New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Computers in Education
A Low-Cost Robot Positioning System for a First-Year Engineering Cornerstone Design Project
Researchers in autonomous robotic design have leveraged a variety of technologies to simulate the Global Positioning System (GPS) on a smaller laboratory or commercial scale. In the interest of cost and accuracy, a system was developed for [the University's] First-Year Honors Engineering Program's "cornerstone" design project. This “Robot Positioning System” (or RPS) utilizes high definition consumer web cameras to accurately simulate GPS for the autonomous robots created by students.
For the past 22 years the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors program at [the University] has provided a long duration "cornerstone" design project for first-year engineering students as a major component in the final course of a two course sequence. In this course, teams of students compete in a robot design competition, designing a fully-autonomous robot around a given microcontroller and within specified size and budget. The robots are tasked with completing several objectives or tasks on a 98 square foot course within a two-minute time period.
High definition Logitech C920 webcams were chosen for the project based on their popularity, availability, and operating resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels at a rate of 30 frames per second. Additionally, the cameras had a wide viewing angle which allowed them to be mounted 6 feet above each course. This provided sufficient coverage of each course and gave positional information to within a quarter of an inch and within one degree. The system detected micro QR codes, which were printed on three inch squares and mounted on each student's robot. The micro QR code data contained the name designation of each team.
The cameras were controlled by a National Instruments LabVIEW application. Via user interface, three specific locations were selected on each course to calibrate the coordinate systems and to account for any rotation with respect to the camera. Based on the calibrated coordinate system, the detected location and orientation was transmitted over radio frequency via XBee protocol to each robot. Information relating to the progress of each robot in completing course tasks was overlaid with this positional information onto a live video feed of each course. These feeds were displayed in sets of four in a global user interface for a large-scale, real-time visual representation of each competition round for viewing by observers during final competition.
The use of simulated GPS in the "cornerstone" design course gives the students the advantage of working with real world concepts. The system introduced students to designing programs that interact with external systems in real time. It also introduced students to navigation without physical interaction with obstacles. This added to the variety of tool available to students for navigation which facilitated discussion between students on best design strategies. It also gave the advantage of allowing students to design software that acts based on inputs from a variety of sources and seamlessly transition between them.
In this paper, we will discuss the components that are a part of this positioning system, including the HD cameras, the radio frequency transmission of information, and the multi-language software set used to determine the position and orientation of student-built robots.
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