MAKE Asks: Electronics Troubleshooting

MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: Finding the gremlin in an electronics prototype can be a maddening endeavour. From your experience, what’s something from left-field you find yourself checking when trying to troubleshoot an electronics project?

I once set up an XBee and had indicator lights glowing, but no functionality. After combing through my code and breadboard connections again and again I finally found the problem. There was a cold solder joint on the power pin of the breakout unit. It was giving only a small amount of power to the XBee — just enough to light the LEDs, but not enough to make the XBee work. Since then I’ve added a solder joint test to my internal list of troubleshooting routines.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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