Introduction: My First Protoboard Electronics Block Toy

For little tykes or experienced engineers… Open source and scalable up or down if needed.

It’s the new STEM fidget toy to help visualize ideas when brainstorming electronics or prototyping the next big thing.

Great to get kids to start recognizing electronic components for early learning. Bring it to Show ant Tell.

While many great ideas have been doodled on a diner napkin, put this out on the table while you wait for your food to be served…

* CAUTION: Although RoHS lead-free, possible choking hazard from small parts. Use and play with care.

Step 1: Breadboarding, Protoyping...

When building something for the first time with electronics, it helps to have a breadboard or something to quickly lay out all of your components to be connected together.

When you have things running and you want to move your prototype build to something more permanent, you use a protoboard.

A protoboard is like a breadboard but you would solder together what needs to be connected. Make connections with cut pieces of wire.

This is quirky adaptation is based on Adafruit's Perma-Proto board.

I used GIMP graphics editor to come up with something that would fit on a 1/2" x 6" board.

I experimented with printing it out in various sizes so the holes would match up to the size of the dowels I was going to use.

Glue the print to the board. I guess you could also print it on sticker paper and then apply to the board. I didn't have any fresh Mod-Podge to use so I just used a thin layer of Tacky glue spread out over the surface. Be careful to place the print starting from one corner, smooth out any bubbles, and work your way along. Paper saturated with liquid glue will tear and wrinkle up forming a bumpy surface.

Cut the board to the length of the print. I added a little excess for a border.

Make sidepieces to support the board. When the board is lifted a little higher, it gives more room to insert the pieces in the protoboard.

I used strips of 1/2"x 3" to make the sides. A piece of 3/4" square stock below will brace the board even better. Glue the support strip in place with the board positioned as a spacer for the support strip. Glue the sidepieces to the board after you drill out all the holes.

Since this will be held in tiny or big hands, I rounded off all the hard edges with my slickplane rounding tool. Instead of sanding or using a small router, it just quickly shaves off a rounded profile. It makes things nicer to the touch.

Step 2: That's the Drill...

Once the glue is dried on the protoboard, time to drill out all the holes.

I stained the sidepieces with some black stain I had. It adds a nice contrasting color to the piece. Make with different woods for a contrasting woodgrain.

Water based stains seem to be thin so it took several coats to get it the complete black color.

If you have access to a CNC router, laser cutter, or drill press, anything would be funner than drilling out some 200+ holes, although there is something zen about it.

I used my cordless drill to drill out all the holes. Use a bit size to make a nice fitting hole for the dowel you will use as the wire leads. Not too loose and not too tight.

As you see with using a thin pine board, there will be some tearout around the entry and exit point even though it was supported on the back with a scrap board for drilling. I did not center punch all the holes before drilling so I just eyed it as I went along. For real accuracy with hole spacing and a cleaner cut, use a drill stand of some sort and maybe use a finer grain wood like poplar, maple, or oak available at the home center.

I tried to use a countersink tool to clean up the rough edges of the holes. It had a dull bit and the multitude of holes lead to some frustration. I even tried to use the bit chucked in the power drill. I chucked the bit. Add that to the list of things to spend a little bit extra to get a quality tool.

Step 3: Circuit Playground...

Sure, doesn't everyone do woodworking in their kitchen...?

I used some scrap pieces of wood to build a cutting/shooter board that hooks over the edge of my kitchen countertop. I could use my handsaw to cut small pieces of wood without bothering the neighbors.

The wooden blocks are based on the characters from Adafruit's Circuit Playground videos for learning electronics.

I added some bonus components... Larry the LDR (Light Dependent Resistor - used to detect dark/light), his brother Darryl (DHT11 - blue, temp/humidity sensor) and his other brother Darryl (DHT22 - temp/humidity sensor).

I cut pieces to build up the Adafruit Circuit Playground characters for the wooden block pieces. Wood stock was 3/4 inch diameter dowel, 1 inch diameter dowel, 1/2" x3 pine strip, 3/16th inch diameter wood dowel for the "wire leads", and some wide and thin wood craft popsicle sticks to add details.

I do not have a lathe to turn round objects so I built the LEDs up with pieces of the larger size dowels. The main sections were glued up.

I used a utility knife to whittle down the top to round it off so I wouldn't need to do as much sanding to finalize the shape.

The MOSFET and DHT22 heatsink/mounting plates were the thin popsicle sticks glued on the back of a block of wood.

Use the drilled protoboard as a jig for gluing in the leads to the components. I used a heavy duty set of snips to cut the thin dowel into small pieces. Use an awl to punch center points of where the leads should go. Drill some short holes that the dowel fits in. Glue and set in place to dry.

The bent lead for the resistor was a little more challenging to glue up as they are dowel segments in an L shape.

The leads for the 555 also took some work to trim down the dowels a bit at the top of each so it would fit nicely on the IC body in perfect alignment with the holes.

When dry, clip the leads to size and do a final sanding to round over the tips. I found that a pair of wire flush cutters works well in trimming the wood dowels.

I used my set of permanent markers to color in the components. It gives it the look of a dyed wood instead of a heavy coating of paint. Another use for those markers...

When the wood is saturated with marker ink, give it a chance to dry and watch where you handle it or else you will get marker ink all over your hands.

I gave everything a protective coat of glue. It didn't dry as glossy as Mod-podge and I didn't have any other clear finish to use.

Add googley eyes. 'Caus googley eyes.

Add the smiles with pieces of sticker paper or paper glued on. You could paint or use the correction pen to draw on the mouth shapes

I used a Wite-Out correction fluid pen to make the 555 timer chip markings.

Can't get enough of the 555 timer chip? Make this to carry all of your stuff to grandma's...

Now go and make a protoboard with Circuit Playground character wooden blocks for yourself or the youngins'.


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