Student project creates WiFi extending robot

first_imgRemember when you got your first radio-controlled car? Watching an RC vehicle zip around at the push of a stick has been a source of sheer joy for many a young geek, even if the fun was limited to the range of the transmitter. When a team of students at Northeastern University chose their capstone design project, they decided to revisit those childhood memories by creating a device way cooler than anything you drove around your living room — and it even has real world applications.The team built a tread-driven robot that can deploy a WiFi network in otherwise unconnected areas — the sort of thing a military operation or disaster relief effort might need to do. Using and on-board camera and GPS, an operator can drive the robot over rough terrain while dropping small WiFi repeater units to broaden the coverage. Cleverly, the team designed the robot to be controlled over the very network it’s deploying, which means that it effectively defines its own range — far more flexible than your average RC car. Since the robot extends its reach as it goes, it could also do reconnaissance by sending captured images and audio back down the repeater chain. The controls, camera footage, and real-time robot/repeater location data are all handled through a single web interface.Aside from the treads, the entire robot was custom built from aluminum using a CNC machine and waterjet cutter. The repeater nodes are consumer-grade Linksys routers loaded with open-source firmware and modded with long-range antennas, lithium-polymer batteries, and protective cases. Based on the project page, it doesn’t appear that the robot can pick up dropped repeaters, so it couldn’t clean up after itself as it headed home. Still, it’s an impressive design for a small team of students, and a good proof-of-concept for the idea.via Glenchlast_img

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