Mars Rover simulation

One of the things I used to love doing with my Lego Mindstorms was to pretend that I was remotely operating the vehicle in similar fashion to how NASA remotely operates Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. I would attach a webcam to the vehicle do a “mission” using only the video image on my computer.

My simulation was limited in several ways however:

  1. My webcam was tethered limiting my range and maneuverability.
  2. My range was additionally limited to line-of-sight as the transmitter was IR.
  3. I wanted to upload a series of commands that the “rover” would then execute rather than just use a joystick to drive it myself (again, in similar fashion to NASA and their rovers). I was able, however, to drive it using a computer program on my computer.

Issue 1: This is not really a Vex related item as I just need to find a battery operated wireless webcam.

Issue 2: Obviously Vex easily solves issue 2 since the transmitter is using an FM signal which has greater range and is not limited to line-of-sight.

Issue 3: It is my understanding of Vex that this can not be done nor can it be directly controlled by the computer (untethered).

So I guess my questions are:

  1. Does anyone know of a cheap and small wireless camera that can connect to a computer?
  2. Am I completely out of luck for “Issue 3”? (i.e. I will have to be satisfied with driving it directly myself).

To answer your first question, I have looked on the web and have not been able to find any cheap wireless web cams. The cheapest I found was about $90 I think, I’ll see if I can find the link. For issue 3 you either cotrol the robot with the controller untethered or with it tethered to the computer. There was a thread about on-line code a while back search for it.

Here is a thread that may be of interest:

It talks about using DDT and “wirelessly” bridging the serial port on the VEX micro-controller with a PC serial port. I expect this could be done with something similar to the radio modems used in FRC competitions. I did a web search on “wireless serial port” and get several hits. Looks like this would cost about $200 plus the programming cable you’d need on the VEX micro-controller end.

for wireless cameras do a web search on “baby cam”. Wireless baby monitors are pretty popular so I’d expect you could pick something up on eBay or even a garage sale.


Ah thanks. I did a search previously and came up with lots of “wireless” webcams. The trouble was that they were powered externally (meaning they plugged into the wall for power) which makes them only semi-wireless. Sure the transmission to the computer is wireless but the camera is still tethered to the wall.

Hopefully the one you mentioned is battery powered.

Also, thanks for the wireless serial port suggestion. I had forgotton those existed. The price is a bit above what I wanted to spend but I’ll bet I can get one on eBay for allot cheaper.

Thanks all. i think this might be in intrest of you. i doesnt hook up to the computer but it does hook ↑ to a tv and you could use the vex transmiter right in front of the screen the camera runs off a 9v battery

I don’t know of any “cheap” wireless cameras. I know there are a-lot, but little of them are “cheap”.

Check out my off-road Gilbert III Explorer robot in action exploring my backyard at a relatively fast speed for its size. The Vex geared 4WD-drive train, which uses 4 standard Vex motors has no problems moving about the lawn and can even carry the weight of a laptop.

I also added a surplus CCD Video Camera to the Tilt/Pan, which I found at the Electronics Surplus Store in Manchester NH. InfraRed LEDs (IR) will enable Gilbert III to carry out its night watchman mission around my home. The Tilt/Pan Platform mechanism provides a very smooth 0:360 Degree pan using the 5 Volt Geared DC Motor with a 100 CPR Optical Encoder attached to the input shaft, which I also found at the Electronics Surplus Store in Manchester NH.

I used surplus gears motors, and other parts that I found at the Electronics Surplus Store, which I understand are not competition legal, but I needed them to finish Gilbert III. I also purchased a Radio Shack Nighthawk Wireless Security camera with infrared LED’s for 0 Lux (total cave darkness) night vision, which I mounted on the Tilt/Pan platform.

I plan to use Gilbert III to experiment with Tele-presence, Tele-robotics and Virtual Reality (VR), similar to the NASA Spirit and Endeavor Robots that explored Mars, except that its new mission is to explore my back yard and act as a sentry guard. It will also be able to communicate with a laptop using two Zibee based XBEE Pro wireless UARTS for tele-robotics and tele-presence experiments in a manner similar to the Mars Spirit and Opportunity Rovers, but costing far less. The idea is to see how chipmunks and squirrels are digging up my yard. I will post new photos of Gilbert III outfitted with its new gear soon.

I found a small, cheap, reliable camera at my local hobby store for 60.00 ill be more than happy to pick one up for you If you pay that and shipping.

sixty dollars is how much the one i said was…FTE1JAodcllqvA

it was also very small has some bluetooth serial devices. You could tie that to the serial port of the controller and have wireless communications with the bot.


Ray Moore

Get Moose and Squirrel!

how much does that cost

Thanks for the pointer tuelbox12. I just ordered one. I assume it would be against FIRST rules to mount one of these on a robot during a Vex competition but it would kinda be like a NASCAR “in-car” camera.

yea your welcome

are you in competions

No. Just a tournament volunteer. My son (age 9) and I use the Vex robot mostly for chasing our cats around. I’ll be working at the Northern CA First Vex Championship in a couple of weeks and was thinking how cool it would be to have on-robot video being projected onto a big screen like they do during NASCAR events.

that would be cool you could do it with this camera it is purfect for it

You won’t be able to connect that directly into the serial port on the Vex controller because the Vex controller uses TTL signal levels. You’ll have to plug the bluetooth serial device into the “orange box” that comes with the programming kit and then plug the RJ14 cable into the controller. It does save having to buy the wireless device on the PC end, assuming you have a PC with bluetooth.

yea but he or she got the one i suggested becasue he just wants to be able to watch the screen so you can drive while out of view of the robot

Oops. I confused the thread. When I said you can’t plug that in directly I was referring to the bluetooth serial device, not the camera. Sorry about that.

Now the next thing we need to figure out is how to send our own commands from the PC to the controller.

o yeap…