With considerable student assistance we have designed, built, and evaluated a number of different robot designs. The most successful design consisted of three basic components:
1) The ‘brains’ – typically a smart phone or netbook.
2) The ‘body’ – the platform from an RC car, tank, truck, or other vehicle.
3) The ‘spinal cord’ – a microcontroller or motor controller, such as made by Arduino or Phidgets.
The brains control the robot, the body moves the robot, and the spinal cord transmits messages between the two via USB or Bluetooth.
The primary sensors for the robots are contained in the ‘brain’ and include the webcamera and microphone. Robots with a smart phone brain also have access to the accelerometers, tilt sensors, and GPS built-in to the phone; whereas with the netbook USB devices can be added to supply additional sensors. In both cases other sensors, notably bump sensors, and infrared or ultrasonic range detectors, can be plugged into the ‘spinal cord’.
The brains also come with easy to access output devices: speakers and screens, so its easy to program the robots to communicate.