A terrific resource for makers, inventors, and backyard engineers is Sparkfun Electronics. Frankly, they're another one of those companies that "gets it."
More than just selling widgets, Sparkfun is a valuable resource for us builders of glorious gadgets.
So how cool is it that they want to give you $100 worth of free stuff? There are rules, sure, and you need to cover shipping but the spirit is strong and generous.
I won't repeat their information here. Go check it out, get some 555's, solar cells, and stepper motors on January 7th between 9 & 11 MST.