Electronics Project: The “Toddler”

Electronics Project: The “Toddler”
NOTE: This class does not run anymore! This is just to show what was involve at the height of this class popularity when it was running. Enjoy!
Based on Rolf Startin’s popular Bigfoot design sold through Mondotronics, the Toddler is a two-foot tall walker. This robot walks forward, backwards and even turns using just two mega RC servos. A Board of Education and BASIC Stamp 2 control the motors and three infrared sensors. We will post schematics, movies and source code for our robot on this web site by mid-March. Parallax uses the Toddler to interest educational customers to microcontrollers and robotics.

Toddler Robot Kit
Toddler Robot Kit by Parallax

LabVIEW Interface for the BASIC Stamp
Does your engineering course already use National Instruments LabView 5.0 Student Edition (or higher) for analyzing real-time data? If so, Parallax Stamps in Class has published a free document on interfacing the BASIC Stamp with LabView via serial port

What’s a Microcontroller?
The most popular Stamps in Class series shows how to interface a BASIC Stamp microcontroller to pushbuttons, LEDs, photoresistors and a motor. This requires a Board of Education Full Kit. Purchase the What’s a Microcontroller? text and parts or download the text for free!

Program Overview
The Stamps in Class program is created and operated by Parallax, Inc., the manufacturer of the BASIC Stamp. The Stamps in Class web site is a collection of curriculum, hardware, and educational ideas about using the BASIC Stamp to teach electronics, microcontroller interfacing, robotics, physics, and interactive art. It’s a place where educators can ask eachother questions about using the BASIC Stamp. The site isn’t exclusively for educators – it’s a great place for anybody interested in learning how to use a microcontroller.
This site isn’t really about the BASIC Stamp per se either, it’s about the way you can use it to teach students to be interested in technology. The goal of the educators who created the program is to create entrepreneurs and students who will create technology.
If you’d like to see what other educators say about our program please read their feedback.

The BASIC Stamp Module
BASIC Stamps are small computers that run Parallax BASIC (PBASIC) programs. They have fully programmable I/O pins that can be used to directly interface to buttons, LEDs, speakers, motors, potentiometers, and shift registers. With a few extra components, a BASIC Stamp’s I/O pins can be connected to solenoids, relays, RS-232 networks, and other high current/voltage devices.
BASIC Stamps have their own EEPROM (where your code is stored), microcontroller (executes the PBASIC “tokens”), voltage regulator, and resistors for serial communication. Stamps run an “interpreted” BASIC. This means you can program a BASIC Stamp using a PC and a serial cable – it’s one of the only microcontrollers that doesn’t require “development tools” to program. The code is written on your PC using our DOS or Windows editors. When power is applied the program executes. The BASIC Stamp typically sits in a “project area” like the Board of Education where it’s I/O pins can be connected to other electronic components. There’s more in the products page.

Here is another interesting topic Life Cycle of Electronic Kits.

How to Get Started
Take a look at the downloads section of this web site. Download and read either the What’s a Microcontroller, Basic Analog and Digital, Robotics, or Earth Measurements text. If you think you’re ready to try it out get a Board of Education Full Kit, the What’s a Microcontroller? Text, and the What’s a Microcontroller? Parts Kit. Download or purchase a copy of the the BASIC Stamp Manual Version 1.9. It’s an essential document that shows examples, PBASIC command descriptions, and 23 application notes.

The BASIC Stamp Compared to a Multimedia PC
Compared to a PC, the BASIC Stamp is really the opposite in terms of size and sophistication. A PC often runs 32-bit Windows software and has a complex hidden architecture. It has the capability to handle powerful graphic programs and complex video games. The BASIC Stamp is an 8-bit microcontroller with it’s own PBASIC operating system, program memory, and I/O pins for connecting to the world. It’s a computer at it’s lowest level (with a high level language), but providing enough challenge that a student can learn how to use it in entirety. This means they can learn to write a program, build an electrical circuit, or control a motor. It’s a way to experience some personal reward, quickly.

Fast PC technology isn’t the solution to all technological problems, and more students need to learn how to program microcontroller. First, there are 12-18 microcontroller for every PC in this world. The applications range from grocery store doors and hand-held POS terminals to industrial robots at the GM plant and controls that activate the Space Shuttle’s cargo door. Somebody needs to learn how to design these projects. Second, technological activities are a hands-on endeavor, not just a mouse click as some people think. The person who designed the BASIC Stamp started by working with electronic parts and 8051 assembly language. He learned electronics and computers by dismantling CD players and Apple II computers in the early 1980s. This type of hands-on approach is a key to successful learning.

You might want to read about Electronics Kits of the Future.

Subjects that are Taught with the BASIC Stamp
These are examples of subject material that is taught using the BASIC Stamp:

  • Electronics
  • Microcontroller interfacing
  • Robotics
  • Physics
  • Active art projects
  • Computer programming

Each subject involves programming, some knowledge of electronic principles (which are acquired using the BASIC Stamp).

BASIC Stamp Accessories include additional support equipment for your BASIC Stamp class.

BASIC Stamp 2 module
The original BASIC Stamp module; the building block of the Stamps In Class curricula.

Assembled version; a versatile and worthy alternative to the BS2-IC. (You can easily¬† replace the interpreter chip when it falls victim to “user error”.). This only requires a breadboard to be used.

BASIC Stamp II (#BS2-IC) is a small microcontroller the size of a postage stamp that runs PBASIC programs. The BS2-IC has 16 fully programmable I/O pins that can be used to directly interface to logic level devices, such as buttons, LEDs, speakers, potentiometers, and shift registers. And with just a few extra components, these I/O pins can be connected to non-TTL devices, such as solenoids, relays, RS-232 networks, and other high current/voltage devices.
The physical design consists of a 5-volt regulator, resonator, serial EEPROM, and PBASIC interpreter. A tokenized PBASIC program is stored in the non-volatile serial EEPROM, which is read from and written to by the interpreter chip. This interpreter chip fetches one instructions at a time and performs the appropriate operation on the I/O pins or internal structures within the interpreter. Because the PBASIC program is stored in an EEPROM, it may be programmed and reprogrammed almost endlessly, without the need to first erase the memory.

To program the BS2-IC, you just plug it into the Board of Education, connect it to an IBM PC or compatible and run our editor software to create and download your program via serial cable. The BS2-IC holds 500 to 600 instructions and executes an average of 4000 instructions/sec.
The BS2-IC may be purchased alone, in the Board of Education Full Kit(no printed manual), or in a Starter Kit(includes printed manual). The BASIC Stamp Manual Version 2.0 describes the PBASIC command set. This document and the software are available for download.