I apologize in advance for the length of this "final" post - final in quotes because who knows... there may be reason to occasionally revisit this blog with updates. But before I leave and move on to the next blog project, I'd like to put down some overall thoughts on this entire experience.
1. Should be required reading for all engineering students - I feel strongly that this book should be a standard textbook for all engineering students. I wasn't in the electrical engineering department, and my electronics training was mostly white-board theory and word problems in the back of chapters. One class did get us some hands-on time with a soldering iron and some resistors, but come on! I don't think any engineer should leave school without having this level of basic knowledge.
2. Should be suggested reading for all high school students - We have these lists of books that we tell every high schooler they should read - mainly classics of literature. But how often do we provide those students who have a strong interest in math and science with a list of good technology books? This is the book I WISH I had in high school - it may very well have changed the course of my studies. I'm happy with my chosen vocation, but it took over a decade out of university for me to find the time and the right book to get my understanding of electronics to this level. So... high school teachers and parents - try to buy a few copies of this for your high school library. (I'd donate mine, but the picture I'm including here should give you an idea of how I've abused my copy - the spine is peeling away and every other page is curled and written on.)
3. The cost to learn is high - I've read some comments about Component Packs 1 and 2 that Makershed sells... and there are concerns about the extra costs involved in finishing this book and its 36 experiments. Yes, the costs are high. But I'd estimate that for less than $300 you can have everything you need, including tools, to finish this book. That's the cost of a few college textbooks these days. It's also about the same cost as a LEGO MINDSTORMS robot kit which many parents buy for kids ages 8 and up. Consider this book, all the parts, and all the tools an investment in your education (or your child's education) and dive in. The tools will always be yours (and will last if you take good care of them). I simply refuse to worry about the costs I've incurred by working through this book. The education is priceless.
4. I missed a few... argh! - A few of the experiments I never could get to work... and a few others I skipped (especially towards the end). But the important part is that I understand! I get it. I have never understood electronics before the way I do now. I am still in shock that a book like this has alluded me all these years, but I'm glad it's here now, and I have shared (and will continue to share) both the book and the skills I've learned with teachers, parents, and students.
5. Learning by Doing... and Blogging - I've always had success learning a new skill when I'm actually doing something... I think most of us will agree that this method works. But I've also learned over the years that when I write something down... either my own explanation or at least my thoughts on something... it sticks better. By sharing my experiences - and reading your feedback/comments - I get to go back through each experiment again and further cement that knowledge. Maybe you'll consider doing something like this yourself - pick a book, create a blog, and document your work as you plow through the material. Reading a book is typically a solo endeavor, but I was surprised at how many folks tuned in to follow me work through this book. It was nice to know others were doing the experiments, getting their own results, and comparing them to mine... and those who helped me troubleshoot were a huge asset that you'll never get reading a book on a couch alone.
6. Never stop learning - I've already picked my next blogging project, but for those of you not ready to leave the book after Experiment 36, you'll be happy to know that the author appears to be providing more experiments in the pages of Make magazine... I've already seen in the previous 2 issues (23 and 24) that the author has included new experiments to perform with all new components to investigate. Rest assured, if one picks my interest, I may grab it, do it, and follow up here with a post.
Just a little over a year ago (Jan 6, 2010) I began this blog with the simple goal of using it to motivate me... if I posted my work for anyone to see, it'd light a fire under me to finish. I figured if I knew people were checking in on my status, it'd be hard to quit. Peer pressure can be a great motivator.
So, here we are... Jan 15, 2011. Make: Electronics finished.
Thank you, Charles Platt, for writing the book. I think it is one of the most valuable books I've ever read.
Thank you, Make Magazine, for putting it out there and creating those components packs that have allowed many folks to perform the experiments. (I also want to thank you for supplying a nice bundle of Maker Notebooks to give away as prizes - I've kept a few for my own personal use in future projects.)
Thank you, Readers... I've enjoyed your comments, and the results and obstacles you've shared. Good luck finishing the book (if you haven't already done so). I'll continue to receive notices when you post comments, and I'll do my best to reply to them. And please feel free to share (as a comment to this post) what you'll be doing next - any books of interest? Any project kits you've found that look interesting? Let me know.
James Floyd Kelly