Electrical Engineering Tutorial

Christina Mann (age 4), with some help from Daddy in the writeup of this text

A basic tutorial on electrical engineering

Christina Mann (age 4)

Learning how to fix computers

Fixing computers is not difficult. They have standard parts that are usually cheap to replace:

Learning how things work


Solderless breadboards are a good way to wire up things for quick fun or testing:


Another option for solderless connections is alligator clips:

Alligators, crocodiles, burmese pythons, and anacondas!

Banana connectors and binding posts

Another form of solderless connector is the banana connector. You just plug it in. Alternatively you can use a binding post to connect to raw wire.

My favorite kind of connector is the banana binding post. It combines the functionality of the binding post with that of the banana connector.

It can be used as a banana connector (a banana plug can plug into the center) or as a solderless binding post that can either screw tight on a wire inserted into the center-hole of the post, or on a wire or lug or spade connector around the center post.

A banana binding post can be installed in 3 easy steps:

  1. Drill a hole (see note, below, regarding safety glasses);
  2. Insert banana binding post;
  3. Put a nut on the other side and tighten it. This is easiest to do with a deep-socket nut driver, but you can use pliers or a wrench or just work it on finger tight and use the binding post itself to tighten it further.
tightening the banana connectors with a nut driver:

With binding posts, I can tinker with a wide variety of different kinds of sensors without having to solder wires to each one.

Safety first!

Always wear safety glasses when drilling:

(drilling some holes to mount banana sockets in a plastic toy keyboard)

Often you will want to hold the drill firmly with both hands:

When drilling particularly large holes (e.g. for big huge pushbuttons) with a hole saw, hold the drill with both hands, as shown.

Keyers and arrays of holes

Drilling an array of uniformly spaced holes is not really too difficult if you know how to use a ruler, and how to count. Measure twice and drill once, especially if it's your baby sister's toy exersaucer and you want to get it right the first time!

With careful measurement a nice row of holes results. These can be fitted with colour-coordinated pushbuttons, giving a result that looks like it came from the factory that way:

Proper soldering technique

Demonstrating proper soldering technique:

Hold the iron on one side of the work and the solder on the other, to make sure the work itself gets hot enough to melt the solder, otherwise (if you just drip hot solder on the joint) it won't make good electrical contact.

Here's a nice close-up view demonstrating proper technique:

As you can see, there is only a small wisp of smoke, because only a small amount of flux is being consumed. (If you incorrectly touch the solder right to the iron, you get lots of smoke.)


"Funits" is a new word my Daddy made up by combining "fun" with "units". In units of fun (if there were a meter that could measure the amount of fun something was), all of this would give a pretty high reading...

Electrical engineering is fun....

(Live performance at the Power Plant, Canada's foremost modern art venue, using direct brain-machine interface)