The BrainPad - Phase 2

We introduced the Brain Pad last week as an educational teaching tool that is made with a goal in mind, use the same board from elementary to college levels, only change the teaching material. While it has been a great success from the start, we were even more surprised since the announcement with how much interest there is in bringing programming to the next generation. We had a Skype call with few community members, showed the Brain Pad at a local .NET Group at the Microsoft offices and received some more feedback from few educators.

The project is moving forward and we are onto phase 2 now :clap:

The boards have been tweaked slightly for clarity but we also have changed the expansion headers to be compatible with the click boards. This allows for using the headers in 2 ways. First, they can still be wired to a breadboard to prototype circuits, a good option for advanced users (high school and college level). The second use is for extending the boards with one of the click boards. This can be a sensor, like a gas sensor, or can be a new bus like a CAN bus. There is also a Wiznet Ethernet option! For a quick test, we grabbed one of the FEZ Connect shields (a discontinued Ethernet shield with Wizent W5100) and wired it to the Brain Pad. Just like magic, there was Ethernet running on the Brain Pad’s tiny micro. Next would be to test the same with the updated Brain Pad with the Wiznet Ethernet click board.

One of our favorite click modules is the FTDI serial one. This is especially important to open a serial port channel to the PC. This has multiple uses. It can be used to deploy and debug programs using the serial port, freeing the native USB port for the user. This USB port can be used to simulate a mouse for example. The serial channel can also be used to transfer information to the PC, to teach device-to-PC communication or to visualize the sensor data on the PC. Finally, one of the very important uses is to allow absolute beginners (Elementary level) to control the Brain Pad using Scratch building blocks. In case you didn’t hear, @ mcalsyn has been very generous in taking on this task and we already have Scratch working with the Brain Pad.

So in summary:

[ol]Brain Pad has been updated with a few minor improvements and we changed the pinout on the expansion header to match the Click board pinout.
A batch of these boards are being manufactured, ETA is 3 weeks.
As agreed with a few contributors, the boards will be white with black text.
Scratch is already working with the Brain Pad, thanks to @ mcalsyn.
Ethernet expansion is tested to work on the prototype.
Serial debugging is tested and to be one of the available options.
Several Click boards are in the process of being tested with the BrainPad[/ol]


Do you mean it will look like this one?

@ iamin - correct

Looks good, looking forward to helping out with this!

Maybe more like this one ?

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Wiznet makes a return ! Is that something that will make it’s mark in the wider firmware ecosystem too ?

@ Brett - :smiley: the internet of things

I read that as “Gus has plans but is not telling”. So Yes is the real answer. Can we have it upgraded to support Wiznet 5200’s as well please ;D . Edit: please make that Wiz5500 and/or Wiz5300 and/or Wiz5200’s ;D .

I am guessing you did not hear there is W5500?

Not until after I posted originally and went looking on their website :slight_smile: .

You cheated and edited your post lol

Why did you choose to put a MikroBUS socket and not a Gadgeteer socket ?

@ Bec a Fuel - because the female header is a requirement from the start. We only changed the pinout.

This is all detailed in the original post

I have just finished level 1 and level 2 crash courses and can’t wait to share with you guys for feedback and improvements! I want to clean them up first and I found many needed improvements needed fro the brain pad code that I am taking care of as well. These are still at the absolute basic level, written for a 12 year old. Nothing for you to benefit from but your kids will love it :slight_smile:

By having everything on-board clearly labeled and not needing to wire a thing, the hardware becomes very straight forward. Explaining the software is very easy with a clearly marked hardware.

… I am just too excited about this that I can’t stop! Time to go outside an enjoy the sun :wall:

does this mean the gadgeteer socket is being phased out:?

@ mtylerjr - where did you see that? But to answer you, absolutely not! While gadgeteer is the best thing ever, it is not for everythig!

There are multiple new gadgeteer products to be announced soon.

And Insiders have received no pre-release info, teasers etc.? :snooty:

Sorry, have been too busy. I am even working on father’s day :slight_smile:

Oh, okay. Just the choice to avoid the gadgeteer socket on the brainpad in favor of the mikrobus socket. I assumed that was a statement by GHI that the gadgeteer socket was being phased out and that we should all expect the gadgeteer socket modules and board in the catalog to disappear soon as they were phased out in favor of mikrobus

@ mtylerjr - please allow me to clarify a third time :slight_smile: the brain pad needed female headers and nothing else but then we thought it will be nice to keep the pinot to some sort of standard.

In my personal opinion, gadgeteer is much better approach than anything else.

If still not clear, I will happily explain it again :slight_smile: