Carnegie Mellon releases ROBOTC2.0 programming language for educational robots

Apr 07, 2010

Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Academy announces the release of ROBOTC2.0®, a programming language for robots and an accompanying suite of training tools that are easy enough for elementary students to use, but powerful enough for college-level engineering courses.

Like the original, this latest version of ROBOTC is an implementation of the industry-standard C and has a modern programming environment that can grow as students move from elementary through college-level robot programming. ROBOTC2.0 includes significant improvements, however, including a new (GUI) modeled after Microsoft's popular Visual Studio programming environment. It also boasts a unique, interactive real-time debugger that operates with either a wired or wireless connection to a PC.

"Computer programming is not taught at the middle school level, yet hundreds of thousands of children gain their first programming experience with robots," said Robin Shoop, director of the Robotics Academy. "We introduced ROBOTC four years ago because students working with robots should spend their time learning scientific, mathematical and engineering principles, not learning a different programming language for each robot platform. Also, the programming environment students use should be compatible with a language such as C that they likely will use for years to come and with an interface that will help them transition to those used by professionals."

ROBOTC supports the most popular platforms used in schools and in student competitions such as FIRST. It is the only programming language that works for the LEGO Mindstorms RCX and NXT systems as well as the Innovation First VEX and Cortex systems. ROBOTC also is being developed to support additional platforms. Programs written in ROBOTC for one robotic system can be easily adapted to another supported platform.

ROBOTC2.0 was developed under the leadership of Tim Friez, a Robotics Institute and ROBOTC inventor Dick Swan, a Dallas, Texas, software engineer and a long-time contractor to the Robotics Academy.

ROBOTC2.0 is an integrated development environment (IDE) that consists of a compiler, text and project editor and run-time environment. Its debugger supports both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi links and gives the user complete access from the PC into the operation and step-by-step execution of the programs. ROBOTC2.0 executes instructions extremely fast; on LEGO NXT, its execution speeds are five to 50 times faster than those of other programming solutions, including LEGO's proprietary environment. It includes support for a wide variety of sensors as well as support for WAV and MIDI sound file playback.

Information about ROBOTC2.0 is available at www.robotc.net/ as well as the Robotics Academy Web site, www.education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/. ROBOTC users can obtain free upgrades to 2.0 at these sites.

The Robotics Academy, which is part of Carnegie Mellon's renowned Robotics Institute, develops techniques and tools that help K-12 teachers use robots to teach science and mathematics and to inspire students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"Everything from cell phones to entertainment centers requires programming today and Internet connectivity has become a fixture of American life," Shoop said. "Programming is a skill that is increasingly important and, despite popular misconceptions, is key to some of the fastest growing occupations in the world."

Though enrollment in computer science programs increased last year for the first time in six years, educators have been concerned about lagging interest among U.S. students.

"If we want America to lead the world in innovation, we need more students studying computer science, not fewer," Shoop said.

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