fredjam
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 5:31 pm

JoeDaStudd wrote:I'm just curious what does the gertboard have over say a Arduino board or a K8055?
Excluding that it connects via the GPIO and is made by a member of the foundation.

Don't get me wrong it looks like a very nice device, however I can get a Arduino Mega 1280 clone ready to go for less then £18 delivered within a few days.
I'm sure I must be missing something.
You need a PC to write your Arduino programs, you can write your gertboard
programs on the pi itself. The gertboard is a well integrated (but expensive) board
for educational use.

You don't need to learn anything about Arduinos or how to program Arduinos or
how to connect them to a Raspberry pi.

It all gets back to the fundamental fact that Raspberry pi is an educational project.

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 6:40 pm

I think some of the comment on the Gertboard, especially of the “why not just use an Arduino” sort, is missing the point.

Years ago I taught students to program microprocessor systems systems using 68000 single-board computers, with PCs as terminals. We had applications boards with lights, switches, a motor and various other bits and pieces that connected to the SBC via a ribbon cable, and they were worth their weight in gold.

They were not something you would choose for students learning how to design hardware, but for programming they were ideal. Connect them up at the start of a session and you had working systems: no need to waste half the session looking for wiring errors and bad connections just to get things under way. At the end of the session students would put the boards away, and in the next session they would get them out again and carry on from where they had left off.

Gertboards are the modern equivalent. I see them being used with the Raspberry Pi to enable classes of students to write programs that control hardware, without all the hassle of building up circuits on breadboards and puzzling over why they don’t work. (That’s a useful exercise too, of course, but if you’re learning to program you want hardware that works out of the box, and does what it says on the tin.)

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:38 pm

I'm at http://www.element14.com/community/groups/raspberry-pi.
For last two hours I am getting empty page after clicking on "Reserve Now" or "Reserver yours today!" (http://pl.farnell.com/element14/gertbom ... group-gert).

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 7:46 pm

kermitas wrote:I'm at http://www.element14.com/community/groups/raspberry-pi.
For last two hours I am getting empty page after clicking on "Reserve Now" or "Reserver yours today!" (http://pl.farnell.com/element14/gertbom ... group-gert).
I had that yesterday, ended up clicking the pre-order button. That worked fine :D
Alex Eames RasPi.TV, RasP.iO

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:04 pm

alexeames wrote:I had that yesterday, ended up clicking the pre-order button. That worked fine :D
Where is "pre-order button" on this page http://www.element14.com/community/groups/raspberry-pi ?

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:29 pm

fredjam wrote:. The gertboard is a well integrated (but expensive) board
for educational use.
Expensive? I'm not so sure. There are a lot of features on that board, and a lot of parts, and a lot of time spent writing manuals and testing. For £30 (plus tax and postage). That doesn't seem too bad to me. Yes, you could buy a cheap Arduino, but do you get the same feature set?

disclosure : Know Gert personally so could be biased.
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:36 pm

I should make the same disclosure before going any further with this post!

I think that fortunately or unfortunately, by engineering the Raspberry Pi itself as hard for cost as we did while having all the work done by people who aren't being paid (Gert was one of them), we may have created some unrealistic expectations around the ease of making devices at a very low price point.

I'd encourage you to try to work out the BOM cost for a Gertboard, consider the sort of investment someone might need to kick a hardware project even of this small-ish size off, factor in distribution costs and the cost of the educational materials, and see where you get. It's not expensive. If someone was selling you an add-on board for your PC that cost this much, I suspect you wouldn't blink at the price; unfortunately, the Raspberry Pi itself is so cheap it skews expectations a bit.
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Thu Aug 09, 2012 8:51 pm

kermitas wrote:
alexeames wrote:I had that yesterday, ended up clicking the pre-order button. That worked fine :D
Where is "pre-order button" on this page http://www.element14.com/community/groups/raspberry-pi ?
I can't see it there or on farnell polska either. Try this one...
http://uk.farnell.com/element14/gertbom ... =lookahead
Alex Eames RasPi.TV, RasP.iO

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Fri Aug 10, 2012 4:49 am

liz wrote:I should make the same disclosure before going any further with this post!

I think that fortunately or unfortunately, by engineering the Raspberry Pi itself as hard for cost as we did while having all the work done by people who aren't being paid (Gert was one of them), we may have created some unrealistic expectations around the ease of making devices at a very low price point.

I'd encourage you to try to work out the BOM cost for a Gertboard, consider the sort of investment someone might need to kick a hardware project even of this small-ish size off, factor in distribution costs and the cost of the educational materials, and see where you get. It's not expensive. If someone was selling you an add-on board for your PC that cost this much, I suspect you wouldn't blink at the price; unfortunately, the Raspberry Pi itself is so cheap it skews expectations a bit.
It is really important that the Raspberry pi offers so much for so little money. Its the sort of toy or
pocket money price that will make it easy for a bright 10 year old to get his or her parents to buy
one for their birthday. But look at the Gertboard, I am sure it does offer a lot but who is going to
solder it together, the teacher, the bright 10 year old, I don't think so.

A school might buy 30 pi boards to teach computing but they are probably not going to buy 30
Gert boards and solder them together. I think this needs some more thought.
However I am sure that cheaper alternatives which do less and are pre-assembled will appear.
I should declare at this point that I don't know Gert but I'm sure he is a good person.

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:48 am

Soldering the Gertboard is part of the fun and educational - I think you underestimate the average 10 year old. OK, maybe have a practice run on some vero board or similair, but I see no reason why they couldn't solder the Gertboard with adequate supervision. Also note that not all of the board needs to be soldered in one go - it can be done in stages. In fact not all of it really needs soldering at all if those features are not required. Yes some essential parts do need to be fitted, but not all of them.

My 2 pence,
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adlambert

Re: Gertboard is here!

Fri Aug 10, 2012 7:53 am

Maybe some of us community could volunteer our services?
I have some good Weller Temp controlled soldering kit, and 30+ years experience and would be able to help out anyone who had problems putting one together.

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Fri Aug 10, 2012 10:41 am

A school might buy 30 pi boards to teach computing but they are probably not going to buy 30
Gert boards and solder them together. I think this needs some more thought.
However I am sure that cheaper alternatives which do less and are pre-assembled will appear.
I should declare at this point that I don't know Gert but I'm sure he is a good person.
I wish I'd been this articulate at 10pm on Wednesday :)

I work in primaries and as well as having a board that buffers GPIO signals and provides 2 motor outputs and A-D conversion, I then need to put it into a nice little case with 4mm Banana Sockets for the kids to play with.

In the interests of keeping to the same script (and all the advantages that obviously gives) I've started a thread on basically - can we clone it? http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewt ... 42&t=14107

Once that question is sorted, then us (the ones in schools who need to twist headteachers for money for IT equipment) can come up with a plan.

Now, at the end of the day, if we find that this school board comes in at £29, then we'll need to come back here and apologise profusely.

On the subject of getting them soldered up, I think, no matter what board is used, we can all use local RaspberryJam type groups (or simple call to parents at each school) to get them initially soldered.

And yet again - must thank Gert for all his work - I particularly admire the input/output selectable via link concept BTW

Simon
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Fri Aug 10, 2012 11:32 am

fredjam wrote:But look at the Gertboard, I am sure it does offer a lot but who is going to
solder it together, the teacher, the bright 10 year old, I don't think so.
There do are after-school clubs that solder.
Was part of one when I was +/- 11 years old.

We only did smaller things like hooking up 8 leds to a parallel port though (soldering a parallel port connector + IC + resistors + leds to a pcb), and then writing a program in BASIC to light them up.
And I also remember we spent more lessons on things like building enclosures out of wood for the projects, then the actual electronics.
In hindsight I think the cost of components might have to do with that, and I do think this board is above the budget of such clubs. (at least when having kids solder their own, as opposed of having a single board to share with all)

Not a problem for older "kids" though, so did order a Gertboard to play with myself. :mrgreen:

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Fri Aug 10, 2012 8:33 pm

Interestingly I was doing a demo of the Gertboard in Bristol 2 months ago.
That was on a teacher training course and the same question came up out of the audience:
"I don't know how to solder. How do I get 10 ready made Gertboards".
The answer came from somebody else in that same audience:
"Well.... We have a department where our students have to learn to solder.
We already have to spend a money on parts which gets soldered and then thrown out.
I see an ideal combination here. Also, the student had better get their soldering right
because they will have to work with the board they themselves have soldered.
If it does not work they learn the consequences of what they did".

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sat Aug 11, 2012 4:36 am

Well maybe there are all these schools with soldering clubs but I don't think so.
Is the Pi project trying to interest children in programming or is it trying to get
them interested in soldering (which really belongs to a metalwork class)? Now
I know that the first microcomputers I bought came as a circuit board and a
handful of microchips and I had to solder them myself but this didn't teach me
anything about computers and soldering ,like sewing, is a skill best left to
machines.
So I still think that a simpler pre-assembled board which just brings out all the
IO pins in a buffered 5 volt way would be more attractive as a starting point for
learning about control applications

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:04 am

That's where cheap things like LM723CN chips are good. A small power buffer transistor, a slightly more difficult to use spare transistor, and a comparator, with a voltage reference, and Zener diode. Just the sort of thing to make 12v bottom end buffered switches, depending on know how.

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:59 am

fredjam wrote: Is the Pi project trying to interest children in programming or is it trying to get
them interested in soldering (which really belongs to a metalwork class)? Now
I know that the first microcomputers I bought came as a circuit board and a
handful of microchips and I had to solder them myself but this didn't teach me
anything about computers and soldering ,like sewing, is a skill best left to
machines.
Computing is about more than software, and electronics education is an important part of that. We're not going to have a computer industry in 20 years' time if nobody understands hardware. Yes, we'd like to see kids soldering; and I think you're thinking of welding when you mention metalwork.

Many of the projects we feature on the front page - the really cool ones, that kids get excited about emulating - require some physical electronics work and yes, some soldering. A wave solder machine isn't an appropriate tool for home use in projects like these. A soldering iron and a bench is. Young electronics hobbyists are legion; one of the nicest, neatest soldering jobs I've seen in the flesh recently was Joey Hudy's LED cube. You will notice that the logo on his website features a soldering iron. http://lookwhatjoeysmaking.blogspot.co.uk/

When you built your own microcomputer as a kid, as you mention here, didn't you find that that process illuminated some of what the machine was doing for you and helped you to better understand how it worked? Didn't you find that you came away from it realising that you could use that new skill to build other stuff?

And yes, it's safe. If supervised kids can deal with hot ovens and cook at home, which seems to be perfectly acceptable to most people, they can deal with a hot soldering iron.
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:10 am

It is not beyond reason for a group of students to build the Gert board. I taught a class called Far Out Science for several years that consisted of secondary school students. One of the most popular projects was building a small AM/FM radio that was about the same complexity and cost of the Gert board. The majority of them worked. The ones that did not would be a source for trouble shooting and repair, another opportunity for learning.

I hope to teach the course again. If so, the R Pi and Gert Board will be one of the major projects.

Jeff
https://faroutscience.com

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:48 am

liz wrote:
fredjam wrote: Is the Pi project trying to interest children in programming or is it trying to get
them interested in soldering (which really belongs to a metalwork class)? Now
I know that the first microcomputers I bought came as a circuit board and a
handful of microchips and I had to solder them myself but this didn't teach me
anything about computers and soldering ,like sewing, is a skill best left to
machines.
Computing is about more than software, and electronics education is an important part of that. We're not going to have a computer industry in 20 years' time if nobody understands hardware. Yes, we'd like to see kids soldering; and I think you're thinking of welding when you mention metalwork.

Many of the projects we feature on the front page - the really cool ones, that kids get excited about emulating - require some physical electronics work and yes, some soldering. A wave solder machine isn't an appropriate tool for home use in projects like these. A soldering iron and a bench is. Young electronics hobbyists are legion; one of the nicest, neatest soldering jobs I've seen in the flesh recently was Joey Hudy's LED cube. You will notice that the logo on his website features a soldering iron. http://lookwhatjoeysmaking.blogspot.co.uk/

When you built your own microcomputer as a kid, as you mention here, didn't you find that that process illuminated some of what the machine was doing for you and helped you to better understand how it worked? Didn't you find that you came away from it realising that you could use that new skill to build other stuff?

And yes, it's safe. If supervised kids can deal with hot ovens and cook at home, which seems to be perfectly acceptable to most people, they can deal with a hot soldering iron.
Totally agree - for me, the pi is part of my computing and electronics hobbies. Soldering skill is part and parcel of home electronics tinkering. The pi is not just for software education.
Texy
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:50 am

liz wrote:
fredjam wrote: Is the Pi project trying to interest children in programming or is it trying to get
them interested in soldering (which really belongs to a metalwork class)? Now
I know that the first microcomputers I bought came as a circuit board and a
handful of microchips and I had to solder them myself but this didn't teach me
anything about computers and soldering ,like sewing, is a skill best left to
machines.
Computing is about more than software, and electronics education is an important part of that. We're not going to have a computer industry in 20 years' time if nobody understands hardware. Yes, we'd like to see kids soldering; and I think you're thinking of welding when you mention metalwork.
I'd say more like brazing than welding....but soldering? In metal work class? Weird notion.
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sat Aug 11, 2012 3:52 pm

exartemarte wrote:
alexeames wrote:... and Liz saying "That's baffling. I *know* they have plenty in the warehouses already". So it's not all that clear to me.
You might find that Liz mentioned having lots of **boards** in stock. They, Farnells, could be having problems sourcing enough of the correct quality components to make up the kit itself.

Just a thought.

And on the matter of kids learning to solder. When I was 10 or 11 I pestered my parents to buy me electronics kits, magazines etc. I didn't get lucky all that often but I got a 150 project electronics kit for Christmas one year, and I got Everyday Electronics and Hobby Electronics every month. The former was way above my head, the latter was just about my level.

I learned to solder around the age of 10, without burning myself or the house down! I wish I could solder without burning myself these days - tinning the bit always leads to a singed finger!

I've ordered my Gertboard and I've read the assembly and user guides. Looks like fun putting it together. I've never done surface mount before, so something to learn. Might be difficult with my ageing eyes, but I got one of those handy things with crocodile clips and a magnifying glass from "Big W" in Bradford a while back and it's brilliant!

I've been wiring plugs as well since about age 4 or 5 - my dad is red/green colour blind and in those days red was live and green was earth - and never the twain shall mix!

Roll on October 8th, or whenever it is, for the GB arrival. If anyone needs me, I'll be in the shed!


Cheers,
Norm.
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:59 pm

Why do they put lightning conductors on churches?
Because they one of the few buildings that angers God.

I learned to solder in metalwork class, but it was soldering tin plate with an iron that you heated up in a gas flame. Now they don't even teach that.

If you can't solder and don't want to learn then there is little point in getting a Gert board. What on Earth are you going to do with one.

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:09 pm

I still have tiny scars on my thighs from when I taught myself to solder electronics at age 13 during a hot Summer. I made the quickly-realized mistake of wearing shorts, although it was so hot that I kept wearing shorts and figured out how to position things so that I didn't splatter molten solder on myself (it doesn't mix well with synthetic fabric shirts, either! ;) ).

It's been really nice to see areas set up at Maker Faires, Fixit Clinics, and similar events dedicated to teaching kids (of all ages) how to solder, among other skills. That single skill seems to be the biggest hurdle standing between most people and their learning about how electronic things work. However, once they've learned it, they tend to become much more adventurous about taking things apart to see how they work, as well as building projects, often just for fun.

Soldering metals for mechanical purposes is distinct from brazing, welding, etc., in the kinds of materials, heating sources, and temperatures involved. Copper sheet soldered with lead-tin alloy filler material (solder) is the most common, but, it can also be accomplished using brass, bronze, nickel, and tin sheet metal. It's used all the time to build model railroad locomotives and cars, automobile models, hand-made crafts, as well as cooking implements, connecting plumbing pipes/fixtures/connectors, etc. Soldering is generally accomplished using filler materials with relatively low melting points between 400 and 800 degrees F, primarily lead-tin alloys of various percentage mixtures around 70/30% ~ 60/40%. Lead-free applications now use tin-silver-copper, tin-silver-copper-bismuth, tin-silver-copper-antimony, or silver-copper alloy filler materials, depending on whether manual, wave, or other automated flow techniques are used.

Brazing almost always involves direct gas-combustion torch or furnace heating, rather than an electrically or gas-combustion heated iron typically used in soldering. Brazing also uses filler materials with higher melting points than those for solder alloys, primarily aluminum-silicon, copper, copper-silver, copper-zinc, gold-silver, nickel alloy, silver, and amorphous brazing foils containing nickel, iron, copper, silicon, boron, or phosphorus. Just to confuse things, there are products called "silver" solders, but, they're actually silver-bearing alloys containing copper, zinc, or cadmium - the process of "silver soldering" is also known as "hard soldering" or "silver brazing" because of the higher temperatures needed relative to those used in soldering, e.g., via direct gas-combustion torch heating.

Welding uses the same, or similar, pure metals or alloys for both the material being welded and the filler material and requires much higher temperatures than soldering or brazing to reach the melting point of the welded material, typically thousands of degrees F, depending on the material.
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Re: Gertboard is here!

Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:26 am

And just so you know, plumbing comes from the Latin for lead, of which the Romans used a lot, much of which came from Cornwall, which is one reason why they invaded Britain.
But now plumbers use copper for pipes, and aren't allowed to use lead in the solder, so shouldn't be called plumbers.

And
Why do they put lightning conductors on churches?
because they would look silly on a shorter building?

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Re: Gertboard is here!

Tue Aug 14, 2012 11:46 am

Burngate wrote:And just so you know, plumbing comes from the Latin for lead, of which the Romans used a lot, much of which came from Cornwall, which is one reason why they invaded Britain.
I may be wrong, but isn't Cornwall famous for Tin, not Lead? Here in Yorkshire - where I'm currently in exile - we have a few Lead mines around.
Burngate wrote:
Why do they put lightning conductors on churches?
because they would look silly on a shorter building?
I think you missed the point of my sig! ;)

One other great thing about knowing how to solder, it can save you money. My laptop is using a set of X-Mini 2 speakers which are excellent. However the battery in one of them stopped holding charge. A new set of speakers was over £25 on ebay and a battery for same was £4.50 inc P&P from Hong Kong. Three screws and 2 solder connections later I had a working setup again.

I'd encourage all kids to learn to solder.

Cheers,
Norm.
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