Monday, December 29, 2014

Old School Robot Poster

My pal, "erco," Eric Ostendorff, just updated his avatar on the Parallax Forums. He used as his image the one from a cool poster that can be found here. Pretty neat, eh?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

This Week at NASA

What happened This Week @ NASA? NASA’s Orion Spacecraft is back, our New Horizons spacecraft’s wake-up call and; more!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Journey to Mars

The journey to Mars continued today with the launch of Orion! So exciting...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On more time...

Crying wolf again? I'll be watching though...Go Orion, Go!

Orion, our next generation spacecraft, is scheduled to launch on its first flight test tomorrow at 7:05 a.m. EST / 12:05 UTC. Watch our preflight briefing today live at 11 a.m. EST for the latest update on this historic event:

Keep Moving Forward...

For the Orion Team at NASA...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Orion Exploration Flight

Way cool! Check it out here.

Tonight be sure you set your alarm to be up to watch #Orion launch at 7:05am ET! 

NASA TV coverage begins at at 4:30am at

The flight test will send Orion farther into space than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has gone in more than 40 years, testing a new, unique spacecraft for the first time in the orbital environment it will endure on future missions to deep space on our#JourneytoMars

Friday, November 28, 2014

From Parallax

Way better than the Transformer Turkey I found! Check our the Parallax Turkey - and not a "turkey" of a product in the bunch!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from Robotics Under the Stole!

Turkey Transformer...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Fellowship Continues...

I've done this before and may have to have another go. Lots of fun. I love waiting for a package to arrive! Thanks to Chris, an engineer at Parallax, and the host of Savage Circuits for the video and the great idea!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

To Catch a Comet

"To Catch A Comet," a compelling documentary that details the complexities and challenges of the ten-year, four-million-mile journey of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Spacecraft Rosetta as it chased down and landed on the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in a history-making feat this week, premieres Wednesday, November 19, 2014 on PBS.

You can also stream the entire program on the PBS website.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Christmas Goodies!

Got an Arlo Power Distribution Board on the way (my Christmas prize!), Also ordered an  Assorted 3-Wire Extension Cable 30-Pack and pair of HB-25 Mounting Bracket(s). Thanks for the 10% off, and the free shipping and the free WS2812BRGB LED Module Parallax! What a deal! 

Been wanting one of these for a while... Now - if I can just wait till Christmas...

Will use these supplies to complete an Arlo Bot.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More on Rosetta and Philae

I was lucky enough to be watching a live feed at the moment they received the signal that Philae had successfully landed. Absolutely amazing!

The Rosetta Blog is here:

Rosetta Flickr 

Touchdown! Rosetta's Philae Probe Lands on Comet

This is an amazing achievement and demonstrates the endless possibilities in the field of robotics! See the full story here.

One other interesting bit of info - The lander is named after Philae Island in the Nile where an obelisk was found and used, along with the Rosetta Stone, to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Information on the video Rosetta’s deployment of Philae to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. 

The animation begins with Philae still on Rosetta, which will come to within about 22.5 km of the centre of the nucleus to release the lander on 12 November 2014.

The animation then shows Philae being ejected by Rosetta and deploying its own three legs, and follows the lander’s descent until it reaches the target site on the comet about seven hours later. The animation is speeded up, but the comet rotation is true: in the time it takes for Philae to descend, the nucleus has rotated by more than 180º (the comet’s rotation period is 12.4 hours).

The final steps of Philae’s descent towards the comet are shown as seen by a hypothetical observer close to the landing site on the comet.

Acknowledgement: The background image of the sequence showing Philae closing in on the landing site was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA) on 14 September 2014 from a distance of about 30 km.

Philae was provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Spare Parts

Saw the preview for this Robotic's film too. Can't wait...

Spare Parts is based on this article in Wired Magazine.

Here is a trailer for a documentary about the real deal.

Big Hero 6

Saw this tonight with my family. Great robotic's and adventures in creating things' themes...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

erco's knock box

This is a cool project my pal erco made a few years ago - gotta make one of these!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Interactive Media Publishing and My S2 Videos

In the report posted below, Ken Gracey, of Parallax, had some reference info in his presentation to the teachers about a company called Interactive Media Publishing. See It is a company that makes education material for different age levels and uses the S2, BoeBot and some other bots. Below is the video for the Middle 5-8 grade program. 

Also the High School bot uses the S2 - and Fluke 2 (which I did not know about) to teach Python programming! I knew that the Serial port was retained for compatibility with the old IPRE Fluke - but I thought it wasn't around anymore...Who knew?

The biggest surprise was on a info page they had about the Parallax S2 robot. Here is a link. At the bottom of the page, there are links to videos of the S2 in action. Two of the five YouTube videos are by yours truly!

S2 Scribbling Robot and
The Parallax S2 Reveals its Soul

They did not link to:
Better Propeller Beanie 2.0 which is, as its name implies, a better beanie!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Parallax's S2 Goes to Iowa with Code from Louisiana!

Ken Gracey of Parallax (Facebook at Parallax MicrocontrollersandRobots) reports on teaching teachers in Iowa using the S2 robot. See his report here. 

I posted previously about the programs that I wrote in response to Ken's request for suggestions on the Parallax Forums (see below). Looks like he used some! Ken's programs can be found here

Amazing Grace!

Grace Murray Hopper at the UNIVAC keyboard, c. 1960
Image from Wikipedia article linked below.
This is a video featuring Grace Hopper. She was one of those early women involved in computing. Her contributions were unbelievable! This is a bit of what here Wikipedia biography says about her...(See Grace Hopper) Lots of good stuff in The Innovators too! See this post.

Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navyrear admiral.[1] A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and invented the first compiler for a computer programming language.[2][3][4][5][6] She popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (inspired by an actual moth removed from the computer). Owing to the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace".[7][8] The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC.

When Women Stopped Coding

Programmers Betty Jean Jennings (left) and Fran Bilas (right) 
operate ENIAC's main control panel at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering.
Great story here on NPR about women's heavy involvement in the early days of computing and how it all changed. The story "When Women Stopped Coding" was by Steve Henn and aired on October 21, 2014.  I have to admit hearing the details of this really makes me very sad. I hope this is changing some now. As a father of a daughter, I hope she knows and is being taught that she can do whatever she wants to!

Graphic from the NPR link above.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Binary Counting Addition and Subtraction Continued...

This time we do some Binary Addition and Subtraction as one S2 counts the other as it passes. The S2 passing Left to Right is added to the total and the same S2 passing from Right to Left is subtracted from the count total.

The original Binary Addition and Subtraction code was modified with a "wait" to allow time for the counted S2 to pass (and allows a full pass in either direction without being "counted" on both sides in a pass). See BinaryCountAddSubwWait code The S2 being counted makes Counter-Clockwise and Clockwise circles - the loops can be adjusted to get different results. See TwoDirectionCircle code and photo below - with a nod to Nikos (on the Parallax Forums) and his nice noted photos. This version results in an answer count of 2 in binary form - just the center LED lighted green! Again 4 is my max count in the code. 

See the video and for the code - visit the Parallax Forums in this thread.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Binary Counting - Addition and Subtraction

Last example for Ken from this thread on the Parallax Forums.  - this is a follow up to the Binary Counting below. This version counts when objects pass the S2 left to right and subtracts when objects pass from right to left. I used a screen/target in the video - you could count passing S2s or Scribblers as I did previously.

I wanted to count/add to 7 and subtract back to 0 - but I ran into the limitation of variables (I think - the program wouldn't load - till I reduced to a maximum count of 4). So we count to 4 and subtract to zero. See other info in the post below (on Binary Count using the LEDs), video below and the good and bad code posted on the Forums at the link above.

NOTE: The code there labeled TOOMANYVAR - which looks okay to me (may have an error), never would load properly - again I think because it exceeds the limits of the Program Maker or the S2 - I asked for input on the Forums and there may be more there eventually.

Hope Ken has a great time with his class! The S2 is an amazing robot to teach with...

When to Saints Go Marching In!

Alright, here is the one robot parade promised to erco. The S2 dances in to "When the Saints Go Marching In!" This is another example of a program written only with the GUI Program Maker in response to a call from Ken Gracey of Parallax for some examples for an upcoming class.

Music photo, and video attached. For code and other info - including Ken's original post - see the Parallax Forums in this thread.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tektronix MDO3000

Tektronix is giving away one of these - an MDO3000! Just what I need - Something so far above my head that I don't even understand all it can do. ;-) I hope I win...  Check out the video...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Light-N-Logo Tracking

This one is called Light-N-Logo Tracking (though it is really just light tracking!) It also features simple GUI Program Maker programming with the S2.
The Target Bot S2 is equipped with an LED flashlight in a container (two bowls stuck together sticky tack) complete with the Parallax Logo - it rotates clockwise and counter-clockwise (randomized by a coin toss) around the second S2 Tracking Bot. Can the tracker follow? See photos and video.

This is similar to Light following but a bit easier since the Tracking Bot rotates in place. The Target Bot just runs a circle with changes of direction.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Parallax Scribbler and S2 GUI Programming Fun

My friend, Ken Gracey, at Parallax is teaching a  course in Iowa for 45 teachers who will be learning the S2 robot for their elementary school programs. He posted the announcement on the Parallax Forums here and  said, "The S2 GUI provides a whole semester's worth of projects, but what gets teachers and students really excited is when the robots interact with one another...I know there's more we can do, using the GUI and the sensors on the S2. Can you give me some more ideas about how we can make the S2s communicate with one another - strictly from GUI programming activities."

So here are a couple of ideas that I came up with.

Number One - Here is a demo with two programs written in the GUI (that means they will run on the Original Scribbler and S2, of course). Old blue is programmed to count in binary numbers up to 7 (with 3 LED indicators we have 0 - 7 - 1s column, 2s column and 4s column - On is 1 and Off is 0). See graphics below.

The S2 (because of its encoders and ability to stay on course) is programmed to run 7 circles (can be simply reset to some other number up to 7 in the loop counter). As it passes by, old blue will count as it passes, using the IR detectors.

See the following demo video...

Number Two - Variation on the theme above. Should be easy for your teachers to figure out and students will love it because it resembles a magic trick - "Fire Stealer"

The sneaky S2 sings Charge!, runs erco's figure 8 and "steals" LED light - "fire" - from Scribbler A and drops it off at Scribbler B. When all the light is stolen from Blue A - it says Uh-Oh!, and when all the LEDs are lit on Scribbler B, it says TaDa!

Enjoy the video! The code for both of these examples is available on the Forums at the link above.

Number Three - And last one... maybe!

I call this one Ribbon Following.

I took a black piece of ribbon (weighted with a quarter taped to the back) and attached it to my blue Scribbler. Using the S2 default line following program, the S2 gives chase. The slightly raised ribbon attached to the Scribbler seems to work well - with the usual goofs, of course! I had to adjust the speeds of the two bots to make the following work best. See photo below and...Enjoy this video - Thanks to videographer, scribbler-kart!

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Innovators

Great author interview tonight on Fresh Air - All Tech Considered. I've got to read this book!
In The Innovators, Walter Isaacson explains that Pentagon officials wanted a system the Russians couldn't attack, and 1984 made the public wary of new...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Great Coverage of Parallax on Sacramento News

Rocklin company helps students reach for the skies with robots
Parallax, a Rocklin, California company is helping children embrace science, technology and engineering with the help of robots. For more information click above.

Most of you know that I think that Parallax is the very best. Their products and customer service are second to none!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Robot Priest Stuff...

Feeling more job security after watching this video... The whole story is here on Mashable.

A Google Image search of Robot Priest came up with these...

and this classic also used on my sidebar!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Recent Updates on Mars Curiosity

After 2 years and nearly 9 kilometers of driving, NASA's Mars Curiosity has arrived at the base of Mount Sharp to begin a whole new phase of exploration. Video from September 11.

And in video from September 25 - Curiosity has collected its first drill sample from the base of Mount Sharp. The scientific allure of the layered mountain inside a crater drew the team to choose this part Mars as its landing site.

Amazing real work is being done far away from Earth with such advanced robots working with teams here directing the process!

Klenk Tools Wire Cutter and Stripper

Parallax is now selling these. It is the Klenk Tools 2 in 1 Wire Cutter Stripper. Looks like they work really well and they are not expensive at all. Added this to my wish list.
Edit: These are on the way... Couldn't resist.

More info here - Two in One Wire Cutter and Stripper Documentation

Friday, September 26, 2014

My S2 Article Is Two Years Old!

PRODUCT REVIEW: Parallax’s Red Hot Scribbler 2 Robot

Parallax's™new, bright red, S2 is designed to be a worthy successor to their original blue Scribbler Robot. Powered by Parallax's Propeller chip, a multicore processor ideal for robotics, the opensource and user hackable S2 should have everyone from beginners to experienced users excited and experimenting right out of the box. Read More »
Hard to believe that this was two years ago!

    Arlo Running ROS

    Here is a demonstration video made by ChrisL8 over on the Parallax Forums here. He is using this Arlo Robot with ROS software in an incredible mapping demo.

    Thursday, September 25, 2014

    Saturday, September 20, 2014


    Today is the Robothon sponsored by the Seattle Robotics' Society. More information can be found on their Facebook page - 

    I am wearing my T Shirt!

    Wednesday, September 17, 2014

    ReWalk Robotic Exoskeleton

    ReWalk Robotic's IPO is exceeding all expectations at the moment. The value of stock is soaring... See the article here and the amazing video below.

    Edit - A great response to this post came from my friend Eric Ostendorff, aka erco on the Parallax Forums. It was in this thread and contained the following video about eLEGS from Berkeley Bionics.

    This is such exciting stuff and shows the unlimited potential of robotics.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2014

    MIT Robotic Cheetah

    Great video on MIT's Robotic Cheetah. The full article is here.


    Saw this at school today - a lighted R2-D2 backpack!

    Why didn't/don't I have one of these?

    Tuesday, September 9, 2014

    Raspberry Pi

    Having fun with my Model B+ Raspberry Pi. More info is available at and great support and products at

    Lots of great robotics uses for this well made, inexpensive and small computer!

    FastRobotics Robot Shield

    FastRobotics is now marketing a line of Quickstart Shields that utilize the Parallax Propeller Quickstart Board. The announced the new line on the Parallax Forums and offered new customers a free T Shirt with a purchase.

    What I will get is their first product!  The Robot Shield, Revision A, connects to the Quickstart and they are marketing it as "a great board to get quickly get your Robot up and running."  The Robot Shield was initially developed for David Gitz's Masters Thesis. Now they are making them to sell to others. They will soon have a Kickstarter and will be releasing the B Revision. 

    Here is a photo of the Robot Shield, Revision A, mounted on a Parallax Propeller Quickstart Board and a photo of the T Shirt too.

    By the way, the T Shirt is printed by - the same company that printed the Robothon T Shirt I posted previously - Seems like a very cool company.

    Measuring Customer Service

    I was lucky enough to have purchased Parallax's original 12 Volt Motor and Wheel Kit (featured in this old thread on the Parallax Forums) that Parallax sold. It featured the encoder wheels and sensors shown below. This was the unit used on the Eddie Robot Platform and I think the original MadeUSA Platform. Encoders are used to keep wheels running at the same speed so that a robot continues in a straight path and to measure the distance the robot has traveled.

    Original 9 Tab Encoder Wheels

    Later generations of the Motor Mount and Wheel Kit (Aluminum) (in addition to adding a less expensive Motor Mount and Wheel Kit - Molded Plastic) and now the new Arlo Robotics Platform System include the much more precise 36-Position Quadrature Encoder Set. Compare the old 9 tab wheel to the new 36 tab wheel!

    Newer 36 Tab Wheels
    I wondered if the new encoders and sensors would work on the original 12 Volt Motor and Wheel Kit and asked a question on the Forums in this thread

    Not only did I get a quick reply from Ken Gracey, the company's president - Parallax sent me the upgrade at no charge! This usually sells for $39.99! 

    Parallax provides the best customer service I have ever seen! My new 36-Position Quadrature Encoder Set is just one measure of that service! Thanks Parallax!

    Friday, September 5, 2014

    Robothon 2014 T Shirt

    The Seattle Robotic Society's Robothon 2014 is almost here! It will be held on September 20th at the Seattle Center Armory from 9:30 to 5:30. You can go to or for rules and descriptions of all the competitions. 

    Obviously, this is way too far from here for me to go, but I've followed the event for years. Thanks to Carol Lynn Hazlett, who is a contributing editor for Robot Magazine, robot builder extraordinaire, and a member of SRS, I got this year's T Shirt. Her only stipulation was that I had to wear it on September 20th! 

    Thanks Carol!

    By the way, this shirt was made by a great company called CustomInk. Check out their website. I know where I'm going the next time I need T shirts made...

    Robotic's Lab 3.1

    My robotic's lab is set-up again and ready for some fun. I got it finished at the tail end of the summer and am back in business after a big mess and long hiatus when we moved.

    I began at our old house with just a table in my bedroom - I'll call that Lab 1.0. Then, I moved my lab into the corner of our den - that was Lab 2.0. Lab 2.1 was a slight remodel when I got a computer, just for robotic's work.  My wife found the great glass door storage cabinets (say 2.1.5) and then I re-arranged in the same location - That was Lab 2.2.

    When we moved to our new house, we unpacked mostly, but the Lab was still really not set-up, so Lab 3.0 wasn't really functional and just sat there unused. Ugh!

    This summer my son and I decided enough was enough. So... Here are the photos of Lab 3.1. Standing in the middle of the room and turning clockwise, here are four views. I can find everything now.

    Now to to get it messy again - but this time in a fun way.

    Main Work Area

    Storage Cabinets and Book Case

    Desk and Raspberry Pi 

    Storage Cabinet and Tool Chest