikey||1568-1512-ND||grad|
|Pre Cut Flat Jumpers||Digikey||BKWK-3-ND||undergrad|
You’ll go through a lot of construction materials in this class. To save money and save the environment, consider reusing materials. Cardboard boxes and used plastic food containers can sometimes make great housings for an electronic prototypes. Paper mat board and cardboard can make great housings and control surfaces. You will save yourself some money in the process if you do this. You’re not expected to make polished, production-ready devices in this class, so don’t waste time and money on high-end plastics and metals when you don’t have to.
We’ll be working with the Arduino microcontroller platform, and you should be able to do the lab exercises for the course on most any Arduino-compatible microcontroller. The labs were written using an Arduino Uno, but recently we have switched to the Nano 33 IoT as our standard board. Both boards are compatible with the basic labs, but the Nano 33 IoT offers some nice features that the Uno lacks, such as:
- 32-bit processor
- WiFi and Bluetooth LE
- Real-Time Clock
- Onboard accelerometer/gyrometer
- Ability to use Scheduler library for multiple loops
- USB-native, so ability to use Keyboard, Mouse, and MIDIUSB libraries
We have a guide to picking a microcontroller that may be helpful for more information. You can use any variant that you choose, as long as it works. If you’re using a variant that your instructor has never seen, however, you’re on your own. We’ll do our best to support you, but we can’t promise to know every controller on the market.
There are some electronics components available in the physical computing lab cabinet. Please don’t hoard parts, so that we always have some available for everyone. We try to keep more expensive modules, like microcontroller boards and radios, available for loan as well, though there is no guarantee that these will be available right when you need them.
Basic Tool Kit
The shop has tools you can use, but there are a few tools you should pick up for yourself, so you’ve always got a reliable set handy. These are common tools, and you can find them at any electronics retailer or hardware store. Below are a couple of examples of each, from different retailers.
The tools shown above are available from most hardware stores Here are links to part numbers from some of our regular online vendors:
- Mini screwdriver: Sparkfun part; Adafruit part
- Diagonal Cutters: Sparkfun part; Adafruit part; Digikey part
- Wire Stripper tool: Sparkfun part; Adafruit part; Digikey part
- Needle-nosed pliers: Sparkfun part; Adafruit part; Digikey part
- Multimeter: Sparkfun part; Adafruit part; Digikey part; Bluetooth-enabled meter with accessible iOS/Android app
- Drillbit index: Lowe’s part;
If you don’t want to buy a full drill bit index, you should at least pick up the following: 7/64″, 1/8″, 5/16″, 1/4″. You’ll use these a lot, and to avoid other people dulling or breaking your bits, get your own. They’re cheap, and it’ll save you hours of aggravation.
For more information on parts, see the Suppliers page.