Blind World Magazine

New Zealand.
What the heck is a Navbot?

December 13, 2005. - New Zealand.

A Manurewa teenager who designed a new navigation system similar to the global positioning system, but on a smaller scale, is showcasing his invention at Parliament this week.

Matthew Richardson, 17, has made a robot called Navbot, which uses a local positioning sensor to display the coordinates of where it is.

The robot is a spin-off from the remote-controlled lawnmower he made last year.

Matthew wanted the mower to guide itself using GPS but found the accuracy unsuitable on a small scale. So he came up with the idea of the local positioning sensor.

It uses ultrasonic sound to locate the position of the Navbot in relation to three fixed beacons. A radio pulse wakes up transmitters in the beacons which send an ultrasonic pulse to the Navbot.

The Navbot then works out its position in relation to the beacons. This information is sent to a laptop which calculates the coordinates of the Navbot and displays them on screen.

"Basically, the robot knows where it is in the room," Matthew says.

The local positioning sensor is accurate to within 2-3cm.

The robot also talks and tells the temperature and what it is doing.

Matthew, who completed year 13 at Manurewa High School recently, designed the robot for the school's science fair.

"It was a bit of fun for me, an interesting project to do," he says.

He started the Navbot in January and worked on it until September. It is still not finished - he would like it to recognise permanent fixtures in a room, like tables.

He says the robot could be used to help a blind person navigate their way around a house, to move items around in a distribution centre or for making a lawnmower that will automatically cut grass.

Matthew is in Wellington this week with 31 other students who will present their work in the Grand Hall at Parliament as part of the Realise the Dream event.

The week is organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand, an independent, national academy of sciences.

Matthew plans to study electrical engineering at the Manukau Institute of Technology next year.

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