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Circuit Circus: This month, HackerBox Hackers are working with analog electronic circuits as well as techniques for circuit test and measurement.

This Instructable contains information for working with HackerBoxes #0018. If you would like to receive a box like this right to your mailbox each month, now is the time to subscribe at HackerBoxes.com and join the revolution!

Topics and Learning Objectives for this HackerBox:

  • Build a microprocessor-based component test device
  • Hone PCB assembly and soldering skills
  • Understand the use of various electronic components in circuits
  • Review test and measurement techniques for those components
  • Complete a ten lesson Modern Electronics course
  • Complete a ten lesson Analog Electronics course
  • Explore applications and limitations of sound card oscilloscopes
  • Exercise techniques to prototype circuits on breadboard

HackerBoxes is the monthly subscription box service for DIY electronics and computer technology. We are hobbyists, makers, and experimenters. And we are the dreamers of dreams.

Step 1: HackerBoxes 0018: Box Contents

  • HackerBoxes #0018 Collectable Reference Card
  • Electronic Component Test Device (Solder Kit)
  • Modern and Analog Electronics Kit
  • 140 Piece Wire Jumper Kit
  • 830 Point Solderless Breadboard
  • 3.5mm Audio Breakout Module
  • 3.5mm Audio Patch Cable
  • Two 9V Battery Clips
  • Exclusive "Elite Technology" Iron-On Patch
  • Exclusive HackerBoxes Quad Decal

Some other things that will be helpful:

  • Soldering iron, solder, and basic soldering tools
  • Two 9V Batteries
  • Computer with Sound Card
  • (optional) USB Sound Card **
  • (optional) Digital Multimeter

Most importantly, you will need a sense of adventure, DIY spirit, and hacker curiosity. Hardcore DIY electronics is not the easiest hobby, but when you persist and enjoy the adventure, a great deal of satisfaction may be derived from persevering and getting your projects working. Just take each step slowly, mind the details, and don't hesitate to ask for help.

** Sound Card Note: Step 11 discusses optionally using a USB Sound Card.There happened to be a number of these on hand as surplus at HackerBoxes HQ. We threw them in FOR FREE as a bonus gift in a limited number of RANDOM #0018 HackerBoxes. If you did not receive one, please note again that they were randomly given out freely (without impacting the budget for the box). They are not included on the contents list above and therefore cannot be considered a "missing item". If you would really like one, they are available for purchase here. Thank you for understanding.

Step 2: Automata, Penguins, and Clowns

The Exclusive HackerBoxes Quad Decal is designed to be separated into four miniature decals each perfectly sized for project enclosures, mobile devices, laptops, or toolboxes.

The Glider Symbol is featured on one of the miniature decals. It is a pattern of five dots arranged within a grid. That specific pattern travels across the board in Conway's Game of Life (a well known cellular automaton). The glider has been proposed as an emblem to represent the hacker subculture, since the Game of Life appeals to hackers and the concept of the glider was born at almost the same time as the Internet and Unix. The Wikipedia entry explains that this emblem is in use in various places within the subculture but it is not universally liked. If you do not like it, hack it. Either way, we suggest that you get a "Conway's Game of Life" program or app and play around with it. ALife!

What's up with the clown? The clown fan art and the "Circuit Circus" theme are allusions to the iconic Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Perhaps we will see you in Las Vegas this summer for DEFCON25?

Step 3: Modern and Analog Electronics Kit

The HackerBoxes Modern and Analog Electronics Kit contains over 80 electronics components. Many of these can be useful while experimenting with the Electronic Component Test Device.

These components along with other contents of HackerBox #0018 comprise everything needed to perform all of the experiments in the Modern Electronics and Analog Electronics online courses presented later in this Instructable.

Step 4: Electronic Component Test Device - Introduction

We all know the annoying challenge to identify the exact parameters of a component in the old junk box. Conventional approaches of identification and measurement are generally difficult and time-consuming. This test device is here to save the day using a very clever microcontroller-based design. Best of all, it is supplied in kit form so you get to build it yourself!

Once completed, we will automatically detect and identify pinouts for NPN and PNP transistors, FETs, diodes, dual diodes, thyristors, and SCRs.

Resistances up to 50MΩ can be measured with a maximum resolution of 0.01Ω. Three test points allow simple testing of potentiometers.

Capacitance of 25pF-100mF can be measured with a resolution of 1pF. Equivalent series resistance (ESR) is measured for capacitors over 90nF.

Bipolar Junction Transistor measurements include the collector-emitter current amplification factor, the base - emitter threshold voltage, the collector-emitter leakage current, the base-emitter threshold voltage, and the high current gain. Darlington transistors are identified. Protection diodes for power transistors and FETs are detected.

FET parameters measurements include gate-source threshold voltage, drain-source resistance, and gate-source capacitance.

Additional features:

Frequency measurement 1Hz-1MHz

Period measurement up to 25kHz

DC voltage measurement up to 50V

Square wave frequency generator at various frequencies

10bit PWM generator (1% - 99%)

Digital Thermometer (DS1820) Reader

Temperature / Humidity (DHT11) Reader

IR Sensor Protocol Decoder (uPD6121 and TC9012)

IR Encoder

Specifications:

Processor: Socketed ATMEAG328P (28 pin DIP)

Color Display: TFT with 160x128 pixels and 16-bit color depth

User Input: Rotary Encoder with Pushbutton

Input Power: 6.8-12VDC at Barrel Connector OR 9V Battery

Current Consumption: Approximately 30mA

Step 5: Electronic Component Test Device - Bill of Materials

Start building the kit by unbagging the components into a small tray and carefully familiarizing yourself with each component.

There are 24 axial-lead resistors having 12 different values. They all look very similar. We suggest taking a few minutes right now to look up and carefully note their values onto the paper tape attached to the resistors. The resistors are not interchangeable. If each resistor is not placed into its proper location on the PCB, the test device will not function.

This resistor code calculator is very handy. Be sure to switch to the "5 stripe" tab. Some "process of elimination" might be necessary when two sets of color stripes look very similar.

Step 6: Electronic Component Test Device - Transient Voltage Suppression

The component tester kit includes three tiny surface mount components - an 0805-sized 100nF capacitor, an 1812-sized P6KE6V8 Diode, and a SOT23-sized SVR05-4 diode array. These are completely optional components to support Transient Voltage Suppression (TVS). The tester will work fine without them, so unless you have a microscope and SMT experience, we strongly suggest you start by throwing these components away.

IF NOT INSTALLING SMT PARTS:

The purpose of the TVS protection circuit is to improve the likelihood that the microcontroller input pins might survive discharge current when a charged capacitor is connected to the test inputs. Even with the TVS circuit installed, protection is not guaranteed. Therefore it is very important that capacitors always be discharged before measuring with the competent test device.

IF YOU ARE INSTALLING SMT PARTS:

The three SMT components should be soldering first. The capacitor and the single diode are not polarized and may be soldered in either direction. The 6-pin diode array however has a polarity markings that should be aligned with the makings on the PCB silkscreen.

Step 7: Electronic Component Test Device - Small Components

Start by soldering in the 24 resistors. Make sure they have been correctly identified by their color bands. Be very careful to place the correct values in the correct positions on the PCB. Resistors are not polarized and may be inserted in either direction.

After a through-hole component is soldered, the lead should be carefully clipped from the rear very close to the PCB surface. Always wear safety glasses when snipping wire leads.

Next insert the 9 ceramic capacitors being sure to match the values printed on the capacitors to the PCB markings. These capacitors are not polarized and may be inserted in either direction.

The two electrolytic capacitors look like black barrels. They are the same value, but their leads are polarized. One side of the cap has white stripe. This is the negative side. The other lead is the positive side and should be aligned with the "+" marking on the PCB.

The Red LED is polarized. The longer wire lead should be inserted into the square metal pad hole.

The five TO-92 devices are semicircular in cross-section. Match the orientation of this shape up with the outline marked on the PCB. Note that there are four completely different types of devices in TO-92 packages, so be sure to match the numbers printed on the packages with the designations on the PCB.

Finally, the 8MHz Crystal is not polarized.

Step 8: Electronic Component Test Device - Larger Components

Next insert and solder the larger components. These are fairly self-explanatory, but here are some pointers:

The three blue screw terminals should each be oriented so that the side ports face the edge of the PCB for inserting leads.

The arm of the ZIF (zero insertion force) socket should be left in the UP position while soldering.

The DIP28 socket should be soldered in without the chip inserted. Align the half-circle marking on the PCB to similar shaped formed into one edge of the socket. Once the soldering cools on the socket, the chip can be inserted according to the same semi-circular pin-one marking.

The 8pin display socket gets soldered to the main PCB. The 8pin male header is soldered to the backside of the TFT display for mating with the socket.

Two brass standoffs and four bolts are used to stabilize the display module once it is inserted.

Four brass standoffs and four bolts are used to form feet on the rear of the main PCB. These feet prevent the trimmed leads of the soldered components from scratching the desktop, as they can be quite sharp.

The 9V battery clip leads are soldered into the holes labeled 9V at the left side of the PCB. The red lead goes into the "+" terminal.

Step 9: Using the Electronic Component Test Device

Once power is applied to the Component Test Device, it can be powered up by pressing the rotary encoder down (there is a push-button integrated into the encoder). There is a calibration process than can be performed by shorting the three test points together. You can optionally skip the calibration for now and jump right into trying out some components to test in the next step.

A highly detailed document entitled TransistorTester with AVR microcontroller and a little more is frequently updated and available online. This document covers the design, use, and theory of operation for the various incarnations of these instruments. Definitely check it out.

This page has a whole variety of related resources in different languages.

Step 10: Ten Lesson Online "Modern Electronics" Course

Everything you will need for the PyroElectro Modern Electronics online video course is included in the HackerBox Modern and Analog Electronics Kit.

While exploring the lessons on resistors, capacitors, inductors, diodes, and transistors, take a second to test the component under investigation using the Electronic Component Test Device.

Once you learn more about how each component functions in a circuit, you might want to go to the big document for the Electronic Component Test Device and review the theory of operation to discover how the tester is able to interrogate the device under test using a simple AVR microcontroller. Many of the techniques are very clever and demonstrate useful approaches for your future design or test work.

Lesson 9 on the 555 Timer is a great opportunity to play with the frequency measurement function of the Electronic Component Test Device.

Much respect for the work done by PyroElectro on these lessons.

Step 11: Ten Lesson Online "Analog Electronics" Course

Everything you will need for the PyroElectro Analog Electronics online video course is included in the HackerBox Modern and Analog Electronics Kit.

Note that the 3.5mm audio patch cable can be cut in half to create two sets of "probes" for use with the Sound Card Oscilloscope discussed in this course. The stripped wire leads should be tinned with solder for easy manipulation without fraying.

While the exact circuits shown in the course are presumed to be safe, it is worth noting that the sound card inputs on your computer are only designed to handle a range of around -0.8V to +0.8V. When dealing with larger voltage ranges, the signal will need to be scaled down as to not overload the sound card inputs. Here are some excellent notes from Make and also from Daqarta.

If you plan to experiment broadly with sound card oscilloscopes and want to have some extra insurance against damaging your sound card, you might want to pick up an inexpensive USB Sound Card for some added electrical isolation.

The particular oscilloscope software suggested in the course is specifically for use with Windows. For Linux, there is a similar program called xoscope. For OSX users, there are various notes online about using Audacity as a sound card oscilloscope. For those who work with MATLAB or GNU Octave, look into the audiorecorder() function!

Much respect for the work done by PyroElectro on these lessons.

Step 12: Hack the Planet

Thank you for joining our adventures into modern analog electronics test and measurement. If you have enjoyed this Instrucable and would like to have a box of electronics projects like this delivered right to your mailbox each month, please join us by SUBSCRIBING HERE.

Reach out and share your success in the comments below and/or on the HackerBoxes Facebook page. Certainly let us know if you have any questions or need some help with anything. Thank you for being part of HackerBoxes. Please keep your suggestions and feedback coming. HackerBoxes are YOUR boxes. Let's make something great!

<p>My First Soldering Kit and i had lot of fun.</p>
<p>Transistor Tester kit complete and now on to making a case for it. First version on the printer. </p>
<p>Care to post the file?</p>
You can find it on thingiverse at: <br> http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2291406
Nice :)
<p>That pretty sweet. </p>
<p>I used to work on an SMT assembly line, so I figured I'd try assembling the component tester with the surface mount parts.. I soldered everything up, cleaned the board, plugged in the battery and... .nothing. Completely dead. Turns out if you put the diode network on backwards the board won't work. At all. It also turns out that it's really really hard to read the markings on that part if you get any flux on it. So... I re-cleaned the board and found my error. I had to remove one of the screw terminals so I could get to the diode network. I got it turned around and my component tester works now(!) Thanks Hacker Boxes - I've been wanting one of these for a long time.</p>
<p>the diode network is a pain to solder but i can do it if i can figure out how it is oriented i cannot see a mark for orientation does the lettering orientat it ie. dose the &quot;V&quot; mark the first pin (and the dot) like most dip packages (pin 1 is lower left when reading the lettering) </p><p>that has got to be the smallest part i have ever concidered soldering i started electronics at the end of tubes and the begining of ICs</p>
<p>it's really hard to see but the pin one indicator on the diode network is the dot. It needs to point to the same pin as the dot on the pcb</p>
<p>found the dot it was where i thought it should be under the &quot;V&quot; in the lettering easier to solder then i thought, some paste solder and plenty of flux it's a beutiful thing</p>
<p>it was easy for me to find the marking on the chip, but not on the board.<br>the &quot;1&quot; pin had a weird symbol, but i tracked the ground path the be sure.<br>&quot;1&quot; is away from the screen if anyone still wonders...</p>
<p>1 melted led later and it works</p>
<p>Only works when I hold it down, sometimes it will stay on for a second or two, but otherwise turns off. I originally desoldered, resoldered the LED because I read people had problems with the polarity, but I had it right the first time. There are no shorts or bridges that I can see, is that a capacitor issue? Also, when using a 9v battery rather than the barrel connector, the screen is dimmer, and never goes to menu. I'm out of ideas</p>
<p>this is the same one where the 9012 <br>transistor gets hot. Verified 9v with the dc power supply <br>with multimeter. Not sure if transistors can short internally, or if a <br>bad capacitor can cause this unsteady power. It acts as if batteries <br>were dying, even though it's from a steady dc power suppl. I also noticed that after frequent attempts to keep it on, it works better and better each time, eventually staying on and working normally through all the menu options, though once power is disconnected or I leave it alone for a while, it's back to not doing anything and have to go through the same repetitive process shown in the video</p><p>I'd love to hear any ideas on how to troubleshoot this.</p>
<p>Situation Solved!<br>Turns out it was a bad cap. <br> ** It got easier to turn on the more I held the button down, like it was charging, but when left alone, the tester acted like it would discharge and go back to not wanting to turn on.<br> ** I hooked my ammeter in line with the battery, and would watch the mAs used slowly and steadily drop while I held the button. Leave it alone for a while, and the mAs needed had crept up.<br> ** Suspected it was a capacitor. Checked them both with my multimeter One would slowly move to infinite resistance like it was supposed to, the other one closest to the power supply had no resistance, meaning it wasn't working.<br> ** Replaced the bad cap with one that came in the Modern and Analog electronics kit. After the first few tries of doing what it used to do, it now works exactly like it should, with both the dc from a wall plug transformer, and with a regular 9v battery!!!<br><br>So if the LED is in the right spot, but still having trouble, check the capacitors next with your multimeter, if the ohms aren't rising from 0.00 - O.L, you've got a bad cap. Now to 3d print a case! </p>
<p>Does anyone know what the pin mapping is for the TFT? I am trying to get it to work with the Arduino TFT examples. I've also tried the Adafruit ST7735 libs/examples too. Any thoughts? </p>
<p>Hi Kevin -</p><p>This doesn't exactly answer your question, but I just got done posting a short post on how to update the MCU code on my site. Nothing fancy, just a starting point, but it works....mostly :)</p><p><a href="http://jasperfracture.com/how-to-change-the-mcu-code-on-the-hackerboxes-18-transistor-tester">http://jasperfracture.com/how-to-change-the-mcu-co...</a></p><p>You might be able to get the info you need from the C files used in the directories I mentioned in the tutorial. Hope you get it working!</p>
<p>Done! OK, I skipped the SMT parts. I had a lot of fun putting this together. Now on to testing!</p>
<p>Help needed on the encoder.</p><p>I understand the 2 pin and the 3 pins get soldered.</p><p>What do I do with the 2 Tabs on the sides?</p><p>Do I need to stretch them out and inset into slots on PCB and Solder?</p><p>Do they not get used and I fold them out of the way or break them off?</p>
<p>Yes, the tabs on the sides of the rotary encoder should go into the corresponding slots on the PCB.</p>
<p>Wow... It is super awesome to see all these testers getting built. Even the ones that don't quite work yet. Remember, &quot;The path to expertise in electronics is beset with smoking heaps of gear and dreadful tangles of spaghetti code and cables.&quot; There is no shame in lifting the ocasional trace or letting the magic smoke out. Speaking of awesome builds, the live streaming build from Josh (of Practical IoT) is EPIC. Thank you so much for sharing that to the rest of us. Check it out here: https://youtu.be/gXNOEGjI5fg</p>
<p>I got my box today and am as excited as always! I made the tester in under an hour, but it only seems to power on if I hold down the encoder. Any ideas where to begin the troubleshooting for that? I get the menu but holding and turning does not change the menu selection and continuing to hold only shows the battery voltage.</p>
<p>Same outcome with mine. I have checked for bridges , none found. I have not tried powering from barrel socket. Will check further tomorrow after work. It was a fun build :) </p>
<p>Tried desoldering the LED and reversing orientation. No change for me. Decided to power from the barrel socket instead of the on PCB input leads. Put the LED back to original orientation. Works like a charm. Pulled the barrel plug and powered from soldered lead ... will not power. So I removed the wire leads from PCB and am powering from barrel socket. I will do some circuit tracing to try and solve why the other input pads will not power. But I am happy that it is working. Just sharing what worked for me. Hope this helps.</p>
<p>HA.. got the same thing.. and my guess is that your led is also not turning on. So what you should do is prolly reverse the LED. The pos side should go to the left and the neg to the right. I think it was backward in the directions. I have no idea why it sorta powers up if the led is in backward but that was my issue. </p>
<p>Same thing happened to me. I had it in mind that the flat side of the LED was the cathode (-) side. So that's how I soldered it in place. WRONG! Brief flash of the OLED screen then nothing. So I looked at the LED more closely. The LED die is usually attached to the anvil and that's the true cathode side. If you look closely you can see that through the lens. So yeah I had it backwards. I reversed the LED and Viola! It's alive! Working as advertised!</p>
<p>Your guess is correct, it wasn't coming on. I'd already guessed the silk screen may show it backwards and was going to try that. Tonight I will know if that fixes the issue. Thank you very much for taking the time to confirm that!</p>
<p>Apparently the silkscreen on the LED is reversed. Once I desoldered the LED, reversed it, and put it back, everything works like a champ! Thanks guys, you saved my sanity.</p>
<p>I added an additional 5 volt regulator to bypass the one on board and connected straight to pin 7 of the ATMEGA and it works just fine. It now just comes on when I apply power.</p>
<p>I am having the same issue</p>
<p>Check for solder bridges with a magnifying glass first. This is the easiest and most common problem. Check first on the encoder, 28 pin socket, and the two electrolytics.</p>
<p>im having some trouble with my component tester. when i press and hold the encoder button i see what looks like black and white cheese on the screen. when i release the encoder it shuts off. no other functions work. i used my microscope to solder the smd components and carefully checked the entire board for jumped or dry solder pads</p>
<p>Check to see if the LED is reversed. I didn't see black and white cheese (whatever that is) but the screen came on briefly, solid white, and then black. Like you I thought maybe something was wrong with my surface mount components but they were looking good. So I checked the LED and I suspected that something was wrong. I reversed the leads and everything sprung into life!</p>
<p>I had the same symptoms, turns out I had the processor in backwards.</p>
<p>My display module arrived broken. This is my 15th box, and the first time something arrived broken. Can I get a replacement?</p>
<p>Try messaging the HackerBoxes people on through their Facebook page. They have always been responsive in my experience. I'm sure they will help you out.</p>
<p>For matters involving personal accounts, please EMAIL support@hackerboxes.com - Facebook messages are less optimal because they have to be forwarded to the right person. Public posts are even less useful.</p>
<p>Got it.</p>
<p>Cool build.</p><p>Anyone sharing a box for 3d print?</p>
<p>Got mine all soldered up and working. This tester is going to come in very handy! Great box this month. Now on to PyroEDU...</p>
<p>I'm super happy with myself. I've never done any surface mount component soldering and never anything this small. I feel like I was successful. I used this Sparkfun tutorial as my guide: <a href="https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/36" rel="nofollow">https://www.sparkfun.com/tutorials/36 </a> . Essentially just soldering all the feet together of the SRV05-4 and then wicking away the excess solder with a copper braid. <br><br>The hardest part was identifying where pin 1 was I had to use a magnifying glass and direct light from my iPhone flashlight to get even a hint, then I was sure to mark that corner with something visible. The other problem that I had was that my TVS diode didn't have any polarity markings on it. I spent probably a good hour examining the thing and researching trying to figure out the polarity. Turns out that the one in my kit is bidirectional. So if you're having trouble and freaked out because the instructions say that the diode should be installed the right way, don't worry so much. Check your component and look for a stripe on one side. No stripe no polarity.<br><br>The rest of the project went fine, I think this may have been my best soldering work thus far.<br><br>Troubleshooting:<br>I ran into some trouble when I turned it on. The screen would power on only while I was holding the button down, and the LED never came on. I was incredibly frustrated. I checked over all of my solder points and everything looked good. I started checking voltages and everything looked good there too, didn't care about values since I didn't know what the should be, only that power was getting around the system. Started reading the manual linked in the instructable and noticed that the chip controls voltages and that if it's not programmed correctly it can do some things similar to what I was experiencing. I started looking at all the connections on the chip and notices that I had installed it backwards. I must have flipped it at some point when I was squeezing the pins in to get it to fit. Removed and reinstalled the chip and the tester powered right up!!! <br><br>I love soldering projects, especially useful ones. I haven't tested any components yet and I think I need to read more about the proper use of this tool, but I'm a bit excited.<br><br>I'll upload a short video on this to my youtube later, but it won't have any more info than what's in this post.<br></p>
<p>Thanks for the research on the zener polarity, was searching that out myself.</p>
<p>Finished and works great, Thanks Hackerboxes!</p>
<p>And of course the pictures are upside down because iPhones are dumb sometimes.</p>
<p>Yay!</p>
<p>Come see our hackerbox subreddit! Now with &infin;% more Discord server!</p><p><a href="https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.reddit.com%2Fr%2Fhackerboxes%2F&h=ATN7yimJDj1d6yKfGtB9VCRCajLPo1ISi_AeHJ_8EhTt3lF5fd-wu5DyosJplZ7BmIZkNv4JpmHUPP5lgr1FYuLoN45X7xXR9rmdI5q0s09-p8TQV0yEXzbnl0QM" rel="nofollow">https://www.reddit.com/r/hackerboxes/</a></p>
<p>Microscope.... No Problem</p><p>Soldering SMT,,,, No Problem</p><p>Dropping an SMT component on the carpet.... PROBLEM!</p>
<p>Got that! Sorry. </p>
<p>I just received mine and it looks great! First HackerBox, and it looks like I picked a good time to start :D</p><p>And there's no way I'm throwing out the smt components, they go in a box for later when I'm up to snuff to use them in something.</p>

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