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Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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 It does not need to be super-exact on hardware, just Boolean Watch at
the simplest.
 The main point here, was to steer the language choice, so it does NOT
running code on a PC-IDE, and to allow a PC environment, to learn the
simplest things like Looping.

I did watch the TI demo, and they have a simple Source-code-Avail Live
PC Screen pathway, which looks very nice.- just running a Temperature
in a largish font, but clearly very easy to expand. - all the pathway
stuff is there
and working.

 Being able to customize that PC end should appeal to many.
I'll dig some more.

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Here, it really means BASIC needs to generate Debug object files,
is why I flipped my choice to the BCX, as it leverages all the tested
with (hopefully) little effort.

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I was meaning able to install everything onto a Flashdrive and run
from the
flash drive.  Easy to take it home then :)


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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I think you have conflicting requirements, something easy to use is
going to require big knobs, cables, big connectors and hopefully
solderless 3D%3D3D% big money. A small flat pcb board with nothing but
holes in it (TI 4.30 etc) is too intimidating for your audience.

Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 15:56:55 -0700 (PDT), steve

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The reality will be in the details.  And where all this winds
up, I don't know right now.

These kits, were you able to actually open them and look
inside, come with large and small switches, knobs, wheels,
gears and gear boxes, dc motors, 40kHz emitters and
receivers, LEDs, and a host of other useful items.  I've
already got enough stuff to keep the costs of a successful
project low and I don't need ANY MORE parts, at all, to do
that.  So I know the actual cost here.

It may cost more, once I run out of this stuff.  But with
hundreds of boxes like this, that may take a bit of time and
by then I will know more and can work on the exact supplies I
will need.

On the last point, the intimidation factor might be there
_before_ they get into the classroom.  I can't control their
minds before that point in time.  So that is why I mentioned
that I need to figure out how to "sizzle" the class.  But
once they are there, it is MY JOB to take away any feelings
of intimidation.  That's why I get paid the big bucks ($0) to
do this.  If I haven't done my job well, then your point is
valid.  But if I succeed as I hope I may, then I'm more
worried about specific details I need to smooth over and
resolve than about this.

But I am very glad for your contributing thoughts, just the
same.  I need to hear objections and consider them well.


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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Have you checked out some of the MSP430 dev kits?  They've got this new
that they're claiming is $4.30/ea.  Then there's their $20 eZ430 kits.
The $20 gets you an emulator with a detachable target board, then you
can get more target boards at $10/3pc.

Rob Gaddi, Highland Technology
Email address is currently out of order

Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
On Mon, 28 Jun 2010 17:32:24 -0700, Rob Gaddi

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Yes, if you look over my posts in this thread you will see
that I've already mentioned the one for $4.30 and I may have
also mentioned the other one as well.  In any case, I've
posted up some tutorials that use the device on the Yahoo
MSP430 group, as well.  So yes, I'm well aware of them (and
the extra target 2012 boards, too, as I've bought many, many
dozens of those, as well.)


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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We've taught some high school students before, most of it was
like a cooking show on TV, you show them some basics, then
pull out from underneath a table the completed system they could
tinker with. A microprocessor controlled toy car was a big hit, we
all the routines written (turn left, turn right, forward, backward
they could call them as they wanted, it was just a bunch of jumps to
subroutines. The ones that were really interested
wrote their own code, others couldn't care less and just wanted to use
the canned routines,everyone was happy.

Otherwise kids are used to cell phones, they won't be impressed
by blinking LEDs projects.

Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
On Tue, 29 Jun 2010 07:54:12 -0700 (PDT), steve

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I'm not expecting a lot.  In fact, I consider it a blistering
success if just one high school student in three years of
time "gets it" and then applies themselves significantly

I've been in high school as a volunteer trying to develop
mathematics and physics, as those are my real loves in life,
and struggled here a lot.  Hodographs were a success in one
case I remember.  And everything else was worth it just to
reach this one individual.

I have already limited my expectations here.  But I don't
really care.  If I can reach one, I'm good.  Two and I will
probably just float around the world in a daze of goodness.
More and I will start getting the story into newspapers!

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Cripes, haven't I heard that one?  One kid I talked with
recently, when I asked him what kind of project might
motivate him just a little, said he'd like to program his
Nintendo DS for a new game.  The darned thing has shared
memory, an ARM7, and ARM9, and a few somewhat complex
peripherals to manage.  I knew instantly that no kid would be
able to take such a giant step, especially as their first.

Sights way, way too high.  Must take baby steps, first.  My
job is to try and make those first steps enough fun, and no
more, to maybe get one or two to take a second step next.


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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You know, for a second step, a two player pong game made with a couple grids of
8x8 leds (and keep the score in binary LEDs) wouldn't be much of a step beyond
a blinking LED and it would be a seriously cool piece of eye candy for some
person to say they created and understand it. I'm a hobbiest that occasionally
makes odd crap, and even something like this--completely within my ability
years ago, would make me pleased to have created it even if I did it today.

Moving the game paddle back and forth is virtually the same code as the Knight
Rider LED light show that is often the second project an initiate into
micrcontrollers does anyway as a challenge to the knowledge of what they

Anything like switch debouncing could just be a stock schematic they assemble
without understanding and/or a code routine they can call. They only have to
know what the operating parameters are of any black box pieces, not the
internals.  Isn't that the hallmark of electronics design anyway?


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
On Tue, 29 Jun 2010 18:58:55 +0000 (UTC), Peter Keller

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I _want_ ideas like this.  I've done a LOT of work with 8x8
LED grids, already.  So been there, done that, and can
support a student well here.  I'll add this to a list of
ideas for students who seem like they might succeed well
enough to give a shot at it.

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I've been wrestling these things through my mind and I'm
quite sure that most will not be ready, right away anyway, to
deal with debouncing -- whether I/O pin-change interrupt
based or timer polling based -- and any kind of state machine
involved there.  So yes, much needs to be kept 'under the
hood' for a while.  Yet they need to have the freedom to
choose their own project, too.

I do hope that some will eventually want to know how these
things may work, underneath.  I will let their own interests
and questions guide me; I will give them as much as they can
handle AND NO MORE.  The main thing here is that as soon as
they seem to have had enough from me I shut up right away and
stop.  The key is to listen and take advantage of a momentary
interest of theirs and drive through it with some information
but only so long as I have their interest.  I need to stop as
soon as they feel at their own limits of processing and
interest and not make it painful to them in any way.  They
open a door, I start walking through, and I stop just as
suddenly when they let me know they are done.  Then I do the
same, the next time.  And so on.  They will be my guide as to
what they can accept and absorb.

I will not ram anything down their unwilling throats.  That
is a guaranteed recipe for making people hate education and
learning.  And is the antithesis of what I'm about.

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I'm not sure it's important to even answer that question
right now.  I'm mostly focused on people who have never done
electronics or programming, either one, and who aren't even
at all sure of their own desires or wants but who are willing
to give it a random shot in the dark just to see if they want
to do a little more sometime.  It just won't 'click' for some
and they won't come back for more.  But even then, I want
them to take home something that they will show others and
have some positive things to say.

This is supposed to be fun and improvisational.

And if someone decides they'd like to push a little more or
reach for something just a little harder, I'd like to find a
way to accommodate that, too.  And be there to help make it a
mix of fun and learning with a successful end-point of some
kind they can take back with them.


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers

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I'm by no means an instructor of any kind, but I would choose to just explain
scary looking black boxes away like "the motors inside of vacuum cleaners need
quite a lot of physics to describe and understand how they work, however, you
don't need to know that!  You only need to know the interface to the vacuum
cleaner: the plug which goes into the wall, the switch which turns it on, the
bag which you have to check to see if it is full and replace, and the moving
brush into which fingers are not to be put!"

Gaining a method to systematically discover and learn the interface to
something, be it a PIC, a word processor, a vacuum cleaner, or an escalator, is
arguably more important that understanding how it works.  As long as the
various pieces have identifyable "slots and tabs" that fit together reasonably
well, who cares what the pieces do on the inside.

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I'll completely defer to your expertise in teaching a crowd like this. I have
no understanding of how to do that.

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The thing which ultimately drew me as a hobbiest to electronics and digital
design, was the fact I could make something which existed in and manipulated
the real world. I discovered this was MUCH more viscerally satisfying than
carefully altering the orientations of magnetic fields on hard drive platters
in unknown locations, which is what I do for a day job--I'm a hacker. :)

Good luck with your project!


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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I've downloaded the MSP430 Temperature GUI demo

It's coded in Java+DLL, uses a Serial emulation path (2400bd?), the
'engine room' is pasted below.

So, you could easily expand that to allow 8x8 LED emulation, on the PC
for class-viewable demos, and allow testing without needing the LEDs

- but they will need Java installed..


*paste TI java snippet*
public void draw()
  if(portChosen 3D%3D true){
    dataRead3D% myPort.read();
    if(dataRead !3D% -1){
      //clear previous temperature reading from screen

      //Update console
      print("Temp: ");

      //Update on screen GUI
      text("Current Temperature: ", 420, 60);
      text(dataRead, 835, 60);
      text("\u00b0", 900, 60);

Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers

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that is the crux of the problem, when I learned about micros in the
blinking a light in a sequence was impressive, so it was fun to show
off stuff
like that, to blink an LED with a micro requires a lot of things to
(code, complier, linker,downloader,cables, compatible pc, power
supply, etc) but the
results today are unimpressively crude

maybe nowadays the equivalent is gene splicing, you know make
a grasshopper with 3 legs in your basement

hey what you doing is great... good luck!

Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
snipped-for-privacy@infinitefactors.org says...
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I have only been half following this thread and my first
question is what exact age range are you talking about?

Other half teaches basics of control, looping and animation to
13-16 year olds, using Scratch (scratch.mit.edu) quite
effectively. Even done some burglar alarm control simulations.

She can give them tasks and they can mainly quickly do it, some
go further. Some have even created little games on their own.

There is some external hardware that can be either purchased
or made.

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With Scratch they can do their own on screen animations, and as
it is free they can install it at home as well.
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Get them to do the basics of a game in Scratch first then
see if they think they can do a DS game.

The 17-18 year olds at the other half's school in computing
course have to do a project that involves computational tasks
often as a web front end to PHP/MySQL, some of the children have
to be told that a project like Project Management scheduling
or online booking systems requiring multi-user logins and calendering
are too complicated for one person in the time. Very few across the
country (UK) even attempt the phone app or game app for the actual
device. Also they could be doing upto three other subjects with

Bearing in mind they are doing this in the second year, by

   Summer break find a project, which involves finding a
   'customer', documenting an interview and coming up with
   documented interview and requirements spec

   Autumn term is documenting design spec, system analysis
   and starting and database or similar data descriptions

   Spring term - doing design, testing, documenting testing
   and design.

   Start of Summer term (end of year) finalising project
   testing and documents, doing interview with 'customer'
   for feedback and adding next stages plan to project.

All the time they are still doing the course and learning some
of the stuff they need to do. Many projects are 'completed'
and handed in 'on the wire'.

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Teenagers especially think they are indestructible and can
do ANYTHING without training, they always have and always will.

If they have not seen any programming before I strongly recommend
Scratch as an introduction, if nothing else to find out their abilities.

Paul Carpenter          | snipped-for-privacy@pcserviceselectronics.co.uk
<http://www.pcserviceselectronics.co.uk/ PC Services
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Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
On Wed, 30 Jun 2010 10:37:54 +0100, Paul Carpenter

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I believe the first post (and perhaps a few others) mentioned
ages.  It may be held at high school as an after-school hour
long session once a week.  Those folks might be as young as
15 or so.  It may also at other times be held at a senior
residence center and those folks might be as old as 75 or so.
And I may also hold them as community education classes via a
local community college (not for credit, as that adds too
much cost, since colleges are in the business of selling
credit hours and aren't likely to cave in there.)  Those
folks may be in between the other two ages.

Which pretty much means anyone, at all, except fetuses and
kids too young to walk, yet.

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I just went to the web page.  I have spent exactly 60 seconds
looking and stopped.  I wasn't able, in that time, to find
programming source code examples and/or to see how this might
operate on a tiny embedded micro to control a small movable
toy without a PC present.  If you have some good pointers to
look at there, or some thoughts about it, I'd enjoy that.

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<snip of points not addressed to me>

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Just as in a beginning class on pottery, there is very little
time available to explore capabilities by teaching something
_else_, first.  I will have very little time, in some cases.
In a summer class done as a community education extension at
a community college I may have 4 weeks and probably no more
than 2 hours per week.  As in pottery, the idea is to provide
a variety of easy to apply tools and get them to start
playing right away.  I want them to actually complete
something before the end that is fun and worth taking home.
If I tried to get them through doing a Scratch project (I'm
guessing here, of course), the class might be over before
they ever begin.

I think I need to focus directly and squarely on the primary
goal.  I want to reach folks who may never do much more, but
wouldn't mind taking a crack at it and maybe taking a project
or two home with them and ... never again come back.

If I were trying to find out their programming abilities, for
example, I might start them out with this:

  http://pleasingfungus.com /

But most folks would run from that, screaming insanely all
the way home.  And I want to reach people, not send them away
to come back with pitch forks to drive me out of town!


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
snipped-for-privacy@infinitefactors.org says...
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Scratch is good at getting quickly people used to looking
at concepts and seeing results. Too often I have seen people
try to programme something without understanding concepts of a
simple loop or variables. Which you will need even in a functional
language, except Turtle.

This is generally easier than boring paper exercises. In minutes
they can start getting simple things as constructs fairly language
neutral with results they can see.

Very few people between 15 and 75 have seen or even remember
simple programming constructs and then flounderwhen doing more things.

If nothing else those interested in video games can see waht is involved.

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When I last looked yes.



In particular http://www.picocricket.com/picoboard.html

A USB sensor board with sound and light sensors, slider input
aligator clips for meauring resitance, and USB driven.

Then of course it can interface to the Lego WeDO


Which includes

   Distance sensor
   tilt sensor.

Then possibly transfer totally to Lego Wedo build a motorised unit.

Then again your own motorised unit.

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It gives them the ability to grasp basic programming concepts QUICKLY
without linkers, debuggers, programmers, knowing language A over B or C
or D. They can play with it at home for free.

By adding sensors/motors get to start doing simple things, that build up.

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Considering the other half gets 13-14 year olds in 40 minute lessons
going from nothing to some simple animation/game/programming construct
going that gets their attention as it plays sounds and moves graphics.
That sort of thing especially for the younger ones grabs their attention.

They graphically build loops and conditionals, which say things like
'while' drop in the condition and event or variable or constant. If
statements and others similarly.

It is Java code so easy to run on almost anything. The project can then
sit on a web page and be run from a browser!

There are loads of resources for taking it further at home. even if they
don't come back

That could the first 30-60 minutes then take an example you have into
a micro for a toy, even if it is a simple line follower or not hitting
walls 'bot', then take it further whilst using the concept and
demonstration you started with.

You could use a USB sensor board to drive the graphic on YOUR system to
demonstrate, (that keeps the gamers interested), this you can then use
as the basis of how you then do your embedded micro.

Use it to drive motors and read sensors.

Even if that is your demonstrator, then show them the toy or whatever is
to be controlled by the embedded micro.

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There are loads of resources for taking further at home. even if they
don't come back

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That is awful
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Drop me a line and see some simple ones that have been made
from a URL I cannot give out here for various reasons.

I should be able to get from other half her step by step movies
on how to do these things in Scratch.

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Paul Carpenter          | snipped-for-privacy@pcserviceselectronics.co.uk
<http://www.pcserviceselectronics.co.uk/ PC Services
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Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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Scratch mentioned some slave IO choices, but nothing standalone,
and IO does not seem to be their 'focus'.

Looks similar to Lego, without the expensive HW lock-in.

Could have a place for early lessons on conditional decisions, and
timing ?

But I think it's hard to go past the TI system, and some
dual-language handling (as in Basic to C to allow apparent Source-Step-

example: with some minor preprocessor legwork, this compiles in a C
compiler, and illustrates what can be done to lower 'culture shock' in
a dual language
debug pathway.

char nibble(void)
  if (( ch3D%getchar() )>'9') Then
    return ch-55;
    return ch-48;


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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Hello !

Since you are considering using Forth, I would suggest
FlashForth for PIC18F and dsPIC30F.
It is a interactive Forth system which compiles directly to Flash

It is very hands on. You can define your own commands
to try out what happens with whatever you have hanging of those PIC

All the software tools are included on the PIC (native compiler,
assembler, interpreter).
You just need an (old)  PC with a serial terminal
and a text editor to create your own programs.

Cheers Mikael

Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers

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Please do not force children to understand RPN at such a young age.

They will have problems with regular math forever after that.

The Logos people have it fairly right, look at the software they have
for children.

The hardware is almost insignificant, get the software right and you
will keep their interest.

Software that will get them running and some simple projects.

good luck


Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
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Bloody nonsense. RPN is more natural than formula's.
This is how I started addition in first grade:

--  +

Then in grade 3 or so the children have to learn complicated rules
like "meneer van dalen wacht op antwoord" to understand how
5+6*3 is calculated.


It is very natural to do
5       \ the computer has remembered a number for you
6       \ the computer has remembered another number for you
[ 6 5 ]  OK \ See?
+       \ The computer has added the last two numbers it remembered
. 11 OK  \

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This is in view of the foregoing arguably false.
This is a totally unfounded claim and I dare you to back that up
with some data.

It only reflects your inability to cope with RPN after years
of seeing formula's like (a+b*c). You can't invert the argument
and claim that children who retain their ability to understand
RPN would have problems.

Look at recipes.

"Mix the eggs and the butter." is for the more advanced.

Break three eggs in a bowl.
Add 3 spoons of butter.
Mix until it is homogeneous.

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Forth is tried and proven effective in robot projects, e.g.
Lego Mindstorm.

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Groetjes Albert

Economic growth -- being exponential -- ultimately falters.
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Re: a hobby class on microcontrollers
On Tue, 29 Jun 2010 08:24:19 -0700 (PDT), Micke

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Thanks, Mikael.  I am only cracking open the door on this
one.  I've used Forth a very long time ago, never had a
single client ever ask me if I knew Forth let alone ask me to
work a project in it, but I want to keep a good choice in my
back pocket here just in case it happens to fit some student
project I encounter.  I certainly don't want to miss any
opportunity.  So thanks for the suggestion and I will take a
look at it and see what I think about it!

My expectation, though, is that it won't come up and I won't
use it... except maybe in one unlikely case or two.  But it
is worth having a good option here just in case.


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