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New Guy Intro and Request for Help


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Hi, Folks,

New guy who's in need of some rather low level tech help.  I teach Industrial Automation and Process Control at a community college in the Midwest, US.  My electronics background is limited to identifying an offending component during trouble-shooting industrial machines and systems and having a general understanding of what those components do.  We don't do "board-level" repair because production down-time costs much more than any board to which any of the electronic components would be mounted.

My forte is more along the motor, machines, and motor control end, stressing design, trouble-shooting, repair, etc.  Ladder logic, PLCs, hard-wired electro-mechanical circuits, etc. is where my electrical experience lies.   I worked as a designer, project engineer, project manager and applications engineer for a couple OEMs for over twenty years before coming back to the community college that helped me get started in that field.  Only now, for the past eight years, I teach (and still learn).

What I need some help with seemed like a simple matter, but I fear that what I need might be too "old school" to even find any more.  In my basic electricity course, I introduce students to series and parallel circuits, RC circuits, etc., using the obvious components mounted by the student into a not so obvious "circuit board."  These "boards" are nothing more than a 4" x 5" x 1/4" non-conductive rubber-like mat with a matrix of holes into which one inserts the leads of the components.  I don't even know what they are called and every search comes up with PCBs, conductive "breadboards" and ESD mats to stand on.

These little mats work great for introducing older students with no electrical background to the basic concepts of series and parallel circuits, seeing Ohm's Law at work, and no one has to worry about inadvertently connecting to a conductive trace - they can plug leads into any hole and the circuit is what they see - nothing hidden underneath.  The ones I had were probably forty years old and still worked great - weren't costing the college or students anything and were virtually impossible to break.  Someone (not a student) "borrowed" them and never brought them back.

Does anyone know of a specific name for these I can use to search, a source for them or possible simple alternative?  The students graduate to breadboards in an electronics course for which this course is a prerequisite, so we have those, but I'm trying to keep it simple until my new, older students especially, begin to understand that this stuff really isn't beyond their grasp.

Sorry to make my first post a request for a favor, but I'm desperate to find these things so I can move forward this semester.

Thank you.


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