CSU Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

Wise old King Solomon once said that “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). Most people would accept that maxim. A team that works together can accomplish more than individuals who work separately. For an instance, an ant may not be able to achieve its goals of collecting food by itself as efficient or quickly as swarms (teams) of ants can. The same applies to robots. A group of robots working together as a team can accomplish a lot more than the same number of robots working individually. Moreover, if one of the robots fail, the entire mission does not fail. This project was aimed to build a swarm of robots, program them to work cooperatively, and explore their behavior through various experiments.

The application of this project focuses on map making. All the robots will be released into a building with a layout that is unknown to the robots. The robots will be equipped with ultrasonic sensors for obstacle detection, a camera, radio transceivers, wall-following sensors, a gyroscope, wheel encoders, and a LCD display. Each robot will take a different path through the building, communicating its navigation information via radio link to a base station. The base station will fuse the data from the robots in order to tell each individual robot which way to proceed through the building. A map-building computer program will be implemented at the base station. A building can be mapped much quicker with a swarm of robots than with an individual robot.

Mapping has many applications in the real world. A few of them include:

  1. Robots that roam through a disaster area in a search for survivors.
  2. Robots that work together to clean a building.
  3. Robots that explore uncharted territory (e.g., under water or on extraterrestrial planets) in a search for promising areas in which to focus additional resources.
  4. Military robots that reconnoiter the movements of enemy troops.
  5. Security robots that patrol a building to guard against intruders.