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many other autonomous operations. All of these
technologies can be applied to industrial control,
autonomous vehicles, aerospace applications, and even
appliance and automotive uses.
Parallax has a series of courses that starts from the
basics with hands-on projects and programming, and works
its way up to more advanced programming, sensor
technology, and industrial control. This is a key strategy in
their educational development process as it sets the stage
for a long-term productive and interactive support system
for educators and students alike.
Parallax is Growing
The Rocklin office employs over 40 full-time
people in research and development, sales,
manufacturing, education, marketing, and technical
support. Parallax has over 100 distributors around the
world, including MicroCenter, Mouser, RadioShack,
Jameco, Fry’s Electronics, and RS Components.
With continued success in the hobby and
education markets, Parallax’s more recent success in
the commercial market has been due to the
popularity of the Propeller microcontroller which was
first marketed in 2006.
The Propeller is fast becoming the key
microcontroller in many of Parallax’s in-house
products, and also to many other company’s
products. The HoverFly Technologies controller used
in the ELEV quadcopter and other multirotor flyers
contains a Propeller at the core.
This device can coordinate inputs from an R/C
receiver, gyros, and accelerometers to drive multiple
electronic speed controllers in a stable flight mode.
The Propeller 2
The Propeller 2 multicore processor is under
development and doesn’t have a firm release date as
of this writing, though Ken informed me there is a
possibility that the first chips would be available in
The Propeller 2 processor includes features
commonly requested by customers such as code
protect, additional RAM, and more I/O pins. The
original Propeller has found favor with robot
experimenters due to the parallel processing power and
I/O capabilities, among its many other features.
Beginners like the powerful yet easy language, and
Parallax has several different ways of learning about
this chip and its capabilities.
The Propeller C Learning System and Activity Board
(shown in Figure 4) are a good starting point for those
interested in the Propeller. At the end of the summer,
Parallax will be releasing a new Activity Bot that is
great for hobbyists and students, and is shown in
Figure 5. Parallax also holds several good workshops
and conferences, such as the Official Propeller Conference
held at their Rocklin offices this past May. Their main
website at Parallax.com is a good starting point for any
information on their products and services, as are the
tutorials at Learn.Parallax.com.
The Parallax Facilities
Before relating some of my experiences with their
products, I would like to give a sense of my feelings of the
facility, the employees, and their capabilities. The Rocklin
Figure 4. Propeller