I'm really enjoying my Esky Lama V4, and I think it will be a good platform to try this idea out.
So I went over to my friend who runs the chembal website, and he showed me what I needed to get started. Here's the list:
Development kit: ($85)
Logic analyzer: ($79)
The next two are from the same vendor:
Ultrasonic distance sensor: ($25)
Wires: ($17 & $12)
One of these soldering stations, but not both!
Some of the equipment is ordered. Since it comes from different vendors, the division chair got tired of registering and ordering from so many different sites. So the rest will be on its way later.