New & Reviewed

Jacdac Modular Prototyping System

DIYODE Magazine

Issue 63, October 2022

Connect and code electronics, instantly! We take a look at the Microsoft-developed hardware and software system that helps teach kids to code.

We take a look at the Microsoft-developed hardware and software system that helps teach kids to code.

Apart from the usual maker and electronics enthusiast products you would expect, our friends at Pakronics also sell a great range of products tailored to the education space. A new product range they have just landed includes the Jacdac product range, designed to work with the micro:bit V2.

The Jacdac range, developed by the Microsoft Research team, is an open-source hardware and software platform designed to make electronics and coding easy for beginners - no soldering required.

The hardware range uses a standardised PCB-based edge connector and 3-wire cables, which are reversible for a seamless plug-and-play experience.

The Jacdac isn’t limited to just the micro:bit V2 either. Adaptors are available to connect it to a Raspberry Pi using the JacHat, or USB bridge to connect to a laptop/desktop. Both are programmable via Python, .NET, or JavaScript.

Coding can be done easily via MakeCode with its drag-and-drop interface. For experienced users, it also supports JavaScript/TypeScript, .NET, Python, Node-Red, React, A-Frame, CLI and more.

Thanks to the Jacdac simulator, you can test your circuit on the computer without the need for any hardware, or mimic and control your hardware circuit on screen.

The Starter kits include:

  • Jacdaptor for micro:bit V2
  • Keycap Button
  • Light Level Sensor
  • Magnet Sensor
  • RGB LED Ring
  • Rotary Encoder Button
  • Slider Potentiometer
  • Hub and connecting cables

For our savvy readers, other features and benefits include Bus topology where Jacdac packets are sent among devices on the Jacdac bus and also over WebUSB, providing connectivity to web-based tooling. In addition, full stack from 8-bit MCU to web development where its Single Wire Serial connects MCUs to each other using UART; a packet-based protocol sits above this layer.

The EC30 rectangular form factor has one or more Jacdac edge connectors on opposite sides of the PCB, four plated mounting holes that carry the Jacdac bus signals, and an orientation notch indicating the upper-left of the board (viewed from the top side of the the PCB). There is always at least one Jacdac edge connector on the left.

This standardised form factor helps devices to work with various electro-mechanical and mechanical accessories. It also makes it easier to build cheap enclosures for individual devices and to assemble groups of devices together to make an integrated project.

Finally, for hardware designers, firmware developers and manufacturers, the Jacdac Device Development Kit (DDK) enables you to create your own Jacdac devices. This includes hardware designs, firmware source code, and a testing framework. Neat!

In Summary

For many of our savvy readers, a platform like this isn’t something new, however, if you are in the education sector, it could be the perfect ecosystem to teach your students about electronics and how to code. Anything to get young minds into electronics is a great thing, right?!

The Jacdac range is available from Pakronics

Jacdac Starter kit without micro:bit v2 PAKR-A0410 $92.25

Jacdac starter kit with micro:bit v2 PAKR-K1218 $127.89

NOTE: Get 10% off your first order from Pakronics using code: JACDACDIY

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