I was at a local Radio Shack store today and came across a sweet little deal on a BASIC Stamp experimenters kit. Called BASIC Stamp Homework, this little gem contains the BASIC Stamp 2, serial to USB, a prototype board and several bags full of parts, including photocell, resistors, old school seven segment LED, servo and more.
The BASIC Stamp microcontroller, unlike other similar controllers, uses a flavor of Tiny Basic instead of something like C. This makes it a good candidate for teaching both programming and electronics to kids and adults. The included book is easy to understand but does not talk down to those who may be experienced and just want experiment with microcontrollers.
In the little bit of time I’ve played with the kit, I was able to program the controller to interpret the amount of ambient light and flash each outer segment of the seven segment display at a rate that corresponded with the amount of light the photocell received as well as make the display count to ‘F’ in hex. Simple, but oddly satisfying.
When my XGS PIC Basic project is complete, I’m definitely coming back to the BASIC Stamp. I have some ideas that this will be perfect for trying out.
The kit retailed for $99, but was being clearanced by Radio Shack for $29.95. You may or may not find at your local Shack. (Radio Shack, by the way, has a really nice line of do it yourself little kits and a full line of Arduino, Propeller and BASIC Stamp kits, sheilds and parts.)