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 The Mando Electronics Guide

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The Mando Electronics Guide
« on: Jun 20, 2017, 03:51 PM »
The Mando Electronics Guide

Hi there!
After a while looking at the forum thinking about what could I do to contribute to this community, I have seen that many of you would want to add electronics into your kit, but not everyone really knows how to do it. My passion are electronics and robotics, and my philosophy is to spread the knowledge, so here I am!
In the following posts I’ll do an electronics guide using the Arduino platform to do the examples. It will be written using an informal tone and I’ll provide the sources of the information and other useful links of interest.
This guide will cover several levels, from the very basic electronic knowledge to tips to the advanced user that wants to design its own electronic boards.
It will take me some time to complete it, I will update this guide with at least 1 project per week.
I hope this will help you to understand a little bit more how electronics works. Feel free to suggest other projects, ask questions and give your feedback!

BBCode (which is the language used on this kind of forums to format the text, add links, images, etc.) allows the code insertion. Unfortunately there is a 25000 character limit in the posts. When attaching code to the post, that limit is reached quickly, that's why I decided to link it externally. This way is less pretty but more practical.

Without further ado, let us turn to the matter in hand.

« Last Edit: Jul 26, 2017, 05:33 AM by AngelLM » Logged


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The Basics
« Reply #2 on: Jun 20, 2017, 03:53 PM »
The Basics

In my opinion, the datasheet is the most useful thing in electronics. A datasheet is a document that contains the information of a component like: connections, common electrical values, functioning, sizes, circuit examples, etc.
Datasheets are usually given when you buy a component, but you can also find them along the internet. Just type “Datasheet your-component-ID pdf” and many pages will appear. You can also ask the seller for the datasheet, of course.
Datasheets usually look like this:

You will find graphics, diagrams and tables with a lot of info. Don’t you worry if you don’t know where to look at! It usually contains more info than we’ll need to do our projects and I’ll tell you what to check at datasheets in each project!
Ok, now you know about the existence of datasheets, let’s move on to another thing.
Electronic terms
For sure you have heard some electric and electronic terms in your day-by-day life, words like voltage, volts, current and amperes. Let’s see what they mean in electronics.
Voltage: As wikipedia says, the voltage is the difference in electric potential energy between two points per unit electric charge. Its unit is Volts (V). What this means in human language? Let me explain this with a pair of examples.
Imagine that we have a common battery like this one:
When we bought it, the package was marked as “1.5V” which means that the battery can give 1.5V to your circuit. This means that the difference in electric potential energy between the + side and the - side will be 1.5V.
But voltage is not only related to batteries, it is related to every component in an electronic circuit. Let’s remember the definition: “The difference in electric potential energy between two points (...)”. When we want to light up a simple LED we have to “give” it a particular amount of Volts. Let’s imagine that the voltage needed to light up a LED is 200mV (0,2V), then I can say that the difference in electric potential energy between the LED’s positive and negative pins is 200mV.
Current: Wikipedia strikes again, saying that the electrical current is a flow of electric charge. In electric circuits this charge is often carried by moving electrons in a wire.
We can think about current as the flow of water inside the pipes of a water circuit, being low as the water find obstacles inside the pipe (which could represent the resistances in an electronic circuit).
Some components, like LEDs have maximum and minimum current values. Below the minimum value they usually do not work. Above the maximum value they usually broke. Maximum and minimum values are usually written in the component datasheet.
Resistance: The electrical resistance of an electrical conductor is a measure of the difficulty to pass an electric current through that conductor. Thanks Wikipedia.
It is measured in Ohms (Ω).
Every electronic component has resistance (to a greater or lesser degree), even the wires.
Ohm’s Law
Once we already have basic notions of Voltage, Current and Resistance we are ready to connect this 3 concepts. This connection can be possible using the Ohm’s Law which states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across the two points. Wikipedia, you are right, but let me put the equation here and explain it.

+ WAAAAIIIT! An equation!? What is this, math class? I was here only for upgrading my kit…
- Calm down, I swear that this is the only math related thing that you’ll use in beginner-advanced level projects.
+ But…
- And I’m sure that some people with no previous electronic notions will want to know how it works!
+ Ok… It’s fine… But try to make it as pain-free as possible…
- I’ll try my best, let’s continue!

This is the Ohm’s Law equation that connects Voltage (V), Current (I) and Resistance (R)
V=I*R or I=V/R or R=V/I

If we need to calculate the Voltage between two points of your circuit we’ll use the first equation. To calculate the current we’ll have to use the second one. And the third one is used when calculating the Resistance between 2 points. It’s understood that you know 2 of 3 of this values.
In order to avoid possible issues due to units, I suggest you to do the math using Volts (V) for Voltage, Amperes (A) for Current and Ohms (Ω) for Resistance.
So… simply as that. We’ll use this in the following projects, so keep it in mind!
Have you seen the “+” and “-” symbol on batteries? Of course, that’s because they have polarity. But… What is this? Wikipedia says that electrical polarity (positive and negative) is the direction of current flow in an electrical circuit. Current flows from the positive pole (terminal) to the negative pole.
That makes sense for batteries, but what about the rest of the components? Well, it applies to every component that has polarity. When connecting a polarized component in an electronic circuit you’ll have to be sure that the current will enter through the positive pin and exit through the negative one.
There are polarized components as LEDs, diodes, batteries…
There are non-polarized components as wires, resistances…
And there are components, like capacitors, that could be polarized or not, depending on its structure.
How to check if a component is polarized or not? Datasheets.
Important: There are polarized components that can broke or cause other components to broke if they are wrongly connected. Be sure to connect them in the right way to save your wallet!
As an electronic-maker, my most used tool is the multimeter. This tool allows you to measure voltages, currents, resistances and other useful things. Sometimes this tool saves you from hours of desperation trying to find where the error is in an electronic circuit. If you have one, or you are planning to buy one, I have some tips for you:
  • To measure voltage, we have to set the multimeter in parallel with the 2 points between we want to know the voltage value. It means that we have to set the multimeter probe pins between the two points we want to know the difference of voltage without disconnecting anything.
  • To measure current, we have to set the multimeter in series between the two points we want to measure the current. It means that we have to disconnect part of the circuit and set the probe pins of the multimeter between the points we have separated.

I’m sure that the following diagrams will help you understand these concepts. I found them on this Science Buddies’ post where they explain how to use a multimeter (probably better and more detailed than I did)

  • To measure resistance, we have to set the multimeter in parallel between the two points we want to measure the resistance. Just like the voltage measure.

Soldering is an essential part in electronics, it makes possible to join components and wires and establish a conductive connection between them. I could write lines and lines about this topic, but fortunately Adafruit already did it. I totally recommend to read the Adafruit guide to master soldering.
Just a tip when soldering wires: use thermo-retractile or insulation tape in order to avoid short-circuits due to a possible contact between the copper of two different wires.
Protoboards & drilled PCBs
Breadboards or protoboards are one of the most useful tools to make your own electronics. They allow you to build your circuit without soldering it. Protoboards usually look like this.

On protoboards the holes of the rows are connected together, making possible to do the connections without soldering. In this picture we can see the connections (lines connecting the holes) of a common protoboard.

I’ll use protoboards to make the electronic circuit diagrams in the projects.
Protoboard, as its name indicates, is for prototyping. After we have tested our circuit and we want to integrate it to our kit we’ll prefer a solid union rather than a temporal one. To do this, we can use drilled PCBs to solder the components on. There are two types of drilled PCBs
  • With connections, like a protoboard. These PCBs are useful to the beginers as the circuit is builded as if it was going to be build in a protoboard​.
  • With linear connected pads. In this kind of PCBs the holes in the same row are connected by each other. Sometimes this type of boards are useful.
  • With isolated pads. Every hole is isolated to the rest, making possible to connect pads with a tin bridge or a wire. This type of board is useful when the size matters.

Every of us want to wear electronics, but none of us want to be plugged to the wall, right?
A battery is, according to Wikipedia, a device consisting of one or more electrochemical cells with external connections provided to power electrical devices.
There are many types of batteries, but I’ll only talk about few ones, the most common.
First you have the common non-rechargeable batteries, that you can buy in almost every market. If you are going to use them in your electronic project I suggest you to use the Alkaline type. Alkaline batteries are safe, give constant voltage during its life, and its duration is longer than other non-rechargeable battery types.
You also have rechargeable batteries, if you can stay away of NiCd and NiMh batteries do it. They are the cheapest rechargeable batteries, but in exchange, they present memory effect and lower lifetime. Best options are Li-Ion and LiPo, but let’s see each of them separately:
According to this study:
Li-Ion batteries  have higher power density than LiPo, are cheaper and safer. They do not suffer from memory effect, but suffer from aging (even when not in use). They last around 300-400 cycles of recharging the 100% of its capacity. Its structure makes them less adaptive to different geometries. Old smartphones used this kind of batteries, and some current smartphones still using them.
LiPo batteries have a high power density, but lower than Li-Ion. They either suffer from memory effect and have similar lifetimes as Li-Ion batteries. In contrast to the Li-Ion, its structure makes them very adaptive to different geometrics, making possible to have thin batteries and in several different shapes. This kind of batteries is the most current used in smartphones and electronic devices. Its weak point is their safety, they are very flammable and can cause damages to the user (we all have heard about Samsung Note 7 battery issues and other exploding batteries from other devices).
This is not a claim to stop using LiPo batteries, no way, we all have one in our pocket. Li-Ion are dangerous in some conditions too. For every battery, and specially for Li-Ion and LiPo types, the temperature is a risk factor. Li-Ion and LiPo have a maximum recommended working temperature of 60ºC (140ºF). Now imagine that you are trooping in a sunny day, with your fans properly set inside your helmet to keep you away from heat-collapse. Your helmet was big enough to fit the battery inside and you did it. Now imagine it exploding. Bad idea. yes, I know, the idea of a battery exploding in your pocket doesn’t sound good, but it is at least better than exploding inside your helmet.
I have never seen a battery exploding and I wish I’ll never see it. I also wish you never have to deal with that. But in order to prevent possible risks… Keep the batteries away from your head please.
Ok, let’s go into the funny thing! As they say in its main page Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for anyone making interactive projects.
In other words, it’s a board that you can program and attach hardware to make cool things!
In the following posts, I’ll guide you along different level projects. I’ll show you how to connect the hardware and what means each part of the arduino code that we’ll use to program it.
If you are familiarized with some program languages, Arduino language is pretty similar to C. Well, it is like C with some own functions. If you are not, consider the possibility of learn C to understand better how to make electronics using Arduino!
If you are going to buy an Arduino Board I’ll suggest you to buy the UNO model, which is the most extended board and the one that I’ll be using in this tutorials.
Also, consider buying original Arduinos. There are many of cheap chinese models. In last years I bought 1 original Arduino UNO and 3 clones and the only one that keeps alive it’s the original one. Is not only about the quality, it’s also about keeping alive an Open Source project.
If you can’t wait to learn more about Arduino language program I suggest you to watch the Open Source Hardware Arduino Tutorial videos.
Arduino Language
Before starting, we need to know the very basics of Arduino programming.

The structure of an Arduino program
Most of Arduino programs follow the same structure: the “Setup” part and the “Loop” part.
At the setup part we’ll define the inputs and outputs. This part will be executed only once, when Arduino starts.
Following the Setup part, there is the Loop part. This part will be executed continuously, in a loop.
In order to make the code more readable for the user, we can make notes. But we have to do it in a way that the Arduino reads it as a note and not as a part of the code. To do it we can use the “// comment” or the “/* comment */”/ structure. The first option will mark as a comment everything written after it. The other structure will mark as a commentary everything written between the “/*” and the “*/”. Arduino will color on grey the comments. Let’s see some examples using the Blink example:

Okay, basics done! Let’s move to the projects!

« Last Edit: Jul 07, 2017, 02:32 PM by AngelLM » Logged


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Beginner level Projects
« Reply #3 on: Jun 20, 2017, 03:54 PM »
Beginner level Projects
To start making these projects you don’t need any previous knowledge, I’ll explain all details clearly, provide many complementary info and give examples! Let’s have fun!

One of most useful things that you would want to add into your helmet are refrigeration fans. This is a nice idea if you are going to wear it for hours and want to do it comfortably.
For this project we’ll need:
  • 1 or 2 Fans
  • Wire
  • Battery
  • Switch
  • Welder & Tin
First thing we have to do is check what is the working voltage of the fan. Usually it is 12V. It means that we’ll need a 12V battery in order to use all potential of the fan. We’ll need really a 12V battery? If you want to use the 100% of the power of the fan, yes. But probably you will not want to have that amount of airflow inside your helmet, and more important, that amount of noise.
Anyway, let’s start the connections:
Each fan have 2 wires, usually red (+) and black (-) if you have other colors check the specs!
On/Off switches usually have 2 or 3 pins. 3 pin switches has: Common, Circuit 1, Circuit 2) pins. So, if you have a 3 pin switch you’ll use Common Pin and any other.
This is the diagram for 1 fan configuration:

This is the diagram for 2 fans configuration:

If we want to control the airflow of the fans and their power consumption, we can add a potentiometer between the battery and the switch.
A potentiometer is just a component with a variable resistance that the user can modify, usually turning a dial.
Examples of potentiometers
A 10KΩ potentiometer would do the work in this case. In most potentiometers we will have to use the middle pin and one of the others, check the datasheet if in doubt.
The diagram would be the following:

This configuration will allow us to turn On/Off the fan(s) with the switch and regulate the airflow turning the potentiometer dial.
Lighting LEDs
On/Off LEDs
While I was redacting the Sequence LEDs part, a question came to my mind: “What if someone want to set a lantern or a static light in its kit?”
So, in this part we’ll see how to do the connections to do a circuit with LEDs with a static (On/Off) behaviour.
We’ll need:
  • Battery
  • LEDs
  • Resistors
  • Switch
  • Wires
  • Welder & Tin
First of all, we have to know the maximum current that our LEDs allow. In my case, I have checked the datasheet and see that the Imax=20mA. Next thing is to chose our power source. For this project I’ll use a common 9V battery.
Once we know the power source’s voltage (V) and the maximum current (I) allowed by the LED the only parameter that lefts is the resistance ( R). If we don’t set a resistance in our circuit, LEDs will break due to an excessive current. Now it’s maths time :D
Applying Ohm’s Law:
In my case R=9V/0.02A=450Ω
This means that I’ll have to set a resistor of 450Ω (more or less) before the LED in order to protect it. This would be the wiring diagram of my circuit:

As you can see, there is only 1 LED in my circuit. Of course we can connect more. We can do a Series connection or a Parallel connection.
This would be a 3 LEDs in a series connection diagram:

And this one would be the parallel connection one:

Personally, I recommend to wire multiple LEDs in series. Series connection are simpler and consumes less than parallel ones. Its disadvantage is that, if one LED breaks, every other will turn off until the broken one is replaced. If you are interested in the differences between connecting LEDs in series or parallel check this nice guide - LEDs for beginners!
Secuence LEDs
This will be the first project that will include an Arduino board, yay!
In this project we’ll learn how to light a LED and we’ll create a sequence for multiple LEDs.
For this project we’ll need:
  • Arduino board
  • Battery
  • LEDs
  • Resistors
  • Protoboard
  • Welder & Tin
In the diagrams of this project I’ll be using a protoboard. I suggest you to do the same in order to learn and, after all is working fine, you can solder it all in a pcb.

First, we’ll calculate the value of the resistor that we’ll need to put in the circuit in order to protect the LED (we already saw it in the previous project). Note that the voltage given by the Arduino pins are 5V, that’s why in most case we’ll need a 220Ω resistor.
After that, we’ll connect the components as following:
Now is coding time! Don’t you worry if you have never seen code before. I’ll try my best to explain it! And… Copy & Paste is always a valid option!
This is be the code that we’ll upload in our Arduino board to blink our LED (this code is a modification of the Blink example provided by arduino):

Arduino Code: Sequence LEDs #1
It works! Is not magic! Don't be shy and try to modify the delay values! If you set them higher, you have seen that the LED remains more time in that state, if you set it lower you have observed that the LED remains less time in that state.
Let's move to the Fade effect! Maybe we don’t want to only turn on/off the LED, sometimes we would want it to fade in and fade out. Using the same connections we did in the previous example, we’ll upload this code (Fade example provided by Arduino):

Arduino Code: Sequence LEDs #2
Once again try to modify the delay, brightness and fadeAmount values!
Ready to make a sequence? Let’s go! We’ll need more LEDs (I’ll use 3 LEDs in this project) and the same amount of resistors.
This is the diagram I followed:

For this project, the sequence I want to program is the next one:
R B Y (2 seconds)
- B -  (1 second)
R - Y  (1.5 seconds)
- - Y  (0.75 seconds)
R - -    (1 second)

So, for that sequence this would be the code:

Arduino Code: Sequence LEDs #3
Do you feel confident? Try to make a different sequence! Add more LEDs too!
Note: Digital pins 0 & 1 are reserved for system communications, do not use them!

Moving a servomotor
Details make the difference, and what could be better than a moving part in your kit?
Imagine your range-finder moving to the aim position and then going back to the straight position, sounds good? Let’s see how to do it!

A servomotor is a special kind of motor that allows to control its position and maintain it. Common servomotors can turn up to 170º-180º, but there are models with a larger range. In this project we’ll see how to set up a servo using Arduino. The loop sequence will be the following:
Turn from 0º to 90º
Wait 2 seconds
Turn from 90º to 140º
Wait 5 seconds
Turn from 140º to 0º
Wait 3 seconds
This is the wiring diagram:
Usually the Black wire is used to indicate the ground, Red wires the power and Yellow wires the signals. If your servo has different colors or you are not sure about the connections, check the datasheet.
Note that the signal wire is connected to the Arduino’s pin ~3. This is a special type of digital pin called PWM. The Arduino UNO board has six PWM pins (3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11). We can easily distinguish them because they are preceded with the ~ symbol.
Common digital pins can only read/write HIGH and LOW signals. For example, if we connect a LED to a digital pin we will only be able to set it ON/OFF, but we won’t be able to change its intensity.
PWM pins have 256 levels (0-255) of power between the LOW and HIGH limits. Using the previous example, if we connect a LED to a PWM Digital pin we will be able to light it at maximum intensity (255), switch it off (0) and control its intensity (f.e. 127 for medium intensity).

And this will be the code:

Arduino Code: Servomotor #1

Easy, right? Well, this is not the best way to move a servo, but it’s the easiest way and works. Now we’ll see the proper way to do it, doing this we’ll be able to control the rotation speed.

We’ll use the same connections as the previous example, and this will be the code (based on Arduino’s example Sweep):

Arduino Code: Servomotor #2

That’s it! Have you seen the difference? Great!

Adding a button to your projects
I think that, in most cases, we would want the electronics to do something on demand. For example, we would want to move the range-finder to the aim position when we push a button and to turn it back when we release that button.

We will differentiate two kind of buttons, according to its mechanism:
  • Switch when pressed: Change state on a button press. Remain there until another button press.
  • Switch until released: Change state on a button press. Change back when the button is released.
The buttons that we’ll use in this projects have 4 pins, and these are the connections:
As we can see, in the Released State the pins 1 & 2 are connected with each other (red line) and the same happens with pins 3 & 4 (yellow line). When we press the button, the connections change to connect the pins 1 & 4 together (yellow line) and the same occurs with the pins 2 & 3 (red line).

So, as now we know about the behaviour of the buttons lets see how to include them into our circuits!

Let’s start with an easy example, an On/Off LED controlled by a button. In this example we’ll use a switch until released button and the LED will be turned On while the button is pressed and will be switched off when the button is released.
This would be the wiring diagram:
We have used the breadboard’s two bottom lines to do the +5V connection (+) and the ground connection (-). As the picture shows, the LED is connected to the Arduino’s digital pin 2 in the same way we saw in the Lighting a LED project.
Let’s see how we have connected the button. As we saw at Protoboards explanation, each protoboard row connections are splitted in half, so we can connect the button in the middle of this separation (note that none button pin is connected to another). And there is a new concept called “pull-down resistor”. This resistor is the 10KΩ we connected between the button pin 4 and the ground. Let’s say that this resistor will be necessary every time we’ll use a button to avoid wrong reads. We are not going to go deeper in this concept, but if you are curious about what this resistor does I recommend you to read this Sparkfun article.
So, what this circuit does? Simple, if the button is released it will connect the ground to the Arduino’s digital pin 6 (LOW signal). If the button is pressed it will connect the +5V to Arduino’s digital pin 6 (HIGH signal).

Let’s see the code:

Arduino Code: Button #1

Easy, right? What would happen in the previous example if, instead of that button, we have used a button with a switch when pressed mechanism?
Let’s compare the behaviour:
State of the button      Switch until released      Switch when pressed
But… could a Switch until released button behave as a Switch when pressed one? We can do something similar by coding it! If you are brave enough follow me! (maybe this have to be in the medium level projects… but I’m motivated! If you do not understand it feel free to scroll to the next project!)

We’ll use the same wiring as the previous example, only changing the code:

Arduino Code: Button #2

If this was not too hard for you, you could try to add another LED and add another LEDstate to make this sequence!
Click on button -> LED 1 On
Click on button -> LED1&2 On
Click on button -> Both LEDs Off
We did this project using LEDs, but feel free to add button into any kind of project you want!

Lighting a 7 Segments Display
First of all, what is a 7 segment display?

Well, it is a component composed by 7 LEDs (or 8 if there is the decimal point) disposed making a “8” or “B” form. These LEDs can be lighted separately making possible to display numbers, letters or symbols.
The 8 LEDs displays usually have 10 pins. But... If 8 LEDs make 16 pins (2 pins each)… why the display only has 10? In order to reduce the number of pins and the number of connections, all pins (positive or negative) are connected together. Let’s see their configuration:


Attending to the polarity of the pin they are connected to each other we can distinguish 2 types of displays: Common Cathode (positive pins connected) and Common Anode (negative pins connected).
If we use a Common Cathode display with our Arduino we would simply have to connect the display’s GND pins to the Arduino’s GND pins and each other display’ pin to a Digital pin of the Arduino.
If we use a Common Anode display, we would have to connect the display’s VCC pin to the Arduino’s VCC pin and find a way to connect the cathode of the display that we would like to light to the ground… As we’ll see at the Lighting Multiple 7 Segments project this can be done using transistors, but not now. For this project we’ll use a Common Cathode display. Check your datasheet to be sure!

Let’s see now the position of the LEDs. As you can see, each LED inside the display has a letter that identify it. This will be important when wiring the display, I recommend doing it in order to avoid confusions.
For example, the number 1 would be represented lighting the segments “a” and “b”, the number 2 with the “a”, “b”, “d”, “e” and “g” segments.

Got it? Then let’s see the wiring diagram:

For the first code example we’ll light it raw. We’ll display “MERCS”. Note that there are limitations on what we can display. For example the letter “M” will see more like an inverted “U” than like a propper M.
The code would be the following:

Arduino Code: 7 Segment

Easy right? It’s like using 8 LEDs!
There are other ways to display things, but as they involve the use of libraries, we’ll see it in the Medium Level Projects.

Aaaaand that's all! If you enjoyed the Begginer Level Projects and you want to dig a little big more into the electronics world I dare you to start with the Medium Level Projects!

« Last Edit: Jul 26, 2017, 05:41 AM by AngelLM » Logged


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Advanced level Projects
« Reply #4 on: Jun 20, 2017, 03:56 PM »
Advanced level Projects

Coming soon...

« Last Edit: Jul 07, 2017, 04:41 AM by AngelLM » Logged


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High level Projects
« Reply #5 on: Jun 20, 2017, 03:56 PM »
High level Projects

Coming soon...

« Last Edit: Jul 07, 2017, 04:41 AM by AngelLM » Logged


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Frequently Asked Questions
« Reply #6 on: Jun 20, 2017, 03:57 PM »
Frequently Asked Questions

Coming soon...


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Re: The Mando Electronics Guide
« Reply #7 on: Jun 22, 2017, 02:41 PM »
Really enjoyed reading through this guide. Very well done AngelLM!  Thank you!  ;D :D ;D



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Re: The Mando Electronics Guide
« Reply #8 on: Jun 27, 2017, 05:17 AM »
Added Moving a servomotor project!
Hope you like it! =)

Really enjoyed reading through this guide. Very well done AngelLM!  Thank you!  ;D :D ;D
Thank you for your words!  :D



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Re: The Mando Electronics Guide
« Reply #9 on: Jul 07, 2017, 02:34 PM »
I just uploaded the Adding a button to your projects project!
Hope you like it!



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Re: Index
« Reply #10 on: Jul 26, 2017, 05:35 AM »
I just uploaded the "Lighting a 7 segment display" project.

Hope you like it!


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