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on July 22, 2012
If you have relatively little background in circuit design or electrical engineering, it's good to start with the basics and develop and understanding of how electrical circuits work in their various configurations. If you're going to incorporate a relatively sensitive (to spikes in voltage, miswired circuits) microcontroller package such as the Arduino Uno, go ahead and get this package from Radio Shack that includes the two workbooks from Forrest Mimms, III.

What you get out of this package is pretty amazing. You get a set of potentiometers / variable resistors, spring-contact LED's prewired with resistors, a speaker, a piezoelectric buzzer, and just about everything you'd want to get a start with both circuit design and simple integration with Arduino. Beyond that you get a fairly simple amp-meter (apologies for errors in terminology - I was an English & Fine Arts major in college), a massive breadboard with 1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, and 9 volt terminals (maybe another - can't recall) and ground, jumper wires that are pretty darn good, and a package of IC's, resistors, transistors, capacitors, LED's, and other diodes that will get you rolling so long as you follow Forrest Mimms' lucid and handwritten instructions in the book.

I mention the "book" or "books" included in this package, because if you purchase the product from Radio Shack you get two books that guide you through the introduction to circuits and IC circuit design basics. If you're ordering this product from a third-party seller, make sure that the books are included because they are invaluable to guiding you through the process. Also consider Forrest Mimms' book "Introduction to Electronics" for understanding the various components of a circuit that you will be integrating into most any design play with with your Arduino.

Although much of the instruction included in the package is of the "cookbook" variety, the elementary formulas are there in many places to explain the concepts of resistance, capacitance, inductance - the works. If you follow the instructions and work the set, you'll develop almost an intuitive grasp of circuits and be able to translate circuit schematics to the breadboard with relative ease. The issue is that until you actually put your hands to the grindstone, you're going to be living in concept-land forever. You can browse the web all day long, believe you understand a schematic, but until you actually apply something physically on a circuit board and see it work, you will be lacking in the actual skills that are developed by repetitive action / interpretation & application of designs. This is an probably one of the best "commercial off the shelf" concrete resources to get your proverbial "feet wet" in basic circuits.

What's fascinating about the this learning lab is the author and designer himself. From the time he was a child he was an experimenter and a tinkerer, and I believe he was a liberal arts major from Texas A&M. He's actually a world-renowned electrical engineer who knows his field and can communicate to the beginner in true layman's terms. Forrest Mimms, III, was one of the pioneers of Tandy computers, and developer of the modern LED as we know it in application.

In short if you're getting started in Arduino consider this as a great first step and instead of buying various electrical components from all over the place, you can purchase it all at one stop. Radio Shack, in fact, has a promotion right now locally and is selling the entire setup with books included for $59.99. I don't have any relationship to Radio Shack other than as an occasional customer - so I'm not biased in any way. In fact I prefer to buy most all my electronics through Amazon or online. In short this product great deal and a great way to get started - and not confused - by Arduino and other microcontroller systems that you'll be building circuits around. Just study the IDE / compiler language, play with this board, integrate with Arduino (you can use the board in concert), and you'll be on the path to developing a relatively strong and confident understanding of microcontrollers and circuits. I say on the path because it's a long road, but the resources are available to take you however far you want to go.
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on April 13, 2013
If you compare the price of this kit versus buying all the parts individually it's a fantastic deal. The learning lab itself is put together very well and works great. The included books are pretty good and build upon themselves well. The font is a little obnoxious and some instructions are slightly vague but nothing terrible.

This also includes most of the parts required to follow along with the Make: Electronics book so if you want to use that book then you can save a lot of money on component costs by just using the pieces of this kit.

I would suggest getting a nice pair of tweezers (Wiha 44501) since the breadboard can get a bit cramped. You also might want to pick up a digital multimeter (Extech EX330 or MN35), separate breadboard, and some alligator clips all of which are cheaply available on Amazon.
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on February 13, 2013
My 15 year old wanted to learn more about electronics and this has been a great puchase. Hours of engaging learning and fun for him. Talked to a master electrician friend and he says he grew up with this and thinks it's great because it teaches you "why" not just "how to".
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on May 14, 2013
This review is for the Radio Shack (28-280) Electronics Learning Lab; bought at Amazon. This is a great product for introducing your daughter (or son) into the electronic world. The lab has a bread board circuit design center which is how an electronics expert would set up a circuit design. It also has a lot of "support" items like switches, LED's (indicator lights), variable resistors, a speaker, a meter built in a plastic board (box?) so that it doesn't "hang by the board".

The books, that come with the Lab, are top notch and take you through assembling your first circuit. You will notice that the actual resisters, capacitors, transistors and integrated chips are just like you would buy from a store; so replacements are easy.

I also recommend this Lab for electronic hobby use. for 40 dollars (USD) you have a very inexpensive bread board platform. You also have lots of parts to start off with.

You could buy the next higher up model (300 in 1) from Amazon but there is only 1/3 more experiments for 2 1/2 times the price.
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on January 22, 2015
I was able to rob parts out of it so my daughter could build things she needed to build for her high school physics class. Comes with a nice manual for the projects for which it is intended. Delivery was great as I've come to expect.
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on August 7, 2014
This is helpful if you are new to electronics and want to learn the basics quickly.
I would highly recommend this as a gift for a child. The project book that comes with it
will keep them busy (and learning) for a very long time.
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on January 28, 2013
I got this for my 11 year old and myself as a father and son activity . We are trying to fit in a couple of pages with the projects a day. On only the 2nd day he was reading the schematic to assemble the project, as was I. I have no experience in this and in the past when I have tried to look at schematics I have gotten dizzy. I think the manuals that come with it are great for beginners. The most important thing is my son really enjoys it, as do I. The price on this is great for the learning, and fun with your kid, that it delivers. The provider was very concerned with customer satisfaction and enclosed a note to contact them if there were any problems, and I thought that was refreshing.
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on July 21, 2016
As an ameture electronic nut this thing is really neat. I can wind up speeding so much time with it, my wife wonders what I'm doing.When I try to explain, she turns around and walks off like I didn't answer her.
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on April 9, 2013
This learning lab has everything needed for over 200 projects. My son loves it and is thinking of projects for the next science fair. Fast shipping (arrived 2 days early) and fantastic price. A definite buy.
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on November 9, 2015
I received the Electronics Learning Lab as a gift many years ago. I was pleasantly surprised RadioShack was still making it when I went looking for a present for my niece. She has aspirations of making robots when she's older, so this kit was right up her alley. Anyway, nothing had changed about the kit. The very well written guides (2 of them: one for digital circuits and one for analog) gave detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to build some really fun projects. My favorite was a synthesizer based on a 555 timer. After I built the circuit, I could control pitch, volume and produce a variety of sound effects by turning the well constructed potentiometer dials. The first time I built the circuit, it absolutely blew my mind. And drove my family crazy!
The books are valuable in and of themselves because they give excellent non-technical descriptions of what all of the circuit elements do individually and how they work together in circuits. Some might find the print style odd, but it was meant to mimc the lab notebooks frequently used by scientists and engineers to collect data and take notes during experiments. A really nice touch on the kit designer's part.
The kit itself provides all of the wires, resistors, IC chips and LEDs a beginner could want. The console provides a fantastic place to build the circuits without any tools or soldering whatsoever. A kid, or adult, could experiment to their hearts content (this is actually encouraged in the books) and not have to worry about desoldering or needing specialty tools. All in all, an excellent product for a great price. I'm so glad Radio Shack did not make any big changes this product. I guess you don't fix what ain't broke.
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