- By: Ken Gracey Published: 18 November, 2019 0 comments
CALL FOR PROPELLER 2 EARLY ADOPTERS
Recently some of our community have said "Parallax used to have a lot more for the hobbyist and commercial customer, but now you're all about STEM education!" In the same message, some let us know how they learned from "What's a Microcontroller?" a famous educational tutorial from Andy Lindsay. This shows how all of our customers are linked together by a common interest of programming microcontrollers and electronics. We will often speak to you as one, but you may need to choose the content that's just right for your needs.
If you're yearning for something new to learn, you might want to look at the Propeller 2 Multicore Microcontroller (P2), the second chip from our founder, Chip Gracey. The P2 is a labor of love and the result of 13 years of design, community contributions, fabrication and patience. Compared to the P1, the P2 has more memory, runs faster, and will do everything from analog and digital to HDMI video - in parallel processors no less. But Chip focuses on something more simple at this early stage. The P2 could restore what used to be fun about programming and include a whole lifetime of discovery (I only recently used the P1 counters for a visual metronome project). We think the P2 will find its way into many American-made products between 1 and 1,000+ units over the coming years.
Shown above is the P2 test bench from community member ozpropdev's lab in Australia. P2 early adopters have been running our design on FPGA chips and making design contributions since 2010, but starting last week they've been using actual P2 engineering samples! Some have made their own development boards, like Peter Jakacki's P2D2. All of them are speeding along with tests, development tools and product designs. Parallax hasn't even released the Spin2 compiler yet, but early adopters like ersmith have created the "FlexGUI" tool and some are coding in BASIC, C, Spin, and Python (the fastest-growing language that's "eating the world"). Unlike the P1 where the Spin interpreter was built into ROM, any language bootloaders or tools can be downloaded.
The near-term goal for the early adopters over the next 30 days is to fully validate the P2 silicon so we can order production quantities. As an early adopter don't expect our regular level of documentation since you'll be on your own with our forum members and Chip while everybody works together to create the software tools and documentation. You'll also be part of Parallax's 30+ year history.
P2 EVALUATION BOARDS, ENGINEERING SAMPLES AND ACCESSORIES NOW SHIPPING
We have approximately 90 more P2 Evaluation Boards to distribute. If you've got patience and a willingness to learn with the others, start with a look at the documentation and P2 product selection. The P2 Evaluation Boards are $150 each and P2 engineering sample 4-packs are $100 (also limited quantities). Be sure to sign up for the P2 Community Newsletter and join the P2 forums, too. I brought a P2 board home last weekend and should be blinking my first P2 LEDs by Wednesday.
SNEAK PEEK: NEW GRIPPER
We're currently prototyping a new Gripper for our small robots (ActivityBot 360, cyber:bot, Shield-Bot for Arduino, and Boe-Bot). The new design will be 100% CNC-machined aluminum in our Rocklin facility. The Gripper will have a single servo mounted above the tailwheel with a connecting rod to provide grab-and-lift action. The initial servo movement is used to capture the object and remaining motion lifts it up, with a spring holding the gripper paddles down until the object is clamped. This makes coding easy — you must only code the servo to move from a fully open to closed, lifted position without concern about the object’s diameter (provided it fits within the paddles, of course!). Combine it with a Ping))) Ultrasonic Sensor, a camera like the Pixy2, or infrared emitters/receivers to identify and retrieve objects like ping-pong balls or markers.
Release date and pricing are to be determined once we fully test the prototypes. We think you're going to like this one!
BADGE WX COMPLETES POLICE CAR COSTUME
In a recent newsletter, we announced a version of BlocklyProp that requires no password and login called BlocklyProp Solo. One customer who was patiently waiting for BlocklyProp Solo replied:
The announcement of BlocklyProp Solo in your newsletter opened the door to programming the Badge WX. I dusted it off and a short time later it became pleasurable Parallax putty in my hands! Halloween was fast approaching and I had to learn BlocklyProp and make some red/blue flashing lights for my seven-year old's police car costume. The costume was a success on so many levels. The Parallax BadgeWX with the attention-grabbing bright LEDs added a level of authority and animation that filled out the costume. We laid down some sweet memories through the excitement of dreaming and creating with the kids.
The Parallax BadgeWX is a sturdy self-contained and practical platform for learning right through to finished product. I particularly appreciate how easy it was to engage my kids in the programming process with BlocklyProp. The seven-year-old taught his older siblings and neighborhood friends how to program with BlocklyProp.
I have many other Parallax success stories. With all the energy and emotion pent up around the P2, I include these auxiliary thoughts: I was one of the few that got a P2 ES Rev A through checkout last December and that is when the BadgeWX fell in my cart. As it turned out, your production yield was lower than anticipated and Kristina let me down gently. The upshot is I purchased the BadgeWX! My life is busy enough that I have a P2 ES Rev B in my cart and I'm still hopeful. You guys are even teaching me patience.
The countless hours of P2 design will soon be dwarfed by the masses that will embrace the incredible power of the chip's architecture and the power of the generous maker community that Parallax has fostered. An exciting time to be alive. You guys are on a great trajectory, keep the faith.
Many thanks to team Parallax for your noble mission of making the world of electronics accessible and fun for all ages.
Ted Hunter, British Columbia
See the tutorials for the Badge WX. And yes, we will be sending Ted a P2 Evaluation Board for no charge in appreciation for his newsletter contribution.
PARALLAX TEAM FEATURE: CHANTAL WOODS-JONES
Chantal holds the prestigious honor of not only the first employee but also the employee with the longest duration of employment at Parallax. She joined Chip in the early days of Parallax when orders were taken with pen and paper, everybody worked in manufacturing on weekends, and she gracefully taught young engineers how to be decent in a workplace. Chantal has a naturally friendly approach and customers have told me for years how they appreciate her service level. Thank you Chantal! Chantal is also able to understand French - Contactez-la si vous avez des questions en Français.
SUPER-SIZED ROBOT: SERVOS, WHEELS AND PCB NEXT
In a prior newsletter we mentioned that we're making several fully functional versions of our popular robots at a 5x scale. The best way I've learned new skills is by having a project. Between YouTube, a half tank of argon gas and the Sierra College's waterjet I made two TIG-welded robot chassis from 3/16" aluminum. We asked you about finding a 5" tail wheel and received a number of good responses. I'd never heard of New England "duckpin" 5" bowling balls or knew about stainless steel floater balls. We chose a 5" wooden ball which we stained with polyurethane. It looks authentic and should slide around well as you can see from the above picture.
The standoffs were made from 1-1/4" diameter, 5" long aluminum rods. The 4-40 screws scaled up to 1/2"-13 screws! Our next task is to make the wheels and servo motors. We're thinking of fabricating the wheels from several layers of HDPE or Delrin cut on our laser or router, but we're not so sure about the servos. What are your ideas for making the servos? Keep in mind we could be making up to ten of them.
Reply with your thoughts about making the servo enclosures; next time we'll be asking for your input on making the "PCB".
THANKSGIVING SALE COMING SOON!
We're planning a major sale in the Parallax store on Thanksgiving weekend. We're assembling our "Staff Picks: Holiday Gift-Giving Guide" so you can choose the right Parallax products. This sale is your chance to choose a gift, replenish your lab or stock up on classroom supplies because the entire store will be discounted and combined with free USPS and UPS shipping. If there's a project you've been wanting to start, plan ahead and be sure you've got the supplies on hand for the upcoming work break. And quite truthfully, we will need your support to move the P2 from early adopter status to mainstream use with software and tutorials. First news about the sale will come later this week so you can plan ahead!
Our next newsletter later this week will include the January 2020 webinar signups and P2 early adopter experiences with the Python.
Let us know what you'd like to see, too.
Ken Gracey and the Parallax Team