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  • Minimal understanding of electronics fundamentals
  • An idea or a problem to solve (optional)


  • Hardware community

Next Step:

Once you’ve found this idea you’re ready to begin piecing together a solution and that starts with exploration and discovery.

Ten years ago, this kind of discovery would mean digging through old engineering tomes and parts catalogs. But these days there are wonderful online resources for this kind of exploration (see Recommended Resources). Start by looking for reference designs that are associated with technologies you understand, and explore outwards. You will come across both new ways of connecting the same parts, as well as common layouts and common parts. Take note of these parts - it’s possible they will become keystone parts in your design.

As you circle outwards you should get a feel for parts that are very close to what you need but either not quite right, or configured wrong. This is where the little eureka moments start happening. This is where you can start saying things like “Well if I took that circuit, and this circuit, and the one over there... hook them up with such and such... change the configuration of U12 and fill in this void...”. Said another way, given knowledge of the problem, past solutions and resources you’ll start to engineer a solution.

Try not to underestimate the power of discovery and reuse. It will save you mountains of time and help you from wandering down design routes that have already been taken. It’s these scraps of experience that make veteran hardware designers good at what they do. The availability of this knowledge is also why it’s so much easier to engineer hardware today than a decade ago.

Once you’ve discovered a couple of building blocks, or at least an understanding of what has been tried before, you’re ready to move on to selecting your keystone components.

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