Hey guys, I recently got the Make: Arduino Kit, and I don't know where to start. I understand the language, and can program perfectly in it. I just don't understand where and why things are put on a bread board. Is there anyone else with this problem? It's really getting me frustrated because I would love to know how to start making things, but I don't know where things go.
Welcome to the forum,
I'm not exactly sure what part you don't understand, but a breadboard is quite use full when building/designing electronic projects. It allows you to build a prototype of a project that you can change quite easily.
Unfortunately it isn't a sturdy solution, using enough components it will start to look like spaghetti pretty quickly as well, but a big advantage is that you can re-use components and change a circuit quite easily.
Building a prototype using other methods will often ruin components if you want to change them.
Simpson_Jr: Unfortunately it isn't a sturdy solution, using enough components it will start to look like spaghetti pretty quickly as well, but a big advantage is that you can re-use components and change a circuit quite easily.
With a little discipline (in parts placement planning, and wire routing and color coding) it is more than possible to prototype a complex circuit on one (or more) breadboards without it looking like a mess.
Typically, you need to steer clear of most pre-packaged wires (whether the pin-ended flexible wires, or the pre-bent stiff breadboard wires), and instead get a set of properly gauged connecting wire in a variety of colors, on spools - and cut it to length as you prototype.
For most hobbyist purposes, though - it's overkill; it only becomes necessary when the prototype is for something where you plan to translate it to something more permanent (or for production purposes), as well as when you are working on something relatively complex that you intend to develop on/with for more than a weekend's worth of time or so. For instance, a multi-chip 8 bit computer might be breadboarded in this fashion; you would want to be very meticulous in your wiring (routing and color-coding) so that you are able to clearly see the address and data paths and can follow them for debugging.
Simpson_Jr: Building a prototype using other methods will often ruin components if you want to change them.
One method not often practiced much is the use of prototyping wire-wrap board techniques. Basically, you set up your board using wire-wrap sockets for everything you need (soldering or gluing the sockets in place - including sockets for passives as well), then wire-wrap the board as the prototype. Sometimes, the finished board can become the final result. Regardless, the wire-wrapping allows you to change things and experiment, while still maintaining a very robust solution - and the parts aren't ruined in the prototyping process. But generally, you start with your schematic first, then build the prototype from that, changing the schematic (and circuit afterward) as needed, as you iterate your debugging/development of the circuit.
Lastly - and most importantly - whatever you do, don't get into the habit of changing (removing or adding parts and wires) or probing (with a meter or other test equipment) a circuit while it is "live". Doing so will only lead to dead parts, frustration, or both. In some instances, it can lead to dead test equipment. In instances where high-voltage (or even mains voltage levels) are being used, it can lead to fire - or worse.
Instead, wire your circuit up, apply power, see what's wrong, disconnect power, hook up your test equipment, re-power, take notes, power down, change the circuit, re-power, etc. In the case of high-voltage or mains voltage - always keep one hand in your pocket (figuratively speaking); if for some reason you bridge the circuit, the current won't flow through your arms and across your heart. You'll still get shocked, but you'll likely live to tell the tale.
Lastly - sometimes you need to probe/test a live circuit. Try to avoid it, but if you must: Power down the circuit, connect your test equipment's "ground" lead to the area near where you expect to probe (whether that is on ground or whatever you are probing, of course). Then power up the circuit, and with ONE HAND ONLY - probe with the other probe around the circuit. The idea is 1) the one-hand rule, and 2) with only one probe, you lessen the chance of bumping and dislodging or short-circuiting components or wires. The risk is still there, but it is less.
And don't discount the one-hand-in-pocket rule just because you are working with low-voltages right now; in the future, should you decide to work with greater voltages or currents - the habit will be ingrained into you already, and you'll be much safer working with those types of circuits than otherwise.
Wirewrap is awesome.
This whole box was wirewrapped, with several design changes made as I added new functionality, or changed my mind about how things were to function after getting it coded and working.
This is the back of one of the cards, and you can see the back of LED cards next to it.
Wirewrap socket strips, sockets, wire, and wrapping tool here
I use the gold tool, has a stripper built into the handle, a small pair cutters for cutting wire from a roll, and small needlenose pliers for helping to hold the wire to keep it from getting yanked tight around corners as it is twisted onto a pin.