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The VU-LEGO Real Time Target: Taking Student Designs to Implementation

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Experiential Learning in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1516.1 - 22.1516.10



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Paper Authors


James Peyton Jones Villanova University Orcid 16x16

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James Peyton Jones is Director of the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics & Control and Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Villanova University

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Connor W. McArthur Villanova University

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Connor McArthur is an undergraduate at Villanova Unversity studying Computer Engineering and Computer Science.

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Tyler A. Young Villanova University

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Tyler Young is a senior Computer Engineer and research assistant at Villanova University.

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The VU-LEGO Real Time Target: Taking Student Designs to ImplementationThe use of mobile robotics in teaching has the potential to be revolutionized by advances in fourareas: a) low-cost, compact, and very computationally powerful target hardware which canoperate fully autonomously, and which can execute increasingly sophisticated algorithms in realtime; b) modern Automatic Code Generation or ‘Rapid Prototyping’ tools which allow thesedevices to be programmed directly from high-level Matlab / Simulink-based designs – withoutthe traditional difficulties associated with low level issues, fixed point computation, or C-language programming; c) the built-in sound, sensor, actuator and networking capabilities ofthese devices which enables groups of robots to interact with one another in complex ways; d)increasingly interdisciplinary approaches to dealing with this complexity, using methods fromCognitive Science, Biology, Mechanical, Electrical and Computer Engineering. This paperdescribes progress on an NSF, MathWorks, and Nokia sponsored project aimed at bringing allthese elements together for practical use and benefit in the classroom.Specifically, the paper describes a toolchain that has been developed, which enables students toaccess the hardware capabilities of the 32-bit LEGO NXT brick from within the Matlab /Simulink environment, and to automatically generate and cross-compile the necessary code forreal time autonomous implementation. The tool is similar to the existing ECRobot target, but thelatter is constrained by its function call architecture, and non-standard use of the Simulink Real-Time Workshop. The presented toolbox is much simpler to use. LEGO hardware I/O isrepresented in the Simulink design mode as blocks for accessing motors, encoders, push-buttons,ultrasound sensors, light sensors and more. Blocks have also been developed to allow the LEGOtarget to communicate in real time with a host computer over USB or BlueToothcommunications. An example system, consisting of a stabilized LEGO mobile invertedpendulum is discussed.

Jones, J. P., & McArthur, C. W., & Young, T. A. (2011, June), The VU-LEGO Real Time Target: Taking Student Designs to Implementation Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18559

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