I'm going to be working with a FIRST team this year and wanted the kids (and myself) to get a leg up on programming the controller. In years past, they have used an Innovation First FRC controller and sample code from Kevin Watson.
I wanted to play around with the controller myself. But, the controller is about $450, and we don't even know for certain if it will be used this year. However, it is based on a PIC18F8520, so I ordered a sample from Microchip and a PicProto80 board from MicroEngineering Labs (I also picked up a serial programmer while I was at it.)
Soldering the 80 pin chip to the board was somewhat of a challenge. I got some liquid flux and .015 silver bearing solder and a really fine tip. Still, I felt like I was using the blunt end of a baseball bat and solder was everywhere. So I just used solder wick to clean up and everything turned out O.K. in the end. I actually got 3 chips: an 18F8520 18F8620 and 18F8720 (different size FLASH in each one.) I felt that I might have damaged the first chip, so there is actaully an 18F8620 on the board right now.
Tonight we have the AHRC RBNO. I'm going to take it to the lab at Norcross High School where they have the PIC18 compiler and see if I can blink an LED or something. If it all works, I'm going to give it to one of the kids to take home and mess around with.