Thursday, September 21, 2017

Parallax's New Parallax Feedback 360° High Speed Servo

Parallax has produced another great new product.

Here are a couple of videos showing the capability of Parallax's new Feedback 360° High Speed Servo. The first is by my friend Eric, aka erco, aka Servo's Mr. Roboto.

This following is a Parallax produced video.

Parallax has this description on their website:
The Parallax Feedback 360° High Speed Servo provides the functionality of a light-duty standard servo, continuous rotation servo, high-speed servo, and encoder in one convenient package.
Like most continuous rotation servos, the Feedback 360° is controlled by a 50 Hz pulse-width-modulation signal.  What sets it apart is a return signal line from an internal Hall effect sensor system that provides digital angular position feedback.
Utilizing this feedback signal, your application can make the servo to turn to and hold any angle, much like a standard servo but with an unlimited range of motion.  Or, rotate the servo continuously at a controlled, verifiable speed—up to 120 RPM—as a robot drive motor.  Control signal response is nicely linear across the speed control range.
  • Bidirectional, continuous, feedback-controllable rotation from -120 to 120 RPM
  • PWM positional feedback across entire angular range
  • Internal Hall effect position sensor, which is not subject to wear or sensor deadband as are potentiometer-style feedback systems
  • No need to manually “center” the servo
  • 3-pin ground-power-signal cable plugs onto the Activity Board’s 3-pin header
  • Separate single wire with female connector supplies feedback to a separate I/O pin
  • Fits our Small Robot Wheel and Tire and Servo Wheels
I have a couple of these on the workbench to play with and they are very impressive. What a great new product! There are endless uses for a servo like this for robotic applications. At less than $20 a piece (with discounts for volume) - I think they will sell like hotcakes. Check em out!

Edit: It will be great to see how the use of these servos is developed in BlocklyProp!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Give It a Try!

Don't be a block-head, give BlocklyProp a try! Recommended by every priest and roboticist I know!
Go to or more specifically -
BlocklyProp is ready to use with the S3 robot, with the new FLiP, or any Propellor Board.

Note: Ken - your shirt is in the mail!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Why Parallax?

A Note from R.U.S.: The following article is cut and pasted directly from the Parallax, Inc., website at and can be found directly here - It states exactly the reasons I believe so much in Parallax products. It omits a few important things... Said by the CEO, these would sound self-serving - but said by a customer and active user of Parallax products, perhaps they will carry some weight. All of their products are of the very highest quality, and on the rare occasion that there is any problem, they provide a replacement. I've seen them do this even when the user was at fault and damaged a product! Sometimes I just study the design, feel, and look of their printed circuit boards and their beautiful construction (much of which is done here in the U.S.A.), and am amazed at the fit and finish. Next, Parallax's customer service is second to none! The folks who work there are passionate about what they do and produce. They share their time and knowledge generously. Parallax's printed (pdf), and web-based educational information is the best I've ever seen! All of this material is free to download or study online and has been for years. I've been lucky enough recently to help with some of this work! Parallax is very serious about its production and accuracy. They provide help willingly to the new and inexperienced, and to seasoned professionals. They work tirelessly to provide technical and product support. Parallax is constantly working on something new and keeps up or leads the way with the latest ideas in programming and product design. Lastly, you will never work with any company with kinder or friendlier people. So, add my two cents to Ken Gracey's excellent summary below and you'll understand why I love Parallax products and the folks who work there. They have fueled my passion by sharing their own! I cannot recommend them highly enough. Whit+

Parallax Insider News

20 Years in Education: How stability, consistency, and accessibility benefit educators and students who learn from Parallax

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  • By: Ken Gracey Published: 15 September, 2017 0 comments
Parallax has progressively focused on microcontroller educational programs for 20 years. When my teammate Jen [who was my first hire at Parallax] pointed this out to me last week, a number of thoughts came to my mind. The first of which was how we’re still working with the same customers that received a sample “Board of Education” from us back in 1997. In fact, many of our team has been with Parallax for well over fifteen years. While the business and customers have grown, our niche in education has only become more well defined as we’ve accumulated this experience.
Parallax’s educational program is very consistent. To be a good supplier, we also need to be deliberate and steady to deliver a quality product and tutorials. We’ve visited well over a thousand schools and universities and seen firsthand how the storage rooms accumulate training products of the past. Our products aren’t found in those places; they’re being used! Yesterday I received an e-mail from a Virginia area teacher who wrote:
I attended my first Parallax Educator’s Course 15 years ago, which started me on the path. We have some folks in our school district that keep chasing after whatever STEM learning tools are new this month. They send samples to me to test. I keep saying that we aren’t a test facility for some grad student’s KickStarter. We should use tried and true platforms by following criteria: been around at least 10 years; at least 10K posts to a forum; there are well-established teaching materials sufficient for our purposes, including extensions and assessment; and the platform would be recognized by name at colleges.
It’s true that the number of choices for educational robotics is staggering. Teachers are often confused by the options available to them. Sometimes these suppliers are one-product startups, and their business interests may run counter to those of the customer. The only way for such a company to continue to exist is to have a product roadmap that obsoletes and replaces their first product with a second one, and a third one. This is what creates the back-room “STEM storage area” filled with products of the past. These older products may be impossible to get connected to a modern operating system because you can’t find the software or support to get started - only a salesperson who’s ready to “upgrade” you. Today, you can still download software and program Parallax’s original Scribbler robot! Did you know that the small metal robot chassis is the same design we bandsaw-cut one weekend 20 years ago? While the processors have improved 10,000x, the robot chassis simply didn’t need to change. We’ve been able to modernize fleets of robots around the world with new boards and motors. The small robot accessories still work across our robot lines.
Student success is the most important measure.
We’ve met thousands of students at the age of seven or eight who first spotted our products at a public event. At an early USA Science and Engineering Festival (~2010) I met a student who wanted to start a middle school robotics club. We quietly handed him a kit. He returned year after year to the same event, growing with our products. That same student has contributed hundreds of hours to our BlocklyProp system over the last couple of years. This afternoon I’m writing his letter of recommendation for his application to MIT and Stanford. Every single one of our team has a similar story to share about a student they’ve mentored through the years. Many of these students have worked at Parallax as interns and are now employed in aerospace, tech or computer-controlled manufacturing.
What do the students get out of these products and the fact you've shared them? They get inspired and develop career interests! Our products cover many disciplines: coding, electronics, competitions, mechanics, and problem-solving. Motivated science professionals can often point to an event, teacher, or experience as a child that set their future course. 
While it’s true that “everything is on the web” sometimes it’s faster to pick up the phone and call us. Tell us about your classroom situation, students, and desired goals. We’re not interested in a quick sale, but supporting you and your program for the long term. Our Educator Hotline is (916) 625-6801 and e-mail
Just how does the ActivityBot measure up against some of the popular choices? We’ve built a chart to help you decide, based on what may be important for your class.
ActivityBot Comparison Chart

Friday, September 15, 2017

Some Thoughts on Friday

On most Fridays, I send a message of cheer to my friends at Parallax, Inc. They make so many wonderful educational products for the study of robotics and micro-controllers. They are a friendly, and very dedicated group of people and share their knowledge with others as individuals and as a company! Many of the resources there are free to all and open source! 

Below is the message I sent this week. It says some things I deeply believe and that I thought were worth sharing here...

Friday Cheer – September 15, 2017

 Dear All,

A note about the importance of what you all are doing…

I believe that all education is about the pursuit of truth. There is no higher goal – in my opinion.

William Sparrow was an Episcopal Priest and taught church history, theology, and Christian evidences at Virginia Theological Seminary. He advised his students to "Seek the truth; come whence it may, cost what it will."

In the Carl Sagan book and movie Contact, when Palmer Joss (a deeply religious and spiritual person) is asked by reporters about scientist and skeptic Ellie Arroway’s report of time travel and encounter with alien life (of which there is no apparent proof) – Joss responds,

News Reporters: “Reverend Joss! Reverend Joss, what do you believe? What do you believe?”
Palmer Joss: “As a person of faith I'm bound by a different covenant than Doctor Arroway. But our goal is one and the same: the pursuit of Truth. I for one believe her.” (emphasis is mine)

As most of you know, I love robotics. Therefore, I hope (like armature astronomers are able) to contribute to the field in a meaningful way. I decided the best way to do so, might not be using my own limited knowledge, but by inspiring others to join the field and grow into future scientists, programmers, and engineers. They might be smart enough to do amazing things beyond my ability – I would contribute by fostering their contribution!

That is the importance of what each of you do every day! Thank you!

As a person of faith, and as a person of science, my goal is and always has been the pursuit of Truth. I seek Truth, come where it may, cost what it will. I also seek to help others do the same – whatever their vocation or avocation. For me, the covenant of faith and science are one in the same – the pursuit of Truth.

Thanks for all you do! Have a great weekend and rest – See you all next week!


Thursday, September 14, 2017

S3 Fun...

When I was a boy, we would clip playing cards to the front forks of our bicycles so that the cards would click in the spokes as the wheels turned. The faster you went, the more the "engine" roared.

Here is the S3 BlocklyProp version! -…

Sunday, September 10, 2017