Best starter kit


I am an experienced programmer, but have limited experience with electronics. I am interested in Gadgeteer as something fun to do with my 16 year old son, who is also a pretty good programmer, and is very interested in engineering. So we have no specific projects in mind, we will just be looking for fun things that interest a teenage boy.

Of course the starter kits seem like a great way to go, but I am having trouble deciding. Also, it seems like the FEZ Cobra II boards are very good, I see them used a lot as I read through the forum, but there is no kit around that one. It seems tempting to put together my own starter kit based around the Cobra II. What would be the critical additional components if I was to do this. What USB and Power related items? What is the best Extender type of module to use with the FEZ. Does it work with the same Touch Screen that comes with the Spider kit?

Also, any advice on additional tools and such that I might need. In a couple of pictures I’ve noticed some sort of power or scope like device hooked up, presumably for power? Will I need any soldering tools? What is a good supply source for things like motors and such? Is it common to use something like an erector set to put together simple projects?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

I’d suggest you figure out a project to tackle then we can suggest how best to tackle that projects needs. But, in general, I’m a big fan of the Cerberus Tinker Kit for getting started.

I agree and it comes with a free eBook, found on the Gadgeteer support page.

There is also a book for FEZ Spider but it is not free. We have it available on our catalog.

No matter what you pick, you will not go wrong since all modules you will have from one kit will work on any other mainboards. I mean you can buy the tinker kit today and buy FEZ Spider alone later and still use the modules.

Welcome to the community.

Thank you, I will definitely consider the Cerberus Tinker Kit.

I would still be interested to know if there are any ‘Must Have’ components to go along with the Cobra II. It appears to have built in support for both power and USB, am I correct?

@ CodeGreen - I would get a display with Cobra, 3.5 or 4.3. the 7" would work too but I recommend Raptor for that.

Hmm, there is a lot of stuff you can buy to get started. Typically people are fascinated by mastering the technology itself and wants to become a maker, without having any specific project in mind. It sounds you want to have your options open.

Based on that, it is a party killer to have pictures involved in your projects, a camera and the T43 display combined with a motion sensor is always good fun. Combine that with a SD-card for storage or even a network connection (wired or wireless) then you have a pretty fun and challenging project to start with. This is beyond what the Cerberus can handle, and you will have to move up to Spider or Cobra.

You can also move in another direction and start coding games for the GameO, which is also fun and challenging, and involves more bit-fiddling than wires.

If you are a hardware-guy you should get yourself some breakout boards, and even a breadboard X1 for some experiments.

Have fun!

Personally, I shy away from adding displays to my projects. If I want a display, I’ll use a PC. To me the best part of microcontrollers is that no UI is required and you can achieve that interaction in much more interesting ways than by painting pixels on a screen. If you’ve never used a micro before, I’d encourage you to start without a display. Your eyes will open a bit further as you think about how to do things differently than you would with a PC app.

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I agree 100%. If you need this kind of power, you would likely be better served by a Raspberry Pi and a $20 screen:

@ godefroi - that’s a seriously cool find. Any way to drive it short of a VideoOut module?

Nope. I don’t own one, just saw it mentioned once.

I would avoid the Cerberus Tinker Kit. It is very inexpensive, but the processor is severely limited. For example, with the display, the system only has enough memory for 1 bitmap in memory the size of the display. I have been trying to rotate the display now for 2 days, with limited success. I tried allocating a bitmap and then rotating it and sending it to the display, but there is not enough memory to do this!

It also does not support any of the premium functions - such as Serial over USB etc.

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Hello everyone, thank you so much for all of the helpful suggestions!

There was a glitch in this forum and I was unable to post (it kept saying I needed experience), but that was fixed. Based on all of your advice, I have made my purchase.

At first I was leaning towards one of the Cobra II boards, but then I realized how limited the number of sockets was (especially that 3 or mostly dedicated to display, and if you used a touch screen you would be left with only 2).

I also decided that for now a screen display wasn’t needed, for the money I could get a lot of other cool gadgets instead. @ ianlee74, when you say to use the PC, is that typically done by setting up a web server on the device and interacting with it from a browser? I’m a .NET web developer so if I can find examples and such this doesn’t scare me.

So I was getting ready to go with the Spider, when I noticed the Raptor was in stock costing the same price. To me it look significantly superior, and being worried about it becoming out of stock (and unable to post to ask you guys), I pulled the trigger and got it with my own idea of a ‘starter kit’. Here is what I got:

1 Breakout TB10 Module BTB10-GM-485
1 Button Module BTNLD-GM-274
1 Ethernet J11D Module ETJ11-GM-284
1 FEZ Raptor Mainboard RAPTR-GM-499
1 Joystick Module JYSTK-GM-299
1 LED 7C Module LED7C-GM-422
1 LED Strip Module LEDST-GM-438
1 Load Module LOADA-GM-364
1 SD Card Module SDCRD-GM-271
1 USB Client DP Module USBDP-GM-280
1 USB Host Module USBHT-GM-270

Additionally, on my Christmas List I have:
sound module $35
camera $45
motor control $30
Motion sensor $15
mounting board $8
remote control $18
potentiometer $9
buttons module $13
character display $15

Also, I still have the outstanding question of the preferred vendors for stuff like motors and such to actually build projects that might do stuff.

Thanks! I am very excited to be part of what looks like a fantastic community!


I don’t think you can use JD11 Ethernet with the Raptor :(, you should get ENC28 instead

Crap. I guess I will have to return it. Thanks for the heads up, this is being purchased as a Christmas present, so I likely would not have realized my mistake until after it was too late to return it.


@ CodeGreen - It looks like someone is going to have a great Christmas! I’m sorry if I caused some confusion with my mention of using a PC. I was talking about the difference between needs and developing a PC app vs. developing a microcontroller app. What you suggested by using a webserver is certainly a good option, though, if you need to be able to view data remotely.

So, what are you going to build? I’d recommend answering that question before you buy much more.