University: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Team Member(s): Andy Miluzzi
Faculty Advisors: Shawn Bohner
Email Address: email@example.com
A 1:50 scale model of the United States Space Shuttle using 6 LEGO Mindstorm NXTs with software developed in LabVIEW.
LEGO Mindstorms NXT
LEGO Bricks (pounds of them)
Develop a scale interactive model of the United States Space Shuttle
The shuttle has 4 NXT controllers that run 11 motors and process data from 12 sensors. The model can tilt side to side. To control the tilt the shuttle uses both a gyro scope and accelerometer. By leveraging both sensors, we can have accurate data, even while the shuttle is moving. The other 10 sesnors include an ultrasonic sensor to detect when people get close to the shuttle as well as a color sensor to run predefined routines.
The shuttle leverages light and touch sensors to work as limit switchs for the arm and cargo bay doors. All this data is processed in pairs using a custom RS485 LabVIEW block. (My software documentation and discussion can be found on mindboards.net forums in the software category.) In addition to processing the current state of the shuttle, the 4 controls also take data from 2 remotes. One remote is the pilot's and controls all the control surfaces as well as opening the cargo bay doors. The other is for the arm operator and triggers the parking and unparking routine. User input is compared to sensor data to decide if the shuttle can safely move the motors. For example, there is a limit to the tilt of the shuttle and even if the user tells the shuttle to keep tilting, the 4 NXTs override the command and keep it stable.
Using LabVIEW made programming and system design much easier. I was able to break the project into small parts and tackle one challenge at a time. It also allows me to share my code with the mindstorms community. Since NXT-G (the programming language provided with the NXT kit) is based on LabVIEW, I can easily translate my code and allow others to use it. For example, a direct result of my work on the shuttle allowed me to release the first RS485 NXT-G block for the NXT. This allows children to adults the ability to use some of the more powerful features of the NXT hardware.
NI and LabVIEW also play a more important role than just the development. The mission behind the shuttle is to encourage children to get interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics (STEM). By using a graphical language, it is easy for non programmers and small children to understand what the software is doing. Furthermore it allows them relate and know that they can go home and use very similar software to invent their own creation. The shuttle sparks interest with children as well as adults. Even NASA employees (from centers all over the USA) have said this is a great tribute to the shuttle program.
As with any project, it is never completely finished. Right now I am continuing development on a status monitor that allows a laptop (running LabVIEW) to display the status of and value of every sensor, motor and light. At the time of this writing, the software can watch sensors, but more work is needed to support the status of actuators.
The physical construction was completed by Andrew Milluzzi (orbiter body and software), Marc-Andre Bazergui (shuttle arm), and John Brost (shuttle stand) in about 4 months using 8,000 LEGO Technic parts and has been featured at NASA, FIRST and other LEGO events. The shuttle currently tours schools generating interest in STEM. For move infomation, see the facebook page at facebook.com/lmsshuttle.
Shuttle and creator (Andrew Milluzzi) at NASA Langley Space Center.