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Looks like Parallax is catching on to solder-it-yourself kits! The P8X32A-Q44 SchmartBoard Kit comes with surface mount and through-hole components to make a powerful microcrontroller dev board. It says it “makes surface mount soldering easy,” but doesn’t say how… do those pins look farther apart than in a standard SMD package to you?

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Propeller Proto Board USB

Our Price: $39.99

The Propeller Proto Board USB has all the features of the Propeller Proto Board and includes the USB programming interface on the board for those projects which need the USB interface in the application.

Becky Stern

Becky Stern

Becky Stern is director of wearable electronics at Adafruit Industries. Her personal site:


    I think the way the Schmartboard setup works is that the traces to each of the pins on the surface mount device are slightly lowered, making a channel of solder that you can push to the pins using a fine-tipped iron. I know they sell a lot of adapters for various SOIC chips to allow hand-soldering using that technique.

  • John Park

    My local Fry’s carries a lot of Schmartz board stuff, and Parallax stuff, so maybe they’ll stock this! I’ll check it out, looks nifty.

  • Garrett

    The Schmartboard stuff is easy mainly because of the extra long pads, and sometimes they have a thick solder mask that kind of locks the chip leads in place. I find normal SMD or QFN easy, anyway.

  • japroach

    Some pics and details here: (although they look more extreme than that TQFP).

  • RocketGuy

    The pads are actually grooves in the surface of the board filled with solder. This both guides the leads into the right place mechanically, and provides the right amount of solder for the fine pitched leads.

    I tried a sample application at robotgames, and was impressed.

    • jeff-o

      Yep, that’s exactly it. Instead of applying solder separately as you heat the pins, all you have to do is stick the tip of your iron in the solder “groove” and push the solder towards the pin. A little bit of flux helps, too!

  • Adam

    We had a bunch of people soldering up these at Defcon this year. The solder in the grooves never seemed to work for people; everyone that had any luck resorted to using a fine-needled syringe of solder paste and pushing that toward the pins instead. The grooves themselves were quite handy but the solder in them was useless. As well, if you get the instructions from the Parallax site, there were a number of errors and omissions (the biggest being one chip pictured soldered upside down, crystal not in the instructions at all, and the USB board attached upside down in the photos).

    If you are new to microcontrollers, this is a painful starting point. With next to nothing for beginners, you end up with an expensive blinking LED after you finish the tutorials with no real place to turn except the super-advanced works in their object library.

    • pdbogen

      I was honestly quite surprised that they sold an SMT Parallax board as the ‘hardware hacking kit,’ this year. Last year was a Basic stamp that was entirely through-hole- in other words, painless to hand solder.

      Definitely a much gentler introduction. The propeller is an impressive board, sure, but I think a step up from a BASIC stamp would be an arduino, not a surface-mount propeller.

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