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Mindstorms Lobotomy: Robotic Wireless Communication, Coordination, And Control System With Parallel Acoustical Tracking Capability

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Capstone & Educational Resource Developments

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.941.1 - 10.941.9

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Paper Authors

author page

Donald Peter

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Luke Yoder, Mychal Hall, Kyle Madson, Anthony Donaldson, Don Peter

Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, Washington


A system for wireless, multi-robotic communication, coordination, and control, based on Lego MindStormsTM robots and a PC-based Command Center, has been demonstrated at ®

Seattle Pacific University as an example of fruitful undergraduate research and as a powerful extension of MindStormsTM capabilities for use by future students with minimal programming and hardware changes. A custom program resident on a PC allows the human user to initiate command and control decisions and communicate wirelessly to roving robots over its transceiver- equipped COM port, and up to a range of 20 meters. Transceiver units on each robot first of all receive messages, determine which are intended for them, and translate them into the IR signals that are required at their data input ports. Messages are then interpreted and each robot responds according to the specific message. The response may include return messages to the PC, translated back through their IR/RF interface, which can then be used for further coordination and control of the several robots. This allows robots to work together efficiently as a team because only one device is making decisions for them all. A separate ultrasonic tracking system has also been designed that utilizes two microphone ‘ears’ with accompanying electronics to provide the capability of determining the direction of an ultrasonic beacon. Each robot can then utilize this information to influence how to act – whether to follow, or run away, or make position decisions based on the origin of the sound. An additional technical improvement has been made by replacing the standard AA battery power source with a set of lithium-ion batteries, thus extending operating time to several hours.


As a project for the Seattle Pacific University Electrical Engineering Department’s Junior Design course, the three-member Mindstorms Lobotomy team created a system for wireless, mulit-robotic communication, coordination, and control, using the Lego® MindstormsTM RCXTM robots and a PC-based Command Center. This project provides the framework necessary to allow a group of robots to work together to accomplish tasks that are impossible for a single Lego RCX unit.

The RCX Brick is a unit developed by Lego1 in conjunction with MIT2 and National Instruments3 to allow kids to design and program robots built out of Legos. Programs designed in an easy, graphical interface can be downloaded onto the robot using an onboard infrared port, but because the RCX combines the power of a Hitachi H8 microcontroller4 running analog inputs and outputs with the ease of physical construction inherent to Legos, the platform has caught the Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Peter, D. (2005, June), Mindstorms Lobotomy: Robotic Wireless Communication, Coordination, And Control System With Parallel Acoustical Tracking Capability Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

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