Parallax Insider News

Parallax Prepares for the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC, April 26-27

  • By: Ken Gracey Published: 09 April, 2014 0 comments

Ever seen 30,000 people, mostly kids, all clamoring to get their hands on the most popular Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM) solutions? Two years ago we attended President Obama’s first USA Science and Engineering Festival (USASEF) in Washington DC ( Over a two-day period we taught 1,500 students how to solder our S2 Robot Badge. I can think of only one other event that wore our team out nearly as much, and that was DEFCON in Las Vegas.

This year, we’re going back to USASEF with a display bigger than ever (20’ x 40’) in Gary Mauler’s “RoboFest” area. The space will be loaded with a half-dozen flag-carrying Arlo robots and a dozen tabletop ActivityBots! We’ve recruited a robotics club of local high school students to do the talking - they’ll be wearing Parallax shirts and telling the students and parents how the robots work. Jessica and I will be on hand to answer questions from educators and to get them familiar with our program.

Keeping the Arlos contained in our stand took a bit of planning. At first we envisioned some sort of foot-high wall to keep robots in and people out. But our robots are learning and service tools that interact with people. After a quick search on eBay we decided to order some electric dog collars and invisible fence products from China. We’ve hacked and mounted the dog collar electronics to the Arlo’s chassis and connected the sensor’s output pins to the Propeller Activity Board’s A/D converter. We couldn’t find an off-the-shelf invisible fence product for robots, but maybe we’ll design one after this experience. Heck, Daniel already sketched out the schematic!

The USA Science and Engineering Festival is FREE, so come see us! - Ken Gracey