[off topic] Need advice getting started with D1/ESP/PI type "thing" projects

Hi all,

Firstly, sorry about the off topic post but I know there are some wonderfly helpful guys on here with experience on this stuff.

I am looking to get into the whole Wemos ESP Pi-zero area of building "things".
I have some old skool electronics experience (I can throw a 555 timer with resistors & transistors together on a vero board) but I am overwhelmed with all the stuff available these days.

Upfront...

  • I have solder / soldering iron, hand tools etc
  • Assume I dont have breadboards or any other electronic components
  • I can program C++ / C# / Python (if I have to) but prefer to stay in JS/Node if possible

What I am thinking of making...

Firstly, I just want to get a foot in - I have no idea where this will take me (automated marine fish tank monitoring and control perhaps?) - however I have few idea projects in mind - mostly as "something to try" to get me started.

  1. A kinda MQTT doorbell (wifi or BT) preferably battery powered - this will eventually send (via a node-red instance with broker) messages to telegram & output sounds to Smart Speaker
  2. An RFID/NFC reader writer (with MQTT + wifi) for integration with other systems
  3. An IR transmitter for controlling TVs etc (eventually linked to Smart Speaker or other integration via node-red)
  4. Monitoring station (temperature, humidity, other environmental sensors)
  5. Something with an LCD and PB inputs - perhaps a snake game or something to get me working with I/O

NOTE: I am open to the idea of using PI-zero if more applicable?

What I'm looking for...

  • Something like a kit or kits or shopping list - preferably with short lead times (Amazon next day delivery type of thing)
  • Hopefully it would include all components (plus spares) I'd need e.g.
    • resistors, breadboard, link wires, stand offs, LEDs, PBs, LCD etc

So I know its a big ask but I do hope some of you more experienced in this area have some info to hand & can spare 5 minutes to put me on the right track.

NOTES..
Obviously I have searched the net and looked on bangood/ali etc BUT I am unsure what is current TECH, what to avoid, what works with what etc - just need a head start.

Many thanks, Steve.

You will want some breadboards and suitable wires for sure. A selection of resistors and capacitors will be worth having - easily purchased and very cheap.

A silicon soldering mat is useful. At my age, I invested in a magnifying headset which also has a light.

You will also want a selection of sensors probably. And the usual tools such as side-cutters, needle pliers, etc which you may already have. Some perfboard for moving from breadboard also useful as would be some small-medium sized project cases.

If you are ordering from China, keep order sizes small so you don't get stung for import duties (applies to the UK, other countries may be different).

I would certainly stick with the Wemos D1 Mini as a starter platform. ESP8266 base is plenty enough for most things. If you need more power, try an ESP32. Personally, I wouldn't use the Pi for physical stuff but reserve it for controllers. But your experience may differ. A D1 mini is just a couple of $ still a lot cheaper than a Pi Zero I think?

Obviously start hitting up YouTube for ideas and to start building skills.

I'll see if I can come up with some components.

On YouTube:

  • Andreas Spiess
  • bigclive.com
  • Brian Lough
  • Csongor Varga
  • GreatScott
  • SuperHouseTV

Between them, they've all done beginner stuff including what to get type videos.

I keep a public YouTube list of interesting electronics videos. They include a number of basic tutorials and parts/tools guides including Andreas's superb video on what transistors to get.


Sensors

  • BMP-280 - Temperature/Humidity
  • HTU-21D - Temperature/Humidity
  • BME-280 - pressure
  • BH1750 - Light intensity
  • PIR - loads of these in PCB mounted form suitable for projects - Microwave sensors also available cheaply. Each has a different usage but all detect movement.
  • 1-wire sound sensor - great for detecting machines working/stopping or listening for sounds in the house when there shouldn't be any. Also good for extending a non-connected alarm.
  • Touch sensors like the TTP223B - nice for non-contact or touch switching.

Parts

  • shrink tubing - get a selection pack
  • male/female header pins
  • breadboards - you will probably want a few and in different sizes. Get decent ones.
  • dupont wires (with various male/female ends)
  • general wire in different colours & some 2-core mains wire or similar for longer wire runs.
  • solder flux
  • Mixed pack of resistors
  • Mixed pack of ceramic capacitors
  • Mixed pack of electrolytic capacitors
  • perfboard/protoboard - for more permanent circuits
  • Mixed transistor set (see Andrea's video)
  • battery holders/power connectors

Other tools

  • Digital multimeter - I have a Vichy VC99 but there will doubtless be better, more modern options now
  • site-cutters - always useful
  • desoldreing braid
  • silicon soldering mat, maybe also a cutting mat.
  • wire strippers
  • makers/phone repairers screwdriver set
  • "helping-hands" - useful if soldering fine components/wires
  • Bluetack - great for positioning boards when soldering.
  • Isopropanol Alcohol (70%+) - needed for cleaning
  • hot glue gun - indispensible for mountings and sealing things.
  • rotary tool - I can't believe how useful this is! Put off buying one for years but then got a Tacklife one from AliExpress along with their electric screwdriver/drill. Like a Dremel but a lot cheaper and at least as good. Great for cutting, engraving, hole-making, polishing, deburring, etc. You will want one to speed up creation of cases and so on.

Obviously, you don't need to get all of this at once! You can build them up over time.

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I'm using a lot of WeMos D1 Mini's flashed with ESPeasy communicating to Node-red running on Pi's Pi Zeros and a Mac. So far I've connected DHT22s, BMP280s, OLEDs, NeoPixel rings, an RFID sensor and along with @dynamicdave, we are putting together a PCB for solar/battery weather station (see Solar-powered weather station for a sample of it)

Here is version 1
p1
in version 2 we are splitting the battery/Wemos to one board and then we will have an I2C connector to a second board wich will have slots to plug sensors into.

I was creating a list, but @TotallyInformation has already listed much of what I would have said so I'll add
transistors
dupont wires, M/M, M/F and F/F
some blank PCB's if you want to build permanent prototypes
header pins and headers
hot glue gun,
wire shrinks.

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Thank you @TotallyInformation and @zenofmud

So I will stick to D1 for first foray into this areana.

Stupid question - is this or this a D1 mini (I get confused as many of the titles all say something like " WiFi Modul Board WeMos for Arduino" )

what is the expected price of a D1 mini?

Remember, I wish to (where possible) stick to NODE/JS so do i get ESP32 or 8266?

Are the sensors / IO components, LCDs, OLEDS etc all inter-operable / compatible?

Really sorry for all the (probably obvious & simple) questions.

Hi Steve
I agree with everything Julian and Paul have said.
The Wemos D1 Mini is a good choice, especially if you flash it with ESP Easy as nearly all the device drivers you'll need are built-in.
Get yourself some breadboards and a large bag of connecting wires, some LEDs and resistors. I would certainly get some 330 ohm, 1K, 4K7 and 10K resistors.

Just seen you post.
Here's a link to the Wemos D1 Mini from Banggood. Approx £2 each.

You could start-off making a traffic light simulator that talks to Node-RED via MQTT, then you could try making a temperature/humidity/pressure sensor using a BME280. Here are some links.

http://resources-area.co.uk/node-red-flows/building_a_light_sequence.pdf
http://resources-area.co.uk/node-red-flows/control_leds_using_temp_value.pdf

I've published quite a few of the tutorial guides (I've written for the students on my IoT Club) on the Share your Projects section of the forum.

https://discourse.nodered.org/c/share-your-projects/6

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...the first one you linked is the D1 mini.
Although powered by USB/5V, the internal voltage used by "everything" is 3,3V while in the Arduino world all is 5V...having a multimeter to check, also resistors, capacitors etc is of help.
The D1-mini is a good choice, as it is stackable....there are a lot of "shields" and prototype boards to go with, see: https://www.wemos.cc/en/latest/d1_mini_shiled/index.html
Just check that with a shield, the GPIOs that are used/driving it are fixed..,and some may create a conflict, when trying to combine things.
I such a case, use a common prototype board to fix your breadboard designs.

With sensors, oleds, lcds...the main concern is usable/driving voltage, as mentioned above.
Many models have two versions, 5V for Arduino and 3.3V for ESP "worlds"

Edit: in terms of firmware / programming the Things:

using js is not an option I am aware of...some implementations of micopython exist, but these do not offer all drivers for the "things".
Besides the already mentioned ESPeasy, I'd recommend looking into tasmota https://tasmota.github.io/docs/#/ .
With tasmota/ESPeasy, everything is controlalble via mqtt, and local rules ....complex logic you can do on node-red, if online capabilities of the "things" can be provided (use local rules for basic, offline tasks)..

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Here is the official shop:

https://lolin.aliexpress.com/store/1331105

Current price in £ is £3.06 but the shipping is £3.75 which is excessive.

Lots of copies:

https://www.aliexpress.com/wholesale?catId=0&initiative_id=AS_20200321074054&origin=y&SearchText=wemos+d1+mini

Just check that the rating is high, 4.9 or 5 star.

You will see that some come with external aerials which can be useful if you need to put them somewhere out of the way.

If you really insist on using JavaScript, you can use Espruino but honestly I'd either stick with ESPeasy or use the Arduino IDE with C++ as it is easy enough given the many handy libraries you get access to.

Yes, the sensors and components are all OK other than, as others have said, you need to work at 3.3v. Virtually all of the sensors will do that. Particularly look out for I2C mounted sensors as these are really easy to use.

By the way, you might want to move this thread to the Hardware category.

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Thanks Julian - moved to hardware category as rightly suggested.

ok I am soooo confused by the choice omg!

If someone could be kind enough to put a list of links to AMAZON UK - i would be so very grateful :smiley: :smiley: (I've been told I take bloody liberties haha :slight_smile: )

I cant be waiting 20+ days for stuff from banggood / Ali so I'm willing to (slightly) over pay at amazon - but I am literally overwhelmed by the choice.

Ok, I'll go with this - cheers.

What I understand - so far (please correct me where wrong)...

  • stick with D1 Mini ESP8266
  • Power requirement will be 3.3V for everything
  • Use ESP Easy + C++ or micropython
  • get...
    • some 330 ohm, 1K, 4K7 and 10K resistors
    • dupont wires, M/M, M/F and F/F
    • LEDs
    • Breadboards
    • any other components I might wanna play with
    • a whole bunch of other nice to haves (eventually) including helping hands, rotary tool etc

Missing info (from my head)

  • What about power / PSU? for powering everything?

:rofl: Yup, rather a lot of choice!

They do have EU and UK warehouses unlike AliExpress so worth checking those out. AliExpress is definitely better for components though. Use them for the things you don't need immediately.

https://uk.banggood.com/

I'll see what I can dig out in terms of Amazon links though. Also, don't forget to check out eBay, there are plenty of UK sellers who resell from Chinese stock but keep stock in the UK.

For power supplies, you just need a decent USB power adapter.

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Julian,
I really appreciate that - a thousand hearts :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart:

Here's a couple of links to Amazon UK.
1-off and 2-off prices.

These boards have a CH340G which makes flashing/programing the device fairly easy.
The boards also have an on-board voltage regulator so you can plug a 5V mobile phone charger into the micro-USB socket (which will be reduced down to +3.3v for the ESP8266 by the on-board regulator).

Perfect - they're in the trolley

Now to pick the resistors, breadboards & other stuff (a kit would be nice)

When you receive your "goodies" you'll find there are various sets of pins and sockets in the bag.
i.e. different lengths.
I have found the headers with the LONG pins work best especially if you plan to plug the Wemos into a breadboard. I push them through from the TOP and solder the pins on the BOTTOM.

Keep all the other pin-sockets as you're bound to find a use for them (ha, ha, ha).

Hope these photos help.

wemos_1

wemos_2

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Don't forget the shrink fit tubing! it may seem way down the list, but it will help you avoid shorting things together. I use it all the time.

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Oh, and don't forget a microUSB lead to power it, if you don't already have one spare.

The ESP8266 cannot drive more than 10mA via its GPIOs.
In order to drive a LED and get an appropriate brightness, you wil need more power....use a npn-transistor to drive the current from the 5V/or 3.3v output from the D1-mini-board.

-> get some NPN-Transistors

For powering, there are PSUs that can be directly attached to a breadboard and that are offering 5V and 3.3V outlets via dupont wires.
Make sure you use a strong main PSU, like 7V/5A
Some also offer USB-A outlet. There are a lot of crappy china-wares out there in the PSU-models and some can kill your circuit. Check on the reviews from users.

Hi Steve,
I should explain the resistor values.

To drive an LED from say D6.
I would connect D6 to a 330 ohm resistor in series with the LED connected to ground.
Although the resistor limits the current to 5mA, the LED's illumination is still pretty bright.

I use the 1K resistors when interfacing push-button to the Wemos.

You'll find the other values are great for acting as "pulls-ups" on some external devices.

CPC Farnell is a great UK supplier for resistors, transistors, capacitors, etc..
For example, a bag of 100-off 0.25watt resistors is 50p or so (cheap as chips).
I don't think they do an assorted box of resistors (would be nice if they did).

https://cpc.farnell.com/

Educational kit... LEDs and resistors.
https://cpc.farnell.com/kemo-electronic/s093/led-educational-kit/dp/SC13022?ost=assorted+resistors&ddkey=https%3Aen-CPC%2FCPC_United_Kingdom%2Fsearch

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Look at some of the Arduino sensor kits to get some ideas on what sensors & displays might be popular and easy to use.

Use this search for loads of I2C sensors and displays.

Something like this kit might be a fun starter pack - it has a breadboard, wires, buzzer, pots, buttons, some ICs, caps, headers, LEDs, transistors. Also has a power supply which might be useful if you need more power than the ESP8266 can deliver directly. Only £12.

This might also be an interesting project that results in a useful tool for testing all manner of electronic parts.

Realised that the rotary tool was actually from Amazon (I loose track) here

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See the video I recommended to know what transistors to keep in stock. Also which types to use and when.

Never had a problem with that since it is rare that you need to drive an LED on a small project more than a tiny amount. Obviously though, it you are wanting to output for illumination rather than indication, a separate power source is generally needed.

True. Just note that they will spam you for ever more once you've brought from them. I personally find their website just too painful and prefer Amazon, eBay, AliExpress and Banggood.

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To everyone who has taken their precious time to respond - thank you very much. :heart:

I'm busy going through all your replies and suggestions & will make my order ASAP.

I hope this thread also helps other get a foot in the door of this side of IoT if they're struggling with (is it even possible?) too much information that is available.

Time for a beer or 2 before pressing the "purchase" button.

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