NOTE: Decided to recommend the Quickstart Boards ($25) for the minimum cost option for the pilot, and the TBot+12Blocks ($149) as the normal option when we get that far.
Boy Scouts has a new merit badge discussed in thread
As it turns out, this is a fledgling effort, and much of the material (documentation, instructions, etc) is still a little rough. At best its confusing, at worst its nonsense.
For example, the hardware recommended is VEX, Mindstorms, and BOEBOT. At $160 BoeBot is cheapest, and while sufficient for robotic experiments, the cost is about ten times too high for most 12 year olds in my neighborhood.
I'm trying to determine the LEAST EXPENSIVE, MINIMUM HARDWARE. If I recall being a kid correctly, there was always a steady supply of broken toys from which parts (motors, IR sensors, gears, etc) could be harvested, so I'm going to assume for the moment that these items need not be purchased. So what I'm focusing on is the micro controller.
I have a certain bias towards the prop, so I would like start from the prop chip as an example of a minimum system. I'm going to assume the kid has access to a parents' minimum PC, for example a netbook.
My first thought is to use the Quickstart board ($20) and a breadboard ($8) total $28. Another alternative would be a bread board and 40 pin DIP prop, and the additional parts regulator eeprom etc which I did not price out yet.
Any more suggestions for a minimum prop hardware? I know there are several third party boards, but I don't have all the links in one place.