Parallax Insider News

S3 Educational Robot Released! Upgrades to this open source robot include hardware improvements and a Blockly interface.

  • By: Ken Gracey Published: 01 September, 2016 4 comments

Students of all ages around the world have been equipped with Scribbler robots for over ten years. The popularity of this robot has much to do with the robust all-in-one hardware design and the numerous tutorials available. Today, there’s another benefit to using the S3: visual programming support in Google’s Blockly. BlocklyProp is specifically adapted to the Propeller multicore brain in the Scribbler 3 robot!

The three-year wait for the new S3 ends today - we’re shipping!

We have about 400 units in stock and more arriving daily as quickly as we can produce them. The price is $179 and the product may be ordered from this page www.parallax.com/s3. We ship orders in the sequence they are received. If we’re out of stock it is important to get yours in the queue, especially if they’re for a classroom.

What are the improvements to the S3?

The S3 physical design retains some of the core attributes of the original robot. Specifically, it’s a one-piece design built for quick access in courses with limited time. Pull them from the box - run preloaded demonstrations or start programming. The hardware is meant to be scaled. Younger students can program S3 for simple behaviors. Yet, there are enough sensors, precision motor control and wireless functionality to attract university researchers.

Some S3 improvements include:

  • Lithium Ion battery pack with circuitry to recharge from USB (no more alkaline batteries)
  • Exposed Hacker Port on the top of the case. Port provides I/O access and high-current power connections. Perfect for use with Ping))) ultrasonic distance sensors, servos, and electronic circuits of your choice.
  • Bi-color LEDs for visual feedback.
  • XBee socket inside for RF networking and future wireless programming.
  • Line sensor improvement exposes the analog values in Blockly. This makes it easy to follow lines of all types (Sharpie, electrical tape, etc.).
  • Pushbutton power and reset buttons (no more slide switch)
  • USB programming (A to micro B) - no serial adapter needed!

Google Blockly Programming Support (Mac and Windows)

The S3’s Blockly tool makes the robot far more useful! The hardware features above are fully accessible in the S3’s BlocklyProp programming environment. Parallax's Blockly tool compiles in the cloud and provides means to download that code from your computer.

  • Distance and time-based movement commands per wheel (previous was only time and speed-based commands).
  • Rotation and arc movements with speed, per wheel.
  • Integer values for line following sensors.
  • Student expandability with hacker port. Allows interface for the Ping))) Ultrasonic Sensor, or a standard servo to use as a Sharpie pen lifter.
  • XBee for wireless control (open case for installation). Scaffold your classroom more effectively with a wider range of activities.
  • The “Simple Scribbler” set of blocks work together to minimize choices and possibilities, and can combine with greater Blockly choices available for the S3.
  • Complete access to all math, logic, variables, functions, and looping commands.

Many educators and students are already familiar with visual programming tools like Blockly and Scratch. Blockly is commonly promoted by Code.org. It has been proven to reduce hurdles to programming by teaching students to think logically and sequentially. Blockly is a sound stepping stone to modern, text-based programming languages!

If you’re new to Blockly, this short video will give you an idea of what it looks like (using the Propeller Activity Board instead of the S3):

The Blockly system project began development two years ago with an international open-source team. A very special hanks to Michel Lampo (Belgium) who created the Blockly project, Krzysztof Szatyński (Poland), Vale Tolpegin (Virginia), Professor Corey Brady (Northwestern University) and many members of the Parallax team in Rocklin, California. 

S3 Programming Graphical User Interface (Windows)

Original blue Scribbler and red S2 users are already familiar with the original and S2 GUI tool. This environment has also been updated for the S3. Educators who have developed resources in the S2 GUI may wish to stick with the S3 GUI before they consider moving to Blockly. A picture of this tool is shown above. Thank you to Phil Pilgrim for creating and updating the S3 GUI.

Programming Tutorials on Learn.parallax.com

Parallax tutorials for the S3 are being released as quickly as we are able to post them on Learn.parallax.com. Begin here http://learn.parallax.com/s3 and progress with us. Please send all your tutorial feedback to learn@parallax.com. Parallax customer and long time Scribbler user, Whit Stodghill enthusiastically contributed to these tutorials.

We look forward to your feedback. And if you’re in Iowa, consider coming to one of my three S3 Robot Educator’s Workshop courses September 19, 20 or 21st! Iowa educators are growing programmers faster than corn these days!

A special thanks to the Parallax team, Ben Wirz (Element), Aristides Alvarez and Raymond Xiao (SimplyTronics) who worked consistently for the past few years to finish this robot.

Sincerely, Ken Gracey, CEO

Comments

Expect to here and see much more from me about the S3, at Robotics Under the Stole, and on the Parallax Forums - this is a unbelievable tool for teaching about robotics, programming, electronics and problem solving. The possibilities are endless!

Here would be hear... Oops.

Just the piece I needed in my MS courses after Scratch and before BoeBot. Students can add hardware but continue with software that is about the same as Scratch.

For HS programming students, I have worked with the math department to program ActivityBots (w/ Prop C) to draw n-sided polygons to approach a circle. A marker strapped to front or side of ActivityBot creates artifacts like over-shoots. (The joke is that we are drawing circular saw blades, not regular polygons). The S3's pen located midway between axles will gives us beautiful results.

We will be ordering two units of S3 as soon as our PTA grants are released.

Hey John K, I would like to schedule a time to personally show you how Blockly can be used with our C tutorials. It's totally fascinating - I've been immersed in this since May and see tremendous benefits to students. - Ken Gracey