teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

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luxgud
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teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

Postby luxgud » Mon Jul 10, 2017 6:27 pm

Hi
I work in a college and we've purchased two e-block systems to evaluate in preparation for teaching BTEC's Unit 06 - 'Microcontrollers for Engineers' in 2018-9.
We would also like to evaluate the use of Flowcode 7 to handle the programming side. The hardware hasn't arrived yet and we have to wait a short while to place the order for Flowcode and so I am playing around with the free version. Flowcode is very impressive and seems straightforward to use but I have to declare a personal preference for coding, ironically I find flowcharts harder to work with.

Historically, within our wider Engineering department we have a great deal of PIC programming experience using assembler but we have realized that this is too difficult for the average student and certainly not suitable for use with the BTEC unit 06 module.

We have also built up a lot of Arduino experience over the last three years and we have found this really easy to use and well supported in all respects.

Within our department we cannot decide which path to take ie e-blocks + Flowcode or Arduino + Sketch C programming.

Are there any people out there who have already started teaching Unit 06 or like us, thinking about it for next year ?

I'd be interested in hearing your honest unbiased views and opinions please

Thanks

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Benj
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Re: teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

Postby Benj » Tue Jul 11, 2017 10:01 am

Hello and welcome to the forums.

I'm obviously biased towards Flowcode over Arduino but here are some points to consider.

1) Flowcode will allow you to simulate, set breakpoints, step through, look at the variables during operation and run through the code slowly. You can also create some really cool things using the panels.

Tetris Game - viewtopic.php?f=54&t=16848&p=73371#p73371
Snake Game - viewtopic.php?f=63&t=18360&p=78619#p78619
Pong Game - https://www.matrixtsl.com/blog/arcade-games-pong/

2) You won't have any weird and wonderful syntax problems in the students code to try and solve. Logic problems can be simulated when writing the code to make sure they work as expected before compiling and programming the black box that is the chip.

3) The connectors used on Arduino are designed to be inserted and unplugged a finite number of times before the connector will start to have problems, the pins are also easy to bend etc, E-blocks connectors are rated for thousands of connection cycles. Arduino boards are cheaper than E-blocks but E-blocks are likely to last a lot longer in an educational environment.

4) Support, though some Arduino users will chip in to support you, often they won't have the skill to be able to help with crafting of code or niggly problems, the person responsible for creating a library or example may leave bugs in the code or only design the code to be used a certain way on a certain device. You may create a curriculum based on a library only for the library to change at a later date and break all your examples. With us you know there is an actual company that is responsible for maintaining the libraries, ensuring compatibility and providing support.

As I say I am biased so hopefully some of our users will also chip in with their thoughts.

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Re: teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

Postby luxgud » Tue Jul 11, 2017 6:24 pm

Thanks for replying Ben.

I am looking forward to playing with the e-block/Flowcode combination. Ultimately, it really depends of works best with the students and what will get them through the practical test at the end of the unit.

With respect to Flowcode, will the academic version I use at home, work with a range of typical PICs and the Adriano Uno (load hex files to real hardware) and also will it expire after a specific period of time ?

Thank you

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Re: teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

Postby Benj » Wed Jul 12, 2017 9:44 am

Hello,

Ultimately, it really depends of works best with the students and what will get them through the practical test at the end of the unit.


Very true, I wish them all the best.

With respect to Flowcode, will the academic version I use at home, work with a range of typical PICs and the Adriano Uno (load hex files to real hardware) and also will it expire after a specific period of time ?


There are three main types of Flowcode.

Free - certain pre-selected chips can be compiled but most components are restricted, there is no expiry.
30 Day - Everything is unlocked but this only lasts for 30 days, after 30 days revert to the free mode or licensed mode if a key has been entered.
Licensed - Chip packs and Component packs unlock certain chip types and component types, there is no expiry. Free chips will also work outside of your licensed chips.

If you are using a Licensed version then you can see what chips and component packs are available by clicking Help -> View Licenses.

Hope this helps.

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Re: teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

Postby luxgud » Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:08 pm

Hi Ben
The version I was specifically enquiring about was the academic version, Laura quoted us £xxxx + VAT for x50 site license.
Thank you

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Re: teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

Postby Benj » Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:58 pm

Hello,

Talking to our sales team you have been quoted an 8-bit PIC 50 user academic site license.

So this includes all components packs and the 8-bit PIC chip pack.

Other Free devices will also be available. The Arduino Uno is included as a free device. The Arduino Mega and other AVR Arduinos will require an additional AVR chip pack to allow you to compile.

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Re: teaching BTEC Unit 6 with e-blocks - anyone ?

Postby luxgud » Wed Jul 12, 2017 4:47 pm

Thank you Ben, that looks fantastic !
Can't wait to use it
Cheers
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