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Teaching introductory autonomous robotics with JavaScript simulations and actual robots

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3 Author(s)
Kuc, R. ; Dept. of Electr. Eng., Yale Univ., New Haven, CT, USA ; Jackson, E.W. ; Kuc, A.

This paper describes a flexible method of teaching introductory robotics. Students program an autonomous mobile robot to complete a set of tasks of increasing complexity, including multirobot tracking. Two proximity detectors (1 b each) and a pair of photosensors (2 b each) provide six sensory inputs to logic circuits, which control two drive motors and two internal memory flip-flops. The robot brain is a digital logic circuit programmed by loading an AS CH code that specifies the logic circuit configuration, similar in approach to a field-programmable gate array. The logic circuit design evolves with task complexity. Two internal set/reset flip-flops can be used to design a finite-state machine to implement a memory. One novelty of the method is that students develop and test their logic circuits on a Web-based graphic simulation before downloading the code to an actual robot. The simulation is written in JavaScript to acquire sensor readings and control robot motors to interact with the environment in a flexible manner. The simulation is downloaded with the Web page and runs smoothly on the client's machine, eliminating the need for high-speed connections. The ASCII code producing successful simulation performance is downloaded to an actual robot through a printer port on a PC in the robot laboratory. A microcontroller on the actual robot interprets the ASCII code in the same manner as the simulation. Classroom experience indicates that evolving a robot brain is an effective teaching tool and students enjoy applying logic circuit design to program a robot.

Published in:

Education, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:47 ,  Issue: 1 )