PICAXEd "Electronic Brain Box"!

manuka

Senior Member
I rustled this up ~early 2007 & had then put aside, but a local NZ school has just fired on the idea. Predictably they now want a set ASAP & don't have a technician...

Us old hands maybe forget how hard intro. electronics can be for clunky handed kids, with even breadboards initially beyond most. And don't get me started on the MONTHS it takes to become a competent hand solderer... Naturally harassed teachers,some of whom have been "persuaded" to take on electronics (instead of detention duties &/or bus queues etc!),may also find fiddly electronics resources a classroom management nightmare. "OK-who put the 555 pin side up on Jimmy's chair for him to sit on" etc. Even at tertiary level perfectly good & "precious" components are often just discarded by students- I well recall ~2001 rescuing near invisible white LEDs (then ~US$5 each) from under lab. benches & rubbish bins...

Anyway -these "80 in 1" Electronic Brain Box kits sell for as low as US$15,with the large & colourful parts an educators (& bored students) dream. No tools or specialised facilities are needed, as each part is designed for easy and quick assembly (& DISASSEMBLY!),with the colourful components connecting together with reliable press-studs. The manual is particularly lucid as well.

However there's really only an hour of flashing lights, whirling propellers & "machine gun/police sirens" before maxing out the smallest kit's possibilities. Voila - hence the PICAXEd version, still allowing electrotech. basics but now enhanced for intro. microcontrollers! Only PINs 1,2 & 4 are readily available, but PIN 3 is limited anyway. Of course SERTXD can still allow editing PC "F8" data viewing via the normal Rev.Ed programming cable.

I may write this up as an Instructable/SiChip article,detailing the fiddly COB (Chip On Board) => 08M hack, but can folks in UK/Oz etc first please let me know the availability & prices of these EBB kits locally. Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) still handle them here in NZ (as kit K 9150), although DSE Oz. doesn't seem to. I believe the CSIRO shop in NSW stocks a larger version however => http://www.csiroshop.com/search?text=brain+box . TIA - Stan
 

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moxhamj

New Member
What an absolutely brilliant concept. I wish I'd had one of these when I was a kid. It bridges the divide between 'toy' electronic kits and serious electronics.

That red picaxe box could be potted if you want it robust, though I'm not sure how the potting mix would go with the socket.

At the very least, one could imagine a similar little box with a L293 in it.

The screw is hopefully not the final design! Are there dummy AA batteries available (I'm sure I saw them once, for use in CB radios where you put in 10 nicads, or 8 alkalines and two dummy batteries).

Definitely worth an instructable. Instructables work well with lots of bright shiny pictures and not too many words, and this would fit the bill perfectly. This one http://www.instructables.com/id/Control-real-world-devices-with-your-PC/ is up to 41,000 views but it was never the perfect design. Fiddly. Not mechanically robust. Not suitable for kids really.

Your kit is perfect though - pls write it up!
 

papaof2

Senior Member
Looks like I've found next year's birthday gift for my then-to-be 8 years old granddaughter. She's always had an "engineer's point of view" - looking for the how and why of things. I can't imagine where she got it - both parents have engineering degrees from Georgia Tech ;-)

John
 
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manuka

Senior Member
Thanks- that eye catching screw of course needs changing! I've made dummy cells before with a (trimmed) 100mm nail pushed inside a thin bamboo off cut-the end result appeals to my whole earth instincts!
 
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drjeseuss

Member
can folks in UK/Oz etc first please let me know the availability & prices of these EBB kits locally.
Here's what we have in the US.

From Frys :
http://shop2.frys.com/product/4440776?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG
Elenco SC-100 Snap Circuits, Jr $24.99

http://shop2.frys.com/product/4440766?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG
Elenco Pro 500 Snap Circuit Kit $69.99

From Radio Shack:
http://www.radioshack.com
Electronics 202 Snap-Kit Model: 28-287 Catalog #: 28-287 $60.49

The Radio Shack item is near identical to Fry's SnapCircuit Jr, but at a MUCH higher price tag. As far as the Picaxe module, very smart addition!
 

hippy

Senior Member
I quite like "the screw", a good example of engineering done with the resources at hand.

I won't mention my cutting a six inch nail down to an inch and a quarter, about the same length as a mains fuse.
 

tiny

New Member
I have used the brain boxes with primary kids (year 2/3) this year after seeing the idea on stans website. We 'played' with them in the original condition and I then converted a number over to include the picaxe. Some more work is needed to be done, this to create the extra resistor tiles needed for push puttons and ldrs but the idea works a treat. the flow chart is great for this age.

Stan you have some great ideas - where can I buy a bottle?

I hope to gradually over the next few years add some higher order electroinics (black boxed or red or blue as the case maybe) but easy to connect and program.

Go my tech teacher onto looking into building the appropriate sized units that clip onto the base bored.

NZ Dick smith was really easy to order from but I have brought a couple units from travelling book sellers.

thanks
tiny
 

westaust55

Moderator
That is a fuse! Ok, a 1000A one, but still a fuse LOL.
And I thought it was 500 Amps slow-blow :rolleyes:




20 years ago I had a diagram entitled
" The Fool's Guide to Fuse Replacement".
It went along these lines:

Al-foil around a 3AG glass fuse = 27 Amps
2 inch nail = 60 Amps
4 inch nail = 125 Amps
½ inch bolt = 1250 Amp slow-blow
 
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westaust55

Moderator
I rustled this up ~early 2007 & had then put aside, but a local NZ school has just fired on the idea. Predictably they now want a set ASAP & don't have a technician...


Anyway -these "80 in 1" Electronic Brain Box kits sell for as low as US$15,with the large & colourful parts an educators (& bored students) dream. No tools or specialised facilities are needed, as each part is designed for easy and quick assembly (& DISASSEMBLY!),with the colourful components connecting together with reliable press-studs. The manual is particularly lucid as well.

can folks in UK/Oz etc first please let me know the availability & prices of these EBB kits locally. Dick Smith Electronics (DSE) still handle them here in NZ (as kit K 9150), although DSE Oz. doesn't seem to. I believe the CSIRO shop in NSW stocks a larger version however => http://www.csiroshop.com/search?text=brain+box . TIA - Stan

Dick Smith and Tandy (who used to sell predominantly radio Shack gear) and really one and the same these days in Oz. They still stock the conventional 30/130/300-in-1 electronics kits as K00028 ($30), K0029 ($70) and K0030 ($130) respectively. Recall buying one of those 250-in-1 kits for my children around 18 years ago.

The Brainbox 188 Electronics Set is available at IQ Toys for $40
(See http://www.iqtoys.com.au) then select toys / science and scroll part way down list


Science Teachers Association of WA list the
Brain Box 518 (Electronic Kit) at Price: $65.00
(see http://www.stawa.net/index.php/main/teachers/publications/view/308/)

Seems to be a few companies selling EBB's thru E-baya nd simialr auction sites. Typiclly only a couple at a time but whether they are ongoign sales or one -offs is not known.
 
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manuka

Senior Member
Here's a picture of the gutted Electronic Brain Box sound module interior, c/w a neat conversion wiring layout.

FWIW my set of 30 of these kits, much used for my NZ schools "mad scientist" work, has lasted ~18 months, & at times they've endured some extremely mindless treatment from (perhaps) the several thousand kids that've used them. Of these 30 kits, 6 sound modules have "died" (largely prompting the PICAXE conversion as a result), as have a similar number of the 6 V motors. Sadly the latter arose from budding rocket scientists trying to run them off as much as 24 V while my back was turned. Not a bad attrition rate for the investment however, & almost NONE OF THE PARTS HAVE BEEN LOST. The design of the kits in fact cultivates compulsive tidying up-complete sets have been reboxed in as little as 3 minutes! Kids (as young as 5 ) have absolutely LOVED them, & the confidence boosting they get from circuits THAT WORK is immense.

Anyway -the conversion layout is not sacred-it just happened to make use of some handy Vero offcuts! NB. Of course ensure the Vero tracks are 'broken" midway with a drill bit etc (as shown in the pix). The existing solder tags are rather too close to the plastic case, so don't solder with your best iron or it'll probably get burnt debris on it.

Although almost bullet proof, the PICAXE-08M may itself become eventually obsolete, so it's best to use a socket rather than solder it in . A neat clear plastic cover can show off the conversion to interested students, & also stop poking & fiddling from the rest! I'm open to suggestions about sensors custom mounted on either hacked snap strips, or flying leads. The latter of course would allow simple security setups, thermistor temperature probes, LDR day night switches, & maybe even IR sending etc. Further ideas welcomed- as Dr_A effectively says- "The approach helps with toy-tool bridging"
Enjoy- Stan
 

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moxhamj

New Member
Very neat. You could go commercial on that one! Or at the very least, a silicon chip article. Hardly even warrants a PCB the circuit is so simple.
 

manuka

Senior Member
Following gentle tweaking, Tom & Bob LYNAS's 2003 era REACTION TESTER program now works a treat on the "snapped" PICAXE -herewith. Local Playstation mad 10yo's. said "Pretty cool" - you can't ask for better praise than that!

Code:
'PICAXE-08M REACTION TESTER-Tom & Bob LYNAS 2003 ("Snap connector" version-Stan.SWAN 10/08)
'-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
' A response skill game from the UK,suiting pre teens. WARNING- can become compulsive! 
'
'"08M" CONNECTION DETAILS (10k pull-up from switch input to +V stops floating 0/1 values)
'    TOP VIEW
'               3-5V +V Supply         -[1*U 8]-          Supply 0V
'                Serial ProgIn         -[2   7]- (Ch.0)   Serial ProgOut- NC
' Key switch to 0V & 10k to +V   Ch.4  -[3   6]-  Ch.1    LED 
'                           NC  (Ch.3) -[4   5]-  Ch.2    Piezo sounder 
'
' GAME RULES:
' -----------
' At the start a short tune will play,& pseudo random pause is then generated. Following a
' "beep beep" alert you must press the key as soon as you can when the LED glows.If you pass
' with quick reflexes,a short jolly tune will play,but if you fail you'll get a 'raspberry'
' instead. If you try to anticipate the LED & press the key too soon you'll fail as well.
' You get 10 attempts to beat the timer, then a short tune will play & your score will be 
' heard as 'beeps'.To restart the game you must press the key again. At the game end the LED
' remains unlit to conserve batterylife. Alter the b0 value (initially 120) for brisker times.

Start:
	sound 2,(116,10,118,10,119,10,120,50)	' GAME START tune
	wait 2
	let b3 = 0				' clear (previous) score
	for b2 = 1 to 10			' maximum of 10 tries
	low 1					' switch LED off	
 	sound 2,(120,10,0,10,120,30)		' ARE YOU READY ??
	wait 2					' 2 sec pre-delay
	random b1				' make further pseudo random delay  
	pause b1				'        ''          ''
	pause b1				'        ''          ''
	let b0 = 0				' clear the timer count
	high 1					' switch  LED on (GO !!)
 	if pin4 = 0 then Fail			' holding the key is cheating !!
Timer:
	if pin4 = 0 then Pass			' reacted well !!
	let b0 = b0 + 1				' increment timer count
	if b0 < 120 then Timer			' didn't react within 120 loop cycles
Fail:
	sound 2,(40,10,0,20,2,40)		' FAILED "raspberry" sound !
	goto Next_try
Pass:
	sound 2,(120,10,118,10,122,10,120,20)	' PASSED sound
	let b3 = b3 + 1				' increment score
Next_try:
	wait 1					' delay before next try
	next b2					' do next try
Scoring:					
	wait 1					
	sound 2,(120,10,119,10,118,10,116,50)	' SCORE tune
	for b4 = 1 to b3			' Loop for score beeps
	pause 500				' make gap between beeps
	sound 2,(116,b3)			' longer beeps for higher scores
	next b4					' another beep (number heard = score)?
	low 1					' switch LED off
Restart:
	if pin4 = 1 then Restart		' wait for key press to restart game
	goto Start				' start again
 
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manuka

Senior Member
And even as we speak, US firm ELENCO inform that their upmarket PICAXE based "Snap Micro I" kit is shaping up for December release. Their approach looks particularly suitable for well heeled senior secondary & tertiary markets where an assessment culture of "following the book" may exist. Stan.
 

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westaust55

Moderator
I note the kit has a basic 8 ohm speaker.
In terms of having the ability to drive directly from a PICAXE output, you would think they would use a Piezo Speaker.

I use a 90mm Piezo speaker (bought from MicroZed in Oz) which well and truly has ample volume directly driven from a PICAXE output. There are small 30mm diameter piezo speakers that would suffice for education purposes.
 

papaof2

Senior Member
An NPN transistor and a 100 ohm resistor can bring up the volume of the speaker substantially - and they are included.

John
 

Mycroft2152

Senior Member
Interesting idea.

Looks at tad pricey at $150.

Perhaps as as add on kit instead, at a more reasonable price point.

The main competition is the many Lego systems in the same price range.

Myc
 

manuka

Senior Member
ELENCO have just emailed me a flier for their new PICAXE kit -partly shown below.

But back at my own DIY level, I've recently rustled up the "Brain Boxed PICAXE" as a "Silicon Chip" article -expect it to be published Jan-Feb 2009. The SC editors slant with such timing is of course to catch the new Aust/NZ school year. For those who can't wait, especially if the school technician is "idle" or senior students need a contract over summer, then the Instructable at => http://www.instructables.com/id/quotSnap_connectorquot_PICAXE_microcontroller/ pretty much tells all.
 

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MartinM57

Moderator
I had the 40 years ago version 40 years ago :)

In hindsight, had a lot to do with shaping my career, which I am now on the final lap of (but it's still several (single digit) years before I complete that lap I'll have you young whipper-snappers know!)

Good luck - it looks great....
 

manuka

Senior Member
Quite some time later - & following an email query from a US buddy- are any US/Can. Forum readers / educators using the Elenco Snap Micro SCM-400 kit shown below? Although retailing at a heady ~US$100, their approach seems well thought out- even if not educationally aligned to how others may do things.

My own humble "#8 wire" conversion (now further enhanced to also offer Pin0),comes in ~an order of magnitude cheaper than Elenco's however. Dick Smith has stopped selling these "Brain Box" kits here in NZ, but many other outlets stock them, with the most basic 80 experiment version retailing for ~US$15. The sound module is a tad fiddly to convert -thankfully short sightedness blesses me with A1 macro vision- but once PICAXEd they've shown themselves VERY popular with Kiwi pre-teens. Seeing 10-12 yo. kids investigating the likes of stepper motor actions, data logging, POV,reaction times & Hellschreiber etc with them is very satisfying indeed!

As global tech. educators may no doubt verify, small electronic parts WILL get lost/dropped/abused by kids,and clunky wiring & layouts are sadly often the norm unless somehow structured. Appealingly colourful parts and nifty "snaps" make overall management with these kits far less agonising for the educators as well.

The learning experience is meant to be about state of the art microcontroller based electronics of course, rather than wire stripping using your teeth, crawling round on the floor looking for near invisible white LEDs, fighting your bench mates for a turn with the best soldering iron or abandoning fiddly circuitry when the bell goes etc . All of these can be normal classroom situations unless careful planning has been put in.

Footnote: I personally prefer breadboards & hot solder! Stan.
 

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manuka

Senior Member
2011 update: I've now a large swag of these converted kits & use them to great effect with assorted NZ school groups. Recent tweaks have included adding an IR sensor at Pin3, and hacking a 3 snap link as an NPN transistor "power strip" - details are at an Instructable. The IR add on has been especially worthwhile,with cross room control quite entrancing. Sure- I've hammed it up with youngsters who don't initially spot the remote!

With "suitable arm twisting" I may even rustle up a matching booklet of layouts,circuits & code.

FWIW - Elenco still retail their SCM-400 "Snap Micro&#8482;" PICAXE kit,but at US$120 it's more than a tad costly in comparison! The same kit presently sells for ~US$64 at Amazon however. I've reservations educationally about the SCM-400 instructions,as no circuit diagrams are included. Given the target age group (12-15 yo.), a matching schematic would be a very worthwhile addition,as it'd help motivated teens move on to real world circuitry,rather than just "paint by number" layouts. Stan. - feedback appreciated.
 

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fritz42_male

Senior Member
I had the 40 years ago version 40 years ago :)

In hindsight, had a lot to do with shaping my career, which I am now on the final lap of (but it's still several (single digit) years before I complete that lap I'll have you young whipper-snappers know!)

Good luck - it looks great....
Surely you won't stop playing with electronics once you retire?


:D

The kit I had just under 40 years ago had springs to hold the components
 

inglewoodpete

Senior Member
The kit I had just under 40 years ago had springs to hold the components
I've thought the spring style would be PICAXEable.

My kit is 45 years old and used fahnestock clips - not so PICAXE friendly. Note that I said "is", although it's been in the top cupboard for a few years! It definitely directed my career, although I've now drifted into programming.
 

fanoush

New Member
compatible size for sew on snap fasteners?

Hello,

great topic. I am trying to do similar thing but I don't want to destroy existing components. I was thinking about using Sew-On Snap Fasteners to make my custom parts (including picaxe) but so far I didn't find proper size. Anyone knows how these parts are labelled/sized and which one may be compatible?

I asked one dressmaker who repairs clothes and was in two shops that sell similar stuff but they either don't have any or have them is sealed packs so I cannot try it even in shop.

Here is the thing I am talking about
http://www.ebay.com/sch/?_kw=Sew-On Snap Fasteners
http://www.steinlaufandstoller.com/Sew On Snap Fasteners.htm

buttons in my Snap Circuit kit have ~12mm diameter so this one looks similar
http://www.ebay.com/itm/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=120844548025
but it is of course the hole size that matters and I guess the size they state is diameter of whole button, not the hole.

I plan to make additional basic parts (like IR sensor) for my son and also make small breadboard (like this one http://www.ebay.com/itm/390379004255 ) with few snap terminals around and breadboard wires with snap buton on one end.

Anyone already did something similar?
 

manuka

Senior Member
Glad you like it! When I came up with the hack (back in 2008) no suitable "snaps" came my way either,although I certainly hunted for them. However I DID stumble upon the fact that suitable diameter threaded machine screws will nicely grasp the female snap. Check steps #16 & #17 in the Instructable to see one being used for the supply ground connection.

You could probably run with this same technique on suitably organised veroboard or card I'd say. In the interests of eceonomy & consistency the snap links themselves can be readily hacked for mounting extra components, & even persuaded to bend thru' 90 degrees with a hot air gun.

Just how old is your son? Old timers know I'm an enormous breadboard fan,although these can be too fiddly for many preteen kids I've found. But if he's up to them I'd STRONGLY recommend getting a type with convenient top & bottom supply rails,as that one you've mentioned lacks them. Once the breadboard circuitry has been tamed components can be "lifted over" to the likes of a popular "Kiwi Patch Board" (pictured) for the soldered version. Stan.
 

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fanoush

New Member
My son is 6 but I planned the breadboard part to be populated by me, or we will do it together and then use it 'as is' for other small projects. So this is planned mostly as a reconfigurable part similar to the soldered red one you did with picaxe. Maybe the populated breadboard could be even covered by some plastic box to feel like single part until we decide to change it. I am not sure yet about the size and practical usability of that small breadboard, seller says 45x34.5mm so I hope it is small enough to be used in circuits just like the red one you made. We curently have the SC-500 and Snaptricity Elenco kits (rebranded and translated into Czech, see http://boffin.cz/produkty.php ) and so far are having lot of fun with it. The sound modules are a bit boring after a while, though :)

As for the snap fasteners I hope I will eventually find correct one. If anyone finds working one please let me know.
 

pleiser

Senior Member
Quite some time later - & following an email query from a US buddy- are any US/Can. Forum readers / educators using the Elenco Snap Micro SCM-400 kit shown below? Although retailing at a heady ~US$100, their approach seems well thought out- even if not educationally aligned to how others may do things.

...
My first introduction to PICAXE was that kit! :)
 

manuka

Senior Member
Fanoush:Top marks for your postive parenting-6 yo kids will lap up snap conectors (& Lego!) in my experiences.

Pleiser:Glad to (belatedly) have feedback about Elenco's Snap Micro SCM-400 kit. How did you find it overall ?

Stan.
 

pleiser

Senior Member
Fanoush ...
Pleiser:Glad to (belatedly) have feedback about Elenco's Snap Micro SCM-400 kit. How did you find it overall ?

Stan.
I had snap circuits kits for several years (first heard of them in 4th grade at school) I saw it on there website and thought it looked like fun so I bought it and later bought other PICAXE kits. (because it was fun!)
It is a great set ,I highly recommend it!
 
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mrburnette

Senior Member
I quite like "the screw", a good example of engineering done with the resources at hand.

I won't mention my cutting a six inch nail down to an inch and a quarter, about the same length as a mains fuse.
... OR, just wrap an old (dead!) AA battery with aluminum foil...
 

manuka

Senior Member
Yikes! I'd not be happy even mentioning such "foiled again" approaches, as youthful rascals may wrap a fresh Lithium/NiCd cell with alarming results. A dummy cell, made with a trimmed nail/screw inside a piece of bamboo (see below), is far more appropriate.

The point abour retaining provision for 4 AA cells here is that even near dead ones (say ~1V) can still be used for PICAXE circuits if a full set are series connected. Skin flint equipment budgets mean this feature can be VERY appealing,especially if newbies leave circuits accidentally powered on over the weekend etc.

Today's cheap hi-tech means boring old batteries,virtually unchanged in decades,can often now cost more than leading edge semiconductors ...
 

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