So the fifth Tron-kit have finally arrived and I guess that means I have been part of Tron-club for a half a year, so it seems to be a good time to write something comprehensive about Tron-club and my experience with it.
So if you have never heard about Tron-club before it is simply a monthly subscription service that sends you some electronic parts and a small booklet with some circuits you can build each month. It is based in Canada and it is very cheap. As an European I pay 20 €, which include getting the kit send to me.
Compared to other learning kits
Now when I started trying to learn electronics I bought a electronic basic kits from Sparkle Labs. It was pretty cool. I got a lot of a few components, lots of resistors, capacitors, and wires, but there wheren’t actuelly that many circuits in the booklet and I actuelly only needed a few of the components in the kit. This is not restricted to Sparkle Labs. That is how most of these packets works. For example Pirates Electronics kit, a huge kickstarter succes, include 500 components! Sadly most of these components are resistors and they only include 40 circuits in their booklet. It should here be said that these two kits cost betwen $50 – $60 and that if before shipping.
Tron-club goes the total other way. They send you the exact number of components you need to build your circuit. There is rarely extra LED’s, resistors or capacitors and you sometimes also have to use components from older kits. On the other hand this allow them to send you large number of unique components, which in turn enable you to make a larger number of different circuits. There is actuelly 22 circuits in each booklet. Compare that to the 40 circuits in the Pirates Electronics kit that costs more than three times as much.
The unique components
I think one of the cool things about Tron-club is all the different component parts you get to use. It really helps to show you all the different parts of the electronic world. Some times you get introduced to stuff that blows your mind like when we resived a small IC that looked exactly like a transistor, but was able to play “To Alice”, other times it is just about seeing some of the different stuff this world have to offer and enable you to compare their pros and cons. I have already worked with three different kinds of motors and I think I have a good idea about what kind of motors I would use for different projects. I have worked with different breadboards and I have realised that mini breadboards are pretty great. I would not have touched them before Tron-club.
Booklet and learning
So there is 22 circuits in each booklet. The first circuits are extremly simple, but they become harder and more complex as you move forward. Some of the circuits are just single circuits, designed to be cool or showing you how a component work. Often though the circuits are connected in one way or another. Sometimes you will have a handfull of circuits designed around a single IC to help you understand how that IC works. Other times you will build two simple circuits and then latter combine them into a more complex circuit. This is especially cool when you have each of the simple circuits on their own mini breadboard, so it is easy to see that your actuelly building more complex circuits by combining multiple simple circuits.
Besiddes the circuits you will also find all kind of nice information at the buttom of each page. Besiddes a basic description of the circuit you will be introduced to different theories, laws and equations. Sometimes there will be suggestions on how to modifie the circuits, which is very nice. On one hand I am always a bit afraid to lower the resistance in a circuit as I know it might damagde some of the more sensitive components, but on the other hand I always enjoy changing things a bit to see what happens, so these small suggestions are always welcome.
Some of the problems
Now Tron-club is not perfect. I think can think of a few changes that could improve the learning you get from the booklet. A cool thing about Tron-club though is that they are really good at listening to suggestion and improve their product. People complained about some of the early wires and problems with getting the power supplies to stick to the breadboard and Tron-club took steps to improve this. There where some mistakes in the circuits in booklet 1 and 2, but I haven’t seen any in booklet 4 and 5.
That said they do have a pair of problems they have yet to deal with properly. First of they are having a hard time delivering a new set each month. It is a problem only affecting the first subscribers, because new subscribers get on of the earlier kits, but for them it means that their kit is sometimes posted a bit late. The other problem is communication. Communication with Tron-club doesn’t feel like your talking with a small cool startup. It feels like your communicating with a big old coorporation.
There is also a last problem, which happens because of all the unique components they send you, because it also includes unique resistors. I have a nice sorting box for all my resistors where I have sorted my resistors in the must used values and then it have a room for all the strange valued resistors I get from Tron-club. It is simply impossible to have enough sorting rooms for all the different resistor values 😀
Wrapping it up
So far my time with Tron-club have been great and I love all the improvements there have been so far. It takes me about three weeks to finish one kit, which give me a week to look forward to the next. If I where to start learning electronics knowing what I know now, then I would properly not bothered with any starter kits, but just bought a voltmeter and started a Tron-club subscribtion.