Robotics Education

Background

I have been working with robots for several years as part of my PhD research and have given several presentations to students from primary and secondary schools about robotics.

I have accumulated several robots, including two X80s, a Lego NXT, Hemisson, RoboSapien (V1 and RS Media), RoboRaptor, RobotPet, Scribbler, Boe-Bot, Surveyor SRV-1, Stinger, Lynxmotion L6 Robotics Arm and even a radio controlled Dalek!

A couple of years ago I worked on a package of hardware and software for use in High Schools. This was based on the Sumovore robots from Solarbotics. These small robots have limited capabilities, but they can follow lines on the floor and can also compete against each other in "sumo wrestling".

Sumovores have an Atmel AtMega8 PIC as the on-board "brains". Although these controllers are slow (1 MHz) and have limited memory (8KB), they can be used to illustrate a variety of principles in robotics. As with most PICs on the market, the controller can be used for PWM control of the robot's wheels, and has a range of I/O functions including A/D converters and digital inputs and outputs. There is a UART in the PIC as well that could be used for serial communications, but this is not used in the current Sumovore design.

More recently I have been working with Robert Quaas from PicBlok on a new robot that he is developing for use in Queensland Schools and even in China. These new robots will be available soon, and I will be writing services for Microsoft Robotics Studio as well as creating a simulated robot. Stay tuned for more information.

Over the last couple of years I have developed code for the X80 robot and for Microsoft Robotics Studio. For more information see

Microsoft Robotics Studio

In June 2006, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Robotics Studio. I worked with the beta versions (called Community Technology Previews) from the very first one, released in July 2006. MSRS was officially released in December 2006, and now version 1.5 has been recently released in July 2007. I have been actively participating in the Discussion Forum and contributing code, with the result that I am listed on the MSRS Community page.

So far I have developed the following packages:

  • Explorer Simulator;
  • Maze Simulator;
  • Updated Simulated Differential Drive;
  • Enhanced version of the Simple Dashboard; and
  • Simple Intro program to demonstrate basic exploration using the Simulator

I would like to acknowledge that Ben Axelrod was the initial author of the Maze Simulator. We have had many fruitful discussions about MSRS and I was fortunate to meet Ben recently at Georgia Tech when I visited Atlanta for the Robotics: Systems and Science conference and RoboCup 2007.

My objective is to develop a suite of programs and corresponding web-based tutorials for teaching introductory robotics. The major constraint so far has been time!

For more information, see my Microsoft Robotics Studio Page.

Dr. Robot X80

X80 robots are manufactured by Dr. Robot Inc. in Canada. In particular, X80s have a WiFi interface and a pan and tilt camera. This is important for my Computer Vision research.

I have developed an open source package for controlling X80s. The code is available in C++ and C#. This was necessary so that I could write a program to run a PDA for teleoperation of an X80 because the software supplied by Dr. Robot would not run on a PDA.

For more information, see my X80 WiRobot Page.


Trevor Taylor
Software Technology
Brisbane, Australia