This is our list of ideas about how you might go about gaining the electronics expertise you need before trying to build a radiotelescope. These suggestions appear in no particular order.
Take an adult night school or trade school class. These are usually better than college courses for our purposes as they do not get bogged down in heavy math and usually include some hands on work.
Investigate getting an amateur radio operator's license. You almost certainly already know someone who is a ham radio operator and they can be very helpful. Check out the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). They have lots of information about getting started in ham radio. Obtaining a ham license provides you with a natural progression of electronics and radio learning tools. There are different levels of ham licenses, each requiring more expertise. Even if you never build that radio telescope, you won't regret having your ham call sign.
Some of those little electronics kits like they sell at Radio Shack, (you know the ones that allow you to build a 100 different circuits on a breadboard), are really marvelous learning tools. The key is, you need to try to understand how each of the circuits you build actually works and what the components do. Some of the instruction books are better than others at supplying you with theory. Ask to look at the book before you buy the kit. Ok, I know you are 53 and there is a picture of a kid on the box. Just tell them its for your granddaughter and no one will ever know.
There are tons of great books out there for every level of expertise. Buy a book that introduces you to theory and a book that guides you through building some simple circuits. The library usually has quite a few appropriate books for those just starting out. Check out the books we sell. We have tried to find books that were appropriate for those on the path to developing a radio telescope.
What about all that math? Don't worry! While higher engineering level electronics requires some really horrific math, you can do lots of electronics without knowing any more than simple algebra. Most of it is just just add, subtract and multiply stuff. When you get to a level where the math can be more difficult, there are lots of books than can help you. Many good computer programs shield you from tougher math problems. Just don't let the math deter you from learning electronics.
The best way to learn is to do. Making some simple test equipment is a good place to begin. Anyone can assemble a simple power supply or test oscillator given the right book and tools. Kits are available for a host of simple circuits. Practice soldering pieces of wire together and assembling cables and connectors. Get a digital multi-meter and practices making various measurements on your circuits. Ultimately, the time you spend developing these practical skills will save you much frustration when you begin work on harder projects.
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