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Frequently Asked Questions for Supercharged Science Families

This page contains answers to common questions from Supercharged Science families. Feel free to Contact Us if your question isn’t addressed here.

Q: How can I stay informed regarding updates for Brian’s classes?

A: The best way to stay informed is to subscribe to Brian’s Substack email list here.

Q: Can I use a Raspberry Pi computer for the coding class?

A: The 2024 – 2025 coding class (Unit 29) requires a Raspberry Pi Pico RP2040, no other kind of  Raspberry Pi will work. Unit 29, “Coding the Arduino” requires an Arduino Uno R3.

Q: I already have a Raspberry Pi Pico RP2040, may I use it in the class?

A: As long as it is configured to run MicroPython, you can use an existing RP2040 board.

Q: Can I order kits if I live outside the United States?

A: Yes, FutureVision Research ships internationally, but only to certain countries. If you aren’t seeing shipping options during checkout, please Contact Us. Please see our Terms and Conditions for details.

Q: Will students be able to watch recordings of Brian’s classes?

A: Yes, all of Brian’s classes are recorded and available by the following morning. In fact, archives of Brian’s classes from previous school years are also available. The course “Electronics with Brian” is available under Unit 25. The course “Coding MicroPython with Brian is under Unit 29. The 2023 – 2024 course, “Coding the Arduino with Brian” is under Unit 28.

Q: Will the electronic parts in the Diamond program work for Brian’s classes?

A: No, most of the parts in the Diamond program won’t work with Brian’s classes. They are intended for other lessons. In order to have the correct parts, you need to the FutureVision Research kits or buy individual parts using the appropriate shopping list.

Q: Can I buy a kit from Amazon and use it with Brian’s classes?

A: No, there aren’t any kits on Amazon that provide the proper set of parts.

Q: Will students have to use a hot soldering iron?

A: Neither “Electronics with Brian”, “Coding MicroPython with Brian”,  or “Coding the Arduino with Brian” contain any soldering projects. Any soldering projects will be scheduled separately.

Q: What is the starting age for Brian’s classes?

A: We’ve had students as young as seven join Brian’s electronics classes. However, students younger than 12 often need more direct supervision and help during class.

Q: I saw a notice that many electronic parts contain lead. Is that safe?

A: The risk of handling electronic parts is negligible when proper precautions are followed. According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, risks from lead occur mainly from putting substances in the mouth, not from touching the skin. We advise children to never put parts in their mouth, never to eat while working with electronics and to wash their hands with soap and water before doing anything else. All of us who work with electronics follow these guidelines.
https://dtsc.ca.gov/faq/can-lead-be-absorbed-through-the-skin/

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Can two students use one electronics kit during Supercharged Science live classes?

Parents often ask if two students can use the same electronics kit.

Ideally each child should have their own, unique kit.

Here are more details:

Regarding the electronics kit:

The Electronics Essentials kit is designed for one student. While there are enough parts for two students to build the small projects that occur early in the year, there will only be enough parts for one student as we get into more detailed circuits.

However, all the parts in the Electronics Essentials kit are reusable. If you buy a single kit, one child could build the circuit, get it working, and take it apart….then the other child could build the circuit by watching the recording.

But, if you want both kids to build projects during the live class, you’ll need two kits.

Here is the link to the Electronics Essentials kit: https://www.fvresearch.com/product/electronics-essentials-kit/

Regarding the parts boxes:

By the way, I highly recommend that you purchase the two parts boxes either together with your kit order or directly from Harbor Freight.

If you do buy two full Electronics Essentials kits, other parents have reported that they can fit two full sets of parts into one pair of boxes.

Regarding the digital multimeter:

You will need at least one digital multimeter for use during the class. You can either add one to your order or purchase a meter from other sources. By the way, parents find that two students can share one digital multimeter.

Regarding the Soldering Basics Kit:

You’ll notice that we offer a Soldering Basics Kit. This kit used during pre-recorded lessons on electronics soldering and is not needed for the live classes. (The soldering lessons are available under Unit 25).

Soldering is a process that permanent attaches the electronic parts onto a circuit board. So, if you would like your kids to learn soldering, they will each need their own soldering kit.

Here is the link to the Soldering Basics: https://www.fvresearch.com/product/soldering-basics/

Please note that some additional soldering tools are required. You can find more information on those parts here: https://www.fvresearch.com/soldering-tools/

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Recommended Tools for Soldering and De-Soldering

Soldering is an essential skill when working with electronics. But, it is important to use the right tools so that your circuit will work reliably.
(A properly designed and soldered circuit can last for decades).

I understand that investing in tools can get expensive.
So, I’ve assembled a list of items that are reasonably priced for students and hobbyists, while still being reliable.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

“Bare-Minimum” Tools

Soldering Iron – Click to order from Amazon

You will want a pencil style soldering iron of 25-30 watts. Never use a soldering gun on circuit boards!
I recommend a soldering iron station that allows you to adjust the temperature.
Your soldering iron tip should be a point or a very thin (1/8″) screwdriver tip.

I recommend the Weller “5 to 30 Variable Wattage Precision Grip Soldering Iron Station” Part Number: WLSK3012A

Notes:
Never rest your iron on a table. Always use holder or bracket designed for soldering irons.
You’ll need a wet sponge (included with the station I recommend) or brass sponge to clean the tip of your iron.

60/40 rosin core solder

Solder – Click to order from Amazon

I recommend using 60/40 rosin core solder. This solder is an alloy made of 60% tin and 40% lead.
Rosin is a substance that helps clean the soldered connections and helps the melted solder to flow more easily.

Note:
Always wash your hands with soap and water after working with 60/40 solder.

Holder Option 1: Four Hands, Basic Set, Helping Hands – Click to order from Amazon

Never use your hands to hold a circuit board or parts while you solder. The burn risk is just too high!

When using this tool, you can use two “hands” to hold the circuit board, and the other two “hands” to hold parts in place.

 

Holder Option 2: Circuit Board Holder – Click to order from Amazon

This tool holds the circuit board for you. You can insert your parts and then rotate to the other side to solder your connections.

However, it does not provide a way to hold parts while you solder them.

Holder Option 3: All Metal Helping Hands – Click to order from Amazon

These all metal helping hands are your best choice for splicing wires or soldering connectors. These hands lock in place and don’t “spring back” after you position them (as with the four hands set above). The magnifying glass is useful for inspecting solder connections.

If you use these to hold circuit boards, be sure to put masking or electrician’s tape between the board and the alligator clips so the board isn’t scratched.

Flush Wire Cutters

Wire cutters – Click to order from Amazon

You’ll need diagonal wire cutters to trim the leads of your parts once they are soldered.

I recommend flush cutters such as the ones shown on the left.

Long-Nose / Flat Nose Pliers – Click to order from Amazon

Pliers such as these are useful for forming parts and during the de-soldering process.

I recommend long-nose / flat-nose pliers with serrated jaws such as the ones shown on the left.

Additional Useful Tools

Liquid Flux – Click to order from Amazon

Liquid flux helps ensure clean solder connections. It is particularly useful when soldering two wires together or when soldering connectors.

Brass sponge – Click to order from Amazon

When it comes to keeping the tip of your iron clean, a brass sponge, such as the one shown on the left, is a better alternative to the wet sponge.

Brass sponges do a better job of removing material and they don’t cause dramatic temperature drops like wet sponges do.

Tip tinner – Click to order from Amazon

Tip tinner helps remove baked on residue from your tip and it helps prevent oxidation from accumulating.

De-Soldering Option 1: De-Soldering pump – Click to order from Amazon

De-soldering pumps are used to “vacuum” molten solder. They come in handy for removing excess solder from a connection or for removing a soldered part from a circuit board.

The de-soldering pump I recommend has a larger plunger for a stronger “vacuum” effect. I find that this pump is more effective than de-soldering wick.

De-Soldering Option 2: De-Soldering wick – Click to order from Amazon

De-soldering wick (also known as de-soldering braid) is another method for removing solder from circuit boards.

Heat Gun – Click to order from Amazon

This heat gun provides a stream of hot air that is perfect for heat shrink tubing*.

 

*Proper solder connections on connectors and wire splices should be covered in heat shrink tubing.

Soldering Mat – Click to order from Amazon

This heat resistant 13.8″ x 9.8″ silicone mat helps project your work surface from burns, scratches, and moisture. It also has built in trays to hold small parts. Using a soldering mat isn’t mandatory, but it is handy!