MSTF Team with Dr. Cheng and Matt
Dr. Yinong Cheng and Matt McKnight
The Winning Robot

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Introduction to Robots

Robots can be used as a platform to test and problem solve graphical data flow computer programs. It is a good tool to engage students in computer programming. Our research team programs NXT Robots using VPL programming to traverse a maze. Each member designs their own robot and utilizes multiple sensors such as ultrasonic, touch, light and sound.

NXT-Graphic Programming Language

NXT-Graphic Programming Language is a graphic program that comes with the Lego MindStorm Robot kit. It is a basic graphical data-flow based program that is similar to VPL and can be used to program and operate the robot at a basic level. It is designed to introduce the most basic concept of object-oriented programming.

Microsoft Robotics Studio / VPL Programming Language

Microsoft Visual Programming Language (VPL) is an application development environment designed around a graphical dataflow-based programming model. It is different from the control flow model (conventional programming language) that is designed around a series of imperative commands that are sequentially executed. The data flow model is an event driven model that has been compared to a series of workers on an assembly line, who do their assigned task as the materials arrive.

Students visualize pieces of working code (see diagram below), which enables them to recognize concepts, principles and methods of programming.
Example of VPL

The Next Step

Once students have learned VPL they move towards learning the .NET Framework that is used as a platform for building and running many different computer programs including Visual C#.