Technology
Weekend Projects Giveaway – Tell Us Your Story!

In celebration of the Wearable Light Organ (above), our 10th electronics project in the Weekend Projects series, we’re doing another giveaway. This time, you could win a Maker’s Notebook AND a Maker Shed Mintronics: Survival Pack which is packed with some of the very components we’ve been using in many of our projects. The giveaway is a $40 value. And all you have to do to be eligible is tell us about your first experiments in electronics: what was the first electronics project you built? Or, if you’re new to electronics and haven’t built anything yet, what might you want your first project to be? Leave your story in the comments below. It could be a story about a kit you assembled, a circuit you built, or a consumer product you took apart – tell us your tale! We’ll announce a winner in the next newsletter (sign up below) and here on the site. Deadline for eligible comments is Thursday, Nov 3rd at 11:59pm PST.

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See all of the RadioShack Weekend Projects posts (to date)

84 thoughts on “Weekend Projects Giveaway – Tell Us Your Story!

  1. My first memorable project certainly stuck with me….I had a tape player with a wall wart that had the classic cord problem where if I wiggled it just right it would work.  Not understanding at the age of 10 what that wall wart did, I simply cut if off and wired it directly to the A/C plug.  As soon as I plugged it in all the magical smoke escaped and the tape player was rendered useless forever more.

    I didn’t have anyone to teach me so I learned by trial and (lots of) errors.  The gift of a Radio Shack 160 in 1 kit was very instrumental as it actually included information about what the parts did and how to make them really work.

  2. My first real project was putting together a prop for a cosplay skit at an anime convention back in 2001. My girlfriend (now my wife) organized a Sailor Moon group (sewing ten costumes herself) and needed the “Silver Crystal” for the climax.

    After some false starts, I ended up with a couple of half-sphere glass candle-holders, hot-glued together, with a cut-down flashlight reflector and bulb glued into the bottom of one.  A pushbutton switch and a 9-volt battery finished up the job.  Pretty basic, but it was shiny and like a crystal, and when Sailor Moon switched it on, it shone nicely over the stage lighting.

  3. My first electronics project was a combination of hilarious and tragic all at once. My younger brother was a baby and my grandma was changing him on a dresser in my bedroom when he started peeing. Somehow this fountain of pee ended up finding its way through the air and all over my Nintendo 64. As such I was forced to try and repair the damage armed with rags, a hairdryer, a bag of rice, and a cheap Radioshack soldering iron I forced my mother to buy me (Being 10 years old didn’t afford me very advanced tools). The repair was unsuccessful as you might imagine, but I gave it my best to try and get that console in working order.

    Since then I’ve moved on to more complex projects, but I will never forget that memory and how ridiculous it was.

  4. When I was in grade school I took some basic electronics classes.  One of my neighborhood friends and I use to take apart old TV’s and collect the parts.  Great fun.  A few years later I started building Heathkit kits.  The first two kits I built was the powered breadboard and the bench top multimeter.

    After many years of writing software I decided to get back into electronics as a way to improve my software development skills.  What fun to combine software skills with electronics skills.  Now I have been getting into developing software projects using micro-controllers to control external hardware devices.   

  5. My first experience with electronics was a homemade crystal radio receiver. My Dad is an RF specialist so he wanted to pull up the simplest thing he could find related to things he did for us to build. It would be many years before I had any idea what was going on, but holding a device built from scratch that could be used to pickup a signal someone else made was an amazing fealing.

  6. The first electronics project I can remember building was a crystal radio project I found in an old Boyscouts book when I was ten.  I was never a Boyscout but my father used to drag me to every used book store within driving distance (not an exaggeration) and I was left to explore the kids sections.  Anyway I remember the project suggested making a capacitor from scratch with cellophane tape and aluminum foil.  I didn’t get THAT idea to work until I was much older but eventually a trip to radio shack got me all the parts I needed.  The plans in the book called for a raw crystal in a cup but of course the store sold me a diode and enough magnet wire to wrap around a toilet paper tube.  I remember being worried it might not work because the BOOK said I needed the crystal.  Turns out the Boyscouts book was from 1936!  After a few burnt fingers (my fathers fingers anyway, afterwards I was told to just twist the wires together!) I got the radio to work.

    When I was a kid radio shack was a cool store for those who wanted to tinker, there was also several “junk” type store to wonder around in.  There just isn’t anything around like that anymore.  Internet shopping gets you what you need but wondering up and down isles of stuff is an experience I would like my son to have.  Sorry I digress.

    So that was my first experience working with electronics. Now I have a basement full of interesting bits and no where near enough time to play… >sigh<

  7. Don’t laugh, it was in the 1960s and I was about twelve years old and it was the height of the UFO craze and I saw the design for a do-it-yourself UFO detector in a UFO magazine.  If I remember correctly, it was basically a metal bar suspended horizontally by a thread with one end between two vertical metal bars.  If a UFO were to fly by, its powerful electromagnetic field would deflect the horizontal bar to touch one of the vertical bars, thereby completing a battery circuit and triggering a buzzer.  I cut the bars from a metal coat hanger, and while no UFOs were ever detected, I am proud of the critical role I played in Earth’s early warning system against flying saucer attacks.   

  8. I’m familiar with solder and simple circuits from making theater props, flicker bulbs in old hurricane lamps and such. I was always really interested in electronics but never started real hardware stuff. That changed when I bought a batch 1 Makerbot Cupcake (#17). I bought it in April and slowly  the time to solder all the electronics, starting with the easy thru hole stuff on the endstops and then doing the SMD stuff on a hot plate. Having only an hour or two every couple of days it took a really long time. But then after false starts with uploading the software, I blew myself away with fact the that I actually extruded plastic the first time I tried it. It’s been running ever since. Now I can tell people that I made a 3d printer from a kit, but they look at me like I said a built a space shuttle from home appliances. But once you make the first thing and it works, you don’t look at electronics as magic anymore. Now I just have to give my kids that lesson.

  9. I’m familiar with solder and simple circuits from making theater props, flicker bulbs in old hurricane lamps and such. I was always really interested in electronics but never started real hardware stuff. That changed when I bought a batch 1 Makerbot Cupcake (#17). I bought it in April and slowly  the time to solder all the electronics, starting with the easy thru hole stuff on the endstops and then doing the SMD stuff on a hot plate. Having only an hour or two every couple of days it took a really long time. But then after false starts with uploading the software, I blew myself away with fact the that I actually extruded plastic the first time I tried it. It’s been running ever since. Now I can tell people that I made a 3d printer from a kit, but they look at me like I said a built a space shuttle from home appliances. But once you make the first thing and it works, you don’t look at electronics as magic anymore. Now I just have to give my kids that lesson.

  10. Ages ago Radio  Shack had these really well done kits that were sold in boxes made of red and clear plastic. One day my dad surprised me with one of the kits – an AM radio – and along with building the kit together he taught me the fundamentals of soldering. The very first time we powered it up it worked. It didn’t work as well as my transistor radio, but I was hooked! I went on to build kits that beeped and blinked and did all sorts of stuff that a pre-teen found wonderful.

  11. The first electronics project I did, probably isn’t regarded as electronics at all. It was hooking up a 9volt battery to a small light bulb wire two strips of wire. I saw this project first in a 101 science projects book, and I was immediately hooked on electronics. Bought tons of electronic components over the years, and still building projects today.

  12. In the mid 60’s when I was about 7 I asked for an AM radio kit for Christmas. There was no soldering involved and the instructions were easy enough for me to follow with no other help. The radio worked. It also came with a microphone. I had gotten the impression that it was a transmitter as well as radio. When I learned that the microphone only worked through the radio speaker I was so disappointed that I asked my parents to return it.

  13. I removed the motor from a desk fan and hoped to rewire it to pull the cord of a catapult I was designing. To test the motor’s speed, I plugged it into the room socket of my dorm, and subsequently blew the fuse for the entire building. While such a device was much more potent than a desktop catapult, it would also get me into a lot more trouble. I completed my project with a lot less electricity.

  14. I’m a Junior in high school, and I’m in the middle of my first ‘real’ project, which is a quadrotor. My first introduction to embedded electronics was last year, when I received an Arduino Uno. I played around with it a bit, made a servo move, lit up some LEDs, but never really made any sort of project. This summer, inspired by the various projects on Hack A Day, MAKE, and more, I decided to really sit down and learn electronics from the ground up. I aimed for an ambitious first project: to have a working UAV by the end of the year. I started out with learning some electronics online, with some basic concepts such as Ohm’s Law. I then began learning what various components did: how capacitors filter noise, resistors pull signals high or low, and more. I dug down deep into datasheets for sensors and microcontrollers. After a month of reading online, I was able to decipher what all the various symbols on the Arduino UNO schematic meant. I also wanted a custom PCB for my quadrotor, so I could hold all the components I wanted without using clunky breakout boards. I read through some guides and eventually was able to create a schematic and board for my quadrotor in EagleCAD. I sent off the board to FusionPCB to be made, and ordered some components off of Digikey. Through a tutorial on Sparkfun and some solder paste, I was able to solder all the surface mount components successfully, after one failed attempt which involved soldering in one IC backwards. For the hardware, I purchased some plastic sheeting and carbon fiber rods, and headed over to the local hackerspace, the MITERS. All the people there were friendly, and helped me out a lot. After a couple tries with the various shop tools, I was able to make a nice looking frame over a few hours.

    All in all, I’ve learned a tremendous amount this summer, from learning how to solder to the Inter-IC Communications protocol. It’s definitely been one of the most rewarding summers of my life so far. As of now, the quadrotor isn’t fully functional, as there are some errors on my board, but I’m hoping to have those fixed and refabbed very soon.

  15. I’m a Junior in high school, and I’m in the middle of my first ‘real’ project, which is a quadrotor. My first introduction to embedded electronics was last year, when I received an Arduino Uno. I played around with it a bit, made a servo move, lit up some LEDs, but never really made any sort of project. This summer, inspired by the various projects on Hack A Day, MAKE, and more, I decided to really sit down and learn electronics from the ground up. I aimed for an ambitious first project: to have a working UAV by the end of the year. I started out with learning some electronics online, with some basic concepts such as Ohm’s Law. I then began learning what various components did: how capacitors filter noise, resistors pull signals high or low, and more. I dug down deep into datasheets for sensors and microcontrollers. After a month of reading online, I was able to decipher what all the various symbols on the Arduino UNO schematic meant. I also wanted a custom PCB for my quadrotor, so I could hold all the components I wanted without using clunky breakout boards. I read through some guides and eventually was able to create a schematic and board for my quadrotor in EagleCAD. I sent off the board to FusionPCB to be made, and ordered some components off of Digikey. Through a tutorial on Sparkfun and some solder paste, I was able to solder all the surface mount components successfully, after one failed attempt which involved soldering in one IC backwards. For the hardware, I purchased some plastic sheeting and carbon fiber rods, and headed over to the local hackerspace, the MITERS. All the people there were friendly, and helped me out a lot. After a couple tries with the various shop tools, I was able to make a nice looking frame over a few hours.

    All in all, I’ve learned a tremendous amount this summer, from learning how to solder to the Inter-IC Communications protocol. It’s definitely been one of the most rewarding summers of my life so far. As of now, the quadrotor isn’t fully functional, as there are some errors on my board, but I’m hoping to have those fixed and refabbed very soon.

  16. I’m not 100% sure what my first electronics project was, but the one that sticks in my head is building an electromagnet using a nail, wire, and 6V battery. My dad was/is an electrical engineer, and he started teaching me the basics when I was four or five. I remember filling out homemade worksheets for projects and quizzes on resistor color codes. I’m pretty sure we did things before the electromagnet, but it’s the first I remember. 

    Aside from that, he also got me one of the 300-in-1 project kits from Radio Shack. I still use some of the circuits in that kit as starting points :)

  17. There were many excursions for me into electronics (and electricity) as a youth.  Most began with a screw driver, and ended in yelling.  Mostly from my mom.

    There is one episode that I recall vividly where I set out to build an electric chair for cockroaches.  We were living in Puerto Rico, I was seven at the time, and my chin had been the main course for for one of these monsters the previous night.

    Wet cotton, several lamp cords, a wooden spoon, and turkey baster were the materials I had to work with.  Yes, the cords came from working lamps…

    Anyway, the idea was to plunge the roach into opposing cotton balls inside the baster, using the wooden spoon, but when I made contact, nothing happened.  I noticed that one of the lamp cord wires had become untwisted, so I pushed it down with my thumbZZZZZZZZZZZZZZSZ!POW!(enter the smell of burning hair and thumb flesh).

    I was lucky to get away with just a burned thumb.  My parents never found out, but I told my grandmother that I hit it with a hammer.  I don’t think she bought that, but she patched me up and got all the pus out.

    I don’t know what happened to the rig, or the cockroach for that matter.  I’m guessing grandma stashed it all away.

  18. I haven’t really built one yet, but I would like to build an external pre-amplifier for my guitar (Harmony) using an LM386 op-amp chip and a 1/8″ audio jack. There would also be a 1/8″ to 1/4″ adapter used for the connection to work and a 1/4″ instrument cable.

  19. I wanted to learn something about electronics and didn’t want to assemble a kit of blinkies or squeakies so I set my first project sights on something useful and in so doing I built my very own TENS unit.  Transcutaneous Nerve Stimulation is used to block pain by using a low current applied across the skin.

    I studied a few elementary circuits here at Make and around the web and came up with a simple idea. I used a 555 timer to feed current to a transistor that acted as a switch ground the circuit and in so doing collapse the induction field of an audio output transformer connected to a 9 volt battery.   The transformer feeds into conductive pads that adhere to the skin.   I used two potentiometers to control the frequency of the timer and amplitude of the transformer output.  And, a snazzy LED that flickers at the set frequency to indicate that the unit is on armed and dangerous.

    As a non maker I learned a lot by designing and building (not withstanding that a 9v battery can put out a lot with the help of a few components!).   First I learned the basics of design, I learned to solder and something of the medical application of TENS.  It does work for moderate pain relief but the brain figures it out after a while.  That’s why commercial units have varied “programs” that change the output over time.  I suppose I could explore using an Arduino or similar board to do the same.

    I owe this to reading Make which inspired me to take on what is actually w small project but huge to someone with no experience. I didn’t poke out an eye but I did suffer a few burns from dialing the unit up too high.  If I were to build another I would add another resistor to keep it from reaching its maximum amplitude but live and learn.  Thanks Make!  

  20. My first serious project in electronics was in the seventies when I was a undergraduate student of Physics at the Federal University of Bahia, Brasil. My intent was to construct an electronic music poly chord keyboard . At that time we didn’t have microcontrolers and much specialized ICs.  Here in Brasil was not so easy to find components. We didn’t have RadioShack stores. Then, I used the old and incredible 555. I create 12 oscillator (one for each note in a chromatic scale). Same note in different octaves drives one of the  oscillators changing it frequency. Of course we couldn’t play the same note in different octave but we could play as many notes as we want in the same octave. The project involves not only the design but the building of the pcb also. At that time the process I use was a UV sensible paint over the copper plate. The project works very fine in despite of we didn’t find a keyboard to an final assembly. Actually I am a Professor in that University and have electronics as a hobby. Specially using Arduino to construct robots and other devices.

  21. My first serious project in electronics was in the seventies when I was a undergraduate student of Physics at the Federal University of Bahia, Brasil. My intent was to construct an electronic music poly chord keyboard . At that time we didn’t have microcontrolers and much specialized ICs.  Here in Brasil was not so easy to find components. We didn’t have RadioShack stores. Then, I used the old and incredible 555. I create 12 oscillator (one for each note in a chromatic scale). Same note in different octaves drives one of the  oscillators changing it frequency. Of course we couldn’t play the same note in different octave but we could play as many notes as we want in the same octave. The project involves not only the design but the building of the pcb also. At that time the process I use was a UV sensible paint over the copper plate. The project works very fine in despite of we didn’t find a keyboard to an final assembly. Actually I am a Professor in that University and have electronics as a hobby. Specially using Arduino to construct robots and other devices.

  22. I wanted to build a larson scanner for halloween last year, so last spring I ordered a 555, 4017 and a few other parts. I was so excited I threw it together in one night. What resulted was a mess of solder and wires on a perf board that liked to smoke 9 volt batteries. I put the parts in a box and was scared of it for 6 months. With halloween coming up I decided to give it another shot. I breadboarded it and slowly transfered the parts to the board. Over several evenings I did it right. I’ll never forget that mess of wires, because I keep it in my electronics lab to remind me to take my time and do things right like the late Fred Rogers taught us.

  23. I wanted to build a larson scanner for halloween last year, so last spring I ordered a 555, 4017 and a few other parts. I was so excited I threw it together in one night. What resulted was a mess of solder and wires on a perf board that liked to smoke 9 volt batteries. I put the parts in a box and was scared of it for 6 months. With halloween coming up I decided to give it another shot. I breadboarded it and slowly transfered the parts to the board. Over several evenings I did it right. I’ll never forget that mess of wires, because I keep it in my electronics lab to remind me to take my time and do things right like the late Fred Rogers taught us.

  24. I had a radio when I was a kid and it did not take long for the radio to get cracked open and rewired for multiple speakers and each had a seperate volume control. That radio lasted all the way through high school and once I had a tv in my bedroom it did not get used very much but I kept it running for better than 15 years before it finally died beyond the effort needed for repair.

  25. I had a radio when I was a kid and it did not take long for the radio to get cracked open and rewired for multiple speakers and each had a seperate volume control. That radio lasted all the way through high school and once I had a tv in my bedroom it did not get used very much but I kept it running for better than 15 years before it finally died beyond the effort needed for repair.

  26. 1960’s, and I had a semi-broken transistor radio given to me; it had a horrible distortion that made it usuitable for listening to music.  I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, but I was able to turn it into a “burglar alarm” to catch my little brother when he got into my closet.  I spliced into the battery wire, making my own switch; a metal bar that was pulled “on” by a string attached to the door.  Worked great, except that he triggered it when I was at school, and — without a timer, it stayed on until my Mom ripped everything apart to shut it off.  She wasn’t too pleased at my security inventions.

  27. I’ve always loved to build things, however being a computer science graduate, I’ve never got to build things that interfaced with reality directly, as my 26th birthday I finally bought myself and arduino kit, and surprisingly 30 minutes later I had a working prototype. Using arduino Uno, Led, and a servo I built a physical retweets notification system, that lifted a flag and lit a Led whenever someone retweeted any of my tweets. I’m impressed and deeply grateful for the team behind Arduino, as it enabled us CS grads to finally build functioning models.

    Keeping the open source spirit I bloged about how I built it
    https://supporthandbook.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/the-physical-twitter-client-arduino/

  28. My electronics adventure started when I came across a copy of “Junkbots”, a book about BEAM robotics. I had never heard of BEAM or given electronics much thought, but the projects in the book seemed terribly interesting so I gave one a try. I managed to put together a rather rough (but working) bicore headbot and since then I was hooked. I even took a few electronics classes in college before changing my degree to computer programming. Today I enjoy tinkering with simple circuits just as much as I ever have; I build robots and flashlights and cigar box guitars and whatever else pops in my head. It’s been a very rewarding hobby.

  29. I am 14 years old and very curious of the things happening around 
    us. Since little, I have always liked do plastic modeling hacking 
    and creating things. And as always I have been found of electronics.And If I remember well my first electronics projects, was a small siren circuit with a few resistors and an 8 Ohms speaker. That was the first time I soldered and from that day I loved electronics. I think that with electronics everything is possible, and anybody can do it. You just need to have a creative mind.Then I took my second project from weekend projects with KipKay and 
    did a mint fume extractor. Based on a little 12V computer fan, a voltage regulator and two 9V. It was great, in fact it is still great. You don’t have to buy and expensive fume extractor when you 
    can do your own on the cheap.One time I made a basic two 8 Ohms speaker with a jack out but it 
    didn’t sound well, and yes it was because I did not put an amplifier. So you can really learn a lot from electronics.Another time I made a simple Led pattern on a protoboard, put in a few resistors and stripped a female usb. And got a nice Usb Led pattern.I live in Mexico where there is not that much influence in electronics for personal use. This means there aren’t many stores with electronics components. So I have to buy electronic pieces and bits online but that are expensive due to the shipping cost.I once bought the minty boost kit in the makershed (ordered it to US), I soldered everything in the Pc board but it didn’t work. I then saw that a capacitor wasn’t well inside.

  30. When I was in Scouting 40 years ago we had a project to build when given only some wood, tin can, string, and a few other parts, one thing was a water wheel. This can be used for electricity generating, so my parents bought me a 1.5v dry cell battery and magnet wire to start. Plenty of burned fingertips and glowing wire after that.

    1. hi Ryan, Tobias,
      Sorry for the delay – it’s in the pipeline, the editors will soon hit ‘publish’! Thanks for your patience.

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I'm an artist & maker. A lifelong biblioholic, and advocate for all-things geekathon. Home is Long Island City, Queens, which I consider the greatest place on Earth. 5-year former Resident of Flux Factory, co-organizer for World Maker Faire (NYC), and blogger all over the net. Howdy!

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