Solder it!

Make it

Open up the bag of parts and check that you have all the components.

The Bill of Materials (parts list) page has a detailed list of everything you should have.

Take the PCB and place it in a vise or other holder so that you can easily place and solder parts.

Heat up your soldering iron to 700degF and wet the sponge. Clean the tip if necessary. Make sure you have all your tools!

The first step is to solder in the resistors. The resistor is the tan-with-stripes things, they're probably on tape as that's how they come from the factory. Remove the tape and bend the resistors into staples as shown.

The resistors are named R1 thru R16. Placing them on the PCB is easy, just look for the image on the PCB that matches the shape of the resistor. Resistors are non-polarized that means you can stick them in 'either way' and they'll work just fine.

Lets start with one resistor, place a resistor into the location labeled R1 and make sure it sits flat against the PCB, then bend the wires out so that you can turn over the circuit board without the resistor falling out

Do the same for the other wire.
Put down the iron and pick up the diagonal cutters. Using the cutters, clip the wires of the resistor right above the joint.

Repeat for all 16 resistors.

I'll show soldering all of the resistors at once, but of course you can do as many or few at once as you'd like.

Solder and clip all of the resistors.

Next we're going to place the ceramic capacitor C3 and the wire jumper for IC2.

This kit was designed to be backwards compatible with the Dropout Design version which had a 5V regulator and ran off of a 9V battery or wall supply. If you're planning to use this kit with the older version, make sure you use a 7805 in IC2. For these instructions I'm going to assume that you're not going to do that.

Simply insert the small yellow capacitor into the location named C3. Ceramic capacitors are not polarized so you can place it 'either way.'

For IC2 we're going to jumper the chip. Use a small piece of wire such as one cut from the resistors, bend it into a staple and thread it through the two outer pins of IC2. (See the image left). Make sure the wire doesnt touch the middle pad.

Solder the jumper wire and the capacitor.

Clip the extra wire off when done.

Next we're going to solder in the socket. A chip socket is used to protect the chip and also lets you replace it if it gets damaged somehow.

The socket has a little note in one end, make sure this matches with the little notch in the silkscreened PCB image. In the picture shown, the notch is on the left.

The socket has short legs so it's more likely to slip than a resistor. The easiest way to solder the socket is to hold it against the PCB with one finger (or tape) then solder in two points on opposite sides. Once you've got it tacked, solder in the remaining pins.

Next are the LEDs. LEDs, unlike resistors, are polarized and must be placed correctly or they won't light up. One leg of the LED is slightly longer than the other. This is the positive (+) leg. If you look at the image on the PCB, you'll note that one side has a + next to it, this tells you how to orient the LED. Make sure the long lead goes in the hole marked +.

Place the LED flat against the circuit board and bend the leads out.

Solder both leads of the LED.

Clip the excess leads.

Repeat for all 16 LEDs.
Place the ON/OFF/Reset button. The button is non-polar. The button will snap in and should sit flat against the PCB.
Solder in all four pins of the button. The leads are pretty short so you shouldn't have to clip them.

Next it's time to insert the microcontroller that does all the hard work of calculating the game and displaying LEDs. Chips come from the factory with their legs angled out, so press against a flat table top so that the legs are straight and parallel.

Then insert the chip into the socket. The chip must be placed correctly, make sure the notch at the end of the chip matches the notch in the silkscreen of the PCB. This should be the same as the notch in the socket. In case you placed the socket wrong, make sure the notch is at the same end that has the rectangular grid of 6 holes marked ICSP.

Next we'll attach the battery back. I'll show how to shorten the wires which makes for a slightly neater appearance. It's completely not necessary though.

To shorten the wires, clip them about 2" from the pack.

You'll have to tin the ends if you clipped the wires. Heat up the wire and dab some solder, which should wick into the wire and keep the strands from flying out.

Next, connect up the battery pack. The red wire of the pack goes to the hole marked with a +, the black wire goes to ground, marked with a -.

Solder in the two wires.
Time to test! Place two AA batteries (rechargables or alkalines) into the pack and watch the Game of Life start playing. If you press the ON/OFF button you should see a checkerboard pattern.
Time to wrap it up. Remove one side of paper from the sticky foam, place it in the center of the battery holder. Then remove the other side.

Stick the battery pack onto the back of the PCB, near the bottom. That way the weight of the batteries will act as a stand so that the kit can sit on your desk!

Now go read the user manual....

This guide was first published on Apr 12, 2013. It was last updated on Apr 12, 2013. This page (Solder it!) was last updated on Sep 16, 2019.