Put Your ARM Skills To The Test With The Freescale Make It Challenge

Throw down your mad skills and you might win some cash while you’re at it. [Zeta] tipped us off that Freescale just announced a new challenge. They call it the Make It Challenge and it centers around their 32-bit Kinetis microcontrollers. These are ARM Cortex-M4 chips and if you’re selected to compete they’ll offer their development hardware at a discount for you to get started.

You’ll need to jump through a few hoops. To be considered as a contestant you’ll need to preregister, cruise through some online training, and complete a quiz. From there, just come up with an idea and submit a design paper as the first round of competition. Ten finalists will rise from the group and take their design through to completion for judging in the fall. The top three will get some serious cash ($11,000 for first place) and be treated to an expense paid trip to Austin, Texas.

26 thoughts on “Put Your ARM Skills To The Test With The Freescale Make It Challenge

  1. What a bunch of crap…

    To many hoops to jump through…

    Only 10 designs possible, I guess if you make it past the final phase it might be worth it, but why bother…

    There are better ways to waste our neurons… beer anyone…..

  2. Dear Freescale:

    Stop being tightasses. You went from having the ideal hobbyist micro fifteen years ago (HC11) with the cheapest devkit ($68.11) and the best written free-for-asking databooks known to man, to being the last thing anyone might think of when starting a project. Even stodgy old TI figured this out, and now you can get an MSP430 entry level devkit for less than a fast food burger and fries. Your tools are ridiculously expensive and flaky, and your partner for supplying debug pods wants $700 a seat for the luxury of merely writing flash.

    You have some outstanding in-house architectures that I’d hate to see disappear due to bad marketing decisions. Do something about it, please?


  3. well, Freescale has low cost tools as weel. Just a few weeks ago I bought a Cortex-M4 kit at the freescale store for $29. it has lcd display, touch buttons, audio output, mic, plus some other stuff I dont use, and its onboard JTAG can be used with other target boards or prototypes you build. I think its a good deal, I dont know of any other Cortex-M4 board at such price. (exept maybe the coupon for the eval bot from TI XD)

  4. Look at the numbers.

    Only 10 “semi-finalists” will be invited to submit projects. Of the ten, three will win $11K, 5K and 2K. From the low number of people actually invited to submit projects, I suspect they expect ~20 people (I only half joke) to apply. That means that if you apply, you have a 3 in 20 chance (15%) chance of winning at least $2K.

    But I have to agree with Chango that this contest was set up the wrong way. Perhaps they thought that the “exclusivity” would excite more people? They should have made the threshold for entry low (like TI with the MSP430) to induce as many people as possible to join in instead of bottlenecking interest after a committee decides which ten projects are worthy of giving a price break to. It is really hard to figure out what is going to be interesting from an application– some people write great proposals but can’t make a good project and visa versa– engineers are sometimes just that way– writing is not their strong suit.

  5. I think the “exclusivity” was setup to weed out the typical hacker. Freescale’s marketing is squarely aimed at the corporate designer of high volume products.

    Design something that makes sense in mass production if you enter this contest.

    It might be a good project for a group of friends to enter so they can tackle a more complex project.

  6. This sounds a little like those credit card offers I keep getting a half dozen or so of every week in the mail. In essence:

    “Congratulations!! You’ve been selected to pay for our expensive services!”

    At the very least, after going through all the BS wrapped in red tape to become a “candidate” they should give you the dev tools and the hardware for free.

    “You’ve had a great idea! Here’s the stuff you said you’ll need to build it, get to it!”

    Those who finish their projects, are in the contest.

  7. Freescale does do some nice things sometimes. I went to a local seminar last fall about their Kinetis chips, and they gave all attendees a free Tower dev board, which is a really nice piece of kit. Unfortunately, they don’t have a reasonable compiler that’s not 30-day limited, so the best you can do as a hobbyist is to use the 32Kb-limited IAR compiler — and then you can’t compile anything that uses Ethernet, because the projects are invariably 33Kb >:(

    Also, as a development platform, it’s really nice but it’s almost overbuilt. There are half a dozen jumpers that have to be set right to enable/disable various functional units, and these are only documented (sometimes halfway, or incorrectly) in readme.txt files in the project directory. Finding any sort of cohesive documentation on what has to be set is amazingly difficult, so you end up back at the schematics – but for some tower modules there aren’t even schematics available (I’m looking at you, TOW-SER) so who knows? Sigh… it’s a really neat kit and I wish I had something to do with it, but I just can’t.

    TI has figured it out, the Stellaris boards (including the Evalbot) ship with a board-locked version of their full compiler, so you don’t have to deal with that 30-day nonsense (honestly, who has ever gotten use out of a 30-day trial? Especially as a hobbyist… you put a project down for a week or two, as can often happen, and suddenly you no longer have a working compiler, so the whole thing is rubbish. Ugh.) Now if they could only unify their IDEs so I no longer need three separate versions of CCS installed… oh well, at least it’s not EW.

  8. @DanJ: I’m a corporate designer of high volume products. I’m actually working with Freescale parts now at work. But I’m not allowed to enter their contest with that work because, well, they’re my company’s proprietary property. Honestly, if I had the opportunity to spec a part for a next-gen product, I’d be choosing a vendor based on both my personal and professional experiences.

  9. @chango, obviously I understand you couldn’t enter your work-design. That wasn’t my point. You’re the kind of guy Freescale wants to attract (and obviously has). Ideally the guy like you currently familiar with another vendor’s parts and whose dept budget can easily support $3500 tools.

    I also design products although they’re never built in volumes higher than thousands or maybe tens of thousands of units. Freescale isn’t interested in me as evidenced by the cost of developing firmware for their chips.

    That’s fine. They get to define their market strategy. ST is the same way (too bad for me because I like their parts).

  10. @peter.
    Actually, everyone who pases the quizz will receive tool discounts and will be able to submit proyect proposals with a change of winning $1k. I think the average hacker will be able to pass it with the eyes closed xD. 10 proposals will win 1k each and they will build their proyects for a chance of winning 10k, 5k , 2k extra.

  11. The only thing it has going for it is that they don’t own your design after you submit it (Which a few other sleazy chipmakers do for contests. Read the fine print)

    Otherwise its a complete travesty. You have to complete “online training” and pass a quiz before you can even enter! And if you’re one of the chosen you ‘get’ “the opportunity to select from discounted tools and create [your] own unique design” which means you still have to pay for the tools to make it. (Though you get a discount.)

    Contests like this are to get MORE people interested in your product, get MORE users and create a positive buzz about your product. This contest not only crates negative buzz, but eliminates from the competition anyone who doesn’t already have experience with the platform. What a stupid way to waste of $20K of their marketing budget.

  12. There’s plenty of inexpensive but feature rich ARM boards that work with gcc and have no restrictions. There’s also better contests like the ones that Circuit Cellar runs. Does Freescale think they are the Oracle of embedded?

  13. @DanJ : $3500 would be if you bough IAR. You can get their standard CodeWarrior tools for about $300.

    They do have special editions that are free, but so far they haven’t added the kinetis family to that supported list.

  14. Of the ten men sent, four returned. Of those four, three wrote books about what happened. Of those three, two were published. And of those two, only one got a movie deal. This is the story of the men who attempted to make that movie.

  15. lol
    most people commenting sound like babies crying over not getting a free candy.
    I guess the quiz is just to filter out sample colectors

    BTW. I’m prety sure you can use Freescale kinetis boards with the free gcc based Sourcery CodeBench lite version. Although I can’t confirm because I have an academic license.

  16. Freescale did something similar (“hoops” to jump through) a while ago for their low pin count hc08 product lines (the “Black Widow Contest”?) IIRC, you had to pass an online quiz and then complete a coding example (via online test system) before you

  17. Freescale did something similar a while ago for one of their hc08 product lines IIRC, you had to pass an online quiz and then complete a coding example (via online test system) before you qualified to receive free or discounted development system use for the final phases of the contest.

    I rather enjoyed it, actually. The “hoops” were not difficult, and I actually learned some things. Certainly more than when I order a development kit for a contest and never actually getting around to doing anything with it, which is all common…

  18. You don’t need to license any software from TI to develop for the Stellaris Cortex-M3 (LM3S line)!!

    You just need the free and fabulous GNU toolchain with the gcc compiler. You can build it from source but I recommend the outstanding CodeSourcery Lite toolchain package.

    Same for any other Cortex-M3 core–that’s one of the greatest advantages of the M3: you can use standard JTAG/SWD debug and flash download tools, standard compiler toolchain, etc. from multiple vendors INCLUDING THE COMPLETE FREE AND OPEN SOURCE GNU TOOLCHAIN. Also check out the free and open source (both hardware and software/firmware) Versaloon debug/programming adapter.

    Now for the Freescale Cortex-M4, I’m not sure. I haven’t heard of any Cortex-M4 support in gcc yet.

  19. Marketing for these companies is totally out of touch with the developer community. To start with , the time frame they have allotted is ridiculous. Play along with the contest and have a final design by august? Are you nuts ? As a developer we have other things in life besides working 24/7 on hardware and giving just over 30 days to get the hardware, learn its quirks , and make a product is silly.

    Then we are supposed to submit a design paper in which we release all rights to the work to freescale for their further use even if we do not win is again silly.

    The benefit to the developer is a limited trial of a toolchain ? hello ? Anyone home at marketing ?

    Companies need to learn that charging for development software, making us perform like your trained pets just to get a pat on the head, and over charging for development hardware is NOT the way to make developers want to use your products.

    some companies have learned like Atmel and Microchip by offering low cost hardware and free software, but the others like freescale and TI that want thousands for a $50 hardware board need to wake up. I am not supposed to be paying you a premium for the privilege of using your stuff.

  20. (stupid not-my-keyboard…) I don’t think that manufacturers quite understand how thin the line is between a hobbyist and a real designer when it comes to evaluating new technologies. the times when an engineer is given a couple months to read datasheets and play with evaluation boards to pick a NEW architecture are few and far between. You have to capture “mindshare” from an engineer’s spare time…

    On the other hand, I doubt that big companies doing real evaluations for significant products. would have trouble getting any of the development boards we’re looking at here for free. Or that they’d consider several thousand spent on development systems to be an inappropriate expense.

    these contests are a way for a manufacturer to get “showcase” projects from engineers who are showing off their talents or their “hobbyist” prjoects. Don’t think that contests are a significant part of the marketing effort behind … anything (for example, compare total prize value to the travel expenses for manning a booth at ONE trade show…)

  21. Umm… how would that work as an add on with all the wires and stuff? Also that would put a strain on the right hand, plus it’s just confusing with the position and all… I’m still trying to get used to using both the circle pad and the d pad on my 3DS…

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.