• Hashtag= #legorovers


    1. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador scheme links professionals with a STEM background or experience with schools who want to run STEM-based activities. As part of this program, Computer Science at the University of Liverpool has developed a simple application on a Lego Robot which can be taken to school science clubs and similar events.
    2. The existing application allows the Lego robot to be driven from a laptop computer. Children can experiment with time delays in sending instructions (no time delay, a satellite phone call to Australia, Earth-Moon, and the minimum Earth-Mars delay), the sensitivity of some sensors, the speed of the robot, and the use of rules to control the robot’s behaviour autonomously.  Such experimentation takes place with an expert on hand who can answer their questions and explain details of the robot and project.
    3. Experience taking the Lego Rover into schools suggests students are particularly engaged by the ability to easily experiment with changes to the robot’s behaviour without the need to program something up from scratch (as is necessary with an off-the-shelf Lego Mindstorms system). They are engaged enough with the robot that they will spontaneously devise their own questions and “experiments” about the system behaviour they hope to test. A number of schools and children own their own Lego Robot and want to continue experimenting after the session has ended.
    4. Widening the range of parameters and rules the children can explore when using the robot, as well as making the whole application more portable, would help motivated teachers and students benefit from installing the system on their own robots.

    Challenge Description:

    Design a remote operation system to control a Lego Robot through a computer or smartphone. The goal of this system is to help make the Lego Robot more entertaining, educational, and accessible to students and teachers, all while serving the Lego Robot’s goal in demonstrating the unique challenges facing the remote operation of planetary rovers and how increased robot autonomy can help address such challenges.

    Functional Specifications:

    Construction of the system can be broken down as follows:

    Design and create a remote operation system for a Lego Robot which allows it to be controlled from a PC, smartphone, or tablet. This remote operation interface should allow the user to experiment with time delays between an instruction being sent from the interface and received by the robot.

    Implement a small number of simple reactive IF-THEN-style rules (e.g. if you detect an obstacle then stop) which can be switched on and off from the interface. The ruleset would allow the user to experiment with and learn from simple automation of the robot.

    Many further extensions are now possible including, but not limited to:

    • 1      Allowing rules to be chained together (basic inference),
    • 2      Allowing more than one rule to be active at once (illustrating potential side effects of combinations of rules),
    • 3      Allowing rules to be modified by the child in some way,
    • 4      Allowing the meanings of terms in the rules (e.g., what does “detect an obstacle” mean in terms of sensor input) to be changed by the child,
    • 5      More extensive use of sensors (in the existing demonstrator each robot only has one sensor),
    • 6      Goal-based planning (e.g., explore an area, locate an item).
    • 7      Documentation (possibly web-based) explaining how to install the system and, potentially, how to access the underlying programming.

    The system can either be based upon the existing codebase for the demonstrator (working to remove the unnecessary extra code), or can be implemented from scratch. The leJOS operating system for Lego Robots comes with a well-developed set of classes for sensors and pilots for Lego Robots; it may be more simple to start from this base than from within the existing system.

    It is important to bear in mind that the purpose of the demonstrator is to illustrate problems and techniques, not to create a highly intelligent autonomous robot. Simplicity and clarity in any rules implemented should be favoured over sophisticated and invisible machinery drawn from AI research.  Avoid developing a child-friendly programming language; many already exist.

    Variation: It isn’t necessary to use Lego Robots as a platform for this demonstration. Both arduinos and Raspberry Pis could be used if suitable expertise is in place. Alternatively, in absence of hardware or technical know-how, specifying and designing such a system -- but not actually implementing it -- may also be of value.

    Background Research:

    1. Operating Systems for Lego Robots (Mindstorms, leJOS, ROS)
    2. Remote operation of planetary rovers.
    3. The existing demonstration system  (see web-link in resources)
    4. Rule-based autonomous agent, planning and/or expert systems (for some of the extensions).


    1. An intuitive and simple interface.
    2. An entertaining range of parameters that can be changed, and rules that can be added or customised for controlling the robot.
    3. Simple, clear instructions for installing the software.


    1. A framework for the remote operation of a Lego robot with simple keyboard and mouse controls
    2. A simple rule based system, allowing autonomous rules (e.g. simple if-then rules) to be passed to the robot from the user.
    3. A framework to allow some customisation of the rules themselves and what the terms in the rules “mean” - e.g. “detect an obstacle” may mean “the ultrasound sensor has returned a value greater than X” where X can be set by the user


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