Monday, May 30, 2016


This is really cool - can't remember if I have posted this info on RUS previously. Amazing stuff! Be sure to check out MoonMail - I would love to have something sent to the moon, especially something representing this blog. Love the video and the vision!

6 Things...

Thanks to Eric Ostendorff (erco) for posting this over on  the Parallax Forums! The motorcycling robot is my fav!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Return of the Twinkle Toes!

We have a bit of a Parallax Toddler revival going on at this thread over on the Parallax Forums. In thread, we began discussing bump sensors for the Toddler - that were nick-named "Twinkle Toes!" - Parallax Part #27312. As far as I know Carol Lynn Hazlett got the last set from Hobby Engineering. Above is a photo of the Blue Toddler. A pdf describing how they work is here (Chapter 8 from the Toddler Manual). See additional photos below including one to the the sensors, Gold Toddler, Toddler Control Board, and all the parts!

We also discussed recreating the Toddler Bump Sensors - which are no longer available. "Publison" at the Forums has recreated the design of the PCB and is getting them made. He says,
"I'm going to get them done with Solder Mask and Silkscreen so the would look finished. The difference was $3.00 per set with no mask or screen. I'm going with ExpressPCB right now. I will get 7 sets, (with one board left over). Looks like on set of Twinkle Toes boards, (right, left), will cost $11+ shipping. You will have to supply the two resistors. the Red/Green LED, and the headers. I'll send this order out Tuesday and get them back by Thursday. I'm taking two sets, erco gets one and Whit gets one. That leaves three. Should we make Ken buy a set? Also you will need 4-40 screws and nuts and the wire, available at most hardware stores and R/C outlets."
Here is Publison's recreation of the PCB. So excited to be even a small part of reviving this bit of Parallax history!

The Twinkle Toes installed from the pdf.
Post Script - we also have a great conversation going with Harry Lewis at Blue Bell Design - see note in the Forum thread.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Puma's Training Bot

Puma's training Bot can keep up with the fastest man in the world and help improve performance. You can see the whole story here at element 14.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Too Cool Not to Post!

Not really robotic, but space related and just too cool not to post!

My Projects - Link Removed

I removed the link to my robots and robotic's projects from the sidebar today (not a true 404 error, since I disabled the link). The information was really out of date - that is, it had not been updated in a very, very long time. A look through this archives show that I have many, many more robots and projects than are shown here.

The old info is here (April 24, 2007 post) and might be updated someday - it will take lots of work to get this in good shape!

Montana Robotics

Some great work going on here in Montana at X Team Robotics (X Team's blog is here). Photo above is with family friend Shannon Thomas (that is Shan on far right) at CR Anderson Middle School in Helena, Montana. X Team is a FIRST Tech Challenge Team and based out of Exploration Works! - a science and educational center in the city. 

Looks like a really good group! I really need to get a club going here, especially now that I don't have a school team anymore!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

On My Reading List

I want to read Sublime Dreams of Living Machines by Minsoo Kang. It is available at at this link.

You can see the author talking about the book and his ideas in the following video episode of PBS' The Good Stuff. Looks really interesting...

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Next Great Moon Race

Exciting video...

This is the company featured in the video - Astrobotic. Go take a look! I would love to send something via Moon-Mail!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Idea Zeroids

This is Zerak - Had it!

Zobor - I know I had this one too!
Zintar - Had them all - I guess!

Per the post below, I was just reminded of Idea Toy Companies Zeroid Robots. I had these when I was little and had completely forgotten them! A quick Google search turned up the following. More as I find it. I would love to get some of these!

Here is what wikipedia says about Zeroids - Also found this vintage commercial on YouTube.

Another site here - - and another really good one! -

Love these old advertisements!

And finally - These roboteers are building their own! Mercy!

And You Thought I Had a Problem...

We should start a online support group... What a fun couple of videos! The second one is my pal, Eric (aka erco)! He not only collects - he is an incredibly creative builder and shares all he knows by writing for Robot Magazine, Servo and widely on various robotics forums. I'm proud to count him as a friend!

Eric also found this collection on sale at ebay too! Of course, while at ebay - I saw this and remembered that I a bunch of these when I was young! I had completely forgotten! Ideal Toys Zeroids! I will definitely be researching this more. Okay, I have a problem! 

Friday, May 13, 2016

In the Mail Today!

This arrived today! The Parallax DHB-10 Dual H Bridge 10 Amp Motor Controller. Absolutely beautiful construction - very well designed and feature packed - just what I've all come to love about Parallax products - love getting a package with the Parallax packing tape!

It is a very compact design too. They are back in stock! Check it out here or just visit Parallax and look around. You will learn something - I promise!

Good News for this Summer from Parallax

The new S3 has many new features and easy hack-ability!

Just posted on the Parallax site - Parallax Insider News - Scribbler 3 Robot Update!

Here is the text...
Did you know that the origins of the Scribbler 3 (S3) robot started 15 years ago with the blue Scribbler and a BASIC Stamp 2? Since then, we’ve put over 20,000 of these robots into schools around the world. Many of the original robots are still in use too! 
Educators are asking Parallax about the new S3 Robot. Many schools have been using the S2 for several years and are ready to order the new S3. Here’s a quick update for your planning.
  • Availability: We have analyzed a dozen prototypes and approved the S3 for production earlier this week. We expect our first batch of production units to arrive at Parallax in August.
  • Price: Final price has yet to be determined. We estimate that the S3 will be between $149 and $179. Volume discounts for class packs will be available.
  • Stock Code: The Parallax stock code for the S3 is #28333.
  • Placing Orders: We will enable pre-ordering for schools as soon as we have 100% confidence about the delivery date from our Rocklin, California warehouse.
  • Features: Some of the S3’s new features include:
  • USB-rechargeable lithium ion battery with up to eight hours of run time
  • USB programmability
  • Exposed hacker port for additional Parallax sensors (Ping)))PIR, etc.)
  • XBee socket for future WiFi programming or robot-robot, robot-computer control
  • Green color (original choice was yellow but this color caused too much internal infrared scattering) 
The most important issue for Parallax and our customers is the programming software. The original Scribbler 2 (S2) Graphical User Interface (S2 GUI) runs only in Windows. Attempts to port it to Mac have now ended (it uses an obsolete code base in Perl). Upon release of the S3 we will have backward-compatible support with the S2 GUI so the robot can be programmed in the same tool. 
Our official Scribbler 3 programming tool will become BlocklyProp. Parallax is openly developing the interface around Google’s block programming language. We have customized this tool for the Propeller microcontroller which will enable students to have their first programming experience with a multicore processor. We plan on supporting the S3 in BlocklyProp with a series of blocks specific to the robot. A Chrome-compatible version is also in consideration for the 1-to-1 Chromebook schools. 
To track our progress with BlocklyProp and the S3 robot please follow me on Twitter @ParallaxKen.

Follow Parallax's development of Blockly here too. Register and keep up for yourself!

You can see one of these at my house as soon as they are available! WOW - Can not wait!
The Original Scribbler - Old Blue!

The Fantastic S2 - Propeller Powered!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Underwater Robotics

From the SeaDrone Facebook page.
Here is a robotic subject I have not dealt much with, but in Louisiana - with all  our rivers, bayous and lakes (and also aquaculture) - this could be a natural and a great robotic educational opportunity.

This is SeaDrone. More info is on the web at their site here. An article is also here on IEEE Spectrum about the idea's developement (Stanford brains again!).

The video above is very interesting. It really might be fun to develop an inexpensive hobby/educational bot (ala Phil Pilgrim's work on the Parallax Forums especially in this thread) - like the ELEV-8 for under water use.

This seems like it fits Parallax's mission. The SeaDrone above seems to have the "right stuff" for such an idea/concept - revised, of course, and made available in an ELEV-8 sort of package. It needs Parallax Control (brains) and the educational materials - but this could be really fun!

This really has me thinking about a new area of robotics that would be fun to explore - practical - and very interesting for students of all ages!

Monday, May 9, 2016

DHB-10 Dual H-Bridge Motor Control

The DHB-10 is a thing of beauty!

Finally cracked under the great emotional strain of the new Arlo Complete Robot System release and ordered the DHB-10 Dual H-Bridge. It is back ordered right now - which should give me time to study the pdf product info...

My Arlo-like version is a bit Frankenstein-ish going back to the original 12 V Wheel and Motors, MadeUSA, Eddie, etc. - even have one HDPE platform and one plywood platform! ;-)

With the new DHB-10 - I should be able to play with new stuff up on and use my Propeller Activity Board along with the new motor controller for some "up-to-date" fun without the nifty wooden box, of course, - maybe erco can send me some scrap plywood...

The Arlo Complete Robot System in its neat wooden box!

Fly by Night

The performance, created by artist Duke Riley, is called “Fly by Night.” It is presented by Creative Time and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
“At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds will emerge from their home in a grand, converted historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard,” the description for the exhibition explained. “The pigeons will circle above the river as the sun sets over Manhattan, and small leg bands, historically used to carry messages, will be replaced with tiny LED lights, illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature.” Story from CBS New York - here.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Louisiana Tech Robotics Competition 2016

Louisiana Tech held its annual Robotics Competition (and demonstration) yesterday, May 6, 2016 in the "Tonk" or student center. The event was organized by Tech's Computer Science Department and sponsored by Pioneer Rx Pharmacy Software, and Praeses - two software development companies out of Shreveport. Both companies had representatives there.

The event was well attended and featured a maze competition, design competition (which was more like a demonstration of various design ideas - Social Media App Controlled Bot, Voice Controlled Bot, a Spiro-graphic Scribbler, Floor Sweeper, Card Dealing Bot, Nerf Gun - with targeting and tracking, Painting Bot, Package Sorting Bot, and several more!) followed by some further demos of hobby projects, and robotic toys and gizmos.

One of the graduating students had a Parallax ELEV-8, V3 - quad-copter - modified with obstacle avoiding sensors and successfully demonstrated his proof-of-concept.

The thing that impressed me most was the enthusiasm, and the diversity of the crowd in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity - it was a true cross section of the university and community at large. I would say over a dozen elementary aged children attended and were very excited and actively engaged. Students also clearly had non-technical friends attend the event to cheer them on!

There were many failures and partially completed projects - just shows that in robotics - real-life implementation is often a trial and error process of failure, revision and refinement. Roboticists are always - Back to the Drawing Board, Computer or Lab Workbench!

Special thanks to Ben Choi, Ph.D., Computer Science Department, for organizing this event and to Jean Gourd, Ph.D., Program Chair of Computer Science, for showing up to cheer folks on!

Star Wars Fun-bots.

Spiro-graphic Scribbler

Floor Sweeper

Round One - Maze Competition

A couple of the "toys" and one of the awards.

Sphero's BB-8 made an appearance too!

Friday, May 6, 2016


According to Wikepedia, here:
R.U.R. is a 1920 science fiction play by the Czech writer Karel ČapekR.U.R. stands for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots).[1] However, the English phrase Rossum’s Universal Robots had been used as the subtitle in the Czech original.[2] It premiered on 25 January 1921 and introduced the word "robot" to the English language and to science fiction as a whole.[3]
I've posted here many times about R.U.R. and it's influence on Robotics Under the Stole, especially the RUS favicon. Above are photos of the Cover and Title Page of R.U.R. and below is the RUS favicon.


A little known piece of robotics history* is the story of Boilerplate.  A wonderful website about Boilerplate maintained  here and a book about this history is available at Amazon here.

* Just in case you were wondering - see this from Gatehouse Gazett.

Thursday, May 5, 2016