The ImageCraft JumpStart Microbox Education Kit is a set of hardware and software tools to teach C and Cortex-M embedded programming.
In essence, it's an Arduino compatible shield, an STMicro Nucleo dev board, a C book, an IDE, a compiler and libraries.
In this blog series I'm trying to find out if it's more then just an existing 3rd party dev board paired with a shield. And if (and how) this kit can turn you into an embedded programmer.
In part 1, I'm checking the out-of-box experience. Is it easy to get the boards and tool chain running?
Spoiler Alert: it's easy
Getting Started Fast
We all know what it's like to unpack a new development board, and then struggle for hours, days, weeks (hello, sama5d4, I'm looking at you).
That's not the case with this board. The Quick Start Guide walks you through software and hardware setup. Step by step, as it should be.
When completed, you have the drivers installed, the IDE up and running and the tool chain configured.
Compiling and running the first example works straight away. The OLED display was showing 'Hello World' without any issue. Perfect experience.
I tested 6 of the examples, and they all work flawlessly. The build cycle is fast.
The only thing I struggled with a little (and the quickstart guide warns you for that) is mounting the shield on the ST Nucleo board. The shield uses stacking headers, with springy sharp pins.
It's a bit tough to properly align the shield with the dev board.
With proper care, this works, though.
Food for thought
I don't know at this moment,after doing the quickstart, what the competitive advantage of this kit is going to be.
It's running on multiple legs. It tries to learn standard C, and also embedded C for a particular controller family.
The IDE is not one you'd usually see in your common professional environment.
it comes with an own compiler and abstraction libraries - is that going to be useful for a future firmware developer? Would a professional company choose this combination as its strategic firmware development base?
Is there an educational advantage in supporting an in-house compiler?
Why does one spend effort in designing and maintaining bespoke libraries and tool chains if the goal is education? Is there a part of ImageCraft's business model that I don't understand yet?
I don't have the answers to those questions yet. But if the training track is as smooth as the out-of-box experience, I have high hopes.
Hang on for part 2...