Let's Make Robots!

Parallax Propeller Expo 2009 - West

On 2009.06.28 I went to the Propeller Expo at the headquarters of Parallax in Rocklin, CA. USA.

The event is a two day event starting on Saturday and running all night into Sunday. The admission was free. When we checked in we were given a choice of either the Propeller Proto board or another microcontroller board in kit form for the soldering class. You were encoraged to bring all your tools and projects to show and work on So I brought TOBI and set up at a table. They had a basic class for soldering in one of the classrooms. Several vendors showing off their products as well as individuals like myself with robots or other projects.

Too much to see and many speakers kept me from getting any work done on TOBI but I did change my test code so that I could push the button on the front to make TOBI roll another 150 inches. A couple of the Parallax workers recognized me from reading about TOBI on this site and seeing video's. Did I mention the free stuff??? They served free lunch and dinner. As I mentioned before, we got a Proto Board on arrival and they had a FREE parts table loaded with resistors, capacitors, connectors, headers, video headers, audio headers, VGA headers, EEPROMS, ADC's, DAC's, various types of Basic Stamps, IR remote controlls..on and on. They kept bringin out boxes throughout the day for us to scrounge through. I scored a handfull of Basic Stamps, accellerometers and other stuff that I have to look up to find out what they are.

I should have brought a camera but I did take some pics with my cell phone so pardon quality:

My setup.



This gentlman was demonstrating a way to determine the position of a motor without using sensors. I did not understand his explination of how it was done but I could on the screen where the position was. Way cool even though it was WAY over my head! I did not get a picture of his four footed robot that has only 3 moving parts. I did not hear the description of it but saw it move from a distance. It walks like an aligator or crocodile and looks like he used only three linear acuators for movement [but don't quote me on that becuase I may be totally wrong]. Looks like a fun robot to try to build though.


This was a robot plane made from light weight foam. It is equipped with a camera, video transmitter and has data overlayed like pitch, direction G-force etc. It is remote controlled now but soon will be autonomous. He was demonstrating that cheap parts does not make a stupid robot. He was showing how he used the sensors from a Wii controller bought at Wal-Mart had super sensitive 3-axis accellerometers AND Gyro's that he incorporated into his robot plane.


The PING))) on this Propeller powered BOE-Bot is displaying on the LCD


Only Video could do this justice. Someone was using the Propeller Education Kit to demo LED flasing patterns and colors using Tri-Colored LED's [Seen here as a Yellow'ish blurr]


Another Prop based BOE-Bot with bumpers, PING)), Sharp IR and BOE-Bot IR sensors.


One of the Parallax employees built this steel robot. It was a fast little robot. He mentioned that he was going for a scorpion look and thinking about putting a robotic arm on the tail to pick up items on the floor and put them on it's back. It reminded me of  "Mr Tidy" by OddBot


This robot showed up sometime in afternoon and I don't know anything about the design or the builder.



Ken Gracey of Parallax built this cool little bot with a GPS on it. He recognized me from the video on TOBI's page here. That took me by surprisce since I do not think that we had any corespondance before that day.


And of course it would not be a Parallax event without the primo product, the gasoline powered robot that pulls trucks around [see youtube video...LOL]. What did not realize until I took a closer look is that the engine does not directly power the wheels but instead powers hydrolics that power the wheels. It want the controller board for my next outdoor robot.


A Robotic arm controlled by PropStick.



A Basic Stamp 2 powered robot made out of square tubing and wood. Builder unknown


Now these guys had some cool stuff for PICAXE and Parallax projects. They also had a deal for making money. If you build a kit and document it on their site, they may decide to make it a kit AND they pay you a percentage of all purchases of the kits sold based on your project. www.gadgetgangster.com


A Very fast racing robot with PING))) on the front.


Someone was developing Propeller powered displays. One model was using a touch screen. I think he said that they wer OLED based.




A manufacturer of acrylic cases was showing off his cases for several Parallax products.


This was very sweet. Tri-colored LED screen with scrolling text. The Propeller based recreation of the old Pong game with two controls so that two people could play the game against each other. Includes the origonal sound effects [at least as far as I remember].

Well that takes care of my cheesy pictures. I have to get a phone with a better camera if I do this again..LOL

The Webinar portion was too crouded for me to get in and I tried to watch it in the room where they had the robots but the sound was too low, so I cannot say anything about the discussion on Propeller 2 etc... I'll have to watch recording like everone else who missed it.

They had several speakers that were intesting, some of which I mentioned above with the pictures of their products. They had one of the engineers from the TV show "Engineer This" who showed off videos of a Pizza Delivery Robot from one of the episodes.

Morpheus was unveiled. It is a 2 Propeller based board that can be altered for any need. It has 512k onboard RAM, a full system bus, Stackable epansion boards, bumps the Propeller display up from 256 colors to several Million, has a 8 Meg expansion board comming. It runs an OS called Largos which is Unix based and if you know Unix, you know Largos. There are some trade offs since the Propeller is not as powerfull as a standard computer. He talked a lot about hardware archetecture and he lost me on most of it but with my background in computers, I found it most impressive and look forward to seeing the product on sale. I would be willing to learn Unix just to play with this thing..LOL

I was able to help someone there to get their serial LCD to display text. After programming in PBASIC on the BS2, I am a little rusty on my SPIN and the first time I got my variables declared wrong-way round. We left the Expo at about 8 PM and it was still jumping when we left. I'd have stayed longer if I didn't bring my wife. 

TOBI was carried in to the event, but he left Parallax under his own power [mostly].

I can't wait for next year!




I sorted through the parts that I got and found 5 accellerometers, 2 Temperature/Humidity sensors, 1 Compass module, 2 BS2px, 1 BS2SX, 1 plain old BS2, 1 PIC15F57, 1 PIC16C588, 3 IR remotes and various other things.


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For those that may be near and wish to attend the Eastern Expo, here is the Site to register: http://www.warrantyvoid.us/upene/


The Robotics Society of Southern California has meetings at Cal State Fullerton. I think their next one isn't for a couple more weeks though. Someone on their list might know of something. 

If you're in L.A., the Propeller thing was about 500 miles north anyway (which is why I didn't go). 

Yeah, I'm not being much help here. Gonna quit typing now ;)

I know that there are some robotics groups in LA, but they end up being way out...fullerton isn't a fun drive from the valley...  :/

Hehe. Yeah, it's not a pleasurable drive from the IE either. Then again, there's nothing pleasurable about the IE anyway...

I make a point of not going to LA unless I really really need to. I think the last time was about two years ago to see my friend's band play at the Roxy. Before that was to see his band at the Whisky. Priorities, man ;)

Lol, I'm heading down to san fran on monday leaving next friday : (. Damn i cant believe i missed the prop expo.
Sorry, I don't know of any upcomming events nearby. The Propeller Expo was last weekend and 2 weeks before was RoBoGames in San Francisco featuring humaniod sumo competitions and the first ever "Mech Warfare" match based on the old Mech War video games [See back issues of Robot Magazine for the rules of warefare].
argh, I just flew in to cali on saturday. Do you know if its still on, or if theres anything robotics related in LA?
Nice writeup, sounds like it was a pretty amazing event.
Down here in little ol' NZ it's hard enough to get Parallax gear, let alone having people throw it at you for free. I don't consider myself the jealous type, but I think I hate you just a little bit.