Tools We Like: Spotlight on IDEO’s EE Lab

Prototyping essentials from breadboards to toaster ovens

November 2, 2015
Reading Time
2 minutes

Mark Harrison has been building stuff at IDEO for more than 15 years (see Mark’s post on his all-time favorite workarounds). He’s one of the most knowledgeable tinkerers around, and he’s just finished putting together an electrical engineering lab at IDEO Palo Alto, stocked with every useful tool and device he could get his hands on. He wants to encourage more people to start building, and the lab is open to anyone with an idea. “I don’t want people to think that it’s specialized. You don’t have to be an engineer to come use the lab,” he says. “We’ve stocked it so that anybody can come in here, pick up an arduino and start prototyping.

Here’s a quick tour of the tools Mark considers essential:

ee_labs_15An overview of the lab. In the foreground, there are two mobile workbenches, each of which has a tool chest full of electronic components. In back, you can see spools of different types of wire, and the white bins above them are storage for projects in process.



The lab has two soldering stations, each equipped with a microscope and a full set of test equipment.

ee_labs_7The lab’s mixed-signal oscilloscope, which analyzes both analog and digital signals, is its most sophisticated piece of test equipment. It graphically displays analogue signals in a waveform so you can see frequency, magnitude, and other characteristics, and it’s also a logic analyzer for digital signals.

ee_labs_10Storage bins stocked with an array of useful prototyping stuff.ee_labs_1The lab has a complete set of arduinos and arduino shields, pictured here. There are also full kits, such as SparkFun Inventor’s Kits and SunFounder open-source electronics kits, that are ideal for entry-level tinkering.

ee_labs_0Electronic components—switches, LEDs, and more!

ee_labs_12These solderless breadboards are ideal for really quick prototyping. You can connect components through the board and add jumper wire to make a quick circuit.

ee_labs_3This is no simple toaster oven—it’s been customized for reflow soldering to assemble surface-mount components on a circuit board (note the hacked temperature controller on the upper right corner). If you have components that are too small to hand-solder, you can stencil a bare board, place the components on it, and bake it to solder it.

The lab also has iPads, tablets, and smartwatches for IDEOers to use.

What’s in your workshop? Tweet photos or descriptions of your favorite tools to us at @ideodigitalshop.