Saturday, April 14, 2012

Parallax Robot Expo

My daughter and I went to the Parallax Robot Expo today and had a great time. It's neat having an event like this only about 45 minutes from home. My daughter has a couple of BOE-Bot robots and a bunch of additional bits she enjoys working with. I'm into anything microprocessor or microcontroller, and I think Parallax is a neat company that makes great products.

We were a bit worried about the effects of the weather. We left home with snow falling and drove through a rainstorm on the way. When we got there it was only raining lightly. Even if it had been raining, everything was either under tents or inside. It wouldn't have been necessary to do more than duck across a few feet of open sky in any case.

As it happened, things only got better as the day went on.

We had a really good time checking out the various demos. They had one tent with activities, laptops set up with boards hooked up to them, where people could get their feet wet in programming the boards to blink lights, run servos, sound off on piezos, etc. We didn't check that out too closely since we can do that at home.

Alongside it was a "Learn to Solder" area with several tables. You get to build an S-2 Robot LED badge. Not an actual S-2 robot, mind you, but a little hang around your neck badge shaped like the Scribbler 2. It's got a 7 color LED on it, a switch, a battery, and some embedded logic. It's a neat little thing and it's entirely free.

I made one though I'm no newcomer to soldering. I had a very helpful young man making sure I prepped the parts properly and oriented them correctly. He was also able to answer my question about whether there was logic embedded in the printed circuit board.

The factory tour was also very nice. They've got some automation they're justifiably proud of. I'm surprised that it appears they actually use a CNC to make production parts. I'd have expected higher volume processes for them.

Also inside was a display and presentation area. They had various talks through the day by very approachable people with experience directly relevant to the attendees. It was interesting hearing them talk about their technical work and their work to develop their businesses. We weren't able to hear all the talks we would have liked.

Back outside there was a tent for vendors--the show prices on Parallax products were amazingly great and there were some other great vendors there, too. There was a show area for other companies, Panavise was among the companies showing there (IMO, yes, their products are worth every dime!)

Maxi Swag
One of the coolest things there, a real unexpected treat, was the Free Stuff tables. There were all sorts of free parts and boards and what I assume was discontinued product. I got a book on programming the SX microcontroller, a Javelin Stamp, some sort of Propellor board, and some other fun electronic "Junque Box" goodies, as did my daughter (I think I'll be showing her how to wire up a CCFL this weekend, there were packs of them on the tables.)

We both had a great time. My daughter got really excited and couldn't wait to get back home to her electronics. We picked up some great project books for her, cheap.

If you get a chance to go on Saturday, I recommend it highly.

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