I am very fortunate to count Harold Timmis as a good friend. Not only is he the co-author of one of my books that teaches kids to build and program circuits with an Arduino, but he’s one of the biggest proponents of reducing the costs of the electronics and components to maximize access to kids and adults. Harold has a passion for teaching electronics and over the past few months has used crowdfunding for some amazingly successful projects.
His first fundraising campaign ended in August as he successfully raised $164,303 for his $9 Arduino Compatible Starter Kit. That project sought to raise $12,000, but due to the large number of supporters Harold was able to add some amazing stretch goals that kept him busy trying to juggle new components while keeping the delivery time locked. Harold has first-hand experience working with his Chinese suppliers (we had a couple of chats on the phone while he was in China visiting with suppliers and manufacturers) and he was able to bring his project in on time and get the kits out to his backers. I backed for two of his Arduino clones and soldered up one within hours of getting the kit. (I’m saving the other one for my son to solder up in the very near future once his soldering skills are complete and he begins assembly on his own light saber.)
Well, Harold’s at it again, and for anyone out there who has been considering teaching themselves (or maybe a child) electronics, this is your lucky day. If you missed the $9 Arduino Compatible Starter Kit and all the bonus components Harold tucked into that package, your jaw is going to drop when you see what Harold has managed to offer for his new BE MAKER Kit. (The BE stands for Borderless Electronics and represents Harold’s goal of bringing electronics training to anyone, anywhere in the world.)
In less than eight days, Harold has almost doubled the funding goal of $88,888 and current funding stands at almost $150,000 (and will probably cross that threshold by the time you read this). Harold has gotten extremely aggressive with this fundraiser, so let me explain.
If you’re wanting to teach yourself electronics, one of the best ways to do it is to grab a book and a parts kit and sit down with the soldering iron and work through the examples. A great example of a book is Make: Electronics by Charles Platt — this is the exact same book I used a few years back to really give myself a boost in my understanding of electronics and circuit building. The book is inexpensive, but it’s all the parts required that really start to add up. Capacitors, resistors, LEDs, small motors, relays, ICs, and so much more. That particular book was eventually supported by two great parts packs — Pack 1 and Pack 2. However, each parts pack was $100 or more. Other companies such as SparkFun or Radio Shack offer their own parts packs but again… expect to pay $80 or higher for a good mix of parts. Not bad, but Harold knew he could do better.
So, the BE MAKER Kit. How much? $29.00. If you’re thinking a $29 kit just can’t match what else is out there in terms of quantities and types of parts, check out the comparison chart below that I’ve taken directly from Harold’s Indiegogo project:
Yeah, 600+ items for $30.00, and almost an item-for-item match with other similar kits. (The few items that aren’t available in Harold’s kit are a good decision, IMO, and can be easily added at a reasonable price by ordering them separately.)
But Harold’s not stopping with just offering this crazy-low components kit. Scan his project and you’ll see that he’s offering add-ons at prices that are much below traditional costs for items like Arduino compatible (his is called the BE BOARD) and shields. He’s also offering over 10 hours of tutorials that will consist of a book (PDF but he intends to sell print versions) and online video tutorials (20 in all at a minimum of 30 minutes each). Backers will get access to the videos and educational content for six months and then the materials will be released to the public.
Harold’s become sort of an expert at not only managing multiple vendors for supplying parts, but he’s also quite knowledgable about shipping from his previous crowdfunding project. That said, he’s offering free shipping anywhere in the world for his backers on this new project. Like I said earlier, if you missed out on the $9 BE BOARD (the Arduino compatible), you can add them on to this project as you need.
Now, a warning — Harold has done a GREAT job of explaining everything he’s offering and all the various price/backer levels. But for a newbie, it could be absolutely confusing to know what to buy or what quantities to buy. For that reason, I’d like to point out that each individual hardware item can be purchased individually as follows:
BE BOARD: $15
BE SHIELD: $15
KIT: $29 (this is all the electronics parts)
Once you understand the individual costs, examine the remaining backer levels and you’ll see that you can save some money by bundling. Read it all carefully! For example, $49 can get you KIT + SHIELD + LESSON OR KIT + BOARD + LESSON OR KIT + SHIELD + BOARD. And there are many more mixes. So, again… read carefully and understand exactly what you’re choosing for your backer level. When in doubt, post a comment — scan the comments and you’ll see that Harold (Borderless Electronics is the username) responds fairly quickly to all questions and can clear up any confusion you may have.
If you’re just totally confused, back at the $69 level and get one of everything — trust me, this is below the price of even the most basic parts kit you can buy retail and you’ll be ready to get started learning electronics and won’t break the bank.
I’ve been asked to teach a beginner level electronics camp next summer and Harold has made it amazingly easy for me to get all the parts and boards and shields I will need. The money I’m going to save is going to allow me bring in more kids AND reduce the price of the week-long camp. Harold has a delivery date of February 2014 and I have zero concerns about his ability to pull this off based on his previous fundraiser. He knows what can and cannot be done, and I am not concerned about having the supplies available in time for next summer. (And I’ve got enough electronics components in my house to put a satellite in orbit and a lander on Mars, but at $29 I can’t buy these items individually for a less than 2x the total price, so I’m grabbing some more for my own personal use.)
Full disclosure — I’m not involved in Harold’s Borderless Electronics organization and I am receiving no perks or discounts for this post. That said, Harold is a friend and a great guy and I am confident in his ability to deliver the goods on his project. Harold didn’t ask me to post this item, but I knew the minute I saw it go live that it would be of use to the GeekDad readership. All this being said, please understand how fundraising sites like Indiegogo work before committing your funds. If you have any questions, check out Indiegogo’s FAQ page.