Top 10 Small and Fun DIY Electronics Projects for Beginners
A few of years ago, I developed a sudden interest in electronics. Don't ask me why, but I did. Up to that point, I hadn't really had much experience in the field, though I possessed basic soldering skills and electronic circuitry knowledge. Anyhow, with this newly developed interest and enthusiasm to get started, I set out to find my first small electronics project!
Cool and Simple DIY Electronics Projects
This article is intended to give other would-be electronic enthusiasts/hobbyists a few small beginner projects to get started on. I hope to provide an insight into the world of electronics and electronic engineering. I have provided links to detailed beginner guides and project instructions. None of these projects are my own; all the credit has to go to the original designers/creators. But when I was starting out, I had to do a lot of searching to find projects at my ability. I figured that a list like this could be useful in saving you the trouble. Many of the projects on the list are ones that I have done myself.
The great thing about some of these beginner electronics projects is that even if you have no interest in the theory behind them, many of them have very easy-to-follow guides. They require no real prior knowledge of electronics to produce the end result, just an ability to buy the correct components as listed. If you choose to do so, you could follow the guide to the end and ignore the majority of the technical bits. You would still manage to have a working product! I encourage everybody to learn what you can as it will mean you can take on bigger and better projects in the future.
This is a popular first project for quite a few reasons. Gone are the days of paying ridiculous amounts of money to charge many of your USB devices on the go! No really, you can buy a charger on Amazon for a fairly reasonable price. But that's not the point, so get off Amazon! This soldering project allows you to build your own battery-powered USB charger. You can't beat a charger in an Altoids tin! You can be creative and choose your own enclosure! This project is great for beginners. It's not very complicated and the guide is brilliant. You can even buy the kit to build it from the website! And unlike many beginners electronics projects, you actually get something useful out of it!
2. Supercapacitor USB Light
This project is a really simple one that uses a supercapcitor to power a small LED. This is done by first charging the supercapcitor via USB. The project consists of a USB plug, a supercapacitor, and an LED. I'll admit that there may not be much of a practical application for this project, aside from perhaps using it as an emergency light. However, this is a great, quick, and simple project as the concept itself is interesting. Check out the Wikipedia page on supercapcitors to find out more about how they work.
3. Altoids Tin 1/8" Stero Mixer
Another project with an Altoids tin. These things are very versatile. This is a pretty cool project that allows multiple audio inputs into a something like a car stereo. It's not a particularly complicated project as far as electronics go, so don't be put off. There's not an awful lot to it, but it can potentially be a pretty useful and nifty device.
Are the TVs around you distracting you from your soldering? Well, I would suggest that you don't practise your hobby in the TV store or the living room. My other suggestion would be to make a device that can turn them off! This is essentially a universal remote control that allows you to turn off (and on) various televisions. It will automatically scan for different frequencies. You can also buy the DIY kit for this project, which is especially useful if you don't want to get into programming chips.
See This Project in Action
5. LED Throwies
This is probably the most basic project on the list. I wouldn't really call this a project, but you can make thousands of them and decorate your house. It literally just consists of LEDs taped to a watch battery. Just thought I'd throw this one in here for a bit fun.
6. MiniPOV v4
This is a great little programmable persistence-of-vision toy! If you've just run off to hide in a cave because I mentioned programming, then come back! Do not fear, this project is an excellent introduction to soldering, assembling kits, programming a microcontroller, and making blinky stuff. You can download the code to program the micro-controller from the website. In order to program your own message into the device, you only have to change a small amount of code. The entire process is covered on the website. It's a nice and easy introduction to programming micro-controllers as you don't have to do an awful lot. You can look at the code and begin to understand how it works.
If you're not sure what I mean by all this, have a look at the YouTube video below. It will show you how to assemble the kit if you prefer to learn this way rather than reading the official guide.
7. RGB LED Mood Lighting
LEDs, you can never have too many, right? Regardless of the answer to that question, this project remains pretty cool. It is a bit bigger than the majority on the list, and potentially a little bit more complicated and costly. However, the end result will be cooler than any light bulb you can pick up anywhere. The guide here is ok and comes with videos to show you what the end product should look like. Hopefully your project isn't too far off the mark! This great project will require a little bit more work. I wouldn't recommend this as a first project, probably not even as a second one. But if you have the time, resources, and skill level, then this is a pretty cool project to take on!
The best way to show you what you'll be building is with this YouTube video.
8. Jitter Drive
This one is for those times you are bored. There is not really a practical application for this one, but who says everything needs to be practical! It's a basic little toy that is pretty easy to construct. It's essentially a USB drive (which can still be used as such) mounted on a toothbrush head that has a small motor attached to the circuit board. When you switch it on, it will jitter around your desk. You could even use rechargeable batteries or capacitors as a power supply.
9. USB Doomsday Device
Everyone should have one of these! Ok, its actual function may not be quite as awesome as the project title sounds, but it's still a pretty cool idea! You'd think making your own doomsday device would be much more complicated, but it's pretty simple. You just need to do a little bit of drilling as well as some soldering. This device connects to your computer. When you press the button, you can program the response to be almost anything. The guide includes a program which allows you to easily set the trigger to open a program on your computer.
10. Chapstick LED Flashlight
There seems to be so many everyday items that have the perfect dimensions for an electronics project! I am not really sure if there is any benefit in being able to disguise a flashlight as a chapstick, but I'm sure you'll find one! I guess if you did want to make a flashlight, but didn't want to spend money buying a suitable enclosure, then this would be a sensible option. I use that term loosely, but you should still give it a go!
Now that you've finally decided to pick up that old, rusty soldering iron that's been lying around in your shed for years (which you have no idea where it came from) and picked up some experience in electronics, you may find yourself asking, "What do I do now?" or "Why did I bother?" Well, hopefully you're asking the former! If that's the case, I would recommend learning more theory so you can take on bigger projects and actually understand how and why things work the way they do. Knowing this will also help solve any problems that may arise.
The next logical step would be to look at programmable devices. This article on Instructables is well worth checking out.
I would also suggest checking out Arduino. Their starter kits are great for lots of projects.