Parts Needed for Physical Computing

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

Below is a list of parts we’ll be using in class. The list below contains the basic parts you need to understand the technical material covered in the assigned lab exercises. With this list, you could complete basics of the assigned lab exercises. When you want a wider range of sensors or actuators for a particular project, however, you may need to go shopping.

Item Vendor Part Number Grad or undergrad? Photo
ARDUINO NANO 33 IOT WITH HEADERS Arduino ABX00032 both Photo of an Arduino Nano 33 IoT module. The USB connector is at the top of the image, and the physical pins are numbered in a U-shape from top left to bottom left, then from bottom right to top right.
Phototransistors Digikey 1080-1020-ND both Photo of a handful of Phototransistors.
830-point breadboard Amazon MB-102 (CHANZON) both Photo of a solderless breadboard
MULTICOLOR BUTTONS – 4-PACK Digikey 1568-1757-ND both Photo of four breadboard-mounted pushbuttons
220 ohm resistors Digikey 220QBK-ND both Photo of a handful of 220-ohm resistors.
1 kilohm resistors Digikey 1.0KQBK-ND both Photo of a handful of 1-kilohm resistors.
10 kilohm resistors Digikey 10.0KXBK-ND both Photo of a handful of 10-kilohm resistors
5MM WHITE LEDS Digikey BL-BZX3V4V-1-B02-ND both Photo of a handful of LEDs
POT 10K OHM 1/5W PLASTIC LINEAR Digikey 987-1310-ND both Photo of two potentiometers
SPEAKER – 3 DIAMETER – 4 OHM 3 W Digikey 1528-2435-ND both Photo of an 8 ohm speaker
ROTARY ENCODER MECHANICAL 24PPR Digikey PEC11R-4215K-S0024-ND grad Photo of a rotary encoder
USB Micro Cable Digikey 380-1431-ND both
Right Angle Gear Motor ServoCity 638336 grad Photo of a DC Gearmotor
HITEC HS311 SERVO, STOCK OPTIONS ServoCity 31311S grad Photo of RC Servomotor
TB6612FNG MOTOR DRIVER BOARD Digikey 1568-1756-ND grad Photo of a Motor Driver (H-bridge), model TB6612FNG
JUMPER WIRE M/M 6″ 20PCS Digikey 1568-1512-ND grad Photo of flexible jumper wires
Pre Cut Flat Jumpers Digikey BKWK-3-ND undergrad Photo of a pre-cut jumper wire kit.
Thermistor Digikey SEN-00250 undergrad Photo of a thermistor
FSR Digikey FSR07BE-ND both Photo of a Force Sensing Resistor (FSR)

Construction Materials

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:

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.

Electronics Components

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.

A mini screwdriver. This model has a reversible shaft, so it can operate on both slotted and Phillips screws
Mini screwdriver
handheld diagonal cutter tool.
Diagonal cutters
Wire strippers. The jaws of this wire stripper have multiple hole sizes so that it can strip wires of variable sizes.
Wire stripper tool

Needle-nosed pliers
Needle-nosed pliers
Multimeter tool. This tool has a dial to set the function, and three holes into which to plug the testing leads. The leads are currently plugged into the center hole and the right hand hole.
Multimeter tool
Drillbit index. This is a case containing several drillbits, organized by size.
Drillbit index

The tools shown above are available from most hardware stores Here are links to part numbers from some of our regular online vendors:

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.

Related video: Basic Tools

For more information on parts, see the Suppliers page.