Parallax Insider News

A Look at Some New Products In Development: Education, Robotic and Propeller Multicore R&D Efforts

  • By: Ken Gracey Published: 11 May, 2015 2 comments

Parallax new product releases are quite infrequent, but that’s because we ensure the highest quality with proper code support and educational tutorials. In this Parallax Insider News, I’m opening the door to look at some of the products we will be releasing in the near future. They’re presented below in our expected order of release. While the drawbacks of sharing products in development are creating customer expectations, I believe that sharing our roadmap is helpful to those who rely on our products for teaching class, running their business, or collaborating with us as an outside developer.

What’s a Multicore Microcontroller? Tutorial

The original What’s a Microcontroller? set a standard for embedded education and electronics using the BASIC Stamp, selling over a half-million copies and an unknown number of downloads. At this time Andy Lindsay is finalizing the first six chapters (300+ pages) of What’s a Multicore? Microcontroller (WAMM), a three-year project to create a totally new modernized tutorial with the Propeller Activity Board. WAMM uses familiar hardware from the What’s a Microcontroller? Parts Kit with a progressive series of simple projects. Otherwise, this is an entirely new tutorial that introduces multicore programming, a Simple IDE startup guide, helpful diagrams for each project, and detailed C programming examples. The WAMM curriculum is designed for high school, college and university level courses. The projected release date for PDF versions of Chapters 1-6 is the last week of May.

Dual 10 Amp H-Bridge

The 10-Amp Dual H-Bridge (DHB-10) is a 0-16V DC motor controller with encoder inputs and a Propeller Multicore to manage the system. The DHB-10 is designed for motor control in your hobby and educational projects, but is truly designed with Arlo-sized platforms in mind. Personally, I look forward to using the DHB-10 with a Propeller Activity Board on a balancing robot. We’ve finished volume production and the boards are in our manufacturing where they await a test procedure, firmware, and documentation. You can see these boards in the photos above. The scheduled release date for this product is July 15th.

Parallax ELEV-8 V2 Flight Controller

Parallax is creating our own 100% open source Flight Controller hardware for the ELEV-8V2 for use in our Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Education program. The focus of this program is safety, flight training, responsibility, construction, maintenance and programming of our quadcopter - it’s not an out of the box kit from China that you’ll just put into the air without an understanding of the design and responsibility required to handle such a UAV. The Flight Controller has a gyroscope, accelerometer and barometric pressure sensor for auto-level flight and altitude hold. An expansion port will allow for future integration of GPS, LED lighting and output devices for triggering cameras, activating a parachute, etc.

The prototypes are shown in the photos above. This week we’ll be starting the code development and in June Kyle Montgomery joins us to update the product documentation. The Parallax Flight Controller is scheduled for manufacturing the first week of August and would become a standard part in the ELEV-8V2 Quadcopter Kit. The development process is open and you can follow along on our forum thread UAV Education Program from Parallax.

Propeller Activity Board WX

In January I introduced the Propeller Activity Board WiFi-ready product. This product has since been renamed the Propeller Activity Board WX. The major improvements over Propeller Activity Board Revision C include an improved high-current power supply and WiFi programming support. We plan to release this product in Fall 2015.

Propeller 1-2-3 FPGA Development Board

The Propeller 1-2-3 FPGA Development Board design began a year ago. Our Propeller 2 development team - including you - will be able to test our Propeller 2 cor Verilog code 100% with this board. The analog hardware in the Propeller 2 is being designed from our schematics by Treehouse Design in parallel with Chip’s Verilog code development. This part of Propeller 2 can’t run in an FPGA, unfortunately. Pictures of the PCB are shown above and the board is scheduled for production starting May 15th. However, the actual release date will be synchronized with Chip’s Propeller 2 Verilog image release. The audience for the Propeller 1-2-3 FPGA Development Board is Chip’s R&D team, early adopters, and those who develop our programming tools and compilers. Therefore the product will be available for sale to anybody interested in this level of collaboration with Parallax.

You’re likely most interested in the Propeller 2 schedule and design process. We plan on issuing an updated schedule when Chip is closer to releasing a Propeller 2 FPGA image.

S3 (Scribbler 3) Robot

Educators will be very interested in this news.

You’ll notice that we’re currently out of stock of red S2 robots. The last shipment of 3,500 units is expected to arrive at Parallax next week, with the next delivery being our new yellow S3 robot. The S3 is the third major revision of the very successful original blue BASIC Stamp Scribbler.

The S3 robot has been in design for a year and is progressing according to schedule for a very late 2015 release. The S3 has many significant improvements which are kept current in the Envision the S3 Robot discussion forum thread. The new features include a USB programming port, WiFi programming capability via an XBee WiFi Module socket (which may also be used for general RF communication), an exposed hacker port, and a USB-rechargeable lithium ion battery with up to eight hours of run time! All of these features were requested by teachers who use the S2 in their elementary and middle school robot programs.

While most of us think of the hardware revisions as requiring most of the effort, it’s really the software that will make the product successful in education. The S2 GUI is currently a Windows-only program with fairly antiquated development tools. Therefore we are also building a new Graphical User Interface (GUI) starting with iOS (iPad) first. Take a look at our iPad S3 GUI progress video. When we’ve finished the iPad S3 GUI we plan on using the same graphics to develop a version that can run on Windows, Mac and Linux.

We’ve already received prototypes of the S3’s printed circuit boards and the injection mold revisions have been ordered. The release goal for the S3 is late 2015.

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As always, please feel free to share any comments or thoughts you have on our plans by posting a reply below!

Sincerely, Ken Gracey

Comments

When is the "What’s a Multicore Microcontroller? Tutorial" coming out? I hope it uses the professional dev board cause I just got one