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Enhancing STEM Education: Exploring Robotics and AI with the Maqueen Martian Expedition Team

 

Introduction

 

The Maqueen Martian Expedition Team project blends STEM learning with smart robotics technologies, creating an interactive educational platform that teaches foundational skills in robotics, AI, and space exploration concepts. This project features a robot fleet built on the versatile Maqueen and Maqueen Plus platforms, which includes a suite of Maqueen Mechanic kits, Huskylens, voice recognition modules, and servos. These robots can track lines, detect objects and faces, and coordinate tasks via tag scanning. Promoting creativity and problem-solving through modular assembly and programming.

Background Story

In the terrain of the red planet Mars, the Maqueen Martian Expedition Team has established a facility, a self-sustaining base. This is a milestone of human ingenuity and robotic collaboration, which also stands as a testament to our aspirations for exploring beyond Earth.

Base Overview

 

1.  Main Structure


This three-story complex, built by a team of construction crew members and scientists, rises against the Martian horizon. Its three levels, each serving a unique purpose, are the home of a fleet of Maqueen automated robotic vehicles.


Level 3: The Gardener's Floor  


The Maqueen Gardener, a robot prototype adapted from the compact Maqueen Lite Platform, is equipped with a Pusher kit enabling it to till the Martian soil along an oval track, aided by two line-tracking sensors. This floor is dedicated to pioneering experimental agriculture, fostering the hope of someday sustaining human life on Mars.


Level 2: The Port's Workspace


Buzzing with activity, this level is managed by a robotic porter that transports essential minerals and cargo, illustrating the capabilities of autonomous systems in off-world environments. The Porter, utilizing the robust and versatile Maqueen Plus V2 class robot chassis, employs a four-bar lift system, precisely controlled by a 180-degree servo, which is vital for handling and transportation tasks. The robot relentlessly follows a straight path between two T-shaped junctions. At each intersection, it executes a precise U-turn before proceeding to lift the cargo.

 

Level 1: The Miner's Warehouse


The first floor serves as the Warehouse. Here, the Miner roves along the Martian surface, retrieving minerals and geological survey samples that are crucial for the expedition's self-sufficiency and could potentially lead to scientific breakthroughs. The Miner, also a variant of the Maqueen Plus V2 Class robot, features a clamping mechanism nicknamed 'the beetle' due to its resemblance. It has the ability to visually check for mineral tags with the Huskylens. The explorer scans for tags placed by scientists; once a tag is in the Huskylens’s view, the Miner grabs the sample and returns to the main building.

In comparison to other robots, the Miner has a more complex line-tracking pattern. Upon locating a tag in the mineral field, the Miner picks up sample packs and takes a left turn at the building's entrance, subsequently making its way to the main building. Once inside, the Miner then delivers the pack and places it in the warehouse for further processing.

 

2. Peripherals outside of the Main Complex

 

Control Center 


Located outside the complex on the unpaved land of Martian terrain, the control center is at the bottom right of the base. It is equipped with a radio station capable of both directing the robotic fleet and analyzing incoming data. Radio communication is facilitated through the 2.4 GHz radio antenna on the micro:bit board.

The radio station plays an important role in this network, issuing commands and receiving alerts, especially from the Guard in the event of security breaches. Each robot will commence its task upon receiving commands from the radio station, while others pause and wait for further instructions.


Ground level: Explorer 


The Explorer is a remote robot situated at the top right corner of the map. It operates either by voice control or manually, controlled by a hand-held remote controller.

This remote-controlled robot has been equipped with a voice recognition module and it 
is able to interact with the scientists by voice command. To activate the robot, one simply needs to issue the wake-up command, "Hello, Robot." Upon hearing this, the robot promptly responds with: "Yes, I am here!”. Subsequently, to control the robot's functions, users can issue a command, "Turn on the lights," which will activate the illuminating units installed on the robot's body.


Ground level: The Guard

 

The Guard robot, tasked with patrolling the perimeter of the base, utilizes line tracking to efficiently cover the extensive area and remain vigilant for intruders. This variant of the Maqueen Lite robot is equipped with Huskylens, featuring a face recognition function to bolster security.

Upon detecting an intruder with the Huskylens, the Guard activates alarms on both itself and at the radio station, guaranteeing an immediate response to any security breaches.


Robotic Operations

Flow Chart of the Maqueen Fleet:
The Maqueen robotic fleet operates in a carefully planned sequence, directed by the radio station. The sequence commences with the Guard, followed by the Miner, then the Porter, and finally the Gardener. This order ensures efficient task allocation and execution.


Observation Activity:


Tag-Based Task Management
1. Selectively remove one or more tags from the radio station, As you remove a specific tag, observe how the corresponding robot skips its work turn.
1. Remove the tag on the mineral field, the miner will then follow the oval track and not enter the main building 
2. Place an alien on the widest oval track, once the guard detects the alien with Huskylens it will set off both alarms on the robot itself and at the radio station simultaneously.

 

Conclusion:


In conclusion, the Maqueen Martian Expedition Team project highlights practical applications of the Maqueen and Maqueen Plus platforms, offering hands-on experience in robotics and AI. It not only introduces students to new technology but also inspires them to explore the possibilities within space exploration and beyond. Engaging with these robotic systems allows students to gain valuable skills and insights, laying the groundwork for the future of technology and education.


Example Programs


1. Radio station

2. Porter

3. Guard

4. Miner


5. Gardener

6. Explorer
 

7. Explorer’s Controller

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