Unboxing the rest: your parts and tools

Now that you have purchased the components in the parts list, you may wish to learn more about the individual pieces. There are several different types of resources that can help you figure out which parts to use and where to put them.

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Sorting your parts

The best thing to do when unboxing all your parts is to separate them by type. Its nice to have all of your resistors in a separate place from your LEDs, or even to have separate places for different LED colors. Most hardware or craft supplies stores sell plastic boxes which will make it easy to sort out the parts and find them when we need them later on. We recommend something that looks like this:

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Sorting all of your components will also help you get familiar with them.

Part numbers and store guides

Now that we have our parts separated out and can identify what they are, where should we look to find out information about them? The very first place to check for information about components are the components themselves. Resistors, LEDs, and most other components look different enough that you will quickly learn how to identify them. Often components will have a part number listed on them somewhere, which can help you find a supplier or manufacturer’s website. When you order components or a kit, the store will also send along documentation or point you to a page on their website. Always check a part supplier’s website first, since this can save headaches.

Finding more info: data sheets

If you can’t find the information you are looking for either on the component or on the website, the next thing to look for is your component’s data sheet. You can find it by entering the part number, followed by “data sheet” in your favorite search engine online. Do not search for just the part name since chances are there are many different versions of your part online with different information. For example, there are a lot of LEDs!

Electronic data sheets document the behavior, function and limitations of electronic components. They have a tremendous amount of information from operating temperature and behavior and suggested wiring diagrams, to material makeup and industrial application.

For example, here’s how to find a data sheet online for one of your LEDs.

  1. First find the number which identifies the LED on your invoice from the supplier you purchased your parts from. If you can’t find one, use this one for red superbright LEDs: WP7113SRD.
  2. Open up a browser and type the number of your part into your favorite search engine, as well as the words “data sheet”. If you use our example part number your search terms will be :
    “WP7113SRD data sheet”
  3. Your search results will include data sheets about your part, often in the form of PDFs. Choose a couple of the links and click on them. Take a look at the results and make sure they approximately match the part number you searched for.

It can often be overwhelming to sift through the data sheet to find the one bit of information that you need, but they come in handy, particularly when you are not sure what components you are handling. We will include snapshots of data sheets when applicable. Let’s start by analyzing a sample sheet.

Parts of a data sheet

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Meet the CircuitPlug in your Arduino

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