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A Challenge - Ezb To Resurrect The Red Rover, Red Rover Project

The Red Rover, Red Rover project was created in 1996 by The Planetary Society and the LEGO Company (yes that LEGO company) to empower children to explore space and learn about computers, robotics and so on. The Red Rover, Red Rover kits enabled students to design and build their own Mars Rovers, guide them from a computer across a simulated Mars terrain, and remotely operate the Rovers built by other students at a different location anywhere across the globe. The kits were based upon the LEGO Mindstorm RCX 1.0 kits with software written specifically to allow remote control of the Rovers via the Internet. The Rovers were based on the planned Mars Pathfinder mission which would launch in December 1996 and landed on Mars in July 1997. Having the original consumer LEGO Mindstorm kit as well as several expansion kits I always kept in the back of my mind that one day when my kids, nieces, and nephews were old enough I would pull out the kits and start teaching them a little about these disciplines. This winter marked the first time the kids seemed like they were truly interested in participating. I set out to see if I could get a copy of the software that was developed back in 1996. Unfortunately, due to serious changes in the Windows operating system the Red Rover, Red Rover software would no longer install. No problem, I'd write a new user interface given that I am a software developer by profession. I even decided to enhance the interface a little (I'll discuss that some other time). I also figured I could still use leJOS to remotely control the RCX as I had done in the past. Sadly, when the user interface was completed I discovered that due to some enhancements in serial communications I was no longer able to get leJOS to "talk" to the RCX.

Here is where the EZB challenges come into play.

Challenge #1: As an interim solution I'd like to use the EZB to control the original Mindstorm motors. Not being a hardware guy I am not sure if these motors can be directly attached to the EZB without harming either the motors or the EZB itself.

Challenge #2: Assuming challenge #1 is met with success, use the EZB to gather sensor data from at least the touch sensor but hopefully the light and rotation sensors as well.

Challenge #3: Reverse engineer the IR protocol used to control the original RCX thus allowing the EZB to be the true brains and leverage all the controls already built into the RCX for the motors and sensors.

Why do I want to use the EZB? First, I am extremely impress with what I have read about the EZB and I think this EZB community can rise to the challenges. Second, the EZB is the right size to fit onboard these Rovers. Finally, I believe it will fit a niche that currently has no solution. People have spent big $$$$ on these kits only to have them rendered unusable with the advancements in computer operating systems. If EZB can be leveraged to help control them then there would be another means of promoting the EZB.

I truly hope some of you will accept these challenges so we can resurrect this most interesting project.

Thanks for the help!

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Synthiam
#1  
damn, well said. and yeah im interested too.....im sure lots of us here have a bunch of mind storm legos...(because really, we were all waiting for the ezb, and didnt even know it)
#2  
As promised, I'll elaborate a little on my enhancements to the user interface. Since the original software was no longer compatible with my computers I needed to recreate user interface. One of the original Mars Stations South Pole2 is still operational at Marshall University, in Huntington, WV, USA. If you click on their Drive Our Rover! link you be able to log in to their system and see their control panel. I replicated most of this panel. However, while researching the Mars Pathfinder Mission I realized that the Red Rover, Red Rover project, for ease of use and simplicity sake, had ignored delays in communications. The Planetary Society and the LEGO company, I believe, felt that modeling delays would cause students to loose interest in the project. I felt that I should incorporate optional delays into my interface. In doing so, more advanced students could experience what frustrations scientists would have to deal with in such long distance communications. I also discovered that in practice the scientist would have very limited communications with the Sojourner rover due to many factors. These scientist would study areal satellite imagery and develop a plan/program that they would upload to the Sojourner rover during the limited communications time frame and then wait till the next opportunity to discover what the Sojourner rover accomplished. Given this capability, I created additional screens that allowed students to create their own, very limited, programs that could be sent the their rover. The commands would be stored within a database and uploaded at a configurable time. This would allow students to replicate a very similar, albeit much simpler, procedure that the scientist did during the real Mars missions. At present, most of the user interface is complete but I've suspended further work until I work until I figure out the technical issues with communications to the rover.