BlocklyProp and the ActivityBot 360: Educator Assistance Available!

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Dear Educator,

This week we’re focused on Parallax’s BlocklyProp visual programming language with the ActivityBot 360°, our most powerful combination. BlocklyProp is an easy-to-use, very expandable system for project-based learning. Below we’ve summarized some of the key resources:

– ActivityBot 360° and the ActivityBot 360° 12-Pack Plus
– The Gripper 3.0 (let me know if I’ve “sold” you on this because I’m certainly trying!)
– BlocklyProp Solo download link and considerations for your school IT department
– Tutorials, which are available in C and BlocklyProp
– Assessments for the educator, and how to request access
– YouTube Playlist of 30+ “Tiny Tutorial” BlocklyProp Projects
– Adding sensors, displays, and motors to class hardware set
– BlocklyProp Block Reference guide

Recently, you’ve been asking about additional hardware you could use with the ActivityBot 360°. The answer is a simple “pretty much anything we sell” since the Propeller Activity Board uses the Propeller 1 Multicore Microcontroller (think “eight Arduinos in one” with a Blockly programming environment).

The Educator Hotline is open all week at (916) 701-8625. Let’s talk about your needs: support, question/answer, quote request, etc. If I’m busy please leave a message and I’ll get right back to you.

And “Be the classroom they remember!” even if all of your students are studying remotely.


Ken Gracey
Parallax Inc.

ActivityBot 360° Is Our Most Capable Robot Kit (#32600)

ActivityBot 360

Educators ask “what’s included in the ActivityBot 360° kit?” and we explain that it truly has everything: Propeller Activity Board WX, the robot chassis system, servos with feedback position control (provides speed and precise distance), light following sensors, infrared emitters, and receivers, whiskers for bump detection, the Ping))) Ultrasonic Distance Sensor, and all the little passive components and wires to build these circuits. The small components can last a few years and are replaced by buying our Small Robot Electronics Pack (#572-28132). Building the robot takes a couple hours and is a rewarding process.    

At the time of this e-mail, the ActivityBot 360° is one of our few robots in stock since everything else has sold out during the start of school. 

Gripper 3.0: See it to Believe it!

Gripper 3.0

I’m not formally trained in marketing, but I’m about to make a convincing case that you should consider buying a Gripper 3.0. 

Every day, videos are put in front of us that take our time and give us nothing in exchange. The 47-second video shown above is a fair exchange. Likely, you’ll see how a Gripper 3.0 could be a rewarding investment in one’s self, creating skills and inspiring careers. Think of what inspired your interests when you were younger. Was it anything like building an R/C airplane, coding a game, sewing or crafting, building a skateboard, making a model train layout, or working with a RadioShack 300-in-1 electronics kit?  

The ActivityBot 360° has a closed-loop motor control system so you can precisely drive to, pick up, and move small objects using distance-based navigational blocks. Add two Laser Ping sensors (#28041) or a Pixy2 CMU Cam (#30028) for a capable electromechanical challenge that’ll impress students and friends. Think of the classroom competitions that could be created! 

What’s so unique about the Gripper 3.0 mechanical design? A single servo closes and lifts the Gripper, without concern for the object’s width (provided it fits between the Gripper’s paddles). A torsion spring holds the paddles down until the object is squeezed and the remaining servo motion lifts it off the surface.

What’s the alternative? You’ll find many kinds of small robot grabby-grippers from eBay and Amazon but they often share the same poor design characteristics. Direct-drive servo closure causes current draw when an object is “clamped.” The use of two or more servos for a grab-and-rotate or grab-and lift-action may amplify backlash and slop. The common single-servo “claw” that only closes means your robot must drag around the object while the motor control system loses accuracy. The Gripper 3.0 has none of these problems. 

The Gripper 3.0 was designed by Parallax customer Dr. Vlad Kopman, a New York University – Tandon School of Engineering mechanical engineer who studied on Parallax products and wanted to give something back to the community. Gripper 3.0 is machined in Parallax’s Rocklin office on our Haas CNC Milling Machines.  

I personally guarantee your total satisfaction and success – or your money back, anytime! 

12-Pack Plus for Classrooms Puts it All in a Single Box! (32612)

12-Pack Plus for Classrooms highlights

Don’t like to make decisions and build a complicated order where you’re wondering if you truly added all the right Parallax parts? Buy this! The 12-Pack Plus includes the ActivityBot 360° plus every single popular accessory: Ping))) Mounting Bracket with Servo, QTI Line Follower, Infrared Remote Control, two sets of rechargeable batteries with chargers, plus spare parts. The benefit? Every student will build and program, unlike the travel and competition-based model with a single expensive robot. This is one big, packed box of hardware!

Install BlocklyProp Launcher for BlocklyProp Solo

BlocklyProp installer launcher highlights

We’ve made a big improvement in BlocklyProp this year at your request: local file storage with NO logins and passwords (no COPPA/FERPA compliance issues). Your school IT department can unblock the software installation. You’ll install BlocklyProp Launcher, which installs a USB driver and opens BlocklyProp Solo. This software runs on Chromebooks, Mac and Windows operating systems.

ActivityBot 360° Tutorials

The tutorials for the ActivityBot 360° are located on If you haven’t seen them before, take a look! The tutorials show how we’ve carefully developed hands-on, sequential tutorials focused on circuit building, coding, and challenges. Common to all Parallax tutorials are the circuit pictorials and schematics, side-by-side. Students begin with the pictorials become proficient at schematics, breadboarding and component identification quite quickly. They learn to develop and test the code as subsystems with a program-and-test process. This is how they learn to “debug” physical computing systems and build their own projects. The entire sequence of ActivityBot 360° tutorials requires about 40 hours of lab time.  

12+ Projects Beyond the Tutorials for ActivityBot 360°

ActivityBot 360 projects highlights

There are many expansion possibilities with a new ActivityBot 360°. With some of our additional parts, you can identify and track colors, pick up objects with the Gripper 3.0, follow lines, and play sounds back from an SD card.

Assessments, Scope and Sequence for the ActivityBot 360

Educators may request access to ActivityBot 360 assessment, scope and sequence, and slide shows by e-mail to Honestly, we don’t receive too much feedback on the assessment material but we think they’re some of our most useful support material. Drop us a line and let us know if they’re meeting your needs.

30+ Tiny Tutorials for BlocklyProp Show Projects

Educators often ask about possibilities beyond the robot. We’ve got a YouTube Playlist of over 30 “Tiny Tutorials” for BlocklyProp that include Neopixel LEDs (WS2812), wireless communication, graphing, wav file playback, temperature and humidity and all kinds of BlocklyProp shortcuts and tips. The Tiny Tutorials are short – one to three minutes.

BlocklyProp Reference Guide

BlocklyProp reference guide highlights

Did you know you can right-click on any of our blocks and see the help file for the block? The link takes you to the BlocklyProp Reference Guide, where you’ll find simple examples, hookup schematics and pictures, and programming ideas. The BlocklyProp Reference Guide is the best way to learn about when to use the many program “control” blocks like SWITCH-CASE, IF-DO, etc. 

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