The Vanguard series is VGKits first collection of projects for physical computing in Python. We transform a NodeMCU-M ESP8266 board into a VGKits Vanguard board by flashing it with a special Micropython configuration.

It is the programmable heart of the Vanguard Rainbow color-controllable LED project.

The NodeMCU-M has the following key benefits…

  • runs Python3
    • Micropython is a syntax-equivalent version of Python3 targeting small microcontrollers
  • cheap
    • costing only $2.50 each in bulk or roughly ¬£3.00 BSP
  • built-in Wi-Fi for
    • serving a Python shell available from any laptop or tablet with a modern browser
    • hosting a webserver
    • accessing online services using a Wi-Fi uplink
    • connecting to a Wi-Fi access point,¬†providing a local Wi-Fi access point or both at the same time
  • built-in USB UART to
    • send commands, view the results in the Python Shell on a laptop over a normal USB MicroB phone-charging cable
    • provide reliable 5V power from school or household equipment
  • 10 IO pins controllable by Python
    • 9 Digital GPIO pins and one Analog-to-Data pin
    • pluggable using standard female jumper cables
  • 1MB of flash memory, 32kB instruction memory, 80kB RAM
    • this leaves nearly 400k of storage in a small FAT32 filesystem for Python source files and datalogging
    • limited memory defines challenges for learners around system architecture and optimisation
    • NodeMCU standard has 4MB flash, other ESP boards have up to 32MB flash and even 4MB of RAM, but the extra cost is not warranted for learner applications
  • well-labelled pre-soldered pins and fits a breadboard. By contrast…
    • NodeMCU standard board has multiple extra pins wasting breadboard space
    • D1 Mini – comes unsoldered
    • Common ESP01 and ESP32 boards don’t fit a breadboard
    • NodeMCU (standard) and D1 Mini have pin labels which don’t match the numbers used by Python.
  • The NodeMCU can also be programmed using

Visit our first Vanguard project for educators and learners, or buy a preflashed project kit.

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