View Full Version : Chatter Board of Education Shield (for Arduino)

Ron Czapala
02-23-2012, 11:57 PM
I was quite surprised to see this new Parallax product!

Who would have thought - ArduinoBOEBOTs...



02-24-2012, 12:08 AM
Very nice and very smart move by Parallax.

Ken Gracey
02-24-2012, 12:18 AM
Most interesting is that the Education team will provide our customers with every answer they could possibly want. They are the "smart move" mentioned by kwinn above.

They've been working away for a long time and have very much to share.

Boe-Bots with Arduino, BASIC Stamps or Propellers! Sensors and projects for all of them, too.

Ken Gracey

02-24-2012, 12:40 AM
A great product idea. I've seen a few home brewed Arduino BOE bots, this is nicer and only costs a bit more than the proto shield. But it doesn't have googly eyes.


Tony B.
02-24-2012, 03:19 AM
It must be said that I am a HUGE & LOYAL customer of Parallax's! So what I am about to reveal doesn't mean I'm jumping ship.

With that said let me continue. With the many post about others love or hatred of the Arduino, Parallax's recent website offering basic code helps for the Arduino and this new shield, and there availability at Radio Shack I decided to purchase some and see what they are like. Below are two pictures of what I have come up with so far.

The BOE-Bot is sporting a Arduino Uno with a homemade interfacing board. One side is powered at Vin and the other Vdd. Vin for the servo motors and Vdd for ping sensors. One thing I have discovered is that you need at least 7V to run the BOE-Bot with the Arduino Uno. Solved it be adding a Parallax's #30078 (http://www.parallax.com/Store/Robots/RoboticAccessories/tabid/145/CategoryID/22/List/0/SortField/0/Level/a/ProductID/455/Default.aspx) Boe-Boost Module. I have this robot roaming about nicely.

Banshee is a robot of my design (see this form post for more info Banshee (http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?119580-My-Stingray-Look-a-Like-Plywood-Robotics-Platform-Update-7-New-Pings-Mounting)) of which normally has a Propeller board on it, but I wanted to try the Arduino Mega 2560 with a Motor Shield. I'm still working on the code to get this one roaming about. I'm writing the code for Banshee and my stock Stingray at the same time. It has been quite enjoyable. Banshee is using the same interfacing board as described above.

I was hoping to surprise Parallax and forum members with my work. Thought I might be able to do some work for Parallax helping them develop code and hardware to use with the Arduino. Is it to late Ken? Or am I once again a day late and a dollar short?

Anyway hope this helps inspire others and great work on the BOE Arduino Shield.


Aristides Alvarez
02-24-2012, 09:45 PM
Hello Tony and thanks for sharing!

As Ken mentioned above, we have been listening the requests from customers that love our products and for one reason or other had to switch to Arduino (teachers don’t make all the purchasing decisions in schools). This BOE Shield will help them bridge the gap between Arduino and Parallax hardware so they can continue using our hardware and documentation.

We have more material coming with Propeller and at this point you can only imagine all the things we will release once we have Propeller C (the GCC based C Editor for Education that is in the works).

Regarding developing material for the BOE Shield-Bot, Andy completed porting Robotics with the Boe-Bot to the BOE Shield-Bot by the end of 2011. We’re in the last stages of Tech Review (thanks to Gordon McComb helping us speed up this part of the project) and editing by Stephanie. We have material being posted in http://learn.parallax.com as editing is finished:

We tried to carry as many Boe-Bot features to this BOE Shield-Bot as we could. For example, I see from your nice home-made Arduino-Bot stand, that your servos may kick into action as soon as you download a program into the Arduino. Well, we included the “0-1-2” switch that we have in the BOE that allows you to download a program without providing power to the servos (position 1) and once the bot is free to move and ready to roam around you can switch to “2”, hit reset and that’s it.

For the Arduino voltage needs we arrived to the same conclusion you did (Boe-Boost) but we’re also in the last stages of bringing into stock a 5-cell AA battery holder that will fit under the chassis. We cover many supply options in the BOE Shield-Bot book.

Arduino is also taking some steps to get closer to Parallax since they added some code examples for Parallax products in their IDE. For example, you can find Parallax PING))) sample code in Arduino 1.0 going to File>Sensors>PING. The sample code is documented and shows links to Parallax website.

Parallax sensors are very popular with Arduino users and that’s why all the hardware should get along just fine in retail stores (with the nice examples from the KickStarts from Gordon too).

02-24-2012, 11:30 PM
Great that the BOE Shield is public knowledge now, so I can now sing its praises.

This is the Number One must-have shield for Arduino users, bar none. Though priced at $29 (an excellent price point IMO), a little higher than most proto shields, it offers a far better value than any other. Not not only does it have the requisite mini breadboard, but its own 5V (and 3.3V!) regulator plus a 4-header servo connector. The Off-On-Servo switch is a nice feature for anyone doing robotics where you don't want your servos running while you test code.

The ability to have more than one stinkin' connection to the Arduino's 5V supply is reason enough to love this thing!

Of course it fits perfectly on the BOE Bot, and Andy's terrific teaching text makes it a de facto standard for any classroom. He covers everything clearly and succinctly, in the same manner as the well-established BS2 BOE Bot text. We now have an interchangeable choice of brains for the BOE Bot: BS2, Prop BOE, and now BOE Shield. And there's no reason to stick with just one. Students could well start with the BS2 BOE, move on to the BOE Shield and Arduino, then finish up with a killer robot using the Prop BOE with its extended and enhanced feature set. Since BOE Bots last decades (mine is on its second decade of life), all this means is a neverending transition of learning and experimenting.

Finally, while the BOE Shield targets the Arduino Uno as a host processor, it's compatible with Martin's ASC and any other development board that uses the Arduino form factor. Flexibility is never a bad thing!

-- Gordon

02-24-2012, 11:39 PM
But it doesn't have googly eyes.

Martin, There's plenty of room on the BOE Shield to stick on googly eyes near the voltage regulators. I might post some pictures of mine with eyes, plus maybe some shaggy hair and those big red lips you can get at the novelty stores!

-- Gordon

02-24-2012, 11:57 PM
As an aside, recently I was teaching my son and his friend how to program and decided to use BASIC. My reasoning is that frankly young beginners will end up confused by variable scope, function arguments, objects, and methods. But variables, conditionals, loops, and I/O can all be demonstrated using Basic. So it's a good way to get your foot in the door. Essentially avoid too many abstractions too early, so Basic is still relevant.

This same chain of reasoning applies to robotics, so I am not sure about schools switching to the Arduino. I like C++ and own a few Arduino clones, but it doesn't strike me as wise pedagogy.

Gordon, too funny.

PJ Allen
02-25-2012, 01:30 PM
With the many post about others love or hatred of the Arduino...

I do not know of a single instance of anyone here ever, in any context, having posted that he "hates" arduino.
Howbeit, this is at least the second time that that accusation has been made on this Forum.
There is no conclusion other than it's done so intentionally - and it needs to stop.

Aristides Alvarez
02-26-2012, 10:06 PM
As an aside, recently I was teaching my son and his friend how to program and decided to use BASIC.

This same chain of reasoning applies to robotics, so I am not sure about schools switching to the Arduino. I like C++ and own a few Arduino clones, but it doesn't strike me as wise pedagogy.


For somebody new to programming, PBASIC 2.5 is probably one of the best teaching tools you can use at this time. The original BASIC language, using numbered lines was harder on students and can easily generate spaghetti code harder to follow and debug (and just plain inefficient) so the name “BASIC” got bad reputation for use in Education.

But looking closely to our PBASIC 2.5 version, you will find everything you need to teach programming in any language. This version of PBASIC is similar to the original Pascal language which was designed and widely used to educate new programmers.

The reason to use C starts in the workplace. C became the standard for high level programming and it’s being pushed by Universities. Now with more University and College programs offering compatibility (and options to take tests for credit) with High Schools, C is being pushed down in the educational system.

Still, any student learning with PBASIC 2.5 should be able to absorb the basics and be more prepared to program in any language after that.

The push for C is what caused some schools to switch to Arduino, which “everybody knows” is programmed in C while they define themselves a little different than that. Based on Arduino’s website the Arduino is programmed in “Arduino programming language” which is based on Wiring, which builds on Processing, which evolved from some projects from the MIT Media Lab, which were based on C (you can follow this information starting from http://arduino.cc/ ). Teachers in the schools that bought Arduinos are the ones that have been asking Parallax for this BOE Shield so they could access Parallax material and documentation with the platform chosen by their school districts.

Parallax Education is not stopping here and the BOE Shield won’t be our only C solution. We will have our own Propeller Educational program based in Propeller C (coming after Parallax Semiconductor releases the professional version of the C compiler). We will try to support students with a simple to use editor interface and with some libraries that would help teachers keep class motivation high while students learn the ropes in C. The educational version of Propeller C is not a dead end and will also provide a path to the professional version so once the students are confident enough on their basic Propeller C skills, they will be able to move to the Parallax Semiconductor Propeller GCC version, with all the extra features from professional integrated development environments (both editors will be based on the same tool so the transition will be smooth).

Our upcoming Propeller C will be as easy to use and amicable as PBASIC 2.5 and Arduino, while getting users ready for the full featured Propeller GCC version.

By the way, both versions will be free, Open Source and multi OS so they can run in Linux, Mac and Windows.

Until we have this new program up and running, we needed to support those teachers where the school went with Arduino and the BOE Shield was a nice and fast solution to fill their needs. I guess you can call our policy “no teacher left behind.” :-)

We will continue to provide more options as they become available (like some material we will be posting soon in Spin language for the Propeller Board of Education at learn.parallax.com) so different school systems will be able to pick the Parallax Education material that is more convenient for them to use.

Bag of parts or full kit or anything in between? No problem.

Pascal/PBASIC 2.5, Spin, Arduino, Propeller C? No problem.

English, Spanish, German, Japanese, Chinese, etc? Sure, Volunteer Translation program is taking care of that.

Linux, Mac, Windows? Well, you get the idea. ;-)

02-26-2012, 10:53 PM

There is definitely a view that Arduino is the competitive enemy of the Prop among some folks, hence the many posts bemoaning the popularity of the Arduino, even though they target different user segments. Most Prop users IMO don't see that the Arduino is clearly targeted at non-technical types who want to get work with micro-controllers without getting into the nitty gritty bit banging and assembly coding.

02-27-2012, 01:46 AM
Ari, makes perfect sense, plus a robot running around the floor is more fun than printing a prime factorization.

Aristides Alvarez
02-29-2012, 04:14 AM
Quick update.

The first batch of 500 units is finished and being received in inventory today. I think we will be moving the ship date up (currently March 5) and will be shipping out before the end of the week.