Parallax Insider News

Parallax Wants Educator and Student Feedback on our new Learn Program!

  • By: Ken Gracey Published: 23 October, 2013 9 comments

With the launch of our C for Propeller educational program on, Parallax is running our Educators Courses in Taiwan, China, Japan, Netherlands, and of course the United States. On Friday we returned from the Netherlands only to plan another trip to China. Our Dutch course was full of 30 instructors!

We've got a very strategic goal with these early courses: to collect important input from educators who use our program. We're also volunteering in local schools to get the student's perspective. Our plan is that the hardware will be used throughout high schools, colleges and university technical education courses (engineering, programming, electronics, and robotics).

We take this mission very seriously. First, we know that our personal interests and even career choices are ignited by a key teacher. Most of us at Parallax work here because we have some kind of passion for what we do that started at an early age. Second, we're putting tremendous resources into the Parallax Education program and we want to get it right, for teachers and students. Doing this properly means our direction should also be lead by you. We're the keeper of an important educational program and we rely on your input to determine how the curriculum is presented.

We want your input on how we're doing with the new C for Propeller Multicore program! Having made our way through most of our Education roadmap, we're now focusing on the curriculum. Up until now, most of our efforts have been in the construction of our foundation: Simple IDE, PropGCC libraries, ActivityBot hardware and now the Educators Courses. With much of this foundation built, we expect to have more resources for the next steps.

And what we're hearing from you at our Educators Courses is that you'd like the following:

  • Multicore projects beyond robotics, in sensors, art, process control and science
  • Chinese, French, German and Spanish Language support of curriculum
  • Autonomous robot competition rules
  • Exciting, high-level programming examples that motivate students
  • Possible support on tablet devices
  • Activity Kit parts, for all projects outside of the ActivityBot (i.e., Simple Devices and Simple Circuits)
  • Libraries for serial, VGA, XBee, SD micro cards, etc.
  • Focus on electronics and electronics theory
  • Curriculum flow that includes explanation, example, and a "try it" for assessment
  • Careful integration of STEM concepts

Are we headed in the right direction to help you solve the problems you're facing? Are there other areas in which you'd like us to focus to better benefit your class? We'd love to hear from you about which things are most important to you as an educator, so we can better prioritize our goals. Please login and post your reply below or drop us a message to!


Hello Jessica, Ken and Andre,

I want to thank you for the perfectly organised cource yesterday. I had to interrupt my vacantion but is was wel wort it. My opinium is that the ActivityBot with SimpleIDE is not only a very powerfull application for learning C-programming but also a nice way to teach realtime multitasking aspect, special with multy core systems. I have showed Andre our current mobile robot, used in our module General Engineering Skills, where the students also make their own mechanics (lasering the chassis and using the Tamiya gearbox) and soldering and testing their own PCB. The problem now is that it takes a lot of time for the student. The ActivityBot is a very nice alternative. I will write a report for my team and invite them also to play with this environment.

If there is news about the Propeller-2 and/or libraries for the multitasking support, let me know.

Kind regards....

Wijnand Nijs

One of the drawbacks of the First program is the cost; Keep it low like it already is and prosper.

I'd also like to see books (or downloads of books) that don't have all the answers in them, or maybe a separate set of problems w/out the answers at all. That way, teachers who don't know can use the ones with the answers, the rest of us can figure out the answers ourselves. Maybe i'm being lazy but you guys can operate with the feedback of many teachers, i only have myself to feed back to, and that's a pretty limited sample size.

Thanks. Keep up the good work!

We currently teach an intro to robotics course at North Seattle Community College using the BOE Bot. With the release of the Activity Bot which is programed in “C”, we want to develop two courses. Not only will this class address robotics, but will introduce students to an industry standard programming language.
1. I am wondering if you could provide a rough outline of what you would recommend be covered in the two courses. I realize you are still developing materials so possibly you may have an idea for the first course.
2. With the BoeBot there were two pdf’s that were very helpful
a. Robotics with the Boe-Bot Version 3
b. BASIC Stamp Syntax and Reference Manual Version 2.2
Will there be manuals in pdf format similar to this format for the Activity Bot?

I would like to thank you for the great day I spent with you both (and with the other "sutdents")! I think you did a great job showing us the basics of the AcitivyBot. I am now able to do loads with it, on my own, and show it off around me - inspiring my community.

My only suggestion for improvement of the course would be to include some examples which show how to leverage the power of the 8 processors working in parallel. I understand that we may have used that power, encapsulated in your libraries, but it would have been nice to see a worked example of distributed processing, at a low enough level so that it could then be built upon by students.

Keep me posted of any news from you end!

Hi Ken and Jessica,

Tnx for the great training course. You did a great job making the programming easy on the Activitybot.
This could inspire a new generation of youngsters to choose a technical study. And have fun!
I'm checking back frequently on the Activitybot learn page and hope there will be multicore examples in the near future.


At Jackson State university in Jackson Mississippi I am inaugating a new course in robotics using the "Propeller C" system. I will use the ActivityBot for experimentation and my notes for theory. The course will include such things as kinematics(forward and inverse, vision, navigation etc.,) Course will begin in Spring 2014. I would be very much interested in some advanced projects for my students. Any suggestions?

Thanks and keep up the great work!


Hi John!  I am working on ActivityBot projects right now.  The first one is simple audio and motion response to sensor feedback (Polite ActivityBot). My next one is IR remote controlled motion and audio playback, with a sensor-based override in case of bad driving; look for that in the next week or so.  These are beginner-level projects but the principles can be applied to more advanced applications.  Another approach could be issuing a challenge, like Clear the Table.  This classroom-sized timed competition is meant to be customized for different age/skill levels. You can make it quite tough by using objects with diverse physical properties that require different sensor strategies (see the Game Variation Ideas at the bottom).  We have C code for a variety of sensors all ready, and supporting the QTI sensors for line/edge detection is high on the list. 

No more planning - we have started a course.

Our Adult & Community Education division of public schools in Arlington, Virginia, USA, begins "Microcontrollers With C Language" next Monday 2014.02.03. I have set level 1 as three evening sessions (9 hours) in February. Then 12 hours level 2 in March.
My students are mostly adult hobbyists and some teens. Courses are not graded.
To keep costs lower for initial course I have specified materials as Activity Board & WAM parts kit (and battery pack or wall wart for servo exercises). The full Learn C kit will be materials starting at level 3.
I will use some new teaching lessons being developed by Andy.
I have been teaching BOE & BOE-Bot courses for 9 years (www dot BoeBotTeacher dot com); the Prop will be a separate and parallel track of courses.
I am providing feedback on these new lessons plans every week to Andy. I'll provide overall feedback on the course to Parallax folks in April at Science Expo, especially where students have problems and where I made mistakes.

Feel free to contact me john-kauffmans-org, particularly for logistic decisions I made for the course.
- John
As my wife's boss used to say to end meetings: "At some point you have to stop talking and start doing."